Big Japan Bike Ride No:4

It is that time of year again when the leaves fall from the trees and the long dark cold nights of winter are upon us. With it thoughts of going to warmer climes increase.

And so on Tuesday 19th May 2015 I depart New Zealand again for another Big Japan Bike Ride, this time it is No:4.

Progress can be followed on this blog… http://nbjbr4.wordpress.com

Big Japan Bike Ride No:4

Big Japan Bike Ride No:4

The proposed route but as in previous years it can change.

I will have a short stopover in Tokyo on arrival.

Then go Kagoshima again, instead of the original idea of Osaka.
I will go up east coast of Kyushu this time rather than the west coast.

Cross by ferry to Shikoku and pass through the middle of the island. When there will ask more details about 88 temple pilgrimage.

I hope to arrive in Osaka 2 weeks later and have a few days stay there.

To celebrate my departure we rang the World Peace Bell in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens at 11:30am on Sunday morning 17th May.

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The Final Routes

I realised I haven’t made a map of the final route of the crazy Kiwi on a mama-chari 2012 Big Japan Bike Ride. So here it is….

The actual route taken.

The actual route taken 2012.

And can be compared to the one in 2011….

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The actual route taken 2011.

The blog can be seen here… http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/bigjapanbikeride

And the one in 2014….

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The actual route taken 2014

with the blog here…. http://nbjbr3.wordpress.com/

So what of 2015, could there be a Big Japan Bike Ride 4?!

Happy New Year

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3rd Big Japan Bike Ride

It is a year since I wrote anything in this blog.

Next month (May 2014) I leave Christchurch to do Big Japan Bike Ride No:3! The blog starts here…  http://nbjbr3.wordpress.com

This time it is (I hope) on my classic Maruishi Emperor rather than the mama-chari.

I’ve changed a few things on this blog. The route is better accessed through the drop down menus underneath the header photo. They are separated under each island with more maps of the route. it is now much easier than reading backwards through the diary entries, which are still there.

I wish to thank the following for their help and kindness…

Kenichi owner and proprietor of Cycling Japan, purveyors of fine guided cycle tours in Japan… http://cyclingjapan.jp/

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and

Peter Buckton of Sony Corp… http://www.sony.com

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All photos on this blog were taken using either a Sony Cybershot HX7v and Handycam HDR-PJ760V.

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Best Song Ever Written

Every weekday on Radio NZ National’s Afternoon programme with Jim Mora is an item called Best Song Ever Written. This is where listeners can nominate what they think is the “Best” song.

I nominated the best song and was accepted to appear on the show on 11th March 2013. Go to… http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/20130311 to hear the interview and click on the top item.

Anyone who has spent time in rural or urban Japan will have heard the song (or tune). It is played every evening at 5:00pm over the same loud speakers that are used to broadcast warnings of impending danger, such as a tsunami. Except at 5:00pm that day two years ago the tsunami had already happened and the speakers remained silent in the coastal settlements over a large area of north east Honshu.

That day as night fell, stunned survivors were coming to terms with the fact that in a few short minutes their lives had changed forever. I asked that the tune be played to commemorate the tsunami victims and also to remember the survivors who must rebuild their lives again. Yes, Christchurch also suffered an earthquake, but the devastation was nothing like in Tohoku.

Radio NZ play the song at the end of the talk but unfortunately because of copyright restrictions they cannot include it in the recording. Nor can I upload it, but it can be heard here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antonin_Dvorak_-_symphony_no._9_in_e_minor_%27from_the_new_world%27,_op._95_-_ii._largo.ogg has a recording of it, the first 4 minutes: 20 seconds.

The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World, Op. 95, B. 178 (Czech: Symfonie č. 9 e moll „Z nového světa“), popularly known as the New World Symphony, was composed by Antonín Dvořák

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Five Days until the Tsunami Second Anniversary.

Today is 7th March 2013, next Monday is 11th and the second anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Last month (Feb 2013) I was fortunate enough to attend a farewell function for Kogota Nourin (Agriculture and Forestry) High School (小牛田農林高等学校). A group of their students came on an exchange programme to Kaiapoi School, Christchurch through the Kizuna Project キズナプロジェクト http://sv2.jice.org/kizuna/e/.

This is where it gets a little complicated so hopefully I have it right…! The Kizuna (bond) Project is a Youth-Exchange Project with Asia-Oceania and North America. It was set up by the Government of Japan in April 2012 and is administered through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/incidents/kizuna_project.html. One of the implementing organisations is the Japan International Co-operation Center 財団法人日本国際協力センター  http://sv2.jice.org/e/.

