It’s amazing how cool it can get at night (in a car) in Hokkaido, only to be roasting when the sun comes up (and, does it come up early…).  I think we were up and having breakfast before 8AM.  I went to sit in the shade (so that I could see the computer screen) and an older Japanese rider started to chat.  He disappeared, and came back with some bakery snacks for us.  Score!

Showa ShinzanFrom the michi-no-eki car pack, there was one thing that loomed over everything.  The smoking Showa Shinzan.  This mountain blows my mind.  I always think that mountains are slowly forming entities, gradually growing over millennia.  Showa Shinzan grew 400m in 2 years…  In 1940 it was a wheat field.  In 1943 it was a smoking, hissing mountain.  Or something like that.  I could have some of the facts wrong.

Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6911 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6913 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6917 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6919 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6922The whole area is quite volcanically unstable, with four major eruptions in the past century (the most recent was in 2000).  In the interest of preservation/education, the areas that were damaged were left in their original state.  This included a mental hospital that was destroyed due to major shifts in the ground during the 1977 eruption, apartment blocks that were buried by volcanic mud slides in the 2000 eruption as well as a major highway that sank and is now a lake, and a cookie factory that was destroyed by debris.  During the 2000 eruption, a new 80m hill was formed.  Absolutely blows my mind.

Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6940 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6938 Japan-Road-Trip_-_PKO6950Next stop, Noboribetsu.  Noboribetsu is (yet another) famous onsen (hot spring) area.  There is a barren, hissing, sulphurous wasteland that is aptly called ‘Hell Valley’.

Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell Festival Noboribetsu Hell FestivalTonight, there was a special festival in Noboribetsu.  The gates of Hell open, and the devil is paraded down the street (warning that if we do not change our ways, he’ll chose us to live down there with him) and is accompanied by hundreds of dancing people in devil masks.  Lots of friends from Hokkaido were there, so was good to catch up again.  It was a fun festival (though, I think it’s slightly over rated…) with people in crazy costumes dancing the special dance up/down the main street. Yuge, yuge, yuge, yuge, nagashite, nagashite, tsuno, tsuno, tsuno dashite, tsuno dashite, don don da-don!

We camped the night at what we thought was going to be a beautiful lake, Kutaraku-ko.  It’s not that it wasn’t beautiful, it’s just that if it was, you weren’t really able to see it, as all that was available (from the long, epic, windy, mountainous access route) was a small beach area.  There was a hotel/bathroom, though both vacant.  Regardless, it was quiet and deserted (until the visitors starting coming early Sunday morning).