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A week in, a storm passed,  250 miles covered, and two mountains climbed.  I’m finding my rhythm,  learning so much every day. The greatest challenge,  and my goal in Japan, is to listen for the pauses and stop when the stopping is good. Of course,  when the travel is as good as the destination,  it can be hard to tell which is the better course.

The week’s highlights:

Bike paths! Or at least, generally, a decent bike lane-sidewalk.

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Shiretoko Park– the far tip of Hokkaido, home to Mount Rausu and a chain of peaks that still disguise some unexplored territory. The Japanese Yukon, of sorts.

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Mount Rausu, a day's climb that started and ended with a bear sighting.

Mount Rausu, a day’s climb that started and ended with a bear sighting.

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A sunflower field: Acres of these cheerful faces turn in rapt attention toward the sun, as if communing with their spiritual force. They drape in unexpected corners, tucked between mountains or on the corner of a farmhouse, like bright, waving handkerchiefs.

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Come out, shy one, you're missing the sun!

Come out, shy one, you’re missing the sun!

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Onsen, especially free ones: The Japanese manner of bathing involves sitting on a stool before a spigot, filling up a basin with warm water to wash and soap yourself clean, then entering into a hot spring bath to let the mineral water restore your vitality. It doesn’t hurt when, in the mountains, these springs are sometimes free and open to the weary travelling public.

Daisetuzan Park: Our second venture into nature, though it came after a day of biking up a mountain pass, so we were somewhat worn for wear. But still, we climbed the stairs up Mt. Tokachi to see the caldera packed dense with last year’s snow on the other side.

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Mm, mountain snack.

Roadside scenery: There’s lots of familiar farmland, with a unique Japanese set of crops, stretching between the mountains. And there’s plenty of “what the…?” sights tucked in between them.

Made me think of you Dad! The Japanese, it seems, do not talk about WWII or have many readily accessible museums documenting it. Hiroshima is taught as practically a natural disaster.

Made me think of you Dad! The Japanese, it seems, do not talk about WWII or have many readily accessible museums documenting it. Hiroshima is taught as practically a natural disaster.

A Japanese graveyard on the way to Furano.

A Japanese graveyard on the way to Furano.

Sunsets over the mountains stretch the striped sky out like a watercolor painting.

Sunsets over the mountains stretch the striped sky out like a watercolor painting.

Care for a swim to Russia? Overlooking Shiretoko's northern edge.

Care for a swim to Russia? Overlooking Shiretoko’s northern edge.

 

A Buddha towers over the land.

A Buddha towers over the land.

Fields and fountains, moors and mountains.

Fields and fountains, moors and mountains.

A lucky encounter: I stopped at a woodsy cabin that advertised coffee, pasta, pizza, and wine on the way to Furano, just after turning south outside Asahikawa. It was too early for the latter three, but I could use some caffeine, I thought. The place was closed, but as I slowly turned away a man in a chef’s uniform rushed toward me an invited me in. By the end of my orange juice and cappuccino, I had two new friends, as he and his wife told me about good places in Hokkaido, gave me their daughter’s contact information to stay with her in Nagoya, and gifted me a jar of freshly squeezed tomato juice as a parting gift. I was grinning all day afterward.

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Arriving in Sapporo: After leaving Eric at the train station in Takagawa, about 50 km into our Friday ride, I clipped back in and headed south straight into the rainy fingers of typhoon Danas. Luckily, the storm did nothing but drip and soak me through for a few hours. I had my first tumble, but otherwise arrived safe and proud in Sapporo, ending a 90 mile day and successfully finding a hostel room, with the help of a grocer’s kind phone call to get me directions.

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Testing out the brews at Sapporo Museum.

I will provide (hopefully, given technology’s cooperation) the mapped routes of the roads I take in organized packets under the heading “Routes,” then “Asia-Japan” on the top menu. Should you wish to follow the same roads someday, there’s something for you to check out!