How I became a Japanese Celebrity on a Honda Cub

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by naconn, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    So, I’m a long-time lurker on this site, first time poster. I figure you all might get a kick out of this story. I'll split this out into parts, as it is a long story and I can only write so much at a time.

    I’ve collected vintage Japanese motorcycles ever since I bought a rusty 70s Suzuki at age 19 (I’m 30 now). After nearly having said Suzuki fall apart from underneath me at 60mph, I bought a Honda C70 on eBay for $400 and fell in love with little Hondas. In my college years I had a handful of craigslist Trail 90s and Cub 70s floating in and out of my possession. While working a bike in my college workshop, my professor (whom heard me gushing about my love for Cubs) suggested I visit Japan where cubs were still in production and popular. At his suggestion I hatched a plan: fly to Japan, buy a Super Cub and tour the country at a snail’s pace.

    This was in 2008... I was a worse than a poor college student… I was an art school student. And as you may recall, 2008 was not a great year for the American job market. After graduation, I struggled to find work, moved to Los Angeles and struggled even more, but in 2014 I lucked out and when a TV pilot I worked on was sold to HBO. When I got the bonus check, I immediately booked a flight to Tokyo and began researching how the hell I was to go about touring in a country I knew nothing about.

    I found an Australian expat in Japan who would rent me a 2014 Honda C110 and crafted a route that would take me from Tokyo to Kagoshima and back (about 3500km). I’d never toured before and my motorcycling skills were pretty rusty, I had no idea how to load a motorcycle or what was appropriate luggage... so with a set of cheap-o bicycle panniers, a hiking backpack and some bungee cords I flew to Tokyo.

    After a 15 hour flight and discovering my backpack hadn’t made it to Tokyo, I filed a luggage claim and stumbled into the concourse, jetlagged and clueless. It was then that a microphone was put in my face and a man with a camera crew said to me: “Japanese TV program! Why did you come to Japan?”

    I told them the whole story and they asked to follow me on my tour.

    I said yes.

    Here's a photo from the very first day:
    [​IMG]
    Stay tuned for more!
    #1
  2. TaZ9

    TaZ9 Been here awhile

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    Talk about great memories! The first motorcycle I ever rode was a Honda Super cub. In 1967, a Galveston Texas gift shop had half-a-dozen of them lined up on the sidewalk in front of their store. For $10 (no drivers license required) you could buzz up and down the main drag along the seawall and ride on the beach for half and hour! I have been in love with motorcycles ever since! Looking forward to following along on your ride report.

    Ride safe,

    Taz9
    #2
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  3. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

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    Oh, this looks it's going to be good!!
    #3
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  4. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    My first week in Japan I spent doing the usual tourist stuff on foot in Tokyo. My backpack caught up with me a few days after I arrived, but I had to delay the start of the trip because I lost my International Driver’s Licence and had to overnight a new one.

    The Japanese TV crew caught up with me and followed me on the train to Kofu, Yamanashi where I met John, the owner of the bike shop. With the cameras rolling, I met my little C110 for the first time. It was quite a bit different from the cubs I was used to, lots of plastic fairing, but I was still excited to ride. I strapped my backpack to the bike and slipped the panniers onto the edge of the luggage rack. There were no straps or tie downs with the panniers, but they seemed stable enough so I left them alone… this was a mistake (more about that later).

    The sun was out when I got on the bike, so I didn’t put in the waterproof liner in my pants or jacket when I set off. The TV crew followed as I made my way to my destination for the night: Mt. Fuji. As I began the big climb into the mountains it began to drizzle… that drizzle turned into a downpour, and with an 30 minutes of touring experience under my belt I was riding in the worst rain I’d ever ridden in. The rain lasted all day. At one point, I pulled over to check the map and the bike fell over… on camera. I rode past supposedly beautiful vistas and could only see rain clouds. I took the wrong road a half-dozen times… on camera. I got splashed by an oncoming semi… on camera. And when I finally made it to my flooded campsite, I had found that my bicycle pannier had fallen off the luggage rack and onto the tailpipe, melting a big-ole hole in the pannier holding my clothes… on camera.

    I unpacked my melted pannier to find that the muffler had also melted through my dry bag, my underwear and a pair of socks. Everything in my possession was completely soaked, my ‘waterproof’ gloves were practically sponges, and the liner in my moto pants did nothing. It was mid-November and the temperature was around 45º F and I felt miserably cold. I set-up my tent and hitched a ride to a local Ryokan for a bath at a hot spring. I returned, sans-crew, slightly warmer from the bath and placed all of my soaked clothing, maps, etc on a covered picnic table to dry as much as possible overnight.