The aims of the Kizuna Project is to promote global understanding of Japan’s revival efforts in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake. Under this project, youths from 41 countries and region will have an opportunity to participate in the related programmes.

Coming from inland Miyagi Prefecture north of Sendai, the Kogota area escaped the damage experienced along the coast. During their presentation the students said they did volunteer work in the tsunami area but were now short of funds. This was perfect for what I wanted so at the end offered what I collected to their teacher Watanabe Sensei.

A quick trip home to get it was followed by a ride out to the airport hotel where they were staying for their last night in Christchurch. See http://kogotanourin.myswan.ne.jp/home/information/2013-02_new_zealand_2013.pdf has a story about their stay in Christchurch, (only in Japanese though).

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Kogota Nourin High School students performing Yosakoi dance at Kaiapoi.

Yosakoi (よさこい) is a unique style of dance that originated in Japan. Yosakoi started in the city of Kōchi in 1954, as a modern rendition of Awa Odori, a traditional summer dance. Yosakoi-style dancing has spread throughout much of Japan. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosakoi

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Giving most of what I collected to Watanabe Sensei.

The photo above is at the airport hotel giving most of what I collected to Watanabe Sensei. I am very happy to have found someone to give it to after all this time! There is a bit more left and I may have found another organisation.

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Still Learning…

I’m still learning how to use this blog so lots of experimenting going on, for instance I just found out the difference between posts and pages.

The remaining section of the Hokkaido ride is in part a kind of 20th anniversary journey. That has been uploaded now. See Hokkaido – Nemuro to Asahikawa to Tomakomai

I then cycled down the east coast of Tohoku from Hachinohe to Sendai mostly on Route 45 (what I call Tsunami Highway) in the north eastern Honshu region of Tohoku. I am now in the process of uploading. To access it click on the link below the header photo on the front page or here… Tohoku from Hachinohe to Sendai

To see larger versions of the photos click on them. There are lots of photos!

Nigel

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Latest Update

Dear reader,

I completed my bike ride to the 4 corners of Japan on 16th July 2012.

The remaining section of the Hokkaido ride is in part a kind of 20th anniversary journey. That has been uploaded now. See Hokkaido – Nemuro to Asahikawa to Tomakomai

I then cycled down through Tohoku from Hatchinohe to Sendai mostly on Route 45 (what I call Tsunami Highway). That has been uploaded now and the blog completed.

Thank you everyone for following my journey.

Nigel

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Hokkaido – Soya Misaki to Nosappu Misaki.

Saturday 7th July (continued) – Soya Misaki to Hamatonebetsu.

Becomes strong side wind after leaving Soya Misaki as I head down the coast. Meet a Hokkaido fox and a couple of cyclists going the other way. Get onto the back road I used last year.

The long and winding road

Make it to Hamatonebetsu at around 7:00pm. It is festival time and campground is busy. They let me stay free. There are team performances similar to kapahaka of what looks like school pupils. Impressive, and is followed by fireworks – hanabe. Hunger is avoided by a food stall selling chicken and chips. Fireworks are quite impressive too!

Performance at the summer festival

Sunday 8th July – Hamatonebetsu to Okoppe.

Have met Junzou in the campground, the 5th time since Morappu. He makes me breakfast, including ham and egg, delicious! Such as nice change from banana and bread! Thank you!

Junzou and I at the Hamatonebetsu campground.

Meet cycling Mr Lee from Taiwan at the Seicomart. He has already ridden 40km and I am just starting.

Mr Lee from Taiwan and I at the SiecoMart

Head wind for the 90km to Okoppe so not sure I can make it. Intermittent showers promise more rain but fail to deliver. Arrive at Esashi Road Station, built in the shape of a ship and meet two other cyclist there, who are heading north.

Esashi Road Station, done up in the shape of a ship

Shortly after leaving a fox comes right up to me, usually they are timid and run away from humans.

Hokkaido fox

Seems slow going but eventually I arrive at Okoppe right on 6:00pm. Mr Lee is there with 3 other people, he and I are the only two who talk.

Go to sleep to the sound of heavy rain and I’m very happy I am not camping.

Monday 9th July – Okoppe to Saroma-ko.

The rain stops early morning and I head off. Say bye to Mr Lee. Occasional showers dying out with another headwind.

