Day 45: Hakodate, Hokkaido to Lake Toya, Hokkaido

Ahh July 1st the official start of summer. Camp sites are open, swimming is permitted, you can climb Mt Fuji if you wish. BUT DONT YOU DARE TRY ANY OF THAT OUTSIDE THE SEASON!
Japanese people seem to boast about having 4 seasons. They ask, ‘do you have 4 seasons in your country?’
‘Erm, yes,’ you reply defensively. ‘Seasons aren’t Japanese, you know’ you add if you’re in that kind of mood.
But the thing is Japan doesn’t have 4 seasons, it got thousands.
To start with, if we’re just talking about the weather then it has 5. Tsuyu, or the rainy season lasts for about 5 or 6 weeks in early summer. Actually very similar to what the British call cricket season, it is undoubtedly a season and the Japanese acknowledge that. But then they don’t count it in the total.
Nor do they count swimming season, barbecue season, firework season, festival season, star gazing season, moon viewing season, shaving season, cutting season, gluing season, clapping season, blinking season or listening to mice playing violins season.
It makes perfect sense to go swimming in Lake Biwa when the water is warm and the sun is hot, and July and August are both very hot. But the last weekend of June is also very hot and often equally hot as the first weekend in July. But god forbid you saw anyone on the beach in June. The only people you might see would be some clueless foreigners, basking in the late June rays as the Japanese point and laugh from under their umbrellas – because it’s still rainy season.
The point I’m making is that today is July 1st. For the first time on this trip I am at a busy campsite. We have clearly crossed the line into camping season. Today I also saw 6 other touring cyclists. That’s three times as many as I’d seen in my first 44 days. Are we in touring season? Presumably.
The thick black line between seasons is real, but there is a little more to it than that.
It may be July 1st but it also my first day in Hokkaido. The north island if Japan is stunning. A mix of volcanic activity and rolling glacially formed valleys and a climate so perfect for being outdoors that once you’ve tasted summer in Hokkaido you’ll want it again and again. The sun is warm but the air is cool. The stodgy humidity of the south is replaced by 24 degrees and blue skies and the evenings drop to about 20 making your sleeping bag the perfect place to be. The sky is black and the stars are bright and the air tastes good.
I’m happy I’m in Hokkaido and I’m happy it’s July 1st. From now on I can guarantee other people will be on the road and in the campsites, so I can look forward to having some company of an evening.
Here’s Lake Toya and my face in a tunnel.
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