Back in Asahikawa, as Eric and I were biking toward Furano, I stopped for a cup of coffee at a precious cabin cafe. I left with recommendations for a hostel and the information of the couple’s daughter to stay with in Nagoya, having had a really delicious cappuccino.

I was so enchanted by this old-fashioned sort of networking (we shared emails too, to be honest), I committed to finding the Hidas’ friend at this hostel in the tiny town of Shimamaki.

From that moment on, I have been hosted on a chain of friends, relatives, and colleagues that have sheltered and fed me, given me advice and contacts, and shown me a varied local perspective of northern Japan. The hostel owner sent me to a friend in Assabu, they to a friend in Hirosaki, him to a buddy in Kitaakita, then to Akita, Sakata, and so on.

I write this blog entry in a ryokan (guesthouse) in Nagano, the first time I have found a place to stay without previous reference in nearly two weeks. And even now, since I fell sick this morning, I have been doted on with the motherly worry of the keeper. I’ve never been far from help or care, and I have felt drunk on the blessings that the Japanese people I’ve met have given freely and generously.

So, to attempt to give proper thanks, here’s some photos from the families I’ve stayed with. Not pictured are Toshi, a man who has cycled around the world himself, and who gave me my first acupuncture treatment; and Kikuchi, who opened his hostel on his day off and paid for the most amazing onsen experience I’ve had to date.

Suzuki family and Tatsuki Nakahara, at their beautiful home in Assabu.

Suzuki family and Tatsuki Nakahara, at their beautiful home in Assabu. I weathered my third typhoon at their home, and was fed such amazingly good food by the skillful hands of Teruko-san, mother and chef extraordinaire.

Shiratori Farm, with Junko-san and Kat-san, and their four WWOOFers. They let me stay to help harvest vegetables for a day, and perhaps unknowingly, planted a seed of curiosity in me about farming, farm policy, and food wellness.

Shiratori Farm, with Junko-san and Kat-san, and their four WWOOFers. They let me stay to help harvest vegetables for a day, and perhaps unknowingly, planted a seed of curiosity in me about farming, farm policy, and food wellness.

Kawata-san, a wild mushroom hunter, and a friendly, goofy father of two, with his wife and kids. I feel like he can hug people with his voice- never a mean bone in his body.

Kawata-san, a wild mushroom hunter, and a friendly, goofy father of two, with his wife and kids. I feel like he can hug people with his voice- never a mean bone in his body. The crew of the ferry to Sado Island from Niigata. The tall man, second from right, is Toshi, who invited me up to the navigation deck to meet the crew. The captain, far left, called a cousin at the other port town, Ogi, and got me an invitation to stay at his guesthouse that night, out of the way of the latest typhoon rains. All done within a few hours aboard, to my utter surprise and gratitude.

 
The crew of the ferry to Sado Island from Niigata. The tall man, second from right, is Toshi, who invited me up to the navigation deck to meet the crew. The captain, far left, called a cousin at the other port town on the island, Ogi, and got me an invitation to stay at his guesthouse that night, out of the way of the latest typhoon rains. All done within a few hours aboard, to my utter surprise and gratitude.