Monday, December 31, 2018

Thank You 2018

Grateful for...
  • getting my ITR stamped/verified without a hitch (I didn't have to go back and forth like I did in 2016).
  • Korea Consulate for giving me a 3-year multiple entry visa (though I applied for a single entry visa)! Woohoo!
  • friends for keeping cool when we went to Samar and it was raining cats and dogs. By noon (on the same day we arrived) we decided to catch the ferry back to Cebu.
  • JaeHwa for letting me stay in his house, taking me and JungIn around Jeju, and taking us to restaurants that served Jeju specialties.
  • JaeHwa and JungIn for coming up with an itinerary and for always feeding me.
  • finding an alternative bus (and bus stop) that could take me near Seopjikoji (by near, I mean Seopjikoji would be a 30-minute walk) when I missed bus 295 (the only bus that would go to the entrance of Seopjikoji).
  • Annie, the friendly Chinese girl I met, for hanging out with me while we waited for our respective flights out of Jeju.
  • good timing for cherry blossoms in Jeju, Jinhae, and Busan. Woohoo!
  • the kind owner of Chacharang Guesthouse for letting me check-in early (I arrived around noon) and for helping me find information for the bus for Gyeongju Yangdong Historic Village.
  • the woman at the Express Bus Terminal for helping me find information for the bus for Gyeongju Yangdong Historic Village.
  • the bus 206 driver for letting me know he was going near Yangdong Village and for not forgetting to drop me off at the right bus stop. (Bus 203 would go direct to the village but its 915am schedule was too late for me as I was already at the bus stop at 8am.)
  • checking reservations for Geomun Oreum too late (fully booked by then) and deciding to hike Hallasan instead. It was a very beautiful hike. Definitely the highlight of this trip!
  • Google Maps and a pocket WiFi, I could track where I was on the bus and get off at a stop that was near wherever I had to go.
  • the elderly Busanite artist in Jwasuyeong-ro who offered to draw me. Best souvenir!
  • my sister for taking care of the logistics and accommodations for our trip to Virgin Island (Bantayan).
  • finding out that I can buy and receive the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass (not voucher) at Narita Airport (from what I had previously read, I thought I could only buy it there and then have the voucher exchanged to get the actual pass in Hokkaido only). I quickly made some changes to my itinerary so I could use the pass on my first day in Hokkaido.
  • the random stranger I had asked for directions who accompanied me to the place because he could not speak English.
  • Grids Sapporo Hostel & Hostel for letting me leave my bag for free for two nights while I went to Asahikawa.
  • lockers in Asahikawa Station (and most stations in Japan).
  • Tetsu, owner of Asahikawa Ride, who noticed I booked and cancelled every time the price dropped on (four times!), for telling me to book directly on his website for the cheapest rate.
  • small bottles of sunblock at convenience stores. I did not expect to get sunburnt in Hokkaido—it's supposed to have cooler summers than the rest of the country. Unfortunately, the time I was in Japan was also the time Japan experienced its hottest summer in 10 years!
  • finally seeing the beautiful lavender (and other flower) fields of Biei and Nakafurano.
  • my sister for letting me borrow her lightweight, water repellent jacket—it was put to good use when I went for a hike around Sugatami Pond in Asahidake. It was very foggy, cold, and drizzling (on and off).
  • clouds and fog for clearing up and showing the beautiful landscape in Asahidake even for just a few seconds at a time.
  • for catching the cable car in time to catch the bus back from Asahidake to Asahikawa. If I had missed the cable car, I would have missed the bus, and would have had to wait more than two hours for the next bus!
  • being at the right place at the right time. At around 11am I was around the area of the ramen place I wanted to try. I did not have to go back and forth while exploring Hakodate.
  • the Hakodate tram pass. Saved me time and I was able to go to Fort Goryokaku which was not in my initial plan as it was quite far from most of the places I wanted to see.
  • a bus stop 1 kilometer from the end of the hiking trail in Toya. I did not have to go back to where I started the hike in order to take the bus back to Toya Station.
  • Yumiko for picking me up from Narita and taking me to Sawara Town. I had met her through Instagram and though she could barely speak English, she drove down two hours to meet me.
  • meeting Kaori and Anju on the boat tour in Sawara Town. We ended up having lunch and exploring Sawara Town together with Yumiko.
  • Brennan, blogger of Baktin Corporation and The Weekend Dispatch, for taking care of the itinerary for the Manila trip.
