Sole Sister

Cruising in the single lane

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Four seasons in three weeks


Cows graze in bucolic bliss beneath Mt Yotei. 


Fields lie fallow awaiting winter snows.

Autumn is my favourite travel month. You can’t beat it for cost, crowd and climate reasons. It’s the perfect time to enjoy comfortable temperatures in most countries, without peak season crowds, and travel and accommodation prices. The added bonus in cold climate countries is the spectacle of autumn colours. I’ve not long returned from (what is becoming) my annual sojourn in Hokkaido which happily coincided with the late autumn. And the season didn’t disappoint. Japan’s northernmost island, famed for its incomparable powder snow, managed to give a taste of all seasons during my three-week visit, an opportunity to enjoy what lies beneath the ubiquitous white of winter.

When I arrived in early October the weather was warm, the autumn colours just starting to show. The tip of Mt Yotei’s distinctive volcanic cone had a dusting of white but cows still grazed in bucolic bliss on lush green pastures close by. My first weekend the thermometer sat at about 23 C, ideal for picking grapes destined for crushing for Niseko’s fledgling sparkling wine industry. Sun block and hats were a must.


Harvesting grapes for Niseko’s fledgling sparkling wine industry. 

By early the next week a trough came through dropping the temperature and hastening the spread of the autumn colours. Soon the surrounding countryside was ablaze, the famous momiji  transforming to their signature shade of crimson – the turning “to flame” that Australian poet Clive James wrote in Japanese Maple. I love the way the Japanese kanji for autumn, aki, is a combination of the tree and fire symbols -秋.


The rice harvest is completed as autumn sets in.


momoji turns to flame. 


Autumnal landscape. 




A happy conjunction of autumn and Hallowe’en. 


The ojizosama watches over passersby. 

By late the next week the temperature had dropped further, rain turned to sleet, and by the timeof my departure the landscape had put on its familiar white winter coat. A perfect sayonara.


Sayonara snowfall.