Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ainu

The Ainu people were only recognised by the Japanese government as indigenous islanders in 2008.

Following years of discrimination, there is very little left of the culture on the ground and less than 50 Ainu speak their original language.

Practically all that is left of the peoples that Isabella Bird visited in late 1870s are artifacts in museums.

Very sad.

Akanko Onsen - The Lake

 A summer snap with Gek.

A photo grab from the visitor centre's video of more or less the same view in mid winter, with the lake frozen over.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lake Kussharo

 Another Caldera, the largest in Japan.. 

Alice doing the rounds of the cairn.  

Creating memories.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lake Mashu

The caldera is one of the deepest in Japan at 211m and with one of the clearest waters, giving the surface a very blue sheen.

Turn round and refocus.

The clouds really add to the beauty of this place, even if the mist messes with your photograph's clarity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mount Iwo

 We parked the car at the parks visitors centre and approached the mountain through the park.

As you get nearer to the plumes of steam, the vegetation starts to thin out and the rotten egg smell gets worse. 

Taken with the zoom lens from a distance as my nose was beginning to complain about the stink.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Utoro - Fishing Port

 The fisherman's wives run this cafe by the harbour as a cooperative.  A very delicious meal we had here.  Not on the tourist map, but very popular none the less.

Sea food straight off the boat and on to your plate via the ladies kitchen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bear Alert

Bears mark their territory by scratching at trees, the higher they scratch the stronger the signal they sent to other bears.......and us humans.  Gek is 5 foot nothing.  Whilst this is an old marking, the bear that made the marks must have been at least 8 feet at full stretch.

There had been a bear sighting in these woods the day before our visit, as recorded in the park's lodge visitors book.

 Mary-Ann on the alert, hoping to see a bear but a deer would have to do.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bear Country

 Around Mtn. Asahidake is bear country.

 A bear had been spotted here a couple of days before.

 Back the human zone,

 with cultivation all around,

a manicured beauty.

Mount Asahidake - Snow and Steam

The cable car takes you up to just above the tree line.

It is cold up here, cold enough for there to be snow in the hollows all year round.  Gek was suitably attired complete with walking boots, unlike the rest of us.  I had to buy a plastic mac at the ground station to guard against the chilling wind.

The up and down climb to the lake and steaming geysers is pretty rough, requiring a lot of hand holding.  Mary-Ann sporting her new flat cap, a timely buy for this excursion into the mountains.

We were just above the cloud base, with the mist swirling in and out of the picture.  I had to be quick off the mark not to miss the brief windows of photographic opportunity.

Time for a picnic with hot coffee as the mist closes in.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Biei - The Pension Gallery

A great two night stop in a cottage Japanese style, eating and sleeping. Here is the gallery in the name.

And this is the art work.

Patchwork with threads sewn in to make the finer forms .

These pieces can take up to a month to create.

The artist, an octogenarian and still with a passion for her art.

My favourite piece which took a winter to complete. Size 18in by 12 in.  Each pink flower is a separate piece of material, all identically cut.  Amazing talent and patience she has.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Furano - The Lavender Fields

 Not just the purple lavender but other blooms.

As I was travelling the chair lift up, snapped this little lad on his way down, muttering to himself and gripping tight to the chairs support.  The grin of fear.

Better photos looking away from the tourist trap.

But you cannot avoid the  regimented ranks of flowers.  An English cottage garden it is not.

A much quieter place to be, out in the sticks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Otaru - The Town

My little ray of sunshine in the rain.

A one street town which was over run by tourists disembarked from a huge luxury liner which docked here for a couple of hours.

A striking clock in a un-striking place.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hakodate to Otaru

Turning off the main road with rumbling tummies, we chanced upon this Swiss look-a-like house

and a lovely cafe run by two charming ladies.

The toilet was worth a visit.  You have to know that this is the first stone age toilet we have visited in Hokkaido.  Every other toilet has been so high tech that they have an instruction manual on how to use them conveniently (get it?) pasted on the wall beside you to read as you sit contemplating the meaning of life.

This one had its own unique feature, a basin in the top of the cistern. The water you use to wash your hands provides the next flush.  This saves water where as the space age one wastes it.

The scenery around here is pretty nice too.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hakodate to Matsumae Castle

A picnic in a scenic spot,

Just us and the birds.

The fort was build in 1606 by Matsumae Yoshihiro, it burned down in 1637 but was rebuilt in 1639. Later, modern defences were built on the site in 1850. The donjon of Matsumae Castle was 30 metres (98 ft) high. In 1875, the administrative building, three turrets, and an artillery position were torn down, before the remaining donjon and main gate burned down in 1949; it is now all a park.

At the back of the fort are a series of graveyards and associated temples.

Bit of a gloomy place.

But the temples were easy on the eye.

Back to the car.