Those wetlands were in fact the Kushiro Shitsugen, and how we ended up there was an exercise in stupidity (my parents'). We were on the hunt for the elusive tanchou, but nobody told us they were not in season (having flown off somewhere cooler). It was a nice train ride, a one-man densha via Kitahama (North Harbor) to Abashiri. This was the closest I had come to real wilderness in Japan.
I went for a walk late in the evening, and just like last night (and the night before), I felt thrilled to be back in Japan. I headed down over a bridge, where there was some kind of entertainment district on the water. Perhaps I might have even passed Haruki Murakami's love hotel, somewhere in the gloom. I didn't see any of his bears, although they were probably out there!.