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

No comments:

Post a Comment