    I used a roll of duct tape from a nearby Seven-Eleven to patch the pannier and fastened them both to luggage rack with a bit of clothesline (also from Seven-Eleven, God bless Japanese convenience). The next morning I woke up to a rainfree overcast day, showed the TV crew my duct tape handy work and set off for the 200km ride to Nagoya, where a couchsurfing host expected me at around 5pm.

    Being new to touring, I hadn’t quite worked out navigation yet. I had no phone holder and so I would look up directions on the phone and the paper map and then pack it away, get lost, then look again, get lost, etc… again… all on camera. I was kept from riding along the major roads because of the bike's engine size, and it stretched a 4 hour ride much longer. The TV Crew took me to eat River Eel in a Hammatsu, and (of course) filmed me eating it.

    By the time I reached Nagoya it was 8:30pm and had been dark for over 3 hours, the Yokoyama family, my gracious hosts, cooked me a warm meal. While the crew was filming, Mr. Yokoyama gave me a new nickname.

    From this point on in Japan, I would be known as “Mr. Cub”.

    [​IMG]

    More tomorrow.
    #4
  5. FAW3

    FAW3 Old wanderer

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  6. swimmer

    swimmer armchair asshole

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    Looks good OP. We'd love some more pictures.
    #6
  7. Romero

    Romero At Cinépolis or OXXO Supporter

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    cool!
    #7
  8. kwthom

    kwthom Fully inoculated!

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    There's *got* to be some back-story here that I'd love to read about, when the time is right. Some random TV crew, looking for a story in the airport, and you walk into their lives.

    Only in America Japan!
    #8
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  9. m0t0-ryder

    m0t0-ryder RYD

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    Cool story bro!

    :thumbup

    Looking forward to more.
    #9
  10. black 8

    black 8 Long timer

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    Looking fwd to the rest... :lurk
    #10
  11. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Real reality tv, maybe some US television producers should take a lesson here.
    Glad I already ride motorbikes and live it too. This should be very interesting, thanks for taking the time to share it.:lurk
    #11
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  12. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    After I arrived in Nagoya, the TV Crew left me alone for a week. So I was free to explore on my own. Yokoyama invited his friend, Murata-san, a motorcycle mechanic, to take me for a ride around Nagoya the next day. My first priority: motorcycle gear.

    Let me tell you: Japanese gears shops are amazing, I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I visit one. I grabbed a nice new pair of insulated waterproof motorcycle gloves (the previous pair were still soaked), a phone holder, waterproof boot covers, extra bungee cords and a new dry bag. Murata and I scooted around the city, along the beautiful riverside roads and he took me to his repair shop, wherein he showed me the dozens of vintage Japanese bikes awaiting customers… it was great.

    My plan had initially been to ride to Kyoto and spend 3 nights there, wandering around the city on foot and take a break from the road life for a bit. Unfortunately, the only room I could find was in a capsule hotel for one night. So I booked it, and made bookending reservations for a hostel in nearby Nara. I studied my maps and picked out suitably scenic route from Nara to Kyoto and set off the next day. With my new waterproof gloves, riding in the occasional drizzle didn’t bother me as much and I had a great time riding through the mountains and rice paddies. The joy of the riding and travel really caught up to me that day and I had a huge smile on my face the whole time.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    I reached my hostel in Nara just before a torrential rain began. I walked around the town in the rain at night and was truly struck by how beautiful it was. 600+ year old temples and shrines are on nearly every corner and deer roam the streets unafraid of humans. One of the staffers at the hostel turned out to be a motorcyclist too, and gave me great tips for where to ride next.

    The next day, I changed into my city clothes and took a 20 minute train to Kyoto. I spent the next day and a half wandering around Kyoto in relentless rain. I walked so much that I wore a hole in my cowboy boots and soaked up an absurd amount of water into my feet. Live and learn. After checking in at the capsule hotel, I set out for a nearby ramen shop for a bite to eat.

    Eating by myself at the counter, two older Japanese men invited me to their table to drink and eat with them, I accepted. In my best broken Japanese, and in their best broken English, I explained my trip and where else my route would take me. In listing the cities I would visit his ears perked when I said "Hiroshima".

    "Hiroshima!" he said. "My town!" he pointed to me and then himself "You stay my house, Hiroshima!". I accepted his offer and in my best abilities with google translate we set a time, he showed me on the map where his house was and we shook hands and drank more beer.

    With a belly full of Ramen, gyozas and Asahi Super Dry, I wandered around Kyoto a little more. Stopping for a drink at an old-south themed whisky bar. Being from the American South, I had to drop by. After a few drinks I began walking back to my little sleeping pod. A block away from the bar, I saw the bartender sprinting after me with my camera bag in tow. I had left it on the barstool and he immediately rushed to return it... I love Japanese people.