The Okoppe Seicomart doesn’t have rubbish disposal boxes so take mine inside but the attendant refuses to accept it. Never had that before. They sold the rubbish to me so have a responsibility I think. I go out and leave it for her to remove later.

Progress down the coast is slow. The weather is nice as is the forecast so decide to stay at Saroma-ko campground like 4 years ago. Arrive at 6:00pm just as the office closes and cannot use the shower, damn!

Sunset at Saroma-ko

Dark clouds gather and just as I erect my tent it starts to rain. It gets heavy, move tent to a more sheltered spot as strong wind picks up. So much for the forecast!

Tuesday 10th July – Saroma-ko to Abashiri.

Fine by morning and looks like a tailwind for a change. Get onto the cycling road to Abashiri. See fox, arrive at Ubaranai where there is another rider house in train.

The cycling road to Abashiri.

Take a few photos, have early lunch. Just about to leave I discover a coffee shop in the old station. Meet Hiroaki the manager who is into Bolivian music and making flutes. Have an interesting chat, record him do a performance and have a nice coffee. Thank you Hiroaki!

Hiroaki, the coffee shop manager, maker of fine flutes and Bolivian music!

Arrive at Abashiri early afternoon, use internet at the info centre then go to the campground. Take onsen at nearby hotel. Chat to interesting lady on the way back to the campground.

Another nice sunset over Abashiri-ko.

Wednesday 11th July – Abashiri to Shari.

Nice sunny day, washed clothes and decided to pack up and go instead of staying. Have another Sukiya meal, like yesterday.

Yakult Lady at Abashiri

Abashiri has a prison museum and is famous for the sea ice in winter. I believe it, as it is cold enough in summer! Use info centre’s internet until 3:00pm then head for the rider house at Shari, 40km away.

Abishiri Quasi-National Park and Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden.

I arrive at 7:00pm, passing Abishiri Quasi-National Park and Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden on the way. Rider House is a nice place. Well set up and run.

A bloom in Koshimizu Natural Flower Garden.

Forecast at 3:00pm was good until tomorrow afternoon but clouds have started to gather and it is raining by night time. Good job I decided to leave Abashiri campground!

Shari-dake from Shari town.

Thursday and Friday 12th and 13th July – Shari.

Rest days, rained most of Thursday so stayed another night. Went shopping before lunch. Watched two Shiretoko videos at the michi-no-eki.

Bike parking area

Other guest on his Harley

BMW rider uses plastic bags for shoes!

A very rare bike in Japan – a Royal Enfield, imported from the UK

Staff are helpful and friendly. Thank you Sachi for letting me use your computer to do the long delayed photo editing and blog update, so stay another night!

Only the second time I have stayed 3 nights, the last time was at Aso on Kyushu. Owner gives me slice of melon.

Sachi with her “new” bike!

Saturday 14th July – Shari to Rausu.

Easy ride to Utoro, meet a couple of cyclists, one of whom stops to chat. Mr Lam from Hong Kong, now resident in Hokkaido and on a weekend ride over Shiretoko Touge (Pass) to Rausu.

Mr Lam from Hong Kong.

This is an area of long straight roads, nearby one goes for 28kms!

Heading towards Shiretoko Peninsula, note the long straight road.

and even someone walking….!

Coastal scenery

Oshin Koshin Falls

Start of the 700m climb to Shiretoko Pass, looking back to Utoro

The steep climb over Shiretoko Touge starts just after Utoro. 20 years ago I did it going the other way, on what was the last cycling day of a 6 week bike ride. This time on the way up, pass a couple of friendly Hokkaido foxes. Watched from a distance as someone in a car stops and feeds one of them.

Car occupants feeding Hokkaido fox

Also saw a deer but no bears.

Route 334 winding its way to the top

When I arrive at the top the clouds part and we can see Mt Rausu for a few seconds. Then just as quickly they close in again and wind picks up.

Summit of Shiretoko Pass, just before the cloud descends and I flee!

Starts to look like it could get unpleasant so quickly leave, it is a long run downhill from here! While cycling down and running the video camera, people in a car and on a motor bike go past me on bends. Very silly people!

Screech to a halt at the first sign of habitation and smell of sulphur. As I do the following car also stops, and the passenger hangs a greenstone tiki pendant out of the open window. She says “New Zearand, right?” “Yes sure, wha….” and was about to have a conversation when they drive off, to park their car I thought but they keep going.

