So we made it to Japan. Every once in a while we have to remind ourselves, that we really did it. Over 30.000 kilometers lie behind us; a long, long way. We’re not in Tokyo yet. But we’re getting close.
The first thing we did in Japan was getting a SIM card. Accompanied by Swiss bikers Pascal and Monika, who took than same ferry as us, we hit an electronics store in Sakaiminato. This was where we were first confronted with the Japanese approach to service. When we asked an employee whether they had a SIM card in a different size, he ran straight to the warehouse to check. He ran. Literally. To Germans, who spent significant time in Russia recently, this was a shock. A pleasant one.
From Sakaiminato we headed to Hiroshima. Our first Japanese riding experience. Let’s be blunt: Japan is a great country. It’s beautiful, unique and the people are very friendly – but it’s not a motorcycle country. Which is surprising when you think about Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki. But the Japanese speed limits kill almost all the joy of riding. And traffic takes care of what’s left. In cities, the speed limit is usually 40 km/h. Outside of cities: 60. In words: sixty! You are allowed to go 100 on highways, but these are toll roads. And riding them is expensive. Really expensive. So we went on toll-free roads with an average speed of 42. That’s slower than on Mongolian sand!
Japan has soda machines everywhere – and a rule for everything. It feels like the safest, most cautious society we’ve seen so far. Compliance does not seem to be an issue here: if you see a red light, you stop. Simple as that.
So Hiroshima was the first major city we visited in Japan. It is known for and characterized by the word’s first atomic bombing on August 6th, 1945. On the picture above you can see the so called A-Bomb Dome which is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Its walls did not collapse because it was almost directly under the bomb when in exploded at a height of about 580 meters.
These days, Hiroshima is a lively city. It’s were we first saw a pachinko. These slot machines seem to be a common hobby judging by the amount of places – they’re everywhere. Apart from winning a serious amount of money you also have the chance of losing your hearing. The noise of millions of metal balls bouncing through the machines is truly deafening.
Japan is a constant overflow of cuteness. Signs usually have a comic character that explains to you what you’re supposed to do – and what not. Even road signs warning you of boars, for instance, are illustrated in a way that won’t fail to make you smile.
We didn’t see a lot of rain on our trip but we caught up a bit in Japan. We got completely drenched on our way to Himeji.
Himeji is famous for its castle that’s known to be the most beautiful of all Japan.
It’s completely wooden and provides a nice view on the city. The next day we carried on to Kyoto, one of the big highlights of any Japan trip. Kyoto has lots of temples - and lots of tourists.
Being good tourists, we just blended in and visited temple after temple. And we really came to like Japan. The people are very friendly and the food is delicious. You can walk into any eatery on any corner and try something you’ve never eaten before.
We hit the road again to get out of the cities and discovered that we’d been completely wrong on one thing: Japan is a great motorcycle country. Forget what we wrote before. You just have to know where to look and find the roads that are worth riding. We went into the Japan Alps and had great twisty roads through beautiful mountain forests. But in Japan, the cuteness never stops, not even when you’re on the road. Some of the road sign make you chuckle more than alarm you.
We got to a beautiful camping ground in the woods. It was occupied exclusively by Japanese solo bikers. Everyone pretty much kept to themselves but we had a good time anyway. A hot spring was within walking distance.
After two nights in the Japanese Alps we set out to Mount Fuji, Japan’s iconic mountain. The roads were pretty curvy once again and the landscape was beautiful.
At some point we got a river that looked almost exactly like one we saw in Albania in the middle of April. A weird flashback.
When we reached Mount Fuji, we drove past the camping ground a number of times. Navigating here is quite hard because not everything is translated to English – and Japan is the first country on our trip where you’re driving on the left. Anyway, do you see the little strip of beach in the tree gap on the right side? That’s where we camped.
The next morning the weather was horrible. Tayphoon Talim was approaching Japan and it was pouring down. We decided to ride to the base station on Mount Fuji anyway. And got completely drenched again. We were the only people without umbrellas there. So we simply kept our helmets on.
From Mount Fuji a two hour ride to Tokyo lay ahead of us. The final kilometres of this trip.