Rishiri-to – Wakkanai – Asahikawa (旭川)

Left Rishiri Island for Wakkanai on the first ferry.


After what seemed like an epic high in Rebun & Rishiri islands, I hopped on to a one-carriage train in Wakkanai that was departing in 3 minutes. Little did I know that this is a local train. It’s old school – no aircon, just fans – but looks well-maintained.


Single carriage local train. At Wakkanai station, the northern most train station of Japan.


The railway track runs through lush greenscape.

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The local train stops at little-known obscure stations southwards that reminds me of the smaller KTM stations in Peninsula Malaysia.

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Arrived at Asahikawa to some rain showers. Made plans with a new friend to meet at Abashiri to share a car the next day.

Thinking that it wouldn’t be difficult to find accommodation since I was travelling solo, I arrived at Asahikawa with no accommodation booking. I was in for a surprise. I probably walked to 10 different hotels and invariably each receptionist gave me the crossed-arms sign – the hotels were all booked out! Is there a trade conference going on in the city or something? I wondered if, worse comes to worst, I could live like a hobo and camp overnight along the shopping streets.


Finally after more than an hour, I managed to find a business hotel. It isn’t expensive and the room is huge and has ample amenities. There are TWO doors leading to the room, with a separate area to leave your shoes and change into slippers. This whole changing-into-another-pair-of-slippers culture in Japan is beginning to sink in. Still, the hotel is a tad strange for my taste. And being a business hotel it reeks of cigarette smoke. Also, can you indulge the Japan newbie if she says this is the first time she has seen a Karaoke set in a hotel room?

I did not see a single other female guest in this hotel. I wondered a bit.

By the time I had set down my bag it was already 6-ish and the rain began to pour again. Retired to some smooth espresso-based coffee in an understatedly stylish cafe.


Wandered into a pachinko parlour. The noise is deafening.


Popped into an izakaya.


Had a beer, some hotate sashimi (raw scallops) and then attacked a tower of fresh oysters steamed with sake. The oysters are DELICIOUS. I have no regrets ordering it even though the portion is for at least two. It was a quiet night with some baseball on TV. The proprietors seemed really friendly. I wish I can speak Japanese.

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The next morning, I woke up early again for a quick walk around the city. “Chatted” with some good-natured seniors who were amused to see a gaijin like me by myself early in the morning. Again, I wished I could speak Japanese. Spotted a golden-coloured koi (carp)! In my head, I invented an auspicious sign.

Then at 6.30am sharp, in a broad ground in the park, everyone stopped and moved in synchronisation to the music. And I mean EVERYONE, young and old. Except me. I felt left out, and decided to join in too. This is the closest thing to a flash mob I have experienced.



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