Monday, May 15, 2006

Golden Week Day 3

Golden Week Trip Day 3 - Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

I woke up around 8 or so and went and hopped in the bath. Good way to get the morning going right!

After that, I got changed, packed up my stuff, and then Yuka and I went out to my car and loaded up everything, checked out and were on our way. My feet were feeling a little sore, but I didn't really think much of it at the time.

After filling up the car with gas and making a breakfast stop at a local convenience store, we drove out to the Eisaku-recommended Abashiri Prison Museum. I was really excited about seeing this place. Yuka? Not so much, but since I was the driver, she was kind enough to humor me.

The place was HUGE. Apparently (and I may have misunderstood this, but bear with me), the old prison buildings were moved out to the museum area when the new prison was built. The new Abashiri Prison was built in 1984. So the photos you will see here are from a prison that was operating until about twenty years ago.

We saw solitary confinement cells, where prisoners were shut up, in complete darkness, for up to a week.

We saw the lecture hall, where Buddhist priests would lecture the prisoners to get them to understand the error of their ways.

We saw the bath house. That was a little weird. But it had a timetable describing how often prisoners were allowed to bathe, which was interesting. Twice a month back in the mid 1800's, twice a week now.

We saw the administrative offices, the guard house, an old courthouse, and a museum within the museum grounds that had a lot of information about the prison system at Abashiri and the history behind both the prison and Hokkaido itself.

This was taken inside one of the five wings of the reconstructed prison house.

This prisoner is apparently preparing paper for the sliding fusumadoors that you can find in a lot of houses on Honshu and the other islands. The doors have a grid frame with paper glued in square sections onto the door. Good for ventilating a house in the summer; not so good for houses in Hokkaido where it gets to be dang cold in the winter.

This is how they heated the cell areas of the prison, at least originally. They had a REALLY LONG STOVE they put in the hallway. I'm guessing it didn't help all that much.

After touring the prison house, we walked over to the reconstructed prison building from the Futamigaoka Farm that was a part of the old Abashiri Prison.

This is a recreation of some of the farming that was done by the prisoners.

Inside the prison building, they had a sign that said we could borrow prisoner wear while we walked around inside.

You don't have to ask me twice. After a little encouragement, Yuka tried some on, too. The first thing she said to me after I put mine on?

"Those clothes suit you."

How do you take a statement like that?

I love that look on my face in the picture on the left. It would have been nice if the one on the right turned out a little better, but all of the cells in the building we visited that actually let us wear prisoner outfits had a plastic cover over the window fit into the door. Oh well.

There were different displays throughout the building that showed how the prisoners lived. This is a shot from the cafeteria. If this was a scene in a prison movie, a big cafeteria brawl would have broken out here.

Actually, they offer a prisoner meal here for 500 yen. I would have gone for it, but the fish they had for lunch that day was saury, and I'm just not a big fan.

Maybe next time.

After leaving the cafeteria, we walked through a workshop where prisoners made small crafts, and then continued into another bath area.

Prisoners actually had to wash their waraji (straw sandals).

I joined in on a lecture here.

The whole area that this museum encompassed was fascinating. A lot of information, a lot of things to see, and with the weather as nice as it was, a really great time. Yuka even seemed to enjoy herself. We spent about two and a half hours on the grounds. Eisaku told me that he could spend all day there, no problem. I could see where he was coming from.

I definitely want to go back someday.

After a quick stop in the souvenir shop, we headed back to the car. By this time, the dull ache I had felt in my feet that morning had turned into a throbbing pain. It really hurt to walk. And I had no idea why. But, I powered on through the pain and we continued on our way.

We thought about checking out some of the other museums further up the hill (stuff about the Arctic ice that comes up on the coast, stuff about the native people who lived in the area before the Japanese came), so we headed that way. If nothing else, the view was supposed to be pretty decent.

It was. That's a view of Lake Abashiri from the hill.

After getting up to the top of the hill, we decided to pass on the other museums and head off to get some lunch instead. We got back on the main highway and headed east.