  • The Auza couple, Brennan's friends, for letting us stay a night at their place and for taking us to Rizal to see the Pililla windmills and Pinto Art Museum.
  • Brennan for letting me tag along on their sponsored stay at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
  • Eva of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar for the fascinating guided tour.
  • Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar for taking us back to the 1700s to 1900s. Great experience!
  • Claire of Traveling Light for arranging a deal with 1Bataan.
  • 1Bataan for the free rides to and from Orion (Bataan).
  • the abundant number of Grabcar drivers—it was easy to get rides in Manila.
  • free admission to the National Museums in the Philippines. I enjoyed my visit at the National Museum of Natural History.
  • on time flight and catching the 1015pm bus from the airport to Seoul. (And also for deciding to take the bus instead of the subway because, as I found out the next day, the nearest station to the hostel was quite large and a bit confusing.)
  • coming across a Dunkin Donuts shop early in the morning a few minutes' walk from my hostel. I have missed their blueberry bagels (which I had only discovered last March).
  • having a T-money card. Transfers from subway to bus (and vice versa) is free within a certain number of minutes.
  • Ley for letting me know about the coupon in Tongin Market. I got a free small Tongin mascot stuffed toy. Very cute.
  • deciding to visit Oil Tank Culture Park (because I had extra time). I enjoyed the quiet (there were very few people at the park) and the art installations inside some of the tanks. (I wasn't planning on visiting this park because it didn't seem interesting when I was researching for the trip).
  • free tour with English audio guide (and gift!) of Cheong Wa Dae, the South Korean president's residence. Which reminds me, I really should visit MalacaƱang next time I am in Manila.
  • not fainting of hunger in the bus to Namhansanseong Fortress. The traffic was so bad, the bus so stuffed (I had to stand all the way),  and I hadn't had lunch yet.
  • With U Guesthouse (a very nice guesthouse just across Sokcho Express Bus Terminal) for allowing me to leave my bag before check in.
  • the kind man, who I guess was the owner of the restaurant in Seoraksan, who invited me to eat inside when he saw me eating my breakfast out in the very cold morning.
  • the strength and endurance to hike to Ulsanbawi (the total length of the trail is 3.8 km, 3 kilometers of it is stairs!)
  • the patience to wait for a slot on the cable car to go to Gwongeumseong Fortress (that means I got to rest after the 5-hour hike up and down Ulsanbawi) and some spare energy for another 20-minute roundtrip hike.
  • deciding to visit Arario Museum on my free day. A very interesting art museum!
  • Ley and her mom for joining me for dinner. It's nice to have someone to eat with!
  • my sister for joining me on the second half of the trip. I finally had a travel companion after traveling out of the country solo for six consecutive times (spread over 3 years). I miss having somebody to talk, eat, explore with.
  • free admission to the palaces in Seoul on the last Wednesday of every month. My sister and I explored Gyeongbokgung for free.
  • marking Samcheong Sujebi on my map though I didn't really plan on eating there. While we were walking around Samcheongdong, I saw it on my map and decided to eat there (had I not marked it on my map, I would have passed this place without a glance), and it turns out this restaurant is on the Michelin Guide!
  • exploring alleyways with my sister, where we found many samgyupsal restaurants swarming with locals. We came back the next day to do as the Romans Koreans do.
  • Manjok Ohyang Jokbal in Klook. Eases ordering and reservation! (I ate here in 2016 with GaYeong and I have wanted to go back, but could not eat there solo—the servings are huge!)
  • GaEun for sparing a few minutes of her time from work to meet me. And she treated me to snacks too!
  • my sister for being game enough to check out the Seoul Lantern Festival (we started walking a long long way from the other end of the festival location).
  • Tosokchon Samgyetang for opening early: we arrived around 930am (the website states 10am as opening time) and were invited in. Really good brunch of ginseng chicken.
  • my sister, who usually wakes up late, for getting up early every day during our Seoul trip.
  • my legs for not giving up during the walkathon in Korea.
  • improved passport control (arrival) at MCIA. For those with Philippine e-passports, one only has to scan the passport, boarding pass, and fingerprint. Voila! Welcome back!
  • readers of this blog...thank you for your patience! :-) I know I have been really really really slow in updating this blog. Apologies.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #70

