Last week I took off on the trail of a verse novel. I caught six trains for fifteen hours, going north to Tokyo, then north to Hachinohe, then north to Hakodate, then north to Sapporo. Hokkaido. 北海道. The north sea road.
There are few things I like more than settling onto a train (or six) and letting them carry me away and away and away, especially when every degree of away means further and further from cities and noise and rush hour subways.
From Sapporo, I hired a car for a few days and went further – first north to Daisetsuzan National Park, where I walked through knee-deep snow to the lip of a bubbling volcano, then east, with the aid of a well-intentioned but largely misguided GPS system which allowed me many more adventures than I would otherwise have had, to Kushiro-Shitsugen National Park, where I drove gravel roads through marshland, bushwalked many a mountain trail to the top of the hill and back again, spied on the endangered red-crowned Manchurian crane, ate the freshest of fresh seafood, bunked down in tiny little youth hostels on the edge of nowhere.
I found my verse novel. I also found deer, foxes, thick banks of late-night fog, driving rain, clear skies, a bear, and a charming young policeman who sent me on my way with the words “Hokkaido is big. Drive safely.”
I did. Despite the exhortations of a Japanese authored guidebook I recently read, whose “Driving in Japan” section consisted of “We recommend foreign tourists enjoy our excellent rail network”, I drove far and safely and at times, perhaps, a little too quickly.
I am off again tomorrow, hunting Basho in Matsushima and then on to Yokohama for some research and a SCBWI Japan event. After that, I will be bunkering down here in Nagoya for the home stretch to write, write and write some more.