Hamamatsu to Wakayama

Yep, I’m back in Japan for another cycling trip.  The original plan was to cycle from Tokushima to Fukuoka via Kagoshima, bit it didn’t turn out like that… still I had another great cycling journey to remember.

As I was riding to the Hamamatsu station to catch the shinkansen to Osaka… I decided I felt like riding more (and not be stuck on a train) so a late change of plan was to just start cycling from Hamamatsu… only an extra 300kms or so.

The Otori at Hamako and the major route 1 highway - which I avoided.

The heavy traffic died down after the Nagoya turn off  and I had a pleasant if not spectacular first day’s ride of 90 kms to cape Irago where I would catch the ferry in the morning.

Camped next to the sea near the ferry port

Mozzy trying to get in

The next morning I caught the ferry for the 1 hour trip across to Toba

On the ferry to Toba

View from the ferry

From there it was along the coast for about 10 kms then towards the mountains of Mie.

The Husband and wife rocks

Next I stopped at one of the most famous shrines in all of Japan.  Ise Jingu…

One of the shrines at Ise Jingu

I spent most of the next two hours getting lost and looking for a 100 yen shop to buy a map. Then it was west into the countryside . I couldn’t help but notice how green everything was after the recent rainy season.

Mie contryside

I was hoping to make it too a campsite with a nearby onsen but took a wrong turn along the way so ended up camping on a small section of turf in a tiny town that luckily also had an onsen.

Overnight camp in Mie - nothing fancy but did the job

The next day’s ride was up into the mountains of Mie and then down to Wakayama-ken

Found the park I should have camped at just after leaving

I Also noticed this sign telling me exactly how far I had come from Hamamatsu.

161 kms from Hamamatsu (plus another 30 from getting lost)

As is usually the case in Japan, the further you get into the mountains the less traffic there is and the better the scenery becomes.

An old railway bridge

The first real climb of the trip - the road was narrow so there was plenty of shade - a good thing when it's a humid 33 degrees.

At the top of the first pass

Crystal clear stream running alongside the road

There was one more punishing climb before reaching the summit and crossing over into Wakayama prefecture

Almost to the top - Looking out over the mountains of Mie

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To be completed…

Yes I did complete my journey from Fukuoka to Tokyo, but didn’t get around to completing the blog for the rest of the journey. It took a lot more time than I had anticipated.

I still plan to upload the rest of my photo’s from the trip but it will have to wait for now as I have just completed another cycling trip in japan, this time from Hamamatsu in shizuoka, through Shikoku and then to Onomichi.

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Day 11 – Onomichi to Hakatashima – Island hopping fun over the Shimani Kaido bridges

Kame woke me up at 7:30 on the dot just as promised, and dropped me off back where I had left Shirley (the bike) the night before.

kame

Kame and his Aussie style thumbs up!

I was looking forwards to today’s ride. I would be traveling along the shimanami kaido, an 80 km route passing through 6 islands via a series of massive suspension bridges, the largest of which is almost 6km long, and would ultimately  lead me to the third major island of my trip, Shikoku.

map_shimanami1

The Shimanami Kaido route to Shikoku

Although there are two other bridge systems connecting japan’s main Island of Honshu to Shokoku, this is the only one allowing cyclists, and is a very popular day trip for cyclists all over japan.

Although the first and shortest of the bridges does allow cyclists there is no dedicated path and it was recommended to take the short ferry ride across to Makaishima

On the Ferry

On the ferry - Why waste time brushing hair when you'll be wearing a helmet anyway?

The cycling route was extremely well marked out with large green arrows painted on the ground and I was soon at the first bridge connecting the island of Innoshima.

innoshima bridge

bridge to innoshima

Unfortunately the bike path ran underneath the main road which meant there was a fence and the framework between me and the view.

caged in

felt a bit caged in

Still, the view was pretty good all the same.

framework

View from innoshima bridge

On Innoshima I stumbled upon a Sunday market next to the beach. Behind a large crowd of people I found a sushi chef hacking up a whole tuna.