On exercising

I am so lazy when it comes to exercising. It is only when I travel that I get to exercise (walk a lot) and enjoy myself. Ever since my brother gave me a watch slash pedometer, when traveling, I'd get a kick at looking at the number of steps I made at the end of the day. I am amazed that I could walk up to 36000 steps [about 25 kilometers] in a day! The amazing powers of our body!

On a normal day, I'd walk just an average of 6000 steps [about 4 kilometers]—way below the recommended daily 10,000 steps [about 7 kilometers]. So, yes, 10,000 steps and above is a feat for my feet.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Free Upgrade on GPSmyCity

The GPSmyCity team has gathered thousands of travel articles and city guides written by travelers like you and me and have put all these travel information in one app. With the GPSmyCity app installed on your smartphone, whether iOS or Android, you have the world on the palm of your hand.

The GPSmyCity app can be used offline, therefore, you can read the articles and use the guides without the need to be on roaming or renting a pocket WiFi or data SIM. You can go on a tour at your own pace. By accessing (for a minimal upgrade fee) the GPS-aided map, the places mentioned in the guide will be pinned on the map, tour routes will be displayed, and turn-by-turn directions between places will be provided. No need for paper maps!

I have been contributing articles in the GPSmyCity app and I am happy to announce I have a bunch chosen by the GPSmyCity Team for publishing:
To celebrate the release of this batch of articles on GPSmyCity, the upgrade (to access its GPS-aided map) to the following article apps will be given away for FREE from November 26 to December 2, 2018!
Please click on the link (or links) that interest you and try it out! (If you haven't already downloaded and installed the GPSmyCity app, it will prompt you to do so.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Wisdom from the Road #69

On "Filipino time"
It's not funny anymore.
Be considerate of other people's time.

Whoever you had agreed to meet with at a specified time, they made an effort to be there on or before the agreed time. And you leave your house 30 minutes after the agreed time because 6am is "just the assembly time"? It's not funny. It's inconsiderate.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

For my first trip to Japan in 2015, we were all over the place, and it left me and my friends a little bit exhausted but wanting for more—more days to explore each prefecture, or region, at least. And so the succeeding trips were planned to explore a specific region: Kansai in 2016, Chubu in 2017, and Hokkaido in 2018.


Hokkaido is such a huge prefecture that a week only covered a few areas. Though I had a Hokkaido Rail Pass, which allowed me to travel on JR lines all over Hokkaido, I concentrated on going to places just an hour or two by train from Sapporo (with the exception of Hakodate, which took 3.5 hours). In general, just the central and southern parts of Hokkaido.

Bye bye hard-earned money!

Accommodation. The first thing I noticed, while I was looking for accommodations before the trip, was that accommodations in Sapporo were more expensive (more so in Asahikawa) compared to Tokyo and Osaka. I usually try to find an accommodation within a 10-15 minute walk from a major station (only one ride from wherever it is I need to go) and cap my accommodation expense at 3000 yen a night but it was quite impossible to find accommodations at that rate in Hokkaido. I had to increase my budget for accommodations and expand my search farther from Sapporo Station. 30% of my budget was spent on accommodations.

Transportation. The Hokkaido Rail Pass bit a big hole in my pocket. In addition to the pass, I had to spend for days and areas not covered by the pass. And I also joined a bus tour in Biei. 40% of my budget was spent on transportation.