    The next day I moseyed around Kyoto for a few more hours and took the train back to Nara. With the aforementioned hostel staffer I drew a route to take me from Nara to Wakayama. And let me tell you… it was a great route.

    I rode across a half-dozen cantilever bridges to a little mountain town of Soni, where the fall colors were among the most beautiful I’d ever seen. I saw a dirt road with golden wild grasses swaying in the wind and decided to try it out with my overloaded cub and had an absolute blast hopping over puddles and skidding out my rear wheel like I was in Baja.

    Nearly every road was perfectly paved and twisty. I had arrived in motorcycle heaven.

    [​IMG]

    On this same day I happened upon the Buddhist mountaintop retreat of Mount Koya, wherein beautiful bright red temples and the millenia-old gravestones of Buddhist monks are everywhere. I met a few Japanese tourists who wished me luck and marveled at my packed-to-the-gills bike.


    That evening I arrived in Wakayama, the TV crew would meet me the next morning and I would take the ferry to the island of Shikoku.
    #12
  13. pacman1

    pacman1 Long timer

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    Great story, keep the posts coming!

    What dates were you in Kyoto? I was there in late Oct/early Nov. Perhaps our paths came close to crossing.
    #13
  14. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    Thanks! I’ll have more later today.

    I was there mid-November 2015, I came back in May of this year, but that’s another part of story!
    #14
  15. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    After a night as the sole guest in a Wakayama hostel, I packed up my bike and met up with the TV crew at the Wakayama JR station and then to the ferry terminal and onto Shikoku. Waiting for the Ferry, the sky again opened up and I was caught in another downpour. The boat ride was nice and dry, but while exiting the ferry I fumbled around the maze of pockets that is my motorcycle suit for several minutes trying to find my keys… again, this was all on camera. I did find my keys and rode out of the ferry and onto the cold and wet road.

    I ate some amazing udon in Tokushima and scooted along to my campsite a few hours away. I walked around a nearby buddhist temple, admiring the grounds and drawing a few landscapes in my sketchbook. My campsite was adjacent to a hot spring, and after a day of cold damp riding, I craved a hot bath. So, with the TV crew in tow I walked over to the onsen. I paid for a ticket to the baths and left the crew in the lobby… or so I thought.

    Seconds after getting completely undressed, the camera crew enters the locker room, notably without the female English-speaking interpreter. I tried to shoo them off, but the director assured me “waist up only!”. In keeping with the spirit of radical open-mindeness that began this adventure, I allowed them to film me taking a communal bath. Another gajin was in the baths, also naked, and the crew egged me on to chat with him… naked… on camera. When they finally aired this episode, they simply put a red censorship circle on my privates with the words “Mr. Cub” written in Japanese on the inside of the circle… I think after this experience I can’t be embarrassed about anything ever again.

    [​IMG]


    The next morning I packed up my tent in the rain and headed out to the Iya Valley, a beautiful gorge with crystal blue waters and spectacular fall colors. I set up my campsite near the valley floor in the daylight and the TV crew again departed with plans to reconvene in Kumamoto a little over a week later.

    I set off to find another hot spring, this time in private. I found an amazing Onsen with a custom-built funicular to take you to the outdoor springs. If you ever tour Japan, especially in the colder months, visiting Onsens is a must.

    The next morning I packed up and headed for Ehime prefecture with no concrete plans on where to sleep. After visiting a half dozen closed campgrounds, I rode to what Google Maps had labeled a campsite… only to find it was actually a municipal park. Dejected, I walked back to my bike as a young Japanese guy pulled up to the park in his own packed-to-the-gills scooter and a hand painted wooden sign reading “From Kikaijima. Traveling around Japan”. In my best Japanese, I told him there was no campground. He looked confused for a moment, looked at the park, shrugged and said in English “Ok, I camp here”. I decided to set up camp with him and over a bowl of instant ramen we found that we had the same destination in mind and agreed to ride out together in the morning.

    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    My new friend’s name was Soichiro and he was from a little island halfway between Kyushu and Okinawa, he liked to be called ‘Lo’. Together we rode to Matsuyama, and split up for the night, the next day I rode solo to Kyushu by Ferry and found a campground closed for the season near Oita, it was too late to try and find another, so I set up my tent and wandered the woods, remembering Japanese ghost stories, and waiting for Lo to arrive. When he did arrive, we again shared a night of cold beers, hot ramen and comradery before turning in to our respective tents.

    The next morning we got up bright and early and made our way to Mt. Aso, an active volcano in Kumamoto prefecture, where we took in the spectacular scenery before riding down the mountain and into the mountains again to the gorges of Takachio.

