I arrived in Ikeda around lunchtime and thought I would drop my bags at the hostel before venturing out. It turned out to be quite a way from the town itself, which I was partially aware of due to the fact that I was advised to go to the next local train stop and walk from there, which I duly did. On arrival at the hostel there was a sign on the door saying, “open from 2.30”. It was 1.15, so I scrawled a brief note and dumped my bags in the porch.
Since the train services in areas such as this run about once every hour, I decided to walk back to Ikeda. It didn’t look far on my abstract map with no scale. I asked an old lady who I passed in the street how many kilometers it was back to Ikeda station. She chuckled and said, “a fair amount”. Undeterred, I continued, and around an hour later I was back where I started two hours earlier. A splendid use of time.
There weren’t a huge amount of tourist attractions to check out, and first I headed to “Wine-jo” – wine temple. The “castle” that it was housed in was a horrific concrete monstrosity. It reminded me of Bowser’s castle in the Super Mario Bros video games. Except less thunder and lightning etc.
The tour took all of about five minutes to complete, and was completely devoid of English. I did pick up an English pamphlet (which the signs specifically instructed me to get from a specific place), but it was broad-brush almost to the point of block colouring. One of the main reasons for going, in fairness, was to visit the “tasting corner”, but I was rather disappointed that they only had one wine available, a white no less, and as I was the only one sampling it, I felt a little bad about having more than one cup. Yes, cup. From a mini paper cup dispenser. Still, it was novel, and free.
After defeating the evil turtle and gaining an extra life and an invisibility cloak, I set off in search of “Happiness Dairy” for some home made ice cream. The walk felt a little like being in the American heartlands, as I was surrounded by fields interlaced with roads in giant grids. It was around a 2km walk, and my legs were complaining having already walked from the hostel to town, from the town up a hill to the wine castle, and now here. Everyone else who was in the place had come by car. Cheaters. I can’t say I noticed much different about the ice cream from your standard shop-bought ice cream, but their monthly special – strawberry something – I could only read half of the writing – was yummy.
On the way back to the station I stopped off in a small park where a young couple shot past me on a bicycle – a boy driving and a girl in school uniform sitting sideways on the back. Seemingly a fairly standard transportation technique in Japan. Still, they looked like they were having fun. A lady was sitting by a stream writing something, and I perched on a rock near a pond and read for a while in the sunshine.
The owner of the hostel was a very nice guy and after his wife had prepared a feast we ate together and talked about travel and his life. He had been a chemistry student at a university in Kyoto – his home town – but said he was more interested in travelling than studying and would come to Hokkaido to motorcycle around the island in his holidays. Afterwards, he worked in a factory in Kyoto for five years and then a different factory near Sapporo for two years, but then packed it in, travelled for a while with his wife, and opened the hostel in Ikeda. From what I gathered the hostel was only busy for about four months each year, so I’m not sure what they did for cash the rest of the time, but every year they spent around a month travelling, so I guess they must be doing alright somehow. He also told me he’d given me the [Hostelling International] members’ price, which essentially meant he’d given me my meals (dinner and breakfast the next morning – also a feast) for free. Splendid.