Plane tickets. The 40% I mentioned above does not include the plane tickets to/from Sapporo and to/from Cebu. My Cebu-Narita-Cebu ticket was half the price as my Narita-Sapporo-Narita plane ticket. Mind you, both were bought during a promotion.

Food. I spent an average of 2500 yen a day for food. Right on budget. And in terms of percentage, this was 25% of my budget.

Admission fees. Most of the places I went to in Hokkaido were free to enter. The only admission fees I had to pay for were in Hakodate. And in Sawara in Chiba, we got a discount coupon for the Sawara boat tour.

My usual Japan budget is 9000 yen (4500 pesos) a day. For Hokkaido, I had to stretch it to 10,500 yen (5250 pesos) a day. Too expensive. But it will not stop me from visiting Hokkaido again. I still have the northern and eastern parts of Hokkaido to explore. Maybe in five years.

Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town (you're here!)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Narita Accommodation: Narita Sando Guesthouse

For my overnight stay in Narita—I had about 24 hours to spend in Narita in between flights—I chose to stay near Narita Station as opposed to the capsule hotel in the airport. Why? Because the capsule hotel costs thrice as much (almost 10,000 yen!) than staying in a guesthouse (3300 yen) that's a 13-minute train ride (200 yen) away.

Narita Sando Guesthouse is a 5-minute walk from JR Narita Station and Keisei Narita Station (the two stations are just across each other). If you need to do any last minute omiyage shopping or want something to eat, there are many restaurants, shops, and convenience stores between the stations and the guesthouse.

 Narita Sando Guesthouse

Narita Sando Guesthouse has private rooms (double/twin, triple, quad) and two mixed dorms. I stayed in the mixed dorm with bunk beds (the other mixed dorm is a tatami room). Each bunk bed has a curtain for privacy, hangers/hooks, power sockets, and night light. Towel and toothbrush are provided for each guest. The room is small and cramped, so no luggage are allowed in the dorm room.

 4-bed mixed dorm

The other two beds in the 4-bed mixed dorm

The luggage must be kept in the luggage room on the ground floor. The luggage room is spacious and has a shelf for large luggage. There are also small lockers. The advantage of having a separate luggage area is that guests could rummage through their bags in the luggage room without disturbing other guests had it been in the dorm room.

Luggage room

The toilets, shower rooms, and wash area are on the second floor. These are shared by many rooms. The rooms, shower rooms, toilets, and wash area are on the second floor, while the luggage room is on the ground floor—could be a bit of a drag if you need to get a change of clothes, etc.

I stayed in Narita Sando Guesthouse in July, which is summer in Japan. The hallway, where the wash basins and the shower rooms are, was a bit warm.

Common room

On the ground floor is the Japanese-style common area with low tables. There is a microwave available for guests to use. The staff can speak English and are friendly and helpful.

Narita Sando Guesthouse
520 Kamicho, Narita, Chiba 286-0032
A dorm bed costs around 3300 yen per night.
Book a bed at Narita Sando Guesthouse through

Important Note: If you have a flight to catch, be aware that the trains to Narita Airport only comes once every 30 minutes (and on slow hours, once every hour).

Photo Credits: All photos grabbed from Narita Sando Guesthouse's page.

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Sawara Town
Narita Accommodation: Narita Sando Guesthouse (you're here!)
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sawara Town

A year or so before this trip, I made a friend on Instagram. Yumiko agreed to meet with me when I told her I would have one day to spend in Narita (or anywhere near Narita) before flying back to Cebu.

We were supposed to meet at Sawara Station, but when I found out that the train from Narita Airport only comes once every 30 minutes (or up to an hour on non-peak times), Yumiko decided to pick me up at the airport.

I arrived at Narita Airport Terminal 3 and waited for Yumiko. When she sent a message that she had arrived, I could not find her. She was waiting at Terminal 2! Oops! I had to hurry and get on a bus that would take me to Terminal 2.

