After a day and night sail from Tokyo, Kongo arrived at Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, and docked at the port of Hakodate. On the way to the dock the ship was welcomed by a boat spraying different colored streams of water. Hokkaido is all about apples. In fact, Hokkaido in Japanese means apples. (Actually, that’s a monkey fib — Hokkaido means “northern sea circuit”) Regardless of the meaning of the name, Hokkaido has lots and lots of apples, which were introduced to the island in the 1800s. Mrs. Kongo came back with a couple of apples.
The monkey agenda for the day included a visit to Onuma National Park on the Oshima peninsula about a few hours from the port city of Hakodate. The park is famous for the wetlands below towering Mount Komagatake, a still active volcano.
There are three lakes in the park, known in Japanese as “big lake,” “little lake,” and “other lake.” Seriously. In the lakes are dozens of small islands formed when lava rocks spewed from the Komagatake volcano landed in the water. Many of the islands are connected by bridges allowing you to walk across the lakes and see some of the amazing wildlife that inhabits the wetland areas.
Full spring hasn’t made it to Hokkaido. Leaves are just starting to bud and the air is chilly. It had actually snowed two days before the monkey’s arrival.
Tour boats motor around the lakes for those who don’t want to hike. You can also rent a giant swan to take you around too.
In another month Kongo suspects that this park will be stunning. Even now there is rugged beauty.
Throughout the park are statues and pagoda structures. The five-tier pagoda above is built of stone and represents the five elements of nature: earth, water, air, light, fire. Pagodas in Japan are strongly tied to Buddhism.
There are many fisherman around the lake. Evidently, a local special treat is a fish known as pond smelt which is fried up in tempura batter.
The trail ended up in a small village where a cross country race was in progress. There were food trucks out for the fans.
After visiting the park Kongo returned to the ship, walked around Hakodate for an hour or so looking for SIM cards (without any luck), and took in the sunset with a cocktail at the aft end of the ship. All in all a great day.
Tomorrow promises cherry blossoms and an ancient Shogun castle.
Travel safe. Have fun!