This is the campground and onsen we stayed at 20 years ago. The onsen is still free but the campground charges a fee. It has also expanded with more tentsites and an office. Deer graze in the campground untroubled by people. The onsen is busy – it is Marine Day long weekend.

Rausu Onsen Campground

Went for a stroll around the camp while it was still light. See a bike with what look to be familiar clothing but owner is away. Hear people speaking English and see one is a girl wearing a headscarf, a rare sight in Japan. I guess she is probably from Malaysia.

Sunday 15th July – Rausu to Betsukai.

Pack up and go check to see if the bike has left. No but is about to do so. Sure enough it is my friend from Kagoshima who I first met at Nadachi Road Station south of Niigata. we waste a bit of time catching up.

Old friends meet again

Overcast when I finally depart but start with a 5km freewheel downhill to Rausu. As I leave the michi-no-eki someone shouts and see a lady waving. Never sure what to do in these situations I keep going – are they waves of farewell or come and talk? Maybe it was the tiki lady from yesterday (both cars were white), but guess I will never find out now.

Easy run down the coast but stays overcast and cold with headwind.

Discover there are no campgrounds on Nemuro Peninsula, the nearest being at Betsukai. The last rider house is too early to stop so keep going. My Kagoshima friend said he was going to the Betsukai campground, which is the nearest place to Nosappu, so decide to head there.

On the way stop at a newly opened michi-no-eki with a display on the 4 islands Russia invaded at the end of World War II and still hold today. Interesting stuff, something I was not aware of.

Road station dedicated to the 4 occupied islands

Statue of people looking to the four islands

A map showing the distance from mainland Japan to the four islands

Relations between the two countries are restrained while the islands remain occupied. No transport services operate to or from the islands.

Kunashiri, one of the islands occupied by Russia since WW2.

At a convenience store someone stops to talk. Toshi is from Tokyo and moved here 5 years ago. He is friendly with JET language teachers in the area, having once dated a Kiwi lady on a contract there.

Toshi

He tells me of the best route to Betsukai – along some backroads. I take it but kind of get lost due to there being a shortage of road signs and low cloud hiding landmarks.

I first realise there’s a problem while crossing a river – it is going in the wrong direction! The roads are long, straight and deserted! For the first time I use the compass on my watch. Sure enough I need to turn round and go the other way. Fortunately it was only about 2km so no big deal.

Arriving at Betsukai before dark I make my way to the campground. I am surprised to see my friend has only just arrived. The campground provides a large awning as shelter for around 6 tents, there are four of us. The cloud descends to become mist with a gentle drizzle. At 600yen the onsen is the most expensive yet.

Betsukai camp

Monday 16th July – Betsukai to Nosappu Misaki.

My friend got a job on a farm yesterday, so instead of going to Nosappu Misaki as intended he is cycling home to Kagoshima and returning with his car. We say bye-bye.

Proceed towards Nemuro, the nearest town to Nosappu Misaki, under low cloud and sometimes gentle drizzle. At Swan 44 michi-no-eki ask about camping and told there is none, but can unofficially stay there if I want.

Soon after leaving a passing cyclist from Kyoto stops to have a chat. He tells me of the the place he stayed in Nemuro – free but must spend at least 1050yen on crab meat.  Same applies to the one at the cape. I don’t want to buy any crab so consider my options.

from Kyoto

In fact he is the first of about 6 cycle tourists who pass going the other way today. One even had a Maruishi Emperor! Not quite like mine but close.

Approaching Nemuro “city”

Arriving at Nemuro the low clouds lower and become fog. Real fog, and cold, not more than 10c. If it wasn’t the last official day of the ride it could be really depressing! Continue on the last 22km with no change.

Almost there

At 3:00pm I’m finally on the last stretch – Nosappu Misaki. A collection of mostly old buildings with more shops than tourists. And not a bus in sight, meaning probably the sort of tourists who don’t spend money.

Monument of Bridge on the Four Islands

Wander around for a bit, take a few photos, look at the monuments, buy an ice cream and bumper sticker. There are four Japanese islands off-shore that were occupied by Russia at the end of WWII and remain so to this day. It is still foggy and cannot see them.

Nosappu Misaki, not quite.

Take photos of me at the cape, but when inspecting more closely, it seems to be not quite the most easterly point. I ask in the souvenir shop and discover that the real end point is behind the lighthouse, hidden under a blanket of fog.

