Friday, 18 July 2008



Driving in Japan, as with most things in this country has some curious
quirks, the most obvious is being a member of the unholy alliance of
stubborn island nations along with the ""we are not European".
Britons and the "its just not worth the effort mate" Australians. who
all insist left hand drive is a jolly good idea, try doing a gear
shift from 1st to 3rd with your left hand and tell me once again that

And once again, like with most things, they've tried ridiculously hard
removing any possible risk of the endeavour of driving, this means at
the slightest sight of anything remotely resembling a house, or - god
orbit - a sharp corner, there will be a speed limit of 40 kmh, and
just in case you miss the signposting, they will print it with big
yellow letters across the road too! Overtaking is definantly not the
norm, but the ridiculously low speed limits have made even the Japanese
- or rather the Hokkaidians - guilty of speeding, by a good 30-40%
that is. Officials are quick to point out this has made Hokkaido the
most dangerous place in japan to drive, I'll bet you that the numbers
are still ridiculously low compared to the outside the world. And I
don't blame them one bit, the roads are so fun to drive its
ridiculous - thinly trafficked, in ludicrous good condition, and
jam packed with turns in just the right angle. This all contributed to
making the 400 km drive from Kushiro to Biei an all the more enjoyable
experience, especially driving through the southern reaches of the
Daisetsuzan national park was stunning.

Darkness had set in by the the time I pulled onto the parking lot of
the Biei potato inn, set among pretty farmlands in a valley tract with
a view over the Daisetsuzan Mountains, the whole area seemed to double
as Japans food chamber and a North European imitation for busy Japanese
people with too little time for the real thing - complete with
tractors whisking busloads of tour groups on carriages in between the
wheat fields towards touristy lavender farms. The hostel though was far
enough from the valleys main drag, to only attract a rather pleasant
crowd. My old teacher's advise that one knows that you speak a decent
Japanese when people stop telling you it's good, was ringing in my
ears, as the owner was doing just that.

- Stefan

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