Hiking, Japan, Urban Walking
Comments 6

Flying by Falcon, Rocking with Rose

Travelling in Japan is all about the trains — well, except for those annoying mountain-hiking parts.

The whole country is a train-spotter’s paradise, with prizes including the almost obscenely streamlined Hayabusa, one of the fastest shinkansen (“bullet trains”) in Japan…


My train glides into Tokyo station this afternoon.

..within which I sped yesterday from Tokyo to Aomori in the extreme north of the main island of Honshu, and the Hamanasu


My Hamanasu at rest in Aomori. As you can see in the header shot, the venerable old beast had a certain star quality for the dozens of enthusiasts with cameras on the platform.

..at the opposite end of the train-technology spectrum, which rocked and rollicked through the night, beneath the Tsugaru Strait to emerge onto vast Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island.

Even the names are cool. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon, and Hamanasu is the Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa,a name which captures its rambling, exuberant energy, even if it’s not especially macho name for a train.

A celebration of fine green buttocks.

A celebration of fine green buttocks.

I’m typing this aboard the final phase of my Daisetsuzan-bound railway odyssey (there’s still a bus to go after that), a Super Kamui Limited Express from Sapporo to Asahikawa. A quick check suggests that kamui translates as “divine or powerful”. This seems like a favourable omen before my upcoming excursion.

That ride aboard the falcon was terrific. I bought a three-way adaptor in Tokyo and plugged it in right at my seat, re-charging all my camera batteries, this laptop and my wifi hotspot (about the size of an iPhone) as we flew.

An apartment overlooking an old shrine, downtown Tokyo.

An apartment overlooking an old shrine, downtown Tokyo.

I arrived at sleepy Shin-Aomori with a mild Premium Malt’s (sic) buzz from the two cans delivered to my seat as my devices buzzed and blinked and I attempted to write this very post. We entered a slew of tunnels which messed with my wifi; I gave up the journalism and concentrated on the Premium Malt’s.

Tokyo was great but the heat and endless walking beneath my amply proportioned pack wore me down. The capsule hotel was enjoyable, but it felt like a youth hostel, and I sleep lightly.


Clearly disturbed, but apparently happily, this woman spent ages out on the pond in Inokashira Park, beneath the overhanging cherry trees, demonstrating an appalling ignorance of the basics of rowing, but laughing and chatting with an invisible companion while getting nowhere fast.


Rowing one-handed & backwards, turning in erratic pointless circles on the murky green waters. What a perfect metaphor for life.

I spent a pleasant afternoon yesterday back in Inokashira Park in Kichijoji, between infusions of iced coffee cold enough that my throat went into spasms and I thought I was having a stroke, drying some stealth-washed laundry on a bench while ladies passed clutching umbrellas, and dragonflies and butterflies floated languorously over the flowers.

Firemen doing their morning exercise drills, Tokyo.

Firemen doing their morning exercise drills, Tokyo.

A kind lady in the post office helped me post some clothes (still damp!) and my tripod home, and my pack is feeling a lot more manageable, still way heavier than I’d prefer (my membership of the lightweight hiking club has surely been terminated) but that’s the price of art.

Beware the stylishly attired insects.

Beware the stylishly attired insects.

Seems obvious in retrospect: if a camera’s small and light, carrying three of ’em sorta cancels out the benefits…

This was after three trips to the impressive tripod section in Shinjuku’s Bic Camera, gripped with doubts about abandoning the carbon-fibre tripod. I wandered on, and when I found Yodabashi Camera, another multi-floor photographer’s heaven (or hell if you’re gripped with agonising indecision), I bit the bullet and grabbed the only GorillaPod.

Fading hydrangeas (ajisai in Japanese), Kichijoji.

Fading hydrangeas (ajisai in Japanese), Kichijoji.

I also grabbed several irresistible items from my new-favourite outdoor store, a Mont Bell that’s opened in Kichijoji since I was last there. I love their stuff; my wallet at least is far lighter than before. I was even able to buy a can of ah-ru-ko-ru (not another beer, the denatured variety — methylated spirits in Australian), so I will able to fire up my trusty beer-can stove in the mountains.

Alright, I’d better get off this thing and enjoy the scenery. I plan to be in the volcanic peak-infested interior of Hokkaido for 6-7 days. It’s going to be pretty hard walking, and even the smattering of huts up there are reputably “primitive”. Not sure if the wifi will work up there so if you don’t hear from me for a while, do not necessarily assume I’ve been devoured by bears.

Rowboats & Maple Leaves, inokashira Pond.

Rowboats & Maple Leaves, inokashira Pond.

Thanks for the encouraging comments; I’ve included a handful of Tokyo shots. I was too beaten down by heat and weight to get too creative, but I’ll get used to it…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. It’s always interesting to read about your travel in Japan and the amazing photos that go with it. We will patiently wait for your next post.I know they will be great to see along with the caption below them. All the best to you. Happy traveling. 🙂

    • Thanks, Ranu! I had a slow day today but it let me catch up on this blog! Tomorrow things should get interesting again…

  2. Gorgeous pictures. The loveliness of the green water and the white dressed lady muttering to herself make the metaphor for life even more apt and poignant. Looking forward to seeing your next batch of photos….

    • Thanks, mate! Not sure if I’m establishing a precedent, but I’ve had time to edit a few pictures as I go. Not much else to do in the evenings when you’re in a capsule!

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