Go over to the lighthouse and meet the people speaking English at Rausu yesterday. They are from Libya, Egypt and Jordan, (quite a long way from Malaysia) and study at Sapporo University! My curiosity is satisfied. After a chat we continue our separate ways.

Now I have reached the fourth and last corner, all there is left is to turn round and go back. It is not really the end, now I go to Tohoku.

The red circle indicates the real Nosappu Misaki!

bumper stickers from the beginning and end points

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Hokkaido – Tomakomai to Soya Misaki.

Saturday 30th June – Tomakomai to Morappu.

Cold and windy night and morning, tries to rain.

Decide if I can use the rider house’s computer to catch up on my journal I will stay there. Attacked by a crow/rook when I stop to photograph golf firing range. Well, it slapped me on the head with what felt like its wing, cheeky blighter! Must be still nesting.

The crow/rook who attacked me while….!

I took a photo of this golf firing range.

A few km out of Tomakomai the clouds evaporate and sun comes out. Nice. Arrive at destination at 11:00am but computer doesn’t work and check-in is 4:00pm. Should go but decide to stay but it is a long wait. Several guests include Hiroyuki with Karl and Pocky, the “friendry” dogs.

Karl and Pocky with their servant Hiroyuki.

Sunday 1st July – Morappu to Ishikari.

About 4 large hills to cross, getting smaller as Sapporo neared. Arrived at the large park and enjoyed people watching.

Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city – the central city park.

Bike taxi cruising the park.

Sapporo is Hokkaido’s capital and biggest city. It is my first time to go there in 4 visits. Temperatures were 33c yesterday, glad I didn’t go! Nice place but decide to continue onto Ishikari. A strong tailwind also helped me decide, and although cold it had me arrive at dusk.

Not sure of the location so ask people in a car. Nice and helpful but didn’t know, took quite a long time with me getting colder while waiting, eventually they used google maps which sent me to a place no rider house existed. Asked a local gent but he didn’t know.

Found a town map and rider house on it – just 300metres from where I asked the people in car! Kaze (wind) is an excellent name for such a location. One other person and two cabins so I take the second one. His friend arrives later and he joins his friend. Good night sleep.

Monday 2nd July – Ishikari to Ofuyu.

Find sand art sculptures on the deserted beach in the morning down a “no entry” road. On the way out of town find the second rider house, about 30 metres from where I asked the gent last night! Still a strong SE wind blowing so decide to go up the coast on what I call “tunnel highway” due it having a lot of holes in rocks.

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Sand art on the beach

Tunnels reduce hills, on hot days are cool and on wet days are dry. The road was quiet so quite nice riding. Got to Ofuyu late afternoon and decide to stay at the roadside campground. Have ramen at the only restaurant. The place is like a ghost town.

Sunset at Ofuyu.

At about 9:00pm woken by truck engine running nearby. Fall asleep wondering how long it will go on for.

Tuesday 3rd July – Ofuyu to Rumoi.

Wake up at 2:30am and the truck’s engine is still running so go and ask the driver to turn it off. Decide it might make good video so take camera as well. Manage to communicate with him to turn it off and he does. Go to bed and sleep. When I leave at 9:00am his truck is still there, I wonder if he is OK.

This is tunnel highway!

Another nice tailwind as I go to Rumoi through another host of tunnels, the number of which I have lost count. Doesn’t matter because they are drilling more to replace the older ones. The longest was about 2.5km long. Fortunately there was not a lot of traffic.

Arrive Rumoi early afternoon. Mitsubachi rider house is locked so go looking for the address on the map. End up on the wrong side of town.

Mitsubachi House owner and I.

Back at the JR station see two cyclists from Macau with whom I exchange words. They complain of the hills, and they had just come through all the tuneels I did! JR staff phone the number and direct me to its location. Meet the owner of the rider house and exchange photos. Only 3 people stay this year, last year it was around 20, due to the Rumio Festival.

Wednesday 4th July – Rumoi to Teshio.

At 100km it is a big day. Light rain starts soon after leaving but gives up soon after. Nice riding along the coast. Gentle tailwind still.

Stop at Haboro to shop and have an early lunch. Coming back to my bike see I have a puncture, the first and on the rear wheel. The adapter doesn’t work, means I might be in trouble, go back in super and everyone is busy except a lady in a kind of office. Ask her, no English but communcate my problem. Tells me of a bike shop, then she asks another staff and he recommends Bridgestone workshop next door. We go there, he manages to pump up the tyre using the adaptor, I had not put it on correctly. He also recommends a place to fix it.

