Wrong Way Round – Day 10

Wrong Way Round – Day 10

Day 10 – Nemuro City to Betsukai (根室市 – 別海) – 100km

One of the motorcyclists from the Okaba rider house was already at Cape Nosappu (納沙布岬) when I arrived, and Mr Pine Origin turned up not long after, raving about a sanma (秋刀魚 / saury) set breakfast he had eaten along the way. Crab, too, is a local speciality, and a flotilla of crab fishing boats sailed into the bay at about ten in the morning, attracting flocks of both seagulls and sightseers.

After Cape Erimo, Cape Nosappu – the easternmost point in the four main islands of the Japanese archipelago – was the second extremity of Hokkaido on my circumnavigation, and home to a small museum with a huge stuffed sea lion in the foyer, a restaurant selling something called teppoh-jiru (鉄砲汁 / handgun soup) and Shima-no-kakéhashi (四島のかけはし), a monument symbolising the hope that Russia will one day be nice enough to give back some of the disputed Kuril Islands to Japan.

Possibly my favourite Japanese kanji are 凸凹, which not only have a satisfyingly onomatopoeic pronunciation – deko-boko* – but also an attractively symmetrical shape that in turn suggests their meaning. Individually they mean ‘convex’ and ‘concave’, and in combination ‘uneven’ or ‘up and down’, so the road from Cape Nosappu to Betsukai was deko-boko, and the further up each deko I climbed, the more I had to pull my baseball cap over my eyes to keep out the sun’s glare until the next boko.

(This was a half-boat / half-building hybrid I spotted along the way.)

‘Oh look, it’s a cyclist!’ said the caretaker at the Betsukai campsite. ‘Where have you come from today?’
‘Er, Furano, I think.’
‘Furano?’ exclaimed the caretaker. ‘That’s quite a ride for one day.’
‘A few hundred kilometres, I should think,’ said one of his colleagues.
‘At least I think it was Furano.’ I still hadn’t quite got the hang of the place names in Hokkaido, many of which were originally coined by the native Ainu. ‘Actually, it could have been something ending in “ro”.’
‘Kushiro?’ said the caretaker.
‘No, I was there a few days ago.’
‘Nemuro?’
‘Yes, that’s the one!’

There was an onsen just up the road from the campsite, and I gave a start when I looked in the changing room mirror. The Okaba rider house had been so infested with mosquitoes that we left a katori-senkoh (蚊取り線香 / mosquito coil) burning in the dormitory all night, and my eyes were as red as Oliver Reed’s on the morning after a three-day bender. In between this, Mr Pine Origin’s snoring, a cock crowing in the yard and a foghorn blowing at regular intervals nearby, I hadn’t had the best night’s sleep. It was also forty-eight hours since my last proper bath, so in order to make myself feel at least partially human again, this evening I spent approximately:

5 minutes in the shower
10 minutes in the rotenburo (露天風呂 / outside bath)
3 minutes beneath a kind of waterfall massage thingy
2 minutes in the sauna followed by 2 minutes in the mizu-buro (水風呂 / cold bath)
3 more minutes in the sauna followed by 3 more minutes in the mizu-buro
4 more minutes in the sauna followed by 4 more minutes in the mizu-buro
5 more minutes in the rotenburo
3 more minutes beneath the waterfall massage thingy and
3 more minutes in the mizu-buro

I sighed like the bloke from the Strongbow ad for pretty much the entire 49 minutes, and just to make things that little bit more conducive, there was a view from the rotenburo of the Shirétoko Peninsula (知床半島), which was to be the next extremity on my circumnavigation of Hokkaido.

* Actually, 凸凹 are not always deko-boko. In more formal or literary contexts they go by the much less catchy pronunciation of totsu-oh.

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