Today is a fun day.
I mean fun, even if this is a day that will appeal or even make sense to very few.
It’s anime pilgrimage time!
Yeah yeah, why are we doing this again, is this becoming trip tradition?
Honest, I didn’t start out intending to do a pilgrimage this time, most animes are set in Tokyo or Kansai with virtually no animes set in touhoku or Hokkaido. Until a month from the trip (wait, this seems familiar).
The new anime season has a show called Sora no Method (The way the celestial moves, roughly meaning) which I absolutely adores. The show is about a group of girls and a UFO that floats above their lakeside town. My characterization of the show is it’s like a bunch of adorable kittens, you don’t really know or care why the kittens are playing or batting each other but you just love to watch them because they’re so cute and cuddly. (Look… don’t question the analogy)
As it turns out, the anime is set in Lake Toya in Hokkaido in cooperation with the Toya tourism office, ie. an anime aimed at promoting the town as is getting ever more popular these days.
Lake Toya is just an hour and a half north of Hakodate, fitting into the schedule conveniently whether I luck out on the Twilight Express or not (Twilight Express stops at Toya so I could board the train from there if need be).
The only downside is I have to leave on the earliest train so I miss out on the hotel breakfast which I have already booked, alas, it’s just hotel breakfast. I have some bread bought the night before and is on my merry way.
Getting to Lake Toya requires taking a 15 minutes bus from Toya station, about 330Y. But I won’t be staying all the way to the lakeside terminal, instead to streamline the trip I jump off early at the Nishiyama volcanic trail.
Lake Toya is a caldera lake by an huge ancient volcanic eruption and the area is still full of volcanic activities. In 2001 a minor eruption wiped out then road then leading to Lake Toya and the village along the road. There were no casualties having all been evacuated but most of the area was deemed too dangerous to continue live in and many buildings were abandoned.
The area is now a boarded walk where one can observe up close the effect of a volcanic eruption.
Smoke still rises from many of the craters in the area, and signs strongly warn against stepping off the boardwalk.
I didn’t quite make it back in time for the bus. It’s not too far to walk to the lakeside onsen town and it’s all downhill, so I got there in no time.
The bus terminal is also the communithy centre and tourist centre. In the lobby of the tourist centre they have trailers of the anime and cardboard stands of the characters on display. Seeing them makes me so happy, like a big warm welcome.
Some of the scenes of the anime are set in locations some distance from the onsen town so I rent a bike from the bike store just across the road opposite the bus terminal. The owner of the bike store is a very enthusiastic man in his 50s or 60s who seems quite glad to have a visitor. It’s off season and with Toya on the decline, there’re probably not many tourists in town.
There’s bike trails along most of the lakeside, the bits where there aren’t are very frustrating as I’m forced to ride on the side of the road.
My end goal is the observatory that appears in the poster for the anime, about 5km out. The observatory is part of an educational camping facility.
I am in very good spirit to have thought of renting a bike instead of trying to get there by bus and walking. I’m almost singing as I pedalled along the scenic lakeside.
The good mood does not last. No one quite told me it’s on side of the hill and involves a really steep climb.
I pushed the stupid bike, cursing all the way, up to the top of the hill only to be met by a barricade sealing off the road branching off to the observatory.
It turns out the place is only open during summer and they close the roads during winter. I tell myself they’ve only closed it now as a pre-emptive measure before snow falls. Which means it’s probably, probably okay for me to ignore it.
Checking that there’s no one around, I ride past barricade and continues on.
The entrance to the observatory is chained off, with a sign saying it’s a private property and any trespassers will be prosecuted.
Now I’m really in a conundrum. On one hand I doubt there’s anyone inside. On the other hand, if there just happen to be people there, even if nothing comes out of it it’ll be a real hassle to explain myself, plus it’ll give a bad name to anime pilgrims.
But I’ve come all this way, do I really turn back now? When the observatory is right before my eyes.
I hope I made the right choice then, sighing and turning away.
The ride back to the onsen town is hard and arduous. As if taunting me the wind blew right at me from the west, making me fight for every pedal forward.
Eventually I triumphed over the wind and made it back to town right on time, the bike trip being just under two hours and returned my bike without needing to pay any extra.
Despite some setbacks, the day has been the most fun I’ve had for a few days.
By the time I get back to Hakodate the supermarket is out of bentos so I’m having to look for options. While wandering I run across the Lucky Pierrot, I guess they’re actually kind of everywhere in Hakodate.
The pork cutlet burger is again incredibly fatty, it has a really nice rich sauce that makes up for it.
It’s laundry time again, I brought enough change of clothes for 5 days.
The laundry machine is exactly the same as the one in Color Hotel Aomori. 300Y to use the laundry machine, 100Y per 30min for dryer.