After we passed Abashiri Port, we saw the Sea of Okhotsk spread out before us.

Hard to pronounce, but awfully nice to look at.

Yuka and I and the Sea of Okhotsk.

You could also see the snow-capped mountains on the Shiretoko Peninsula off in the distance. Shots of those will come later.

After snapping a couple of photos, we continued on our way. We were hungry, after all.

After a few more minutes on the road, we reached our goal: Kitahama Station.

This place was recommended to me by my train buddy Scott as an interesting place to eat at. At first glance, you wouldn't know that there's a restaurant here at all. But there is.

It's called "Teishajo". The owner and chef refurbished the inside of Kitahama Station (specifically, the stationmatser's office) and turned it into a restaurant. The atmosphere was perfect. The restaurant was set up with all sorts of train stuff inside, and the windows looked out onto the ocean. I ordered the beef stew.

Damn. That was tasty.

The station itself was interesting as well. Walk in to the waiting area and you will see business cards and train tickets plastered all over the walls. It's almost creepy, in a way. But I joined in and pinned my Starfish High business card to the wall.

Go outside and you'll see an observation platform set up. You climb up the stairs and get a fantastic view of the ocean and the Shiretoko Peninsula. Very nice.

One other note about the restaurant. As we were pulling in to the parking lot, three riders on horseback came down from a hill across the street from the station, crossed the street, and tied up their horses near the observation platform. Then they came in and ordered some lunch. It was a couple and their guide. This guide was way cool. He had the cowboy look down! And it didn't look cheesy. Cowboy boots. Cowboy hat. Bandana. SPURS. Oh yeah. This guy was the real deal. (Or at least the closest thing to the real deal I've ever seen in Japan.)

As they were waiting for their lunch, I overheard a little bit of their conversation. The guide was talking about the difference between horseback riding in England and horseback riding in the States. "See, in England, they wear riding helmets, are really formal and are all concerned about the dangers of horseback riding. In the States, they are aware of said dangers, but it's more about the thrill of getting out in nature and RIDING. It's you and the horse, and the challenge and thrill of the ride."

This guy was the real deal.

After lunch, we headed a little further east. Scott had ridden the rails out in this area back in the winter, and there was a station along the line that was seasonal. Trains only stop there between May and October. He told me it looked like a nice area from the train window, so get out there and take some pics and let him know how it was.


Said station, Genseikaen Station. (Primeval Flower Park Station. Hey, I just translate 'em.) I liked the log cabin look of the place.

First, we walked over to the viewpoint area. That's when I saw THIS view.

That's Mt. Shari on the right and Mt. Unabetsu on the left.

We walked down to the beach and got a good look at the ocean. My feet were killing me, but the view was so nice that I put the pain out of mind.

Just gorgeous. I love the ocean.

So after taking in the scenery at Genseikaen Station, we hopped back in my car and drove back through Abashiri and on to Memanbetsu. As it turns out, I was so spaced/wiped out from the train journey of the previous day that when I hopped in the hot springs in Memanbetsu for a relaxing bath, I relaxed so much that I ended up forgetting all of my bathing goods there. Towel, bath bowl, soap, shampoo, toothbrush/toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, etc. The toiletries were a necessity; the bath bowl was a nostalgic souvenir of my time in Matsue. And I didn't want to leave all of it in some hot springs in Memanbetsu.

So we drove back and picked it up.

And then turned around and drove back into Abashiri and on out to Cape Notoro.

The sun was starting to set, and it made for a nice evening sky.

The lighthouse out on the cape.

I wish Mt. Unabetsu were a little clearer, but I think the picture still works.

Visiting Cape Notoro was an interesting experience. The view was great, but there were deer "pellets" all over the place, which made walking a little hazardous. Having to dodge mines with feet in the condition mine were in did not make it very conducive to staying out there.

Even though it was May, the road was only open out to the cape. There was still snow blocking off passage to a fishing village a little further to the west. Roads closed due to snow in May. But there were a LOT of deer just up the road past the blockade.