Sashimi

Sashimi - Yep I know what your thinking... that tuna head looks mighty tasty!

I was no match for the large group of mostly retirees and failed to fight my way to the counter to secure the prize of freshly hacked tuna so had to settle for some fried sweet potato on a stick.

As each of the bridges were so high up there was a reasonably steep climb up along a bike (and scooter) path to reach the entrance.  It was nothing too steep though and quite enjoyable.

bike pathe to bridge

Windy bike path leading up to the bridge

The next bridge lead to the island of Ikuchijima. I liked the clean design of this one.

Ikuchijima bridge

Ikuchijima bridge and a pesky power pole spoiling my photo

The bike path was up on top of the bridge this time, which meant some great, uninterrupted views over the sea and nearby islands.

bridge view

View from Ikuchijima bridge

I stopped for a quick photo on the bridge. Please excuse the Lycra, it’s not going to win me any fashion awards but at it’s comfy when cycling.

another bridge

Me on a bridge rockin the spandex... yeah!!!

On the island of Ikuchijima I stumbled across a small town with a large temple complex that seemed to be popular judging by the masses of tour buses parked nearby.

The place was huge and was built by a wealthy businessman from Osaka who became deeply religious after his mother passed away.  You could see more of an Indian, Buddhist influence with a more flamboyant style, bordering on outright kitsch in some places,  such as this massive wooden statue that must have been around 20 meters high.

Big statue

A big statue

Still, the quality in both the design and craftsmanship was easily apparent.

big red shrine

A big red shrine

The adjoining Japanese style garden was also quality stuff

Beaut garden

A beaut garden

And some nice rock carvings. The fella in this one looks like a top bloke.

DSC01327

Friendly rock man

Yep, it’s safe to say that the guy who built this was no half stepper. There was even a massive sculpted park built entirely of marble shipped all the way from Italy. Personally I found this area pretty tasteless, but the Japanese visitors seemed to love it.

marble

Would you like some marble with your marble?

There was also an Italian cafe which was of course built of marble, so I dropped in for a pizza and glass of red, but to my disappointment, and as is usually the case in Japan, the red wine was served cold straight out of the fridge… criminal! …at least it didn’t come with ice I suppose.

pizza and cold wine

Pizza and icy cold wine!

Next it was over to Omishima island and a nice ride along the coast before heading over yet another bridge to Hakatajima, where I found a nice beach, and as it looked like rain was on the way decided to set up camp there.

As I went to the nearby Kombini I met a Swiss couple who are taking the same route across Japan as me, only in the opposite direction. The guy even gave me a detailed map book from the area he had passed. Not sure if he was being friendly or just happy to lose some weight from his load which looked a lot heavier than mine.

Swiss cyclists

Swiss cyclists taking on the "length of Japan" challenge - Good on em!

As the rain set in I set up camp, looking forwards to enjoying the rest of the Shimani kaido path tomorrow.

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Day 10 – Takehara to Onomichi – Great views and some of the friendliest people in the world

Deciding to camp on the beach was a winner of an idea as the sand underneath made my thin camping mattress feel like an emperor’s futon. Check out the great view out over the Seto inland sea I woke up to.

Beach camp

While I was packing up my gear I met Kenji san, a kayaker who was setting up to head to a nearby island. He was now retired and told me that he enjoys kayaking in his free time. I don’t blame him. I think I would take up kayaking as well if I lived in this areas as there are small islands dotted everywhere that are only accessible by boat.

Kenji was very friendly and his English surprisingly good. I tried to pass off my other tent to him, but he declined (don’t blame him) so I ended up having to throw it in the bin.

Here’s kenji and his kayak and one of the islands he was heading to in the background.

Kenji the Kayaker

Kenji also has a blog which I was able to check out a few days latter and I was impressed at the photo’s of some of the places he has been Kayaking. I hope that when I’m retired I’m as active as he is.

