This lovely old lady’s journey has been a long one — 90 years long to be exact. A journey whose path may well be narrowing, with regular sit downs now essential, but one that nonetheless most definitely goes on.
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?
Needless to say, however, that wasn’t the case. The people are still lovely of course, but the quiet loneliness.
And the slightly surreal emptiness.
Is still very much the same.
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.
An unconscious prayer perhaps for a hangover that isn’t of biblical proportions.