Pictures of Countryside around Biei and Furano, Hokkaido Japan, Summer 2012
… and here it is, the last of three galleries of photos from a trip R. and I took to Hokkaido, including my old JET Programme host town of Biei, in the summer of 2012.
BTW, I’m at work on a personal essay about my time in Hokkaido when I first moved to Japan 16+ (!) years ago for the Transitions Abroad narrative travel writing contest. Look for the story, working title Extreme Japan: slow travel epiphanies from the far ends of Japan, in the TA winners’ circle. Or in the highly unlikely event that I don’t win, here on the pages of Big Sushi, Little Fishes…
Photography Notes: As mentioned previously, I usually set my cameras to shoot RAW + JEPG. It’s easy to messy up settings in the menu of an Olympus PEN camera, however, especially early models, and at some point early on I ended up getting only JPEGS shot through the Grainy Film Art Filter on these shoots (the colour shots were taken with a Canon G9). All the B&W shots in this gallery were taken with the m/Zuiko 45mm 1.8 prime lens.
Although I developed, so to speak, a passion for photography during the four years I lived on Japan’s rural, northernmost island of Hokkaido — island light! — I don’t have digital copies of those first pictures.
These pictures are from a summer trip R. and I took to the Biei area of central Hokkaido in 2012. Although I didn’t really appreciate it then — I was alone, my girlfriend being in Tokyo — the Biei area is very photogenic. Cigarette commercials and TV dramas like to use the patchwork fields and dramatic treelines as their settings.
By the way, the volcano pictures are from an aborted climb up Asahidake, in Daisetsuzan National Park.
I lived on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, for four years when I first moved to Japan – from the summer of 1998 to 2002. Although I left Hokkaido for Tokyo twelve years ago and don’t regret the move, Hokkaido for me then was one of those seminal times in life when you are, as they say, “in the right place at the right time.”
Recently I started to write once again about what it was like for an inner-city kid to find himself in a rural part of Japan on an island which, at the time, most people had never heard of. I’ll write more about Extreme Japan: slow travel epiphanies on Hokkaido and Iriomote…
Trip Advisor’s Travelers’ Choice 2013: Destinations on the Rise – World includes Sapporo at the #8 spot, citing its famous beer, Olympic-inspired youthful energy, the Snow Festival, and ramen noodles.
Honestly, I enjoyed rolling into Sapporo two or three times a year as a break from living deep in the countryside of northern Hokkaido. After all, I grew up in Toronto – a similar-sized city – and was used to some city amenities. After a three-hour train ride, I would hit the two bookstores which stocked English books and magazines, then – after they finally opened – go to Starbucks for a rare caffe latte, and read. There was also a Patagonia Outlet on… the North? side of the station… That was, like, fifteen years ago, and I still have the two tops and fleece pants I picked up there on steep discount. Sometimes we would catch a flick at Sapporo Factory; occasionally we’d party at Rad Brothers.
A weekend escape for someone living in the area. A world-class tourist destination? Hmn…
11 years ago, when I last visited Niseko, the ski resort area outside of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, the place still felt off the beaten path, for expats and tourists alike. I remember snowshoeing through a river valley, among rocks and trees mushroom-capped with some of that “champagne powder” snow that is making this part of Hokkaido internationally famous. At the time, Niseko was still a destination worth visiting for some peaceful communing with nature.
Hopefully, that’s still the case. However, in the ensuing 11 years, Niseko has apparently gone from a sleepy village to a world-class resort town. Australians and others are buying up vacation condos, and the area is now on the radar of the international jet set. And service infrastructure, ie restaurants for foodies, is arising to meet the needs of this new class of visitor.