And here’s me trying to be a kayaker.

Will the Kayaker

I'm a kayaker

After packing up I rode back to check out the area of Takehara with traditional style Japanese streets and houses. I learned from the locals that a number of Samaria dramas are filmed in this area.

Takahara

A street in Takehara

And some hay hanging outside a building

Hanging hey

Hanging hay

And me hanging out side a building

Me in Takehara

Some fun with reflections

And I’m not so sure if this is in the traditional Japanese style

Pissing boy skulpture

A charming sculpture

Before leaving I tried to be a real Samurai…. How did I do?

real samurai

I'm a real samurai!!!

Just after setting off I managed to get two flat tiers within 30 minutes. It slowed me down a bit but the good news is that I’m now an expert tier changer. Today’s ride was easy and flat with more great scenery of the nearby islands.

seto secenery

One of the many islands of the Seto inland sea

I reached my destination, the town of Onomichi by four and after a quick refuel at the local Ramen shop headed up the very steep hillside to look for a place to camp. Onomichi is famous for it’s temples, museums and parks all located upon this steep hill.

steep

Steeeeeep!

At the top I wasn’t able to find to many good places to camp but the scenery was awesome…

Sunset in Onomichi

View from the top of the Onomichi hilllside

…and I was just in time to catch a great sunset.

Onomichi sunset

Onomichi's Sunset

After a relaxing bath at the local onsen I found a small Teppanyaki izakaya, which looked busy so I went in and took a seat at the counter. Sitting next to me was Kame, an Onomichi local who was having dinner and drinks with a couple of his workmates.

Kame from Onomichi

Kame, his workmates and I at the Teppenyaki - Giday!

Kame worked on a larger container ship, and despite not being able to speak any English he was supper friendly.  He even shouted me this great tasting tuna sashimi.

sashimi

Tuna Sashimi

When I told Kame and his mates I was planning on camping in the park at the top of the hill they had a good old laugh, and Kame offered to let me crash at his place for the night. Before leaving he even payed my entire bill despite me repeatedly attempting to pay myself – he was having none of it, so I told him I would return to Onomichi one day to shout him dinner.

Had  a great night’s sleep in the spare room at kame’s place… much better than camping, and a great preparation for tomorrow’s ride, island hopping over a series of massive suspension bridges and what has been described as one of the best 1 day cycling routs in the world.

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Day 9 – Hiroshima to Takehara – A steep pass to Seto inland sea and my first crash

After checking out of Hotel Intelligence (great name, I know), I rode over to the peace memorial park to get my bike in order for today’s ride. I met a guy from Sapporo who is also touring by bike. He had ridden from Tokyo on a “mama chari” or what would be known in Australia as a “girls bike”.

mama chari

Tokyo to okinawa on a mama chari!!!

Hi is planning to ride all the way to okinawa – crazy stuff. There was also this guy who I think wasn’t touring but was homeless. Still, the load he was carrying was quite impressive. Respect!

Nice load

Fully loaded

In the background of this photo is the famous Atomic dome. One of the few building left standing after the atomic bomb.

Atomic Dome

Atomic dome, Hiroshima

Heading out of Hiroshima I had to make a mountain pass which provided some of the steepest hills yet. A 10 percent incline in some sections.

steep

Steep!!!

The road was very narrow and surprisingly busy, with plenty of traffic, meaning I had to stop often to let vehicles pass. I didn’t mind to much as I could do with the rest, and as I neared the summit was greeting with gestures of encouragement from passing motorists and truck drivers.

After a couple of hours of hard toil, it was down hill all the way to the Seto inland sea, famous for it’s bountiful amounts of sea food and small fishing communities.

fishing village

Fishing boats along the shore line

As it was beginning to get dark I rolled into my destination. The small coastal town of Takehara.  After dinner, I found a great beach for camping just out of town.  Attempting to turn as the gravel changed to sand I managed to crash my fully loaded bike into a sign leaving a bump the size of an egg on my elbow. It hurt like crazy but luckily there was no major damage to ether me or the bike.

elbow

Yes, that is my elbow, with a nice bump.