It was a 30 kilometer drive from Narita Airport to Sawara Town in Katori City (Chiba). Since Yumiko couldn't speak English very well and I could not speak Japanese at all (save for the very basic greetings), it was a pretty quiet drive.

Yumiko found a parking lot near the preserved merchant area along the Ono River. When Yumiko paid the parking fee, she received a discount coupon for the boat tour. And that's what we did: take a 30-minute boat tour along the Ono River (1300 yen per person; but because we had a coupon, we paid 1100 yen per person).

We got on the boat at the dock near the wooden bridge called Toyohashi (Toyo Bridge). On the bottom of the bridge is an aquaduct which used to transport water from the east side of the Ono River to the paddy fields on the west. Now, it is used for sightseeing: water is released from the center of the bridge every 30 minutes, but we never got to witness it while we were in Sawara.

Toyohashi (Toyo Bridge)

On the boat tour with us were a Japanese couple and two young ladies. One of the ladies named Kaori is Japanese but can speak English, and she voluntarily served as interpreter during the tour (the tour was in Japanese). With her was Anju. They were taking a little trip in Sawara to celebrate Anju's birthday. Coincidentally, Anju is from Cebu but she grew up in Japan and can only speak Japanese (and at that time, was still learning English).

Slowly sailing along Ono River

Because of that boat tour, all four of us ended up having lunch and exploring Sawara together. Lunch was at Chukei Chaya, a restaurant beside the Sawara Visitor Center, about a hundred meters away from the river. I got myself a bento lunch (1050 yen) which included vegetables, fish, rice, and soup.

Bento from Chukei Chaya

On our walk back to the river, we saw many old buildings, some turned into shops. This area was the merchant district and most of the buildings have been preserved. I don't know if it was because it was midweek or if this area was just not frequented by tourists, but it seemed we were the only ones out and about. Which was absolutely fine by me! I don't like crowds!

Back along the river, Yumiko suggested we go to the Former Residence of Ino Tadaka (open daily from 9AM to 430PM; free admission) and also to the Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall (open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9AM to 430PM; 500 yen admission fee).

Who is this man to have his house preserved and have a museum dedicated just for him? Ino Tadataka was born in 1745 and was adopted by the Ino family of Sawara when he was 17. The family had a sake brewery and Ino Tadataka handled the family business until the age of 49 (his son took over after). He then studied astronomy. At the age of 55, with permission from the Tokugawa Shogunate, he started traveling to survey and map the country. He did this for 17 years. And it was only three years after his death were the maps completed and submitted to the shogunate. In short, Ino Tadataka was the first to create an accurate/surveyed map of Japan! And that is an amazing feat truly deserving to have his house preserved and have a memorial hall dedicated to him! (The Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall houses more than 2,000 items related to Ino Tadataka and his work: survey notes, surveying instruments, maps, etc. Taking of photos is not allowed in the museum.)

Former residence of Ino Tadataka

Ino Tadataka

Quadrant used in surveying. Can you imagine lugging this around Japan?

I was truly amazed by this man! To do surveying with several instruments, some bulky and heavy, from the age of 55 to 71 and at a time when there were no motorized vehicles to get around... He had a team with him, but wow! Just wow. I gushed about him in my head.

And even after the visit to the house and the museum, I continued being wowed. This time, by the old-time scene along the river. So many beautiful old houses. And no tourists!

To cap off our hot summer day in Sawara, we tried the shoyu (soy sauce) ice cream (350 yen) which was sold at the little shop in the parking area where we had left Yumiko's car (and where Kaori had also parked). Soy sauce ice cream? Japan has weird flavors! But this actually tasted like caramel that wasn't too sweet.

Shoyu ice cream

Before Yumiko and I parted ways from Kaori and Anju, each of them gave me a small present (locally made items) which they had bought from one of the shops we went to earlier. Awww. What a nice surprise! So ashamed I didn't get anything for them in return (except for Yumiko; I had brought some Philippine goodies for her).

