Asahikawa to Horokanai
Distance: 36 miles
Total Distance: 2005 miles

After a long all-you-can-eat breakfast at the hotel (rice, nori, miso soup, hard-boiled eggs, toast, and green tea) in Asahikawa, we checked out just before the deadline and rode out of the city along one of the main thoroughfares. We had a couple of stops along the way (gas for the stove, plenty of food for the next couple days, and a new English book for Vicky) and we were happy to finally see the green hills and farmland that signaled a return to the open country. Maybe we were just noticing it more as we were now past the symbolic milestone of Asahikawa (last large city on our route to the end of Japan), but the farmland had changed–there was much more dry cultivation now: wheat, alfalfa, and hay instead of rice paddies. Maybe even more noticeable was the amount of flat land NOT under cultivation–land is at much less of a premium here compared the rest of Japan.


Playground on the road out of Asahikawa

WE had a couple of small climbs before lunch, but nothing significant. For lunch, we stopped in Etanbetsu, a seemingly deserted town where the only sign of life was a group of senior citizens playing out a park golf tournament. We watched for a while as we refueled, and then headed out again into the increasing heat of the early afternoon. Soon after eating, we were climbing a 400m pass that took quite a bit of energy to get over–the slope was never too steep, but the heat and insects made it much more difficult.


Climbing in the heat after lunch


View from the top of the pass

From the pass, we dropped down to Horokanai, where we started thinking about finding a place to stay for the night. We saw a road station on the map about 8 miles ahead, and pushed through a headwind to get there just before it closed–just in time for a quick soft ice cream! With a cool snack to hold us over, we asked at the onsen next door about a place to camp, and were told that anywhere just to the south (along a nearby creek) would be fine.


Vicky taking pictures near Horokanai


Beech trees near Horokanai


Afternoon cloud formations

Excited to get set up before a nice soak in the onsen, we went outside and started putting up the tent. It took just a minute or two to realize that camping on the field of dead, damp winter grass was going to be impossible–it was so filled with mosquitoes that our faces and hands were covered with bites before we were even able to spread out the tent on the ground. All of this happened quite close to the large floor-to-ceiling windows of the onsen, and we wondered what the customers must have thought of the sight of two foreigners, waving their arms frantically over their heads and then running off, leaving piles of camping equipment behind.

We eventually retrieved our tent and bicycles, but only after covering up as much skin as possible before dashing through the clouds of hovering insects. Once back in a safer area, we decided to set up behind the road station bathroom, and took as much care as possible not to let any mosquitoes as we unpacked our bags. In the early evening, we went to the onsen for dinner and had a nice warm meal of soba and mountain vegetables. After dinner, we took a long bath to wash off the dirt and sweat from the ride: the men’s bath at least was very unique, with at least 6 or 7 baths of different colors (pink, purple, teal, etc.) and each with a different scent. We read and watched TV in the onsen common room until it closed, and then headed back to our tent. Despite the relatively short ride, we were both tired from the heat and fell asleep quickly.