Had a great night’s sleep on the soft sand before tomorrow’s ride to Onomichi, and the gateway to the southern island of Shokoku.

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Day 6 – Iwakuni to Hiroshima – World heritage Miyajima island and 2 flat tyres in the middle of a freeway

On the way to the drink machine for my morning coffee I saw a sign saying there was no camping allowed in the park. Whoops, no one seemed to mind too much.

No camping

No Camping - I didn't see nuffin!

I then took a few moments to admire Kintai-kyo one more time. The bridge was originally built in 1673, and uses a locally pioneered binding technique that does not use one nail throughout the entire bridge. Each of the arcs are now replaced every 20 years, primarily to ensure that this technique is passed down to each successive generation.

kin kai kyo

The five wooden arches of Kintai-kyo

Today’s ride was to be relatively easy, just 40 kms along the route 2 into the city of Hiroshima.  After the amazing mountain scenery of yesterday’s ride, today along the route 2 I was greeted to this…

smog

today's scenery- Some smog

After about 20 kms through the morning rush, and in which I was actually faster that the cars and trucks I reached the port to take a short ferry across to Miyajima, an extremely famous world heritage listed island.

miyajima

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima shrine is unique in that it is built on the low lying sure line meaning that at high tide it appears to be floating on the water. I had been here 5 years ago during the low tide, so was lucky to have caught high tide this time.

mayajima2

Itsukushima's famous "floating" torii (gate)

The island of Miyajima is also home to a legion of Shika (Wild deer) who are quite happy to roam the streets and mingle with the tourists.   I made friends with this fella.

Shika

Init cute!

baby shika

More cuteness! ...Mother and baby shika

These cheeky deer are like goats… they will eat anything… Including paper.

bad shika

paper....yum!

After doing the tourist thing and checking out all the shrines I took Shirley (the bike) for a spin and came across a steep road leading up into the mountain. I knew I had a rest day tomorrow so I thought “why not”. After a steep climb I was rewarded with a nice view over the sea.

Mountian of Miyajima

View from the mountians of Miyajima

After catching the ferry back to the mainland I began what was to be an easy 25 km ride into the city of Hiroshima. After about 10km of riding along the route 2 I found my self riding up into a freeway that I have a feeling wasn’t ment for the use of cyclists. All of a sudden the trucks were zooming past me at twice the speed and I had to concentrate on keeping to the tiny elbow of the road. I got used to it fairly quickly, so when I saw a turnoff I was in two minds on weather to turn off or continue on the free way for the last 5 km…Big mistake… I started turning off then decided to continue. As I was turning back on, I hit a jagged reflector sticking up from the road.

50 meters later I realized I was stranded in the middle of the freeway with not one… but TWO flat tires.  After one of those “what on earth am I going to to now” moments I realized I had no other choice but to ride my bike with two flat tires to the nearest exit.

Luckily it wasn’t to far away, then I made my way to a park for the repair work.

Flat

Yes... I do know how to change a flat tire... I think

It took a while but contrary to what my parents believe, I actually do now how to fix a flat tire. I noticed some of the local kids in the park spying on me from behind a bush.   Once I had fixed my bike I played Frisbee and some baseball with them. They were really cute, and when it was time to leave they even helped pick up my bags (which were quite heavy and twice their size) to give to me.

kids in the park

Friends from the park

On the outskirts of Hiroshima I noticed a strange store on the opposite side of the road.  Australian Garden Corner! Notice the stylish statues out the front. I should have gone in to take a look around but it was getting dark so I continued along my way

Aussie garden

Aussie garden corner - Bloody gorgeous!

After what turned out to be quite a long day I finally rolled into Hiroshima, checked into a hotel and pretty much crashed.