The first puncture.

Whiz down there and they do, Don is right, they don’t take the wheel off mama-charis to fix punctures. Regardless, the mechanic does a good job including finding the offending item, a shard of glass. Cost 1000 yen and back in business again after a delay of a couple of hours. Now I know how it is done but will I now have enough time to get to Teshio before dark?

Head to the beach to see if it is the one we stayed at 20 years ago. The fake palm trees look familiar but will have to wait until I get home to check.

Is this a real bear?

Is this a real snake at the side of the road?

Is this a real lion in Teshio Campground?

Is this a real road safety man directing traffic?

As there are a couple of campgrounds on the way decide to continue. Make it to Teshio before nightfall. Just one other person is there, a cyclist, an older man with large boots. He encourages me to stay in the other building, which I think is new. I do.

Thursday 5th July – Teshio to Wakkanai.

Light traffic, 60kms and a tailwind mean an easy day run up the coast. Passed by one of the riders from Morappu and he stops for a chat.

Are these real cyclists at Noshappe Misaki?

Noshappu Misaki is of interest because it is almost spelt like Nosappu Misaki. The former is near Wakkanai and not the most of anything, the latter is the eastern point of Japan and where my fourth and last corner is located. I now understand why people got confused when I said where I was going.

Noshappu Misaki, not to mistaken for Nosappu Misaki.

Friday 6th July – Wakkanai.

Nice day so washed clothes and went to use free internet. No chair so have to stand, probably to reduce time people use it, I use it a long time but not enough. No USB port so cannot load photos to blog again. Return to campground late and leave coffee in bike basket like yesteday.

Wakkanai from campground, ferry from Rishiri and Rebun Islands just arriving in port.

Saturday 7th July – Wakkanai to Hamatonebetsu.

When I go to get the coffee for breakfast I find the container is on the ground empty. Think crow but probably it is fox or deer. A mother and baby of the latter were grazing nearby when I went to the toilet around 4:00am.

Pack up and leave. Head wind, arrive at Soya Misaki at 11:00am, stay a couple of hours. Better weather this year!

I’m here again like I was last year!

One of Chch World Peace Bell’s sister bells at Soya Misaki.

Posted in Cycle Touring, Hokkaido, Japan | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Kyoto to Niigata

Wednesday 20th June. Kyoto to Biwa-ko. 

The typhoon had gone by morning and was fine weather so on my way again. Wanted to use the shorter car-only road to get to Biwako but not allowed so had to take the 3 sides of a square option instead. Took a wrong turn once but wasn’t too bad in the end. Easy to follow route and made good progress alongside the lake. Biwako is the biggest lake in Japan.

At a shrine was overtaken by a cyclist from Kyoto who was doing a round the lake ride.

Torii on Biwako

Thought I could only make it part way up the lake but on arrival at the intended stop found there was enough time to continue to the one stayed at last year. Once more I was the only person there.

Thursday 21st June. Biwa-ko to Cape Echizen. 

Departed early just as rain started so stripped down to the essentials. Rained all the way up to the pass and down to Tsuruga. Traffic light so OK. Decide to warm up in a coffee shop and had their set breakfast while waiting for the info centre to open. They surprised me with a menu in English!

Info centre was very helpful. Not only they knew of campsites up the road, but phoned to ask if open and how much to stay, and told me of a free internet access. The ferry to Hokkaido sounded tempting especially that the weather forecast is bad for next 24 hours, but need to go to Niigata.

Artwork on the streets of Tsuruga.

After stocking up on food went to use the internet before departure. Rain had stopped but restarted again just as I left Tsuruga. Spent too much time there and now I will have to get a hurry-on.

Route 8 north is no better than last year – too many large trucks going too fast. This time I turn-off and go along the coast road via Echizen Misaki. Nice quiet and scenic, I have choice of two, the first up a steep hill, the second by the sea. Spend 10 minutes at the bottom of the hill before on the second. If a storm is coming I want to be sheltered.

Sunset over the Sea of Japan, note the passing ship.

In the vacinity stop at a shop to ask the way and the owner turns out to be the camp manager. It is so late she lets me stay without charge. It is already windy when I arrive. Once more I’m the only one at there. There is just enough room to erect my tent in the kitchen area with just enough shelter

Friday 22nd June. Cape Echizen to Komatsu. 

