Akan Mashu National Park and Kushiro

by WANDERING SNEAKERS

October 5-11, 2018

Great week in Shari was over, and we got heading to Lake Mashu in Akan Mashu National park. Equipped with paper and pen, we set our hitchhiking base at the main traffic lights. But that day was probably cursed for us. We spent there at least 2 hours without any success. We tried everything. Even a guy from an adjacent petrol station gave us a carton with the village name in Japanese. It did not help. To increase our chance, we changed the destination to nearby Kiyosato and finally caught young lady in small Suzuki Jimny. We fit in, but she insisted to change the car to a bigger one and gave us presents (onsen towels, sweets, and dried fish). Then it was a bit easier, in 30 minutes we stopped a car to Kawayuonsen. From there quick hitchhike to Mashu. A cool older man without any English was so kind he took us not just to our hostel but he even did a detour to  Mashu lake and stopped at observation deck 3.

 

Mashu-ko and Mt. Io

The next day morning we quickly caught a car to Mashu observation deck 1. We made hundreds of pictures and skipped a trail that starts there because of lack of time. Then we walked to observation deck 3 and got a ride to Kawayuonsen station.

 

 

A look from the edge was great.

 

 

A trail to Mt. Io starts there. It is an impressive place with plenty of sulfur, smoke and boiling water. In the souvenir shop, you can buy an egg boiled in natural hot water but we did not try. After another hundred of photos, the trail led us further via forest to Kawayuonsen city. There we spent some time in a foot bath and Eco Museum Center and continued along the road to the lake Kussharo. We were surprised by the beauty of the whole area and by the number of big abandoned hotels. It seems the place is not so popular as it used to be years ago. Walking back from the lake was long. Luckily half of the way a forest worker loaded us into his truck and took us to JR station. And then a lovely family got us to our hostel.

 

 

Our plan to stay only two nights in Mashuko Youth Hostel was spoiled by the thread of another typhoon heading to Japan, and all train service had been interrupted. So one day we just relaxed, went for lunch and did mostly nothing.

 

Kushiro

Hitchhiking to Kushiro was unbelievably smooth, and we soon appeared in front of our Axia hotel in Kushiro (decent hotel with free breakfast for 5,650 JPY).

Kushiro is not a bad city. Maybe we were there just at a wrong time. After our arrival, we did a walk to Harutori park. Apart from a museum that we did not visit, the park was so uninteresting in every aspect. Surrounded by a shopping mall and highway, with no birds that were supposed to be there… We felt so bad we had to find Mitsuboshi conveyor sushi restaurant to make our day bright and shiny again. They had a fantastic selection of plates, and it was very affordable in comparison to prices in Europe. In the evening we planned to have a drink and dinner in an izakaya (Japanese pub) near our hotel, but on Sunday everything was closed. The next day we hesitated whether to go to wetlands or not and once we decided to do so, it started to rain. We just had lunch and then settled for the rest of the day in MMO centre by the river, working on our blog.

 

 

Last epic journey

Getting from Kushiro to Otaru by hitchhiking was an absolute disaster. We had to (unwillingly) split it into three legs. Even we thought we could make it in one day. What fools we were.

 

Leg 1 – Kushiro to Obihiro

Maybe two hours we spent at the road in front of 7-eleven close to JR station. Young mother with a small son took us a few km, where we catch a couple for another few km to Otanoshike station. From there, after 1 hour we got another short ride to a highway stop. Immediately we found a car full of young people to nearby Shiranuka. Another neverending two hours spent at 7-eleven (employees even brought us corn soups – how sweet and embarrassing at once).

Finally, a mid-aged couple took us to Urahoro where we must resign since the sun was going down. It took us a whole day to make 72 km to Urahoro, and for the residual 50 km to Obihiro, we had to take a train (1,070 JPY). At least Hotel Nupka was nice (dorm 3,340 JPY pp).

 

 

Leg 2 – Obihiro to Sapporo

Do you know those days when you think it cannot be any worse… and then there is another day that proves you were wrong…

It is not easy to hitchhike in a city, so we took a train to Nishi-Obihiro and went to a highway feeder-road. There was a parking lot but very rarely used. Not properly signed or with any facilities to attract people. Almost 2 hours of hitchhiking and a young businessman took us to Tomamu highway exit. Unfortunately, it was impossible to catch any car there within 1,5 hour. Upset, we walked to the nearest Tomamu train station. 5 km with backpacks.

 

Read more: Shiretoko National Park

 

However, we must admit that the walk and nature around were splendid. We were even thinking to stay there for two nights and make a hike but what we found on booking was far out of our budget.

But there is no day in Japan without something surprising or weird. As we walked with our backpacks, we suddenly saw two high and slim towers, between two hills, rising in a fog. It was quite far away, and it looked like towers from Lord of the ring. It was bizarre in this uninhabited area. But it was not any fata morgana. As we were coming closer, they become more real, and there were even two other high towers. All of them hotels, of course. Called The Tower, logically.

 

 

At the Tomamu train station, there was only a speed train going a few times a day with the price to Sapporo around 4,500 JPY pp! So we decided to hitchhike to the next station. Unfortunately, somebody took us in 5 minutes. Then we realised how bad decision we made. In Shimukappu there was no local train either, and the next speed train was after 8 pm since two trains did not stop at the station. After 5 pm “lunch” we tried to catch any car for 30 minutes in an almost dark – without any luck. For the 120 km and 1h30m long train journey to Sapporo, we paid ridiculous 4,260 JPY.

 

 

Leg 3 – Sapporo

After a night at Sapporo capsule Hotel (2,000 JPY pp), we just took a train to Otaru (only 710 JPY). No attempt to Hitchhike at all…

You can read about once famous Japanese capsule hotels in a separate article.

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