Two parks and a panoramic view

Today, I was due to return to the vegan restaurant that was going to open for me.

I decided to do a morning walk in Asahiguoka Park. The ryokan owner again offered to drive me there. I said I was fine to walk and after some back-and-forth, I set off on foot. A few minutes later, the owner drove past me and parked on the side of the road! She ended up driving me to the park. I’m glad she did. The route to the top of the park was further than I thought. It would have taken me more time than I had — especially if I wanted to get to the restaurant, which I had to do.

My ryokan owner suggested she wait for me! I said I’d walk back but she said it was a long way. As I went to check Google Maps, she laughed. It was a common exchange: she would say a walk would take too long and I would check Google Maps to see the time it would take. This time, she accepted my reassurance that it was a walkable distance. She drove back and I walked around the hilly park.

When it was time to return, Google Maps said to take the path we took to drive here. I didn’t fancy walking on the road. I could see on the map that if there were a path through the hilly woodside, it would be a scenic walk and I could get to the restaurant at a better time (closer to one than two o’clock). There was an old man working on the trees and I asked him if there was a path through the woodland. After some hesitation and smiling, he said the road was the only way back.

As I started walking, I thought I’d look at my hiking app, OutdoorActive, for minor paths. I zoomed in and saw a path! I headed down the hill and 200m later, I saw a narrow path going through the hillside. I knew it was a good path because I saw a Buddha statue. Last night, I had read a review from someone who challenged readers to find the 87 Buddha statues in the park. This was the path where many of the statues were.

The path was a scenic shortcut, and I was soon onto the river heading back into town. I was hoping the restaurant owner had remembered to open the restaurant. She could be forgiven if not.

I needn’t have worried because she was tending to her garden outside the restaurant when I got there. She smiled when she saw me and showed me in. I really was the only person there!

I ordered the same dish. She remembered everything I had ordered. When I finished, she magically appeared with coffee, which I’d ordered the first time but hadn’t mentioned this time!

For quite a while, I reflected about the past few weeks and life generally. How lucky I had been to have met this kind restaurant owner and the owner of the ryokan I was staying in. They had been unbelievably generous. I had almost decided not to go to Furano at the last minute because I thought there would be nothing to do. In the end, that proved the attraction. I had been to too many places with too much to see and do. I wanted to slow down. Furano, I hoped, would be that place. Although I didn’t slow down that much, I had been fortunate in other ways.

I could have stayed in the restaurant all day because it was such a good place to daydream. I was mindful of overstaying my welcome: so I got up to pay my bill. In Japan, generally, you don’t tip for service. However, I had noticed a tip jar. I took out some money and gave it to her. I included a generous tip, but she would have none of it. She took some of the notes and gave me back the change. When I went to put the change in the tip jar, she refused!

My ryokan owner said she would drive me to Torinuma Park after lunch and agreed I could walk back! When we got there, there was a bit of rain. She said she’d wait for me in the car park! I replied that wasn’t necessary, but she wouldn’t be budged. She said she had some business in the area, which was polite of her, and would return in 30 minutes. I tried again to say I’d walk back but then accepted her offer.

Initially, as I walked around (the rain had stopped by this time), I thought it was a shame I could spend only 30 minutes in the park. I was hoping to walk up to the top of the park. I explored a few paths and there weren’t many places you could go to apart from the central lake with a few moored boats. I might have exhausted all options within 20 minutes. That might explain why the restaurant owner, when I told her I was going to Torinuma Park, mentioned the boating. There wasn’t anything else to do. I was glad she insisted on driving me back because it would have taken me 90 minutes to walk back.

I returned to the car park and expected to return to the ryokan. The clouds were getting darker. However, as we headed back to town, blue skies appeared, and I found myself with a panoramic view of the region. I thought: I don’t recall seeing this on the way out. She had deliberately taken me to a viewpoint. Then we went a shop, which had a viewing platform!

Twenty minutes ago, I was my wondering about being denied the chance to see more of Torinuma park and now I unexpectedly got to see this magnificent view. Life is strange.

After returning to the ryokan, I walked to the nearby Sorachi river and read a book, the one a monk had given me in South Korea.

When I returned to the ryokan again, there were two Taiwanese sisters discussing something with the ryokan owner. They asked me if I could speak English. They were trying to work out how to go to Sapporo. I said I was going there tomorrow and described their options, as explained to me by the information staff in Sapporo. They decided to get the same train as me.

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