Hiroshima river

Early evening in Hiroshima

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Day 5 – Nichihara to Iwakuni – An awsome ride through the contryside

Camping on top of mount Mukarase, it got pretty cold overnight, but I got through it with a few layers of thermals. As you can see I had a nice little spot for my tent.

tent

Camp at Mt mukarase

I got up at 7:30 and decided to take a walk up to the nearby star gazing center (basically a big telescope on a hill). The colorful map at the camp grounds made it seem like it was 50 meters or so away. Actually it was a 30 minute hike up some crazily steep slopes and the walk alone pretty much used up all the juice I had in my legs for the days ride.

steep

Steep climb!

At the top I found a drink machine for my morning coffee though by the look of this photo I still needed a few more.

mukarase stare gazing

Morning... eh ar eh ... yeah

Back at the camp while setting up the gear the campground care taker came around. I gave him the 400 yen fee and had a chat to him about where I was going. When I asked about the steepness of today’s ride, he even drew up a consice diagram showing each hill and it’s precises gradient. One of the hooks had also broken on a pannier so he lent me some of his tools to bend a new hook into shape.

On the way down from Mt Mukarase along the road that nobody (except me) uses I took a photo of the landslide.

mirror

I began riding along the route to Iwakuni, next to a ripper of a river. The water was crystal clear and as the day kept heating up I seriously began thinking about jumping in for a dip.

river

Up for a dip?

The river was running in the oposite direction to me but it felt like I was riding down hill. Not sure what was going on there. I guess the massive 30 k climb yesterday has thrown my compas (or spirit level) off.

I stopped on a bridge overlooking this scenic town for about 15 minutes just soaking it up. This area of Japan is said to have one of the oldest populations, with 35 percent of the population over 65. Actaully I don’t even think I saw one person under 65!

Nice villageAfter about 40 kms of a gradual incline. That I actually thought was a decline, I hit a tunnel and new it was down hill all the way to iwakuni. Got some serious speed up running downhill through some pretty thick forest.

Stopped at a supermarket for lunch and got this sashimi for 300 yen – Bargain!

Sashimi

OK... so maybe it doesn't look the best... but the taste was tops!

After another 2 hours of downhill funness I rolled into the town of Iwakuni, still blown away from the scenery of todays ride. Easilly the best day yet. Iwakuni is famouse for an arked bridge that is said to be built entirely of wood. There’s a great park nearby so I grabbed a local Yamaguchi bear and some fried squid and kicked back on a bench to enjoy.

iwakuni

Beer, squid and a bridge!

Tried to hunt down an onsen for a bath but when I found it, it looked like it had closed down, so just grabbed some yakiudon and a cup of nihonshu (sake) to take out before setting up camp in the park.

Tomorrow… back to urbaness… the city of Hiroshima!

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Day 4 – Hagi to Nichihara – Up, Up and more Ups and a mountain camp

I woke up this morning to find that I was completely dry. I guess being so close to the beach leads to much less dew. Where as in Moji the first thing I noticed when getting up was the copious amounts of dog shit aggregated around my tent, this morning it was the beautiful beach I had all to myself.

Camp in hagi

Livin the dream! - Beach side camp in Hagi.

After packing up the gear I rode to “Joyful” a cheap restaurant chain that’s open 24 hours with a help yourself drink bar for 100 yen. I was surprised to see a few old Japanese folks getting stuck into sake at 9am in the morning – hey it’s Sunday… why not.

I then rode to the old fortified castle district with narrow streets and the original walls from back in the samurai days. Many of the small streets have maze like turns and twists, which was used by the samurai to confuse and then ambush intruders.

Hagi walls

Traditional walls Hagi

And a quick shot of me and Shirley in front of an old building with cool windows

hagi wall

I could have easily spent the whole day exploring the town but it was already getting late and I had 70kms to cover. After riding 3 kms in the wrong direction I eventually found my road and headed away from the ocean, which in Japan invariably means plenty of mountains. At least I didn’t go thirsty. In Japan no matter where you are… your never far from a vending machine.

vending machine

Drink stop!

