Breaking the balance
By Jelle

Our second destination on Hokkaido is Teshio experimental forest, way up north near the port of Wakkanai, where the ferries to Russia leave. The trip takes you through the potato fields that Hokkaido is famous for, as well as the dairy farms. On the way we stop at a particularly inventive dairy farmer that makes fresh ice cream and cheese - as rare product in Japan. On the curb of the highway are huge fences with shutters that go on for miles. They are a reminder of the bitter winters here. In summer, the shutters stay open, but in the winter they close to protect the road from snow blizzards. 

Not exactly hospitable terrain. That was all forgotten when we were welcomed by our host Kentaro Takagi, the head of the experimental forest. Takagi-san took us to an excellent Chinese restaurant, and later brought us to our lodging place, part of the research center. We were lucky to spend the next few nights in a traditional Japanese room, with tatami mats and futons. 

A yukata, a traditional light cotton kimono, was all ready to wear, to use after a traditional Japanese bath in a deep bath tub filled with piping hot water. All washed after a long trip, with red faces from the hot bath, sitting in our yukata we marveled at the place. Somehow, in Japanese interiors, everything feels at the right place for some reason. I was to blame for the one thing that broke the harmony: I folded my yukata right-over-left, which is only used when a person is deceased. 

A perfectly folded yukata was waiting for us in our rooms