Woke with a wet floor in the kitchen so it rained last night and continues to do so. Wind is strong now and a head wind. A combination I do not like so contemplate a second night. By noon rain stops and eases enough that I decide to go. Headwind.

Cycling road heading up the coast.

Pass Echizen-Kaga Semi National Park and take a side trip to go look at Tojinbo, an area of geological interest. While returning to the route north a police car stops and they ask for my papers, which I show them and before getting directions. This is second or third time the police have stopped to ask for my papers. While they are friendly enough it is becoming a concern.

Find an extra section of the cycling road I used last year so get on that. Takes me direct to the last supermarket before my destination. Discover the last part of the cycling road before camp is closed due to maintenance so have to take 3 sides of a square to get there.

It is on dark at 7:00pm and camp manager is closing for the day. It sounds like he is complaining that I leave it a little late to arrive, but lets me stay none-the-less. Good job I arrive before he closes, it is locked behind a large high fence, to keep bikers out, if I understand what he says. Sure enough at around 9:00pm hear a motor bike start up and leave. He also tells me the camp is patrolled by security guard.

Can we cross the road please?

He seems keen to know when I will leave, the answer to which I do not know. Anywhere between 7:00 and 10:00am I say. He doesn’t seem to understand why I do not know when I will leave.

Surprise, I’m the only one there! The coin shower is similar to Pippu Rider House but for 5 minutes instead of 3 and it pulls the same trick – as the water heats up you turn the lever to add more cold water to lower the temperature. Then the water stops altogether and nothing you do can change it. After about a minute lights suddenly come on and water restarts. It continues working after that but you lose something like 90 seconds.

Some people like comfort while waiting for the bus.

Saturday 23rd June. Komatsu camp to Kanazawa. 

The camp is part of a complex providing other emenities, like mini golf and such. It is well looked after. I tell him about the shower and get a refund. I tell him about the noise from the adjacent toll road/motorway but don’t get a refund on my camp fee. Leave at about 9:00am head north into a head wind still blowing from the storm. It was a typhoon but think it lost some of its power on the way from Hong Kong and was downgraded to a bad storm. Remains sunny all day.

Unusual wind turbine.

Make my way slowly north, enjoying the cycling road as it runs alongside the coast. Come across an unusual wind turbine at a michi-no-eki and shortly afterwards a cycling terminal. Discover some of the cycling road is closed for maintenance but told by a local the last part is open and how to get onto it. I do and it is until the next road intersection where it is closed again.

Cycling road closed due to maintenance.

It is a nice day so decide to stay. It is not very nice, in fact probably one of the worst places I stayed. It turns out to be a mistake. After about an hour – being too late to leave – the manager warns me that the campers like to drink lots of alcohol and I should move my tent to another place. I do but they still make too much noise early in the morning. It is Saturday, hence other campers.

Sunday 24th June. Kanazawa to Ouzu. 

Leave fairly late, harder to negotiate the barriers to the last section of cycling road before heading inland along Route 8. Discover the road I used last year is car only road, but it cuts out a lot of intersections I use it again. Still headwind. Buy supplies at the Lawson convenience store before heading off. Pass two cyclists going the other way.

Nose?

Just before the tunnel into Toyama-ken see the other cyclists approach on another road. I want to go through this tunnel with them but they don’t stop. This tunnel is quite dangerous having no seperate path. I also wanted to chat because they have classic bike like my Maruishi Emperor. Get out and use my rear light I brought for such situations. A long gap in the traffic allows me to get through without much difficulty.

Did I see these last yea? They look so happy!

Arrive at the road station I thought of staying at, it would have been reachable last evening and suitable to camp. They also have free internet. At the next michi-no-eki close to Toyama meet another cyclist going the other way and Taka and Yumi in their campervan from Oz, whom we first met near Mt Kuju. While talking a gent comes and gives me what looks like a small packet of rice crackers in fancy wrapping, so guess it might be expensive. Leave as I want to get to the next campground at Ouzu. Am passed by Yumi and Taka tries taking action photos with varied success.

Taka and Yumi – the Australians!

The local michi-no-eki is unsuitable for camping, in fact I visited it once before, 4 years ago and it has not improved. Make it to Ouzu just before dark and directed to the campground by the local police when I go into the station. The officer on duty was asleep! I have to ask another person as it is on the other side of the river. Oshima Green Camp is fairly rundown but free so no complains, I’m the only person there.

Monday 25th June. Ouzu to Nadachi. 

