After Hokkaido, we had just a month to pedal the length of Japan’s  main island of Honshu.  Our visas were due to expire and we had a ferry to catch to Korea.

Pounding out 2,000 kilometers in 30 days wouldn’t normally be a massive challenge.  Except in Japan.  Sure, the GPS had eased our navigation challenges, but Japan’s labyrinth of roads still caused a few headaches.    Add to that the endless hills (and one massive mountain) and you’ll get an idea way progress was so slow..  And those rain showers that greeted us on arrival back in June?  They’ve stuck with us all summer long.

There was little time for lingering.  Something told us the Japanese would be far less lenient than the Sudanese when it comes to visa overstays.

Thankfully we made it to the ferry with two days to spare and are now getting our first taste of Korea (we like it, in spite of the rain!).

With all rushing around last month seems like a bit of a blur.  Here are some of the highlights in an easily digestible photographic form:

Well, why not start off with the highlight of our entire Japan tour:  reaching the top of the highest road in Japan–the 2,700 meter Norikura Skyline Road.  It was a beautiful ride up on an almost traffic free road.  Private vehicles are prohibited on the pass and we had only the tour buses to contend with.  The big shock came when we got to the top of the pass and two heartless officials told us we’d have to go back down the way we’d come!  No way!  Closed road to cyclists?  IMPOSSIBLE> Buses were passing so we boldly ignored the officials and flew down the other side.
Camping was another definite highlight in Japan! Alright, it was soggy at times but most nights we managed to find a quiet park, a pretty site tucked in the mountains or sometimes even a stunning spot next to the sea.
Cops really are your friends in Japan. This guy pulled over to direct us to a dry spot to spend the night and warn us of a fast approaching tropical storm. In another more serious incident, we found ourselves surrounded by 6 squad cars and 11 frantic police officers. A convenience store manager had called in the force when he found us ‘stealing electricity’ in front of his shop. We were seriously confused because we assumed since the establishment was offering a free WiFi spot, plugging in the computers wouldn’t be a problem. Luckily we didn’t get carted off to jail. So remember folks, the next time you want to plug in an electrical device, ASK FIRST!
After Australia and New Zealand, it takes a lot to impress us when it comes to coastal scenery. Japan’s got a few spots where the road winds around the coast and you can peer over the edge and watch the waves crash into the sheer rock face. This was one of the rare days of pure, unadulterated sunshine.
A moment to take in the scenery before the next rain shower hits.
Thanks to our many kind Couchsurfing hosts we were able to sample some of the country’s excellent cuisine. The meticulous care in presentation is striking.
We crossed paths with quite a few Japanese cyclists out for a spin, but not a single foreign cycle tourist.
And (thanks to our new GPS skills) we discovered many quiet backroads snaking through the countryside.
Gardening is the national past time for retirees. Old women in oversized bonnets can be seen hoeing fields, planting rice and pulling weeds on small plots of land. The produce is sold in local cooperatives and helps top-up their pensions.
The rolling hills and karst formations of the Akiyoshidai plateau in Yamaguchi prefecture. Rain to the very end! Next time we tour Japan it will definitely not be in the summer.
Switchbacks, the Sea and Encounters with the Cops
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6 thoughts on “Switchbacks, the Sea and Encounters with the Cops

  • September 10, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    I sent this link to a photographer friend, and he drew my attention to the farmer with the mountains in the background. I had to go back and look, and realized I had focused on the foreground and the near background, and had not really seen the picture. Like, duh. He’s right, it’s a heckuva picture.
    Happy Korea. ing. rb

    • September 17, 2013 at 12:59 AM

      Thanks Arby! With all the rain it was tough to capture the true Japan–we will return one day in spring or autumn to enjoy the country at its finest.

  • September 18, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    Zannen! I just discovered your site now, right after you’ve left Japan. I probably could have given you all kinds of useful advice. Contact me if you go back some day. You can see my last 3 trips on CGOAB which are all north of Toukyou but I’ve also done some riding and non-bike travel in the southern half of Japan. I wanna tour in Korea. I had a short trip there last year and loved it. I’ll be checking back to your blog later.

    Ganbatte ne!

    • September 19, 2013 at 2:17 AM

      Thanks for the links! We will return to Japan with a better planned trip next time. We LOVE cycling in Korea, too! I think it will be the next hot destination for touring.

  • September 25, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    Lovely update as always… and great photo’s! Can I ask how much the ferry was between Japan and Korea? (Apologies in advance if you already said how much it was and i missed it.)

    • September 26, 2013 at 2:47 AM

      We took the ferry from Shimonoseki to Busan with Kamp Ferry

      Full fare per person in a 4 person shared cabin is 9,000 yen (about $90). We got 50% off as a special cyclists’ so paid only 45,000 each.

      Additional taxes and charge for bike is 2,800 yen each (no discount possible).

      We did not actually have to share the cabin. In our experience this is often the case. Buy an economy class ticket and you still get a private room because they don’t like to mix foreigners with locals.

      Ferry was excellent, with big bath house on board.


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