Yumiko and I made a quick stop at Sawara Station so Yumiko could take some photos (she is into photography). The station opened in 1898, but the current building was reconstructed in more recent years.

Sawara Station

Then we drove off to Narita Station, where I would be staying in nearby Narita Sando Guesthouse. Because on the morrow, it will be back to my reality, aka Cebu.

P.S. Big thank you to Yumiko for picking me up from the airport, showing me around Sawara, treating me to a visit to the Ino Tadataka Memorial Hall, giving me a present (chopsticks), and driving me to my guesthouse near Narita Station. Thank you also to Kaori and Anju for exploring Sawara with us, and for the presents too (handkerchief and coin purse). I am very lucky our paths crossed. Until we meet again!

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Sawara Town (you're here!)
Narita Accommodation: Narita Sando Guesthouse
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hokkaido Rail Pass

If you have plans to travel around Japan, from north to south, east to west, or just go around in circles, for a week (or two or three), the Japan Rail Pass is for you. But if you plan to travel just around Hokkaido, the Hokkaido Rail Pass is a "cheaper" (in quotation marks because, for me, both rail passes fall under the expensive category) option.

The Hokkaido Rail Pass offers four options: passes for 3/5/7 consecutive days or 4-day flexible pass (to be used on any four days within 10 days from the date of purchase). I opted for the 7-day pass for 24,000 yen. (Gulp! Expensive!)

With the Hokkaido Rail Pass, the pass holder can have unlimited rides on all the JR lines in Hokkaido within the validity period. The only exception is the Hokkaido Shinkansen which travels between Aomori and Hakodate.

An Exchange Order for the Hokkaido Rail Pass can be purchased before arriving in Japan (online or from designated travel agencies) or while in Japan (from designated JR East or JR Hokkaido Travel Centers) provided you have a "Temporary Visitor" sticker in your passport. The Exchange Order should then be exchanged for the Hokkaido Rail Pass at designated JR Hokkaido Travel Centers in Hokkaido only.

But to my surprise, when I purchased one at JR East Travel Service Center in Narita Terminal 2, they immediately gave me the Hokkaido Rail Pass (not the Exchange Order)! Good news for me. I could start exploring early the following day!

I traveled long distances almost daily to make the most of the pass. And booked a reserved seat whenever possible. Here's the list of JR train rides I took using the Hokkaido Rail Pass:

I rode 52,440 yen worth of JR train rides in seven days! That's more than twice the pass's worth! Yup, the Hokkaido Rail Pass was worth that big crater in my pocket!

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass (you're here!)
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya

The last day in Hokkaido was supposed to be spent just exploring Sapporo. But I changed my mind before I went to sleep the night before. Sapporo, out. Lake Toya, in.

I took an almost-2-hour train ride from Sapporo Station to Toya Station, and at Toya Station I bought a roundtrip bus ticket (600 yen) to Toyako Onsen (roundtrip ticket can only be bought in the station; single journey fares—330 yen from Toya Station to Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal or vice versa—can be paid in the bus). The bus deposited me at the Toyako Onsen Bus Terminal, where, from the Information Center inside the terminal, I got some advice and some maps on what to see in the area.

When Mount Usu erupted on March 31, 2000, there were no fatalities or injuries, largely because of effective information circulation and cooperation of the people. The eruption did destroy buildings and roads, and created craters. To this day, abandoned and destroyed infrastructure, and the craters can still be seen along the Konpirayama Walking Trail and the Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail in Toya. And that's what I decided to go see in Lake Toya.

As I was walking from the bus terminal to the trail head, an Asian family followed me and the father happily asked if they could join me. Sure, I said. But when I told them I was going to go on a hike, they quickly changed their mind!

And so the lonely hike to abandoned places began.

I found my way to the trail head of Konpirayama Walking Trail, just behind the Toyako Visitor Center (the center has exhibits about the volcanic eruption, but I skipped that). From the observation platform at the trail head, I could see two buildings in the distance.

