The ryokan owner in Furano gave the two Taiwanese sisters (who I met yesterday) and me a lift to the station for our trains to Sapporo (changing at Takikawa). The sisters were not used to lugging their huge suitcases around and there was no lift to help them at Furano station. Although the station staff said they’d help, they were a bit tardy, and I ended taking the luggage across the bridge to our platform. Fortunately, at Takikawa and Sapporo, there were lifts.

When I bought return tickets to Furano, I didn’t buy a JR Pass because I wasn’t sure when I’d return to Sapporo. When I got to Sapporo, I returned to the ticket office and bought a seven-day JR Pass. This would give me unlimited travel on JR trains, including the Shinkansen.

My next destination was Hakodate, which is on the south-western tip of Hokkaido.

The train journey from Sapporo was smooth. At Hakodate, I got a tram to my accommodation, another ryokan.

The host greeted me warmly into her house, which had a lovely wooden interior.

It was early evening but the Museum of Northern Peoples was still open. I bought a three-museum ticket. I’d go to the other two places tomorrow.

The museum contains two collections. The Baba Collection was named after Osamu Baba who explored Hokkaido and other nearby islands collecting material. The other is the Kodama Collection, named after Sakuzaemron Kodama, who injected a sense of urgency into researching Ainu culture for fear of artefacts being sent abroad.

Before the Japanese expanded north to Hokkaido and the surrounding islands, I learnt that the islands were populated by the Ainu, Aleut, Koryak, Uilta and other indigenous people.

The indigenous people of the north believe that everything around them is a god and has a spirit. They coexist in harmony with the gods and spirits, who save people from illness and hunger. Various animals and plants exist in nature as the incarnations of the northern gods while spirits from across time and space play roles in the daily lives of the people.

The museum has on display the sophisticated clothes, leather shoes, and hoods made by indigenous women. These items were not only functional and decorative but also acted as amulets to protect wearers against disease or misfortune.

The Ainu people’s clothes were made of a variety of material. The animal sources included animal skins (bears, deer, seals), birds (skin and feathers), and fish (tanned salmon skin). Plant sources included bark (woven fibres of inner bark) and cotton (from trading with the Japanese).

Some of the handcrafted items were made because the Qing Dynasty ordered some of the northern people to trade goods that were in big demand, such as fur. In return the Chinese traded clothes, iron products, and foods. The northern people especially valued Chinese silk.

Other items made by the northern people on display include tools, seal skin boats (the Aleut were hunters of sea mammals), earthenware and wooden ware.

Paintings in the museum (from various native, Japanese, and foreign artists) captured the lives of people and are studied to learn about the people.

After leaving the museum, I walked around the bay area.

I was now getting hungry and looked around for veggie restaurants and saw a few on Google Maps. The first one I went to was shut. It’s not uncommon for Google Maps to be out of date with opening times. In East Asia, there are other, more popular, mapping apps and are probably more up to date but not in English.

My second option was a pizza place close to my ryokan. I walked back and the restaurant was open. I sat by the bar area and the chef was on the other side, as was the fired pizza oven. He could speak English. As he made my pizza, he asked me which toppings I wanted. The pizza was delicious. It had about five different Japanese mushrooms, none of which were shiitake!

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