Ridding up, up and up, the climbs seemed to go on for ever. However the scenery was spectacular, with dense forests, rivers running far below and small farming communities that looked as though they had not changed for thousands of years. Just as the constant climbing was starting to wear me down… that’s when I saw it. Happiness was only 2km away!

Happiness

2 kms to Happiness!

“Happiness” was actually a road side rest stop with a small park above. In the park was a traditional Japanese house built from twigs. It looked presidential compared to my mini tent thing and I briefly considered staying there for the night.

camp

Thought about staying here.

At the shop I met another cyclist who was ridding the other way. I asked him if there were a lot more hills in that detection and he told me, “chotto” which means “a little” but by the look on his face I could see that on this occasion it meant more than just “a little”. As I was leaving he called out to me and gave me one of his energy bars for the journey… nice.

soyjoy

Joyous soy

As I continued to climb, for the first time I noticed that some of the tree’s leaves were beginning to turn red. This is very famous in japan second only to the cherry blossom season, and when in full season you can see whole mountains literally draped in red. My timing is pretty good so I’m looking forwards to seeing some of this during my trip. Stay tuned for the photos.

red leaves

I finally hit the summit after a good 3 hours climbing and from there is was sweet downhill all the way. I passed a famous town called Tsuwano, which displayed a mixture of traditional Japanese culture combined with a history of the early philosophical and bureaucratic changes that came about during the early periods of modernization.

Tsuwano

Would have loved to have spent more time there to learn more but it was getting dark and I still had another 10 kms to go before reaching my camp.

By the time I reached the tiny mountain town of Nichihara it was well and truly dark. My map showed the Mukurase camping ground to be on top of a mountain just next to the town. I could see the mountain OK but there was nothing that even remotely resembled a road to actually get up it. Having learned my lessons of blindly trying to find the way I did the sensible thing and asked a local.

I found a small shop and asked how to get to the Mukarase campsite. Soon there were three people out front and after a lengthy conversation which I didn’t understand much of, but could tell the gist of it was them trying to convince me not to attempt to ride to the top of the mountain (latter I would understand why), a kind lady jumped in her car and told me to follow here on my bike.

She led me to a tinny and ridiculously steep path that looked like it hadn’t been used by anyone for years.

Mukarase pathHalf way up I came across this! looks like there had been a small landslide.

landslideI contemplated turning back, but as I had no other place to go, I carried my fully loaded bike over the rubble and continued up along the path.

Finally I found an utterly deserted campsite, that I guess was only open for the summer months. I hadn’t contemplated dinner, but luckily I had bought a few snacks from rest stops along the way which I washed down with a few mini bottles of local nihonshu (Sake).

nohonshu

Kampai!!!

I even found a light and power point next to a BBQ. I recharged all my gear then called it a night.

Mukarase

Camp Mukarase

Tomorrow, back to the sea and the town of Iwakuni.

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Day 3 – Mine to Hagi – A very big cave, a plain and a samurai town

I woke up at 9 and surprisingly didn’t feel too bad after going a bit to hard last night. I looked out my window to see that it had just started raining – could be trouble.

I went to the nearby home center to buy some large plastic bags to cover my gear, but by the time I came out, the rain had cleared and the sun was shining. I had a nice relaxed 20 km ride before reaching Akiyoshido – A massive limestone cave which is said to be the largest in the Orient.

Last night when I told Taka I was going to Akiyoshi-do he had given me a free pass which saved me 1200 yen – winner!  The entrance to the cave had a crystal clear stream flowing out of it and I tried to imagine what the entrance to the cave would have looked like 200 years ago before the large walkway and tourist signs were added.

