The Inconvenient Journey between Sapporo and Nokkeushi -the Opening of the Ikeda Railway Line
The Inconvenient Journey between Sapporo and Nokkeushi-the Opening of the Ikeda Railway Line
Before the first construction train on the Ikeda Line (lately known as the Furusato Ginga Line) arrived at Nokkeushi Station on 19 October 1910, Nokkeushi was isolated by its inland location and the journey from Sapporo was extremely inconvenient.
The route most often used was by sea from Otaru, calling at Wakkanai, then ports such as Monbetsu, Shimo Yubetsu and Tokoro along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching Abashiri. After passing by Abashiri Prison, a traveller would proceed through Katayama and Niagezaka to stay overnight at the relay station at Hiushinai before going on to Nokkeushi. The road from Abashiri had been built by convicts. It was rough and barely wide enough for a horse and cart. With calls at the various ports on the way from Otaru, it usually took about ten days to get to Nokkeushi. If the weather was bad it would take even longer as ships had to wait before they could enter port. This route became completely impassable when the Sea of Okhotsk was covered with ice.
The second route started with a train journey from Sapporo to Nayoro in central Hokkaido. It then took a newly-opened road through to Okoppe, Monbetsu and the eastern shore of Lake Saroma. In those days Lake Saroma was cut off from the sea, so travellers passed along the sandspit to Tokoro and then went on to Abashiri. In spring a channel formed to connect the lake with the sea, so that was crossed by boat. The previously described road was then followed from Abashiri to Nokkeushi. This was the most roundabout overland route from Sapporo. It took five days but there was comparatively little snow and it could be traversed even in winter, by sledge.
The third route was to go by train to Asahikawa and then proceed along the Hokkaido Central Trunk Road through Kamikawa, Shirataki, Nogami, Saroma and Rubeshibe to Nokkeushi. However this road had many steep places and passed through tall forest with dense undergrowth. Bears could be encountered and occasionally travellers were attacked and killed. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 soldier-pioneers travelled along this road but in general it was little used.
The fourth route was to take a train to Asahikawa, change there and proceed via Furano and Obihiro to the terminal at Toshibetsu, now called Ikeda. Later it was possible to change at Takikawa for Furano and then go on over the Karikachi Pass. From Toshibetsu travellers walked along the river of the same name up to Rikubetsu. Then they followed an old Ainu trail to Shikayama, Tsubetsu and Bihoro before passing through Hiushinai to finally arrive at Nokkeushi.
In September 1900 word reached Nokkeushi that the director of the railways division of the Hokkaido Government was coming to Tokachi to investigate possible routes for building a new railway line. Sawamoto Kusuya, Maeda Komaji and an Ainu named Erekoku set out from Oketo to do a preliminary survey of a route through the mountains linking the Kitami and Tokachi regions. They lost their way several times. When they reached Ikeda they met the railways division director, who had already come that far, and escorted him back to Nokkeushi. This played a crucial role in ensuring that the railway to Nokkeushi actually followed the route later taken by the Ikeda line. For when the line had already been extended from Ikeda as far as Rikubetsu in 1907, a group of leading citizens from Tsubetsu began a campaign to have the route changed to follow the old Ainu trail that led from Rikubetsu to Tsubetsu and then on via Bihoro to Abashiri. This was a shock to Maeda and others in Nokkeushi. They immediately prepared a petition, took it to Sapporo and presented it to the relevant authorities through the offices of Asaba Shizuka, a member of the National Diet and incidentally the founder of Hokkai-Gakuen. Perhaps this had the desired effect for in 1908 the route through Rikubetsu, Nokkeushi and then Bihoro was confirmed.
If Maeda and his fellows had not taken action, the growth that later occurred at Nokkeushi could well have centred on Bihoro instead.
The long awaited first construction train arrived in Nokkeushi on 19 October 1910 at the site planned for the station. This event brought great rejoicing to the people of Nokkeushi.
From that day on, the journey to Sapporo which had previously taken five to ten days could be completed within twenty-four hours.
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