the Degree Confluence Project

Japan : Hokkaidō

5.4 km (3.4 miles) NW of Naka-toikambetsu, Horonobe-chō, Hokkaidō, Japan
Approx. altitude: 148 m (485 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 45°S 38°W

Accuracy: 30 m (98 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: The accuracy read 11 meters. #3: Eastward view from the confluence. #4: Southward view from the confluence. #5: Westward view from the confluence #6: Northward view from the confluence #7: Confluence viewed downward from the south-side slope #8: Slope I climbed down and stream running southward. #9: Me. #10: Near Asahikawa Station viewed from the hotel I stayed at.

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  45°N 142°E (visit #1)  

#1: The confluence viewed from the south.

(visited by Hideaki Kobayashi)

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 degree Celsius.

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 Sunday.

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 hostility.

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 bamboo grasses.

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 water.

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 4:30pm.

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.

 All pictures
#1: The confluence viewed from the south.
#2: The accuracy read 11 meters.
#3: Eastward view from the confluence.
#4: Southward view from the confluence.
#5: Westward view from the confluence
#6: Northward view from the confluence
#7: Confluence viewed downward from the south-side slope
#8: Slope I climbed down and stream running southward.
#9: Me.
#10: Near Asahikawa Station viewed from the hotel I stayed at.
ALL: All pictures on one page