Entrance to Akiyoshido

Entrance to Akiyoshido

Once inside akiyoshi cave you could see how the various water movements over time had sculpted the lime stone.  Pretty much any shaped part of the cave that had a slight resembulance to something had a big sign next to labeling it. For example we have – the Big Mushroom…

Yep... that's a big mushroom

Yep... that's a big mushroom

And not to be outdone there’s “Pumpkin Rock”

Pumpkin Rock!!!

Pumpkin Rock!!!

And my personal favorite.  This one, which needs no explanation.  AS you can see it’s obviously….

Yep... that's right. It's a straw wrapped persemon

Straw wrapped persemon

Yep… that’s right. It’s a straw wrapped persemon

I finally mastered the timer on my camera and took a snap of myself in front  of “Mountain rice fields”. This actually did look like mountain rice fields.

Me in a cave with a towel wrapped around my head

Me in a cave with a towel wrapped around my head

And just when I was thinking that this cave had it all, I got to the end to find… An elevator!

DSC00828

An elevator in a cave

I took the elevator up about about 80 meters then walked up a steep hill until I reached Akiyoshi-dai, a a large grassy plain speckled with limestone rocks that apparently used to be corral 300 million years ago. Hard to imagine the see ever being this high.

The landscapes actually reminded me of country Victoria!

Akiyoshidai

Akiyoshi dai

It’s funny, it was pretty high up there and I said to myself – Lucky I don’t have to ride my bike up here. Little did I know, this was exactly where I would be riding on my route to Hagi!

After a quick lunch I got back on the bike and took the steep accent back up to Akiyoshi dai. This was by far the steepest climb yet and the granny gear got lots of action but once back on top of the plain the view was well worth it.

akiyoshi dai view

View from akiyoshi dai

Had a beautiful ride through the hills then a great decent all the way to the ocean and the Samurai town of Hagi.

Hagi

Crossing Hagi's main river

I found a bute spot to camp near the beach then sourced out an Onsen for a nice relaxing bath.  Back to the beach to set up the tent and hit the hey early.

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Day 2 – Moji to Mine – Accross to Honshu and into the mountians

It hadn’t rained overnight but the light frost left the inside walls of my tent dripping wet. I was starting to suspect that this mini tent thing of mine would struggle if it ever actually rained.

DSC00773

Camping in the corner of a small park in Moji

I packed up my gear and had a chat to a man who was walking his dog in the park. When I told him about my plans to ride to Tokyo he seemed impressed and offered me a stern pat on the back, which as I would find out was a common response from the older Japanese men I would talk to.  Next task – Breakfast. I found a bustling supermarket with a fresh bakery section and got myself the healthiness of a slice of pizza and a couple of donuts.

Pizza - Breakfast for champions!

Pizza - Breakfast for champions!

After breakfast I took the lift to an observation room at the top of a tall building. I wanted to see where I had come from yesterday and of course where I was going today.

Looking out over the Kanmon Kaikyo straight

Looking out over the Kanmon Kaikyo straight

Although quite small, The Moji-ko (port) area has a European feel to it, due to it traditionally being used as a base for dutch traders. The small harbor even has a resident steam boat parked in it. I thought I’d get my tourist photo in before leaving.

Moji Port - Just before leaving Kyushu

Moji Port - Just before leaving Kyushu

Across the channel from Moji was the city of Shimonseki, but more importantly, Honshu, the main island of Japan. There are three ways to get across. The bridge, the tunnel or the ferry. No bikes allowed on the bridge so I planned to take the pedestrian tunnel. There was a fee of 20 yen to cross and I kind of liked the idea of paying 20 yen for something – can’t remember the last time a got anything for that much (about 25 Australian cents). I was greeted at the tunnel entrance by a workman who told me the tunnel was closed and I could take a bus over the bridge while they put my bike in the back of a truck. Sounded like a lot of hassle to me so I decided to take the ferry.

