Japan Literature Translation Travel

Lake Mashū Journals: from a trip to Hokkaidō

Lake Mashū Journals: from a trip to Hokkaidō

摩周湖紀行 ー北海道の旅よりー
(Mashūko kikō: hokkaidō no tabi yori)

by HAYASHI Fumiko (林 芙美子)

Hayashi Fumiko in Hokkaido, 1929

I arrived at an old station called Takikawa on the Sōya Main Line. It was dusk, and I didn’t know anyone around. I had fully looked up all the places I planned to go in a guidebook, but on the way I had changed my mind and decided to get on the Nemuro Main Line.  I had gotten off in a rush at Takikawa.  I caught a porter as I walked down the platform, to ask him where I could stay the night. Since I was supposed to be on the sleeper from Sakhalin to Tokyo, my purse was a little light.

The town was cold.  Cold enough for a woolen suit.

I asked the porter if Miura Kaen inn was good. Entrusting my baggage to the porter from Miura Kaen, I walked through Takikawa to the inn as the sun was setting. The small town made me feel like a government clerk or shopkeeper was quietly approaching behind me. When I arrived at the inn the women who greeted me looked me over from head to toe.

For a woman to travel alone was perhaps odd. I had a bath and dinner first, but it was unbearable, I had to have some sake. I only drank two cups, but my chest already felt so heavy. I got in the bed but as soon as I did, I was wide-awake, unable to sleep.

For an unprepared traveler who arrived at nightfall, there was no steam train to Nemuro– by accident I had no choice but to stay the night in Takikawa, there was nothing else to be done.  Next to my pillow on the tray with the water pitcher was a little train timetable, for guests who were only staying overnight.  On the reverse, it had a section from Doppo Kunikida‘s 1903 story, The Fatalist.

“Where is your destination?” Suddenly a man’s voice was directed at me. “I’m going to Sorachibuto.” “Ah, then you should have a look into staying the night at an inn called Miura.”

I don’t know whether Doppo stayed the night at the Miura inn, but I found the solitary journey of a man who felt bleak isolation, seemingly without any affection or pity, surprisingly interesting. I was the same. I was born in 1903. Still I was sure this area, in Doppo’s day, had been wilderness.