I don’t think I saw these last year.

No choice but to follow last year’s route as there is no alternative. That’s OK as it is a petty route and good weather. Headwind again, but not too bad. Reach the narrow cliff where Reverend Green, the father of modern Japanese mountaineering dwells and have lunch. Road works on this section of highway has it down to one lane. Join the queue of vehicles and manage to keep up with the traffice until something bounces out of my basket on a bump in the road and stop to pick up. A long line of cars wait for me at the bottom.

Start/end of Kubiki Cycling and Walking Road.

A section of the cycling road.

The road station doesn’t seem to have a security guard like last year and the weather is much better, a typhoon was passing then.

Pass old shrine on cycling road.

Tuesday 26th June. Nadachi to Yoneyama. 

Retired policeman from Kagoshima.

This year will take the coast road so unsure about Tenryo-no-sato michi-no-eki so stay at Yoneyama. Joined by a gent in a campervan who plays two videos, one on Eichmann trail from the last war and one on Michael Jackson. Even though he has a sleepervan he stays in the road station rest room. We are the only two who stay there.

Hen and chics rocks?

Wednesday 27th June. Yoneyama to Niigata. 

Nice sunny day again. Distance sign says 100kms to Niigata – so can I do it? Leave Route 8 at Kashiwazaki and join Route 352 along the coast. Turns out the road station would have been suitable to camp at, never mind, next time.

The coast guard escort me to Niigata.

Go through a village whose houses are surrounded by wooden fences. Seems they are wind breaks.

Mostly flat at first but gets hilly nearer to Niigata where the road negotiates steep cliffs. Spectacular scenery, tunnels and steep climbs. At a narrow point in the road one car goes past too close and I move out to stop anyone else from doing the same, a good job as someone was about to do it.

An unusual sight, fenced houses.

Arrive Niigata around 5:00pm and think I must be near Furumachi Bikes so go looking for it without success. I want a meat pie! Give up and head to Fufu Guest House. Happy to learn I know the way without map but unhappy to find it has closed! Never mind go to the info centre at the station and find somewhere else. No! It closes at 6:00pm not 7:30pm as I thought, now it is 7:00pm!

Spectacular scenery heading to Niigata.

Look for and find a 24h internet cafe but they don’t like the look of me. Suggest I go to another place. After some discussion I persuade them to let me stay, just need to store my bike at the JR station. I decide not to return and can’t find the other place. Decide to go to the michi-no-eki I passed last year 20km east instead. Leave at 10:00pm and arrive a little after midnight, making a day of 120km.

And more spectacular scenery.

Thursday 28th June – Niigata.

Head back into Niigata. Debate if I should stay another night or leave on night ferry. Go to info centre and then Furumachi Bikes, arrive at 11:00am on opening time but no-one is here, 15 minutes later a gent arrives and opens. I ask for Don but he says “day off”. That is a blow but is soon sorted when he finds my packet and phones Don. Arrangements are quickly made and we meet at the international centre.

Interesting street crossing for cyclists.

We go to Craig’s bar late afternoon, another resident Kiwi, and have a few drinks and a good chat. Don takes me to the night ferry to Tomakomai. When I eventually manage to eat his pies they are delicious!! It was good to hear he is doing well and enjoying life in Japan.

The fast becoming famous, Furumachi Bikes.

Friday 29th June – Niigata to Tomakomai.

Don seeing me off to Hokkaido at the ferry terminal.

Looking forward to a rest on the ferry. I take the ferry because if I don’t there won’t be enough time to do the things I want to do at the end.

On board I’m taken to a cabin with about 15 people in it, and narrow beds for about 18. This can’t be right so go ask the head honcho what is going on. The ship isn’t a quarter full and we are all squeezed into a couple of cabins? It is interesting how some people suddenly can’t speak English when they could a few moments ago. Methinks the stewardess is new and didn’t know to spread us out. Some of us do it anyway, finding an empty cabin and everything is OK after that.

An American backpacker is on board and I and a friendly Japanese give him some tips but doubt he will take them.

Planning the next step of the journey as we head north on the ferry.

Arrive on schedule at 5:00pm but discover it is the east port, 20km further from the city than the regular dock. Nice tailwind has me moving along nicely. Consider going to Morappu instead of the road station. Stop to buy food and lose momentum. Decide to hang around and stick with Plan A. As I arrive at the road station it begins to rain so sleep in my sleeping bag on a bench rather than put up my tent.

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