Muroran, the dying Hokkaido town: A return

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Last year, knowing nothing about the town other than that it was a good location on the way to, and from, some of Hokkaido’s more scenic spots, I spent an all too brief stopover in Muroran. Like so many other places in the region — and Japan as a whole outside the big cities — the jobs, and subsequently the population, have shrunk enormously, leaving behind a sad scene of former glory and faded memories. Photographs of which can be seen here.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of its decidedly forlorn nature, Muroran was somewhere I liked — a lot. It was peaceful. Fascinating in a sociological sense. Plus the people there were wonderfully friendly. And so, on a recent trip to some of Hokkaido’s small coastal towns, Muroran had to be on the itinerary.

Initial impressions, however, were that it had changed. A lick of paint and a freshly tarmacked road gave it the air of an area potentially on the rise. A hint of unexpected prosperity perhaps?

Muroran, Hokkaido

Needless to say, however, that wasn’t the case. The people are still lovely of course, but the quiet loneliness.

Muroran, Hokkaido

And the slightly surreal emptiness.

Muroran, Hokkaido

Is still very much the same.

Astonishingly drunk and asleep in Tokyo

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Seeing astonishingly drunk and asleep men, women, and even men dressed as women on the streets of Tokyo isn’t exactly what one would call rare. But seeing someone fast asleep in a position like this, probably is.

drunk and asleep in Tokyo

An unconscious prayer perhaps for a hangover that isn’t of biblical proportions.

drunk and asleep in Tokyo

An old Japanese train and its driver

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Tokyo’s trains are modern, multi-carriage machines that efficiently and also impersonally move people round the city. Outside the capital, however, it can be very different indeed, with far older locomotives, and a much more personal experience.

old Japanese train and its driver

Hokkaido: scenery and steel

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Hokkaido, Japan’s largest and northernmost prefecture, is well known for its beautiful scenery. But the island also has a fair amount of heavy industry, which unsurprisingly isn’t quite as easy on the eyes.

Hokkaido scenery and steel