Monday, December 24, 2012

Nippon Extremities: Hokkaido VI

August 10, 1997

The day started with intermittent rain, but after a bath and a shower, it cleared enough that I decided to take off.  A family with a young daughter took me about 50 km, and when they let me out, blue sky was pouring through the clouds.  I walked to the far end of town before I was picked up again.  To my surprise, it was a lone older woman.  She babbled the entire way to Wakkanai, laughing and talking to herself occasionally, and often making bizarre comments.  When she couldn't finish her lunch, she said that she hoped it wouldn't anger the North Koreans.  She seemed nice, if not a bit loony, but her Japanese had me baffled.  I don't know if it was her dialect, or that she used more archaic terms, but I could understand surprisingly little.  After awhile, I began to get tired and wished she'd turn the words off.  To her benefit, she did drive me close to 200 km.  

Heading to the north end of the world felt nothing short of monumental.  The houses spaced themselves further and further apart until the remaining farms looked dilapidated and abandoned.  Somewhere along the way, the mountains had disappeared, replaced by low hills which looked in the process of being rolled up and scattered about in large bales.  

In Wakkanai, I found that I was able to catch the last ferry of the day, so I jumped aboard.  In harbor, the deck was cold and windy, but once underway, the clouds parted enough to let through the sun which warmed up everything.  Through the ride, I pondered whether I could live with myself if I cheated on my fiancee with the girl from Asahi-dake.  Dozens of times I talked myself in and out of this one last premarital fling, until, in a gesture most cinematic, I let the paper with the girl's phone number fly from my fingers and into the wind. 

Seagulls followed the ship, skimming and diving in the wind's wake. I was mesmerized by the vast numbers, and by their grace, as they literally danced in the air to the music of my walkman.  A month before, a friend had made me a mix tape of traditional world music for my thirtieth birthday, and at this particular moment, rousing Chinese music started up at the moment that Rishirito's volcanic peak appeared, serving as some ominous soundtrack for an unmade kung fu film.  Next on the horizon came Rebunto, whose scattered wooden houses looked like any shoreline in the Northeastern U.S.  The typhoon had left behind strong gusty winds, which coupled with the fact that the late arrival of the ferry had made me miss the last bus, forced me to check into the nearby hostel.  A good choice.  In my bed, I could drift off to the sound of the high winds, and the surf...

On the turntable:  Santana, "Mystical Spirits
On the nighttable:  Ivan Morris, "The World of the Shining Prince"

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