We get up quite late the next day. After consulting the tourist centre at the station, and the map of Hokkaido, we set course North to a place called Sounkyo; supposed home of some hills and onsen. We are told we will have to take an express train, then a local train, then a bus to get there. I wonder just how far up Hokkaido’s ass this place is.
Turns out, pretty far up. The express train ride goes without hitch, but the local train… Is a single wagon affair. Moreover, the stops it makes aren’t even stations, just raised platforms smack dab in the middle of nowhere. We are officially in the boonies. After almost two hours on the local train, we arrive to the end of the line, an actual station this time. There’s some high schoolers here, and as I exit into the station a girl holds open the door, mouth agape, staring at me point blank. I consider winking at her but, jail.
The place we arrive at, Kamikawa, looks like a ghost town. There’s still some time till the next bus, so we walk a few blocks into a ramen shop and chow down. We’re the only customers. The old dude manning the shop is positively delighted to house a couple a’ foreigners.
Once we arrive at Sounkyo, it starts raining in earnest. It’s also a bit late in the afternoon, so the whole place is given an eerie vibe. My mind jumps to Silent Hill, and the visual design of the game suddenly seems natural. This place isn’t much more than an uphill arcade chock full of onsen hotels, and there’s a ropeway up the mountain, so we hop on that.
Atop Mt. Kurodake, it is cold as balls. Biting wind, rain, fog, the works. It is, despite or perhaps because of this, extremely beautiful. We go up to an observatory for as long as we can mantain our body temperatures (all of five minutes), then hurry back down the ropeway and into the bus back.
Now fully nighttime, and with still some time before the local train arrives, we go into a supermarket because Sister was in sore need of Fruit. I figure I’d buy some sweets while we’re at it. Again, we are met with some stares, and the man at the counter is ecstatic. He asks where we are from, Aruzenchin I reply. We pack our bananas, apples and grapes in the bag (3 yen extra), and head to the station. This time, at least, there’s more than one car.