Saturday 13th August 2005

A day out on Hokkaido with Keijisan and Mikikosan. My first time to see a volcano!

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11:04:09 En route we stopped at what in England we'd call a service station. Bizarrely there was a piano outside the toilets - one of those ones that plays itself.

11:40:35 My first view of Showa Shinzan in the distance, albeit somewhat obscured by trees. You can just about see a wisp of smoke. Showa Shinzan is just the rocky bit - not the larger mountain behind (which is Usuzan I think). I think the name Showa Shinzan translates as "new mountain formed in the Showa era".

11:41:27 The same picture but zoomed in a bit less. The Showa era is the period when Emperor Showa reigned, from 1936-1989, and actually the eruptions which formed Showa Shinzan took place during the second world war, between 1944 and 1945.

11:50:40 We stopped at this place to buy vegetables, and also because it was in sight of Showa Shinzan.

11:56:19 There is Show Shinzan, with Usuzan behind it again. I love the way it looms over pleasant argicultural landscape - like something from a medievak tale about knights and dragons etc.

11:56:26 Zoomed in a bit more. Hopefully you can clearly see the distinction between Show Shinzan and Usuzan here - Showa Shinzan is just the rocky bit in the foreground. I was taking lots of pictures here as I hadn't actually realised at this point we were going to go and stand right underneath it.

12:02:21 Me and the volcano, still in the distance.

12:02:41 Me walking over the road. Chie obviously using a bit of artistic license here.

12:03:01 Another vegetable shop we stopped at, because Mikikosan wanted to buy corn-on-the-cob. There seemed something oddly natural about eating corn-on-the-cob whilst going to visit a volcano.

12:03:15 Presumably this is the stove they use to boil their corn.

12:09:23 We got these tomatoes at one of the little vegetable shops en route, and they were absolutely delicious.

12:11:55 Not much to see here - I think this is an attempt to take a picture from inside the car while it was moving...

12:11:58 ...same problem again here!

12:17:31 Eventually I realised we were in fact going to the sort of visitors centre thing, which is where this picture is taken from - right underneath Showa Shinzan.

12:21:21 There it is again.

12:21:30 I wanted to go and stand on top of it, but as you would expect you weren't allowed. So this is about as close as I got, and you can fairly clearly see some smoke here!

12:23:49 A stereotypical Japanese tourist picture of me and Showa Shinzan.

12:24:38 Me, Chie and Showa Shinzan, taken by Mikikosan.

12:25:17 Same thing but a bit closer up.

12:28:15 The clouds were quite interesting today, so I thought I'd give them a bit of a look in as well.

12:44:05 The great thing about the area around Showa Shinzan is that there are in fact several volcanoes. Here we are on the ropeway (cable car) up to Mount Usuzan, which as Chie is demonstrating was a little frightening.

12:44:58 The cable car was pretty full, so it was nigh-on impossible to get a decent picture out of the window.

12:53:51 At the top now, walking from the cable car station to Mount Usuzan. Much of the surrounding landscape was spewing smoke, which was great. I was reminded somehwhat of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for some reason.

12:55:34 A view back to the cable car / ropeway station.

12:57:19 Here it is - Usuzan - it's a bloody volcano! This looked exactly like the sort of volcanic crater you'd get in James Bond films, where in the Dr. Evil-esque villain had hollowed out part of the volcano to make a secret base.

12:57:24 The same again but zoomed in less.

12:57:50 Me and Usuzan. I was really keen to get a picture of me standing in front of a volcano to show my Dad, and although it would have been nice to get a bit closer, I am still rather pleased with this.

12:58:03 The sign for Usuzan.

12:58:41 Same again from a slightly different angle.

12:59:54 Keijisan, Chiechan, Mikikosan and Usuzan.

13:01:54 There were also some very nice views out over Lake Toya to be had from Usuzan.

13:08:15 Chie with the sign for Usuzan - I think this is meant for group pictures.

13:09:33 More views out over Lake Toya...

13:09:43 ...a bit of Lake Toya, and you can also see back down to Show Shinzan here.

13:10:39 Chie and Showa Shinzan.

13:14:20 Back down the ropeway again...

13:18:59 Strangely there seemed to be a German restaurant at the bottom. I wanted to take this picture because it put me in mind of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men on the Bummel - he complained that whenever there was a natural beauty spot in Germany, the Germans always spoiled it slightly by putting a restaurant there. This seems to be a trait shared by the Japanese!

13:19:06 Another view of the ropeway.