Day One: Hachinohe to Fudai.

Saturday 28th July 2012.

Day 1 – Hachinohe to Fudai

The ferry arrives at Hachinohe at 5:00am just as the sun comes up. It is going to be hotter than Hokkaido. At least the roads are quiet as I make my way south out of the city so early in the morning.

Disembark from the ferry

Land of the Rising Sun – 5:00am

First thing I see is I have miscalculated the distance. I assessed it as about 350km but a road sign indicates it is over 400kms. It should still be possible to do in 4 days if I don’t get side-tracked. I have a good start with 14 hours daylight ahead of me today.

First part of the journey is on Prefecture Road One along the Tanesashi Coast. Soon after leaving Hachinohe arrive at Kabushima Shrine. What makes this different from other shrines is a huge resident seagull colony estimated at over 40,000 individuals. The shrine was built in 1269 to honour the black-tailed gull, which is seen as a messenger of the goddess of the fishery. It has been designated a National Natural Treasure by the government of Japan.

Kabushima Shrine, the little white specs are seagulls – or sea-cats in Japan

Umbrellas are not to protect visitors from rain or sun.

In Japanese seagulls are called Umineko, “Sea cat”. There are so many gulls here that umbrellas are provided for visitors to the shrine.

umineko_bomb1

“Umineko Bakudan”, literally means “seagull bombs”.

Enterprising residents with a sense of humour have made an interesting souvenir.  A boxful of lollies (sweets or candies) in the shape of seagull pooh. The lollies are taken from the back of the seagull box.  “Droppings” and “fortune” have the same pronunciation in Japanese, suggesting if you eat them you might become rich!

After the shrine the road passes through beautiful coastal scenery.

Seaweed harvesting

Coastal scenery along Prefecture Road One

More coastal scenery

Flora

Shirahama Beach

Tanesashikaigan

Although there are some signs of damage, it is mostly minor.

Reflections

After joining Route 45 for a short distance take Prefecture Road 247.

Traditional Farmhouse

Signs of the tsunami begin to appear, and will continue all the way to Sendai

Small roadside shrine

Arrive at the small town of Taneichi, Hirono at 9:00am. It is hot already. Sign says supermarket opens at 9:00am but a staff member says 10:00am. If I don’t want to wait there is a convenience store 1km along a side road.

Set off and come to a drug store that is open. They are always good for cheap drinks and I am thirsty as well as hungry. By the time I leave I have consumed 2 litres of fluids plus eaten a couple of ice creams and a cream bun. Now I feel queasy, I think I have overdone it! I hope there are no toilet emergencies this time.

Soon after cross a bridge over a deep gorge. Rukuchu Kaigan National Park starts somewhere around here and runs south for 180kms. There are a few of these deep gorges to cross over the next couple of days. I wouldn’t like to be on any of these bridges when an earthquake is in progress!

Bridge across deep gorge

Pass through several small settlements including Samuraihama (up in the hills) and Kuji (down by the coast).

Police PR sign at Samuraihama

There are signs of the tsunami in Kuji but seems not too bad. Find a Sukiyaki restaurant here so have a late lunch.

The tsunami advancing towards Kuji on 11-3-11

Hills are steeper than expected but I manage OK. For some reason the downhills seem longer than the uphills.

After Kuji pass cycle tourists going the other way. The first one at the top of a hill, we just wave, the second pair are down on the flat. I call for them to stop, I want information about accommodation ahead. It doesn’t sound too good with many of the campgrounds closed. They have a 2012 road atlas and it has them open but they say many are not.

They mention the steep hills. I say they have another one coming up, and they groan!

Soon after I arrive at Noda Road Station, in the railway station. Yoko, the helpful and friendly manager, gives me an ice cream! Thank you Yoko! During our talk she says she will be unemployed at the end of the month. Not her choice.

Manager of Noda Road Station info centre

A little further down the road at Noda Beach is a mountain of debris, signs of the destruction caused by the tsunami. The seawall has clearly been badly damaged.

Noda Beach

Continue my way south. Fudai is a small village at the bottom of another big hill.

Fudai Village

It is 5:00pm and obvious I’m not going to do 100km today, so head for the nearby campground Yoko mentioned. Turn off onto Prefecture Road 44, or Rikuchu Kaigan Seaside Line. Sign says 4km to Kuroseki Campground – should take 30 minutes at most, even though a person in the village said it is hilly, then laughed.

On the way pass huge floodgates, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFepAiBgBUI and http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/43018489/ns/today-today_news/t/how-one-japanese-village-defied-tsunami/#.UIJiX8XMjzM for an interesting story about them and the man who insisted they be built – Fudai’s 10 term mayor Kotaku Wamura.

Fudai floodgates

Pass through tunnels without lights, I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come. A little further along the road arrive at another village that seems to have escape damage.

These flood gates seem to have protected this village

The road is flattish at first, then climbs through half tunnels, becoming steeper as one goes higher. Despite of my best efforts I have to dismount and push as it is too steep. It must be in the 10% range. Becoming dark, maybe it is more than an hour since I left Fudai and I’ve still not arrived!

The start of the climb to Kuroseki campground

At the top come to a fork in the road and sign, take the one I think it is. Try to flag down a car but driver doesn’t stop. Shortly after come to a small pick-up van with the driver is still sitting inside. I ask is this the way to the campground. He says “no” but he will lead me there personally, neat! When we arrive he announces he is the caretaker, so I fill out the form and pay. A warm summer Saturday night and I’m the only one here, and it is so nice!

I ask about bears, and think he says perhaps, but should be OK if I don’t turn off the light.

Kuroseki Camp kitchen

It looks like rain so set up the tent in the kitchen. When it is up, decide to lie down for a couple of minutes before making a meal. Wake up at 1:00am still in my clothes and haven’t even taken the sleeping bag out. Turn off the light but don’t like the total darkness so turn it back on. No sure about wild animals but the flying insects attracted to the light sound big enough as they crash into things!

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