This afternoon I took a ferry, shaped like a giant plastic castle, over to the imaginatively named ‘Nakajima’ (middle island), located in the middle of Lake Touya. It was a glorious day, and I enjoyed a brisk trek around the island, encountering majestic scenery and families of wild deer as I went. I was pretty certain that the boat returned to the mainland on the hour every hour, but when I asked someone on the island they kept saying something about ten minutes. I assumed this to mean arrive ten minutes before departure to be sure of a seat, but when I heard the foghorn sound around the island at around 15:40 I flew into a wild panic and sprinted madly back to the dock. It was a bloody good job that I did, as the boat left at bang on 15:50, and had I missed that then I would also have missed the last bus back to the farm, and been faced with a 20km trek home. There’s a lot to be said for paranoid levels of punctuality, but then there’s also a lot to be said for actually understanding what it is that people are trying to tell you.
I found out today that Lake Touya originates from the Ainu (indigenous people of Northern Japan) words for lake (Tou), and mountain (ya), and that it was so named because it is a lake surrounded by mountains. Now I’m not going to argue with this fact, as Lake Touya is indeed a lake that is surrounded by mountains, but it’s hardly going to win any prizes for originality is it. What is more, with the addition of the suffix -ko (meaning lake in Japanese place names), Touya-ko literally translates as: Lake Lake Mountain. As there is definitely more mountain than lake I suggest an additional suffix of -san (which can indicate mountains in Japan place names) to even things up a bit, a suggestion which the local tourist board would no doubt be only too happy to have explained to them in mangled Japanese.