1:20pm. The JR Limited Express Super Kamui 17 from Sapporo rolls into Asahikawa Station in typical boringly on-time Japanese fashion. 1 hour and 20 precise minutes. 4,680Y (but luckily, all-inclusive with my handy JR Pass).
It’s still a cool, cloudy day. The station is surprisingly quiet. In minutes, the BF is ready to go. I’d taken note of a recommended campsite outside Asahikawa and that’s where I’m heading this afternoon.
Outside the station, I try to figure out the best direction and road to take. I decide to pop into a Koban (police station) nearby. They are very friendly and helpful, all smiles, unlike our generally dour men-in-blue. One of them even comes out with me to the junction and gives me clear instructions to my destination.
Google streetview, outside Asahikawa station:
The campsite is about 10kms away in a small town called Nishikagura. A short 2km on the 219, then left onto straight-as-an-arrow national highway 237.
I crossed the road and stop there for awhile, just admiring it all. An old man on a bicycle comes by; stops, casually lights a cigarette and quietly observes me. ‘Konichiwa’, I say to him. He surprises me with ‘Where are you from?’. But my surprise ends there; turns out that’s about the only English phrase he knows. He’s a charming fellow and we set to having one those English/Japanese/sign-language conversations that I always enjoy with a local. Oji-san is still having a go with his English and tries to impress me with his reading skills.
‘Bee-ker-fer-lee-day’, he points to the BF’s sticker. Not bad….. I cheer him on.
‘Boo-look-so’, he points to the badge on the Brooks saddle. I give him a standing ovation.
Before we parted ways, Oji-san tells me exactly where the park and campsite is, about a kilometre down the road on the left.
I find it easily enough. It’s a small park, meant for the enjoyment of Nishikagura’s folks. I ride in and see a few tents but no sign of the campers. I call in at the park office. No one seems to be about. After I hello-ed, a man comes out and I tell him I’m camping. I ask him how much and he says it’s free. He points to the park and says I can camp anywhere. Brilliant.
It’s a beautiful park but highway 237 is only about 100 metres down the slope of the high ground that the park is located. The park’s trees block out much of the traffic noise so it’s not too bad.
I pick my corner, away from the other campers. It’s as perfect as any park campsite can be – partly shaded under tall trees, lovely moss and grass on the ground, a gazebo with table and bench, a drinking water fountain and, about 10 metres away, the toilet.
Before I set up camp, I make a dash to the Lawsons just outside on the main road and stock up for the night and tomorrow morning. I’m lookng forward to enjoying the rest of this slow, lazy day.
Tomorrow, it’s a longish ride to Lake Shumarinai where it will be another night of lakeside camping which I’m really beginning to enjoy.
Distance to day: 10 very lazy kms
Distance to date: 403km
Blue: JR Limited Express Super Kamui 17
Red: Bike Friday