Goodbye Kyushu - Hello Honshu

Goodbye Kyushu - Hello Honshu

The Kanmon Kaikyo Channel is the meeting point of the Japan Sea and the Pacific Ocean. As each of these seas have their own tidal movements, this channel actually has two sets of tides each day. In japanese history a large number of domestic battles have taken place in this area and it is said that the side which took best advantage of the strong and rapid currents in the channel usually achieved victory.  Luckily my ferry didn’t come up against any enemies and we made it safely across.

Back on the bike – I made my way along the coast out of Shimonseki along the the major roads of route 9 and 2, before turning off and leaving the ocean along prefecture road 33 which was nice and quite except for the odd truck.

Here is where I got my first taste of the mountains, and since I had now entered the Yamaguchi prefecture ( Yama = Mountain, Guchi = Entrance) I guess it was to be expected. Nothing too serious though and overall it was a very pleasant ride through the forests and rustic farmlands.

Into the mountians of Yamaguchi

Into the mountains of Yamaguchi

I arrived at the small town of Mine at about 4pm and Started looking for a secluded park to pitch my tent once it got dark. The only park I could find was next to the river and had every window of the town’s main bureaucracy building looking down on it. I took a look at the sky and thought there might be a chance of rain. Remembering the sorry state of my tent last night I decided to give camping a miss and check into the local hotel.  After roughing it the night before and 2 days riding, a bed had never looked so good.

A bed had never looked so good!

A bed had never looked so good!

After a much needed shower I had a nap in the luxuriousness of a bed for a couple of hours, then headed out to see what was going on in down town Mine on a Friday night…

Downtown Mine on a Friday night!

Downtown Mine on a Friday night!

Yeah…. Not much.

As I searched for an izakaya to grab some dinner all I found was closed shops and empty streets. After 15 mins I was just about to give up and settle for a take away bento back at the hotel, when I saw a couple of drunk salary men stumble out from behind a shop curtain. Thought it could be a chance so I went in to find a bustling izakaya specializing in yakitori. I took a seat at the counter and ordered a beer, edo-mame (salted beans) and this!

Yakitori

Yakitori - The perfect food after a days cycling

After getting stuck into my dish I could see why this place was so popular – Umai yo!!! Sitting next to me was a guy nicknamed Maji. He lived in a nearby town and was there having dinner and drinks with his friends and volleyball team mates. He proudly told me he was number 1 on his team, while the guy sitting next to him was number 2 – so much for the famed Japanese modesty:).

Maji and I getting out pose on

Maji and I getting out pose on

It wasn’t long before his mates were over offering me food and drinks of sho-chu, and telling me I’m crazy for attempting to ride all the way to Tokyo. They were a great bunch of guys.

The lads for Mine

The lads for Mine

After saying goodbye to Maji and his mates I paid my bill and began making my way back to the hotel. I had got about 100m when I felt someone grab my shoulder. It was Taka, the guy working at the Izakaya. “Drink?” he asked me as he gave me a friendly push back towards the way I had come. He took me up to a bar above his izakaya and told me he’d be back in a few minutes once they close up. While waiting I had a chat to a group from an engineering company who where staying at the same hotel as mine. Except for one obnoxious bloke who kept blabbering on about how much he likes Russian woman, they were a friendly bunch and wanted to know if it was true kangaroos have boxing fights with people in Australia. One guy even showed me his submission hold he would do if attacked by a kangaroo and I told him  he probably wouldn’t need it.

Taka returned with two others who also worked at the izakaya and who will get married next month.

DSC00796

After beers and pizza we went around the corner to a kareoke bar which served up baskets of… yes – fried cheese. After punishing the patrons with some off key red hot chili peppers (most of my friends have already banned me from karaoke) and punishing my arteries with fried cheese, a sports car appeared out front and Taka and his mate gave me a chauffeur driven ride to the front door of my hotel – I felt like royalty! However, I knew that tomorrow after today’s indulgences, once I got on the bike I would feel much less than royal.

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