At the trail head

I followed the path to the buildings and as I got closer, I saw a bath house and an apartment building. Both in ruins. I was the only one on the trail and looking inside the broken windows and into the shadowy interiors gave me the creeps. Plants growing inside, rooms filled with soil, upturned and broken chairs, broken vending machines. Everything still. Yes, it was daylight, yet...creepy.

Bath house

Apartment Complex

I circled back to find trail marker T2. Following T2's gravel path, I continued on through an open area with some shrubs and trees, and at one point a nice view of the lake and the islands in the middle, then through thicker foliage.

Lake Toya and the islands in the center of the lake

The gravel path gave way to some portions of asphalt, which used to be National Highway Route 230. Trail marker T5 prompted me to turn right, leaving the asphalt road and back again into some overgrowth.

This section of the walking trail was mostly without tree cover and on loose soil. I took a left at trail marker T7 to check out the Yu-kun Crater. According to the information board (thankfully it had an English translation): "A building and a seismic station, that recorded eruption precursors, was now totally buried under the new tuff cone of Yu-kun crater."

Yu-kun Crater

At trail marker T8, I deliberately took the path with an X on my map because I am a rebel like that. I was curious what was there. Turns out it was a dead end: something gated and locked. Serves me right.

Back on the right path I went. I passed by a ruined building with a tall smokestack. And further, another old, abandoned building. A few dozen steps more and it was back to civilization: a parking lot with a car or two, a store selling snacks, a rest area. This was the end of Konpirayama Walking Trail.

Tall smokestack

And the beginning of Nishiyama Crater Walking Trail.

I took a snack break in the rest area, eating a sandwich I had brought along for this hike while gazing at the pond before me. A pond with the top half of electric poles and road signs sticking out. Underwater is a portion of Route 230, the same highway I came across earlier while walking along Konpirayama Walking Trail. I could see the road disappear in the water.

Route 230 underwater

Stomach refueled. Time to start hiking the Nishiyama Crater Trail. Just a few steps along, I see a man cooking some eggs. His egg-cooking area with a hand-painted sign, wooden tables, random chairs, a wooden shed with two wooden owls on top was a curious sight.

Eggs for sale

More curious though was up ahead: a road that had seemingly melted. Such was Mount Usu's wrath. From here the boardwalk ascends along the road up to the summit of 2000 Shinzan, "New Mountain" in English. This area was lifted 75 meters during the eruption of Mount Usu in 2000. From the summit, Toya and Uchiura Bay could be seen.

The summit of 2000 Shinzan affords a view of Toya and Uchiura Bay

I followed the boardwalk descending on the other side of the summit. I passed by remnants on the destruction: a rusty car in the undergrowth, a destroyed cookie factory, two abandoned and damaged houses, a portion of a tunnel.

A car that time forgot

The boardwalk ended, replaced by an asphalt pathway running parallel to the "melted" road. This pathway led me to another abandoned building. This time, a kindergarten. Where I found rusted buses, a dried pond, a rusty playground, toppled down signs, and a building with trees and plants poking through its shattered windows and missing wall panels.

This is the end of the Nishiyama Crater Tail and such a sad sight it was.

A damaged kindergarten

Plants growing inside

Rusty bus and rusty playground

From sadness to hunger, but I had no food left in my bag. I did not want to backtrack. I don't know how, but somehow I figured there'd be a bus stop somewhere up ahead and I just kept on walking. Yup, about a kilometer away, I found one. It took a bit of waiting under the summer sun (there was no waiting shed) before a green bus rumbled along to take me to Toya Station.

A little Japanecdote: Back at Toya Station, I asked the station master what time the next train to Sapporo was. He said 209PM, pointing at a timetable. I checked my watch, it was only 1226PM. "What about 1246PM?" I asked. "Already departed," he said. "It left early?" He looked at me incredulously. And that's when I noticed the clock at the station. It was already 130PM. My watch had slowed down for an hour!!!

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya (you're here!)
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Sawara Town
Narita Accommodation: Narita Sando Guesthouse
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town