Muroran / 室蘭

Muroran is a town of around 110,000 people situated on a mini-peninsula about 2.5 hours South of Sapporo. I was attracted to the hostel there because the description said it was almost literally at the top of a cliff, and was only 10 minutes from the beach. What it didn’t mention (well actually it did, but I somehow managed to overlook that part of the description) was the fact that it’s around a twenty minute walk from the train station, up a steep hill, and rather difficult to find (a much politer way of phrasing my thoughts from the actual time). Again, I arrived early, but there was an internet connection in the lobby (albeit on a PC from the early 90s), so I amused myself with that for an hour until I heard sounds emerging from within the administrative hideaway. The hostel owner seemed slightly odd, but what can you expect from someone living alone atop a cliff? The hostel itself was quite dilapidated and the building resembled a weird boat/spaceship combo, though while the public facilities were crumbling, the rooms were nice.

After checking in, I went for a wander along the coastal path which, being fairly mountainous, was pretty hard work. But totally worth it – there were some stunning views along the coast, and it actually looked unspoiled. The shoreline did look quite inaccessible though, with almost sheer drops in places – the path followed the line of the bluff. I’ll try to upload photos soon. Looking back in the opposite direction, there was a line of factories belching out smoke, in complete contrast with the natural beauty. The city is very elongated too, as it nestles between the sea and mountains. I imagined somewhere like Rio de Janeiro must be vaguely similar.

Having taken in the views for a while, I set off down the hill to the station, where there was a fairly lengthy wait for the next train to the end of the line – Muroran proper. I debated walking to the next stop, but the walk looked entirely uninteresting, and given how long it took the previous day, I decided it was probably best just to wait for the next train. Looking around “town” didn’t take long, and again there were visible signs of decay – faded signs and peeling paint. There didn’t seem to be much going on to be honest, but I walked to the sea front and admired the setting sun behind the beachhead.

I met a Niseko acquaintance for dinner in Higashi-Muroran (East Muroran), which seems to be the modern centre of the city. Her and her friend were 45mins late, but it was nice to eat with people rather than alone (previous night in Ikeda notwithstanding), and as she had a car I was spared the walk back up the hill, making it home in time for curfew(!) at 10pm. I hate curfews and generally avoid them like a certain Asian nation avoids accession of human rights, but in a place like this I supposed it was okay given that there wasn’t much reason to be out later than ten anyway…

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