    [​IMG]

    There had been very little rain until we left Takachio, at which point it rained, rained, rained. We found shelter in another closed-for-the-season campground, this time Lo was there to call the owners for permission. We got to sleep in indoor bunkbeds, a welcome change of pace to damp tents.

    The next day we rode to Miyazaki and stayed on the floor of Lo’s friend’s studio apartment. His friend drove us around town and introduced me to Miyazaki’s signature dish: Chicken Nanban. The next day Lo and I set off on a 350 km ride to Kirishima Mountain, Sakurajima, and Kagoshima, Lo’s final destination.

    Outside of Sakurajima I shot my favorite photo from the trip:
    [​IMG]
    In Kagoshima we met up with all of Lo’s friends and had a night on the town. It was an absolute blast. The next morning I loaded up my bike, said goodbye to Lo, and headed north to Kumamoto wherein I would catch the TV crew two days later.
    #16
  17. cabanza

    cabanza Smooth is Fast

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    I had a 2013 Honda Cub 110 that I bought in Mexico. It was a blast.

    I can't wait to read the rest of your adventure.
    #17
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  18. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    It's a great little bike, surprisingly quick for the engine size. I wish they sold them stateside, especially now that they've redesigned them with the more classic Cub look.
    #18
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  19. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    RRs on "inappropriate" bikes are the best!
    #19
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  20. naconn

    naconn Adventurer

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    I had a few days on my own in Kumamoto. It’s a really lovely city. I was there before the 2016 earthquake, so many of the tourist attractions like Kumamoto Castle were still open. I met up with the TV crew near the Kumamoto Airport and we headed to our next destination: The Honda Motorcycle Factory.

    I had mentioned to the TV crew that I wanted to visit the factory, I had no way to do that on my own, but the producers in Tokyo were able to pull a few strings and get me a tour. It was amazing. The day I was there, they were assembling the Africa Twin! This was back in 2015 and the bike had not been released in the US yet, so I was pretty floored by it all.

    After the factory tour, I had horse meat katsu for lunch and took off for my destination of Kurume. The TV crew departed the next day after I took the tunnel to Honshu and made it to my below-freezing campsite in Akiyoshidai.

    The next couple of days went by quickly. I rode around the Chugoku region alone and found a few photogenic shrines here and there before arriving in Hiroshima city. In Hiroshima I called my new friend Yamamoto-san (from the ramen shop in Kyoto). He was surprised to know I was actually following through on my plans, but he told me everything was set for my arrival the next day.

    Yamamoto-san lived in a small town about an hour and a half outside the city of Hiroshima. At the local train station, I met up with the TV Crew again and they followed me. Outside Yamamoto-san’s house was a large printed banner reading “Welcome Nathan Connelly to the Yamamoto House”. Yamamoto-san wasted no time in making me welcome, and took me all over town. He introduced me to the mayor and he even took me to his favorite onsen, and of course, the TV Crew followed me into the bathhouse… again. Every night, the Yamamoto family prepared a huge feast and the beer flowed freely. I’m a pretty light drinker, but Yamamoto-san wouldn’t let me have an empty glass for more than a few second before it would be filled all the way to the top.

    The next morning, a little hungover, Yamamoto-san and his wife drove me to Kure to see the Japanese Navy’s ships and that night we visited the Memorial in Hiroshima city. Both Mr. and Mrs. Yamamoto told me about their parents’ experiences during the atomic bomb, and it put a lot of human context to a tragic event that had felt distant and academic only a day before.

    The next day, after another big feast and lots of beer, I packed up my bike and hit the road again.

    The rest of the trip seemed to fly by after this. I’d finally gotten the hang of touring and long hours on the bike, and just let the bends in the road keep me entertained. I made it to Kobe a few days later, met up with the TV Crew again and had some of that world-famous Kobe beef.

    The next day was the last day of the tour. I would ride to Osaka and drop off the bike with a shipping service to go back to John in Yamanashi.

    I picked an extra-long route through the most twisty mountain roads I could find on the map and when I reached the shipping service in Osaka I somberly unpacked my duct-taped luggage and watched as the man pushed it into the shipping truck.

    The TV crew found a scenic spot by the river nearby and had me walk into the sunset for the cameras. The director asked me to look into the camera and say “Mr. Cub. I’ll be back.” I tried to suggest another line finding it a bit robotic… The director shook his head, insisting on “I’ll be back” … “Like the terminator.” he said.

    So I looked right in the camera, said the line and walked into the sunset.

    The filming ended that day and a few days later I took the bullet train to Tokyo and week later a flight back to Los Angeles.

    But… as I said on camera. I would be back.
    [​IMG]
    The story continues soon!
    #20