24-Oct-2004 -- In mid October when I was planning to visit this degree confluence,
I wasn't really sure if a scatterbrain, besides novice at tramping,
like me would deserve a successful visit, or deserve even thinking
about it. Within the coastline of Japan, there were only a few
confluences that were left unvisited. It seemed like they had been
stubbornly rejecting people. So, I set myself a humble goal; it
would be satisfying enough for me if I figured out whatsoever had
been blocking our species from visiting the point. A week later when
I actually found myself standing there without having experienced
much of a struggle, I was struck with a little sense of confusion.
Now, thinking back, it may have been a sheer luck that I didn't end
up being a brown bear's lunch. Here's the story.
First of all, I thought weather was at least no problem. A big
typhoon had just passed Tokyo, where I lived, and the weather was
fine. The temperature was so mild that I hadn't even needed to
wear a sweater yet during this season. On the previous day to my
visit attempt, when I was taking a flight from Haneda, Tokyo, to
Asahikawa, about 200km south of my target confluence, they
announced that the airplane might have to change its destination
to Shin-Chitose (Sapporo) due to the sleety weather in Asahikawa.
That's when I came across the idea that it might already be
winter in Hokkaido. Sure enough. Although the airplane eventually
landed in Asahikawa, it was drizzly and the temperature was 1
The next morning, the rain had stopped but the road was still wet
and clouds were hanging very low.
A friend of mine who was living in Asahikawa had offered to drive
me to approach the point. He picked me up at Asahikawa at 9:00am
By the way, the nearest confluence, 44N142E hadn't been visited yet,
either. But we avoided it because at a glance on the map, it showed
We drove northward for about 200km on the Route 40, till we turned
right near Toikanbetsu. We went up alongside the Toikanbetsu River,
and then alongside Kenashiporo River. The name doesn't sound like a
Japanese word. In Japanese, it would mean either "vilifying polo" or
"polo with no hair," neither of which would make any sense. It may
well have come from the language of Ainu, Hokkaido aboriginal. I
could only hope that the name didn't mean a hungry bear.
By the way, I also find it interesting that the names of places
indicate that the Ainu people may have had the notion that
everything comes in a pair, "penke" and "panke"; a pair of mountains,
a pair of rivers, a pair of swamps, everything. E.g. Penke-Opoppe
River and Panke-Opoppe River.
At a point, we turned right and parted from Kenashiporo River.
It was the starting point of an unpaved path in the forest. Soon,
we came to the point where the path didn't allow our car to go any
further. So we parked it aside and started walking. It was 1:00pm.
The path going along the ridge was generally upward with some ups
and downs. Both sides were thickly covered with bamboo grasses which
were taller than our height. There was no knowing of what was there
beyond the grasses.
A thought of encountering a bear made me afraid. With no bear
bell brought along, I started whistling. I knew a perfect song
for this situation: The Bear Song. Its Japanese version is
titled "Mori no Kuma-san."
We walked northward for 3km until we crossed 45N. The point was
about 100 meter east of the confluence. The time was around 1:30pm.
I left my friend there and started wedging my way alone into the
If I needed help, I would signal him by whistling the song
"SOS" once sung by Pink Lady.
The grasses were so thick I couldn't go between them. I tried to
level them and trample them. The grasses first gave me a sense of
elevation and then with a big cracking noise, collapsed beneath my
feet. With this struggle, it took me 5 minutes to advance 5 meters.
That pace wouldn't get me to the confluence forever. Luckily enough,
the density of the grasses soon eased up while I waded further into
the darker forest.
The next hurdle was a very steep downward slope. Looking far
down, I saw two small streams meet just below me; one from the
right, the other from the front. The streams were so small I would
easily jump across either one of them. After yesterday's rain, the
soil beneath my feet was as soft as a cultivated field. Even if I
had surrendered to the gravity and had slid down the slope, I
wouldn't have got hurt. I interpreted the situation as a green light.
Which, in hindsight, majority of people might oppose.
So, I started climbing down. This time, the bamboo grasses were
greatly helpful. Relinquishing them would have shot me down.
When I inadvertently grab a stem of Japanese butterbur, it broke
with no resistance at all. That gave me a chill in the spine.
I carefully chose the course where there was a tree down in the
middle way. Once I reached it, I moved horizontally to the
next course toward another tree.
Once I had climbed all the way down, unscathed, without peeing
my pants, the rest was relatively easy. At the water confluence,
I still had to go about 50 meters westward to the degree confluence.
All I had to do was to go up along the left stream, which ran almost
precisely eastward. It was a valley with very steep sides. I had to
jump back and forth across the stream to find my way. The floor
beside the water was squishy. When stepped on, it oozed out oily
The reception of GPS was poor. Its reading kept changing with
occasional warning of poor reception. After some trials, I gave
up the idea of adjusting the reading to exact confluence. There was
a large log lying in the stream. It was covered not only with mosses
but also with some grasses. I determined that was the closest
point I could approach. I took pictures. It was 3:00pm.
Then I got back. I joined my friend at 3:30pm. He was angry.
He said he tried to call me back with his full voice because
it was likely to start raining. I didn't hear it. I was very
sorry. His voice was hoarse.
We made it back to our car before sunset, which was as early as
We got back to Asahikawa at 8:00pm and ate ramen together at
Itosue. It was very good.
One small problem. I still hadn't found the answer to my original
question. Why hadn't any people visited the confluence before when
it was relatively so easy? Is it because the point is so remotely
located? (It is the northernmost confluence in the land area of
Japan.) Or, is it because nobody had ever come up with the idea of
going down the slope beside the stream? My theory so far is that
the window of the time of year during which we can approach this
point is so small. Two days later, we had snow.
That's my lucky story. I'm cordially thankful to the eight millions
of pantheistic gods who didn't punish me for my reckless plan.
They might, if I or somebody else tried to do the same thing without
much preparation again.