The wind was strong, and bitingly cold, but there was a woman out there in a tight miniskirt and high heels. She watched the sunset for a few minutes, got in her car, and flew off up the road. Yuka and I theorized that she was a fugitive from justice.

We had to be out in Utoro, out on the Shiretoko Peninsula, that night, so we decided to get back on the road ourselves. We headed east, out to Shari. After stopping in the station there and asking for directions to a tasty restaurant, we went and grabbed some dinner, which was actually pretty tasty. After making a pit stop at a convenience store for snacks and beer, we hit the road once more.

After about an hour of driving on dark, DARK roads, seeing more deer than I was comfortable with (please don't jump out in front of my car, PLEASE don't jump out in front of my car), driving past our lodging and out to a hot springs hotel on a road barely wider than my car that had avalanche warning signs written on it, and turning back around and pulling in to the parking lot of the first building we saw (which happened to be the right one), we finally reached our lodgings at around 8:45. Never mind that they asked us to be there by 8:30.

Iwaobetsu Youth Hostel. Powered by generators, as the power lines don't get out that far. (That's not a bad slogan.)

After quickly checking in, we went in to the cafeteria/meeting hall for an informational meeting that was already in progress. The owner was explaining about the Shiretoko Peninsula, the natural features, the surrounding ocean, etc. Pretty informative stuff, although it would have been nice to be there from the beginning. He also explained about some of the activities that were put on by the youth hostel, one of which was sea kayaking. Yuka and I had signed up for it, as had a few other guests. The owner explained that the weather report for the next day was a bit iffy, but he would check out the ocean early in the morning and announce whether the kayaking excursion was still on or not. The weather had been pretty bad up until that point, so every scheduled trip out onto the ocean had been cancelled. I prayed that we would be able to go the next day. After a few more explanations of the youth hostel itself, and an invitation back into the room for some sort of get-together at 9:30, the meeting ended.

Once the informational meeting was over, I went upstairs to check out my bed that I would be sleeping in. My room had four bunk beds in it, so I'm guessing that was the layout for all the other rooms. The rooms were separated out between men and women. I tossed my stuff on my bed, and headed back down to the meeting room for a sing-along. I didn't know it was a sing-along at the time, of course. I just figured, from what I understood of the "get-together" explanation, that there was going to be some music. I figured, what the heck, might as well go and chalk it up as a new experience.

As the owner said as he kicked off the sing-along, "For those of you who have experienced this before, it will be very nostalgic. For those of you coming to this for the first time, you will probably be very suspicious of us."


People were singing songs I'd never heard, and although it was nice, and a couple of the songs were pretty funny, it was still a little weird. Especially when they asked us to get up and dance to a couple of the songs. My feet were throbbing, and I wasn't much in the mood for dancing, but being white made me stick out like a sore thumb, so there was nowhere to hide. I had to dance. Did NOT help my mood much. Tired + feet sore all day long for no apparent reason + having to do weird dances = one grumpy Dustin.

All told, it was kind of fun, though.

After the sing-along, I went and had a bath, grabbed the beers and snacks, hung out and talked with Yuka for a bit, and then... was off to bed.


Anonymous Ashley said...

Hi, Im doing some research into various themes around Badminton such as 'badminton partner'. I need to find more contributors. I've found some at badminton partner but I need more ideas on where to look. Any ideas?
Thank you

Friday, May 19, 2006 2:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Themes on Badminton eh? Sounds kinda interesting, please provide more details. Best Regards, head shaving

Friday, May 19, 2006 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad it was just a loaner prison suit. Did the lecture do you any good? jk

Saturday, May 20, 2006 5:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Tibbs ran along the railroad tracks while fishing. He empathizes with you. jk

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 6:25:00 AM  
Blogger Sizzlean said...

Dude - this next blog post, which has been about a week late, BETTER be how you found a pre-screening of X-men 3 and as a result, you were overwhelmed by life and couldn't join society for a few days. And it should no less than 1500 words.

Typical...of a flatscan.

-Soulfire boy

Thursday, May 25, 2006 11:34:00 PM  

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