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30Aug/190

Kushiro and Nemuro – May 2019

The initial plan was to return home from Asahikawa through to Shin-Osaka on the Saturday, but it had occurred to me that I should really tackle the trip to Nemuro. I was in Hokkaido and really had no idea when I'd be back. I had really only planned to do a daytrip to Oigawa the next day, and I'd been there before, so I cancelled that plan and booked a hotel in Kushiro. I also changed my Hayabusa Reservations to the next day as the entire service is reserved and one must make sure they have a seat!

So after a nice massage the night before in Asahikawa, plans were made to head down to Sapporo and then turn left. A Super Express Lilac would take me on this first leg.

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As with most JR express services, the transfer timings are fantastic and a Super Ozora service was waiting for me at Sapporo, ready to leave 10 minutes later. Jussst enough time to stock up on snacks!

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The eastbound scenery was very different. Quite dry inland and along the coast.

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The line twists and turns along the way to Kushiro. At around 80% of the way, I saw a really familiar sign on a billboard next to the highway. It turns out that Shiranuka is the home of Tantakatan!

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Kushiro Station

Again with this educated timetabling of transfers. JR Hokkaido has a joyful train called the Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko-go that takes passengers from Kushiro, up the Senmo Main Line, to Toro Station. And yeah, back to that timing... the train was sitting on the platform waiting to depart!

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With just enough time to set up, I found a safe place for the camera and started recording...

Snacks were then bought and I boarded my Nosappu DMU (named after Cape Nosappu) to Nemuro.

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The Nemuro Main Line (also known as the Hanasaki Line [花咲線]) runs along the coast from Kushiro to Nemuro and the countryside is quite different from that of the trip north to Wakkanai.

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If you see any deer in the photos above, then it's because we nearly hit them. The poor driver was on the horn most of the time trying to get them off the right-of-way!

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Along the line, some of the stations had Lupin III characters! A quick google points out that: In 2012, the Hokkaido Railway Company unveiled Lupin III-themed trains on their Hanasaki Line between Kushiro and Nemuro station, in honor of Monkey Punch, who is a native of Hokkaido. Cool! But hence the fading, that was 7 years ago.

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Before long we were approaching Nemuro Station. We'd actually pass through Higashi-Nemuro Station, at-speed, but I saw the "you have reached the eastern-most point of the JR network" sign. DONE!

Nemuro Station

So, plan ahead with this! There aren't too many facilities at the station (not even a convenience store!) and the best option you have is a tourist information center. This has a little shop/stall inside it, but it was closed! So, if you're doing this trip and, like me, returning on the same service... pack for both directions... and don't drink all of your high-balls on the way there!

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And, well, yeah... 12 minutes later I departed on the local back to Kushiro. Since this wasn't the Nosappu Express, we actually stopped at the eastern-most point of the JR network!

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I stepped out of the train, stood on the platform and then jumped back on the service. The next one was hours away and the platform was as minimal as the southern-most station at Nishi-Oyama. From here, it was the same trip in reverse... stopping at a lot more stations...

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Things to look for? Deer! But the driver will help you there. The Lupin characters are everywhere... Stuffed-and-mounted Guard Vans are also all along the rails, acting as shelters.

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Taking photos from inside a vehicle can be problematic... so check if you can open the windows. If you see latches, as below... make sure you use both hands!

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Higashi-Nemuro

I got off at Higashi-Nemuro on the way back. I'd checked the maps and realised I could take a taxi to a hard-off. Unfortunately, the station was very quiet and there were no taxis waiting. Instead, I hiked the 30 minute journey and found a PC Densha de Go Controller!

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On the way back, I caught a taxi to Nemuro Station. The driver actually ended up driving past an institution that had an SL stuffed-and-mounted in the yard! I failed to ask him to stop in time and went back to check it out...

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There was then just enough time to get back to the level crossing next to Kushiro Station to catch the Kushiro Shitsugen Norroko-go returning.

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Interestingly, the DE10 was still on the rear. It seems the car at the front is actually a DMU? It's open-air, but has a driving cab in the rear! Makes perfect sense if you're going to a station where you don't want to have to bother with running around.

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This is town is actually famous for its port! I hadn't realised that the town was so heavily based on shipping. From the railway, you only really see the land and the town... it's not until you walk far enough south that you get to see the port. For some reason though, I can't find any photos of my little trek down to the bridge and port.

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I stayed in the Hotel Crown Hills Kushiro, located across the road from station. It had quite a view.. of the Super Hotel across the road... which would've had a better view! Fortunately, there isn't much to see on the Nemuro Main Line after Kushrio Station. Note that there are freight trains that run into Kushiro, but the freight depot is much further to the west.

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From here, I had dinner in the station. There's a beautifully rustic restaurant in the building itself and the chicken curry was delicious. Supposedly you're meant to eat Sushi or Crabs here though! I never do travel for food. An early and uneventful night was spent in the hotel and the first service was taken westbound in the morning.

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I'd booked a seat, but the windows were quite terrible. The double-glazing had condensed and there was no chance of taking photos from the seats. Fortunately there's observation areas at the ends of the cars.

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Note that you can no longer get to the front window in these trains. Back in the day, you could look out the front as the drivers cab is elevated. I can't remember the exact event, but they now no longer allow passengers to cram themselves into the front vestibule for a drivers' view. It's really quite sad as that's how I captured Super Hokuto en-route to Sapporo and Super Hakucho approaching Kikonai in the snow.

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And that was really it... there was a transfer at Minami-Chitose (actually, I went to the outlet mall as I had an hour) to the following EMU...

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And then it was a seamless trip of transfers back to Shin-Osaka! I had left Kushiro at 6am in Hokkaido (on the hottest day on record! 39 degrees?) and arrived in Shin-Osaka at 10:30pm.

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