These Walking Dreams: Day 130 (August 20, 2017)

🚉 Hattaushi Station → 📍 Lake Furen🦀 Nemuro

Map of Hokkaido with author’s route from Hattaushi Station to Nemuro highlighted. 🗺 Open map in GaiaGPS ⇝

A drawing in the guest book of Hattaushi Station shows a young girl in manga style sitting in front of the station building.

Another page from the same book shows the girl walking away from the station.

Hattaushi Station building from the outside.

A sign warning against snowmobile use in a thick undergrowth entirely unsuitable for using a snowmobile. 📍 Hattaushi Station

In lieu of the charming schoolgirl promised in the station’s guestbook, it was a young man from Tokushima who arrived in the morning. He came by car, parked it on the deserted road, jumped across the tracks with a large camera, and readied himself to photograph the first train of the morning. There wasn’t much room for error: Hattaushi was a minor stop on the dead end that was the Nemuro Line1. He got his picture, we shouldered our rucksacks, and we walked into the forest under a grey sky.

On the shore of a lake, a pair of red-crowned cranes forage in the distance.

A summer meadow of wildflowers in front of a pine forest.

The trunks of dead trees rise from a marshy landscape.

A red-crowned crane on a sandbar in an inlet. 📍 Lake Furen

Out of the forest, trailing the grey sparks of a summer cloud of mosquitoes, we came upon the brackish shores of the lake, and there they stood, off in the distance, a pair of red-crowned cranes, 1‰ of the world’s entire population, striking in their snow-white plumage, foraging in the mud. These are giant birds, almost as tall as humans, and there is something dizzying about this size combined with their elegance of movement, Concordes built of feathers and weightless bones, and I now knew that I could walk to the end of Japan. Later, we lay on a thick bed of dried kelp on the shore of the Sea of Okhotsk, under a cool sun, and I saw Russia for the first time in my life.

A kelp-covered beach on the Sea of Okhotsk.

The outline of a town seen through a high-powered scope. 🔭 Golovnino, Kunashir Island, Russia

A sign with a mother and baby seal describe the Kuril Islands dispute from the Japanese perspective.

Another sign about the Kuril Islands dispute.

Three far-right sound trucks plastered with signs about the dispute.

Signs on a pole in Russian, to Nemuro Center and Cape Nosappu, the easternmost point of the Japanese mainland. 📍 Nemuro

Leave it to the Japanese to turn even the noxious business of irredentism into something visually charming and cute. These seals, plastered all along the roads of the Nemuro Peninsula, are playing with Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and the Habomais, the Southern Kurils that Japan are claiming from Russia. Build trust and peace. Return the four islands,” the billboards read, in a city where street signs are written in Japanese and Russian.

A manhole covered decorated with a Blakiston’s fish owl, the largest owl in the world. 🦉 Nemuro

Next → Day 131, August 21, The End

Prev. ← Day 129, August 19

These Walking Dreams is a visual field diary of a 4,300-kilometer walk from one end of Japan to the other, in the spring and summer of 2017.

  1. The station no longer exists. It was abandoned on March 16, 2019, a year and a half after we spent the penultimate night of our journey there. At the time, it was used by an average of 0.2 people a day.↩︎