‘I’ve been to the Nissan factory in Sunderland a couple of times on business,’ said one of the other campers as we were packing our things and getting ready to leave On-neyu. ‘As far as I could make out, everyone in England is called John. It was John this, John that, John the other.’
‘A friend of mine in Tokyo’s called John,’ said another. ‘He was married to a Japanese lady who died a few years ago, but he says that he’s never going back to England because the weather’s so awful. Your name’s not John as well, is it?’
I reached the 1050-metre Sekihoku Pass by about lunchtime and rewarded myself with some Kumazasa, a well-known brand of ice cream in Hokkaido (of the various flavours on offer I chose lavender, although the other customers seemed to prefer the watermelon).
‘I always promised him we’d go on a trip for a few days when his legs were long enough,’ said the father, and despite insisting that he had assigned only the lightest items of luggage to his son, the son’s bicycle, a mini-mountain bike with a shopping basket on the front, appeared to be weighed down with even more bits and bobs than mine.
There is a cable car that takes paying passengers from the valley floor to a point 1300 metres up the side of Mount Kurodaké, and apparently, some people catch the last one of the day, camp on the mountain and hike to the summit early the next morning to watch the sunrise. The sunset, though, had been all but swallowed up by the clouds when my cable car reached its destination.