Collectors’ passport aims to bring repeat visitors to little-known spots
by Melissa Devaughn for the Japan Times
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e meet at midday in the hamlet of Akanko Onsen in Hokkaido and pile into Shigeru (Dameon) Takada’s Honda Insight, a hybrid vehicle that he drives like a race car along a gravel road that leads to a fish hatchery on the north side of Lake Akan. This region is protected as part of Akan National Park, but Takada is a permitted guide and we are allowed to enter. We are alone on the road and slow down only for crossing deer and particularly sharp turns. Paralleling the road is a beautiful stream that feeds the lake and is one of Takada’s favorite — and secret — places to fish. He stops often to point out his favorite fishing holes and scenic spots, where we are sure to see schools of trout and salmon circling in the clear waters.
Takada is intimately connected to the land, and when we stop, he scans the area for deer, bear and birds. Together, these animals contribute to the habitat that supports the fish below, he says. The interplay between flora and fauna is critical to a healthy fish population, a mutually dependent relationship that he, and the Ainu people of this region, respects.
“When I was young, I came here with my father. He heard noises when he was fishing and called out to me: ‘What are you doing?’ He thought I was in the water, splashing and scaring the fish. I told him I wasn’t. Then two hunters came by and asked: ‘Did you see the bear?’”
While father and son had been fishing, the bear had been too, Takada explains.