In the Daisetsuzan national park, most of the shop fronts have been specially designed not to clash with their natural surroundings, and include this monochromatically low-key 7-11.
'Sorry to interrupt,' I said. 'Were you busy?'
'Not at all,' said Mr High Bridge. 'I was going to run an errand but it can wait until later.'
'I can always come back, though.'
'No, no,' he said. 'O-kyaku-sama wa kami-sama dess!'
How wonderful! I thought, as this was the first time I had encountered the phrase (お客様は神様です), which means 'The customer is God'.
That morning the assistants had said hello and thank you whenever anyone went into or came out of the 7-11 in Soh-unkyo; just down the road the staff were lined up in a hotel car park to wave off a coach load of guests; in the afternoon, two assistants stood on the pavement and bowed deeply as an elderly gentleman - presumably having purchased something very expensive - left a department store in the centre of Asahikawa, and now I too felt suitably God-like as Mr High Bridge took my details and escorted me through the park to the camp ground, telling me along the way about his recent holiday in Sydney, and giving me a map that among other things showed the location of the nearest launderette.
For dinner I found an equally old-style izakaya, which the owner - Mrs Holy Tree - told me she had been running for forty years.
'It used to be just fields around here,' she said. 'Then as the city got bigger there was lots of development. Eight or nine years ago the factories started disappearing again - instead of staying in Asahikawa everyone's been leaving for Sapporo or Honshu. My daughter's in Tokyo now and I haven't even been to visit her yet. I did go there once before she was born, but that was the only time I've ever left Hokkaido.'
'Why just the once?' I asked.
'The izakaya's open every day of the week except Sunday,' said Mrs Holy Tree, 'so I haven't got the time.'
As we were talking, Mr Holy Tree arrived back for a break from his job as a taxi driver.
'I used to drive a tour bus but it was tough being so far from home,' he said, 'and in any case there's more money in the taxi business. The only trouble is the hours. Once I've had dinner I'll go back out and work until early tomorrow morning - probably about 4am.'