Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lightcycle, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    From Kawazu, we head back out to the coast

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    We follow the coastline to the tip of the peninsula

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    Stopping for a little break in the town of Minamiizu. Neda is saying, "I'm going to the washroom, you stay here and watch the bikes"

    We're parked in front of the train station, and while I'm waiting, I see what looks to be a little fountain at the front of the entrance. But it's steaming! And there's a handrail and steps leading into it. If I didn't know better, I'd think this is a foot bath?

    Nobody else is using it, so I do a little what-the-heck shrug, slip off my boots and socks, plonk myself down and submerge my frozen feet into the hot water. AHHHHH! SO GOOOOOD!!!!

    Japan has a lot of geothermal springs, and in fact the Izu Peninsula is a popular spot for Tokyoans to take a holiday and relax in the many hot spring resorts in the area. Resorts that are probably too expensive for us. This little tiny hot spring resort for my feet is totally free!
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  2. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Honestly, I didn't really know if this was a footbath or not until an old Japanese lady came by,
    slipped off her shoes and sat beside me and nodded approvingly! Hot Springs Footbath Confirmed!


    When Neda came out, she looked at us and laughed. "Looks like you made a friend!" she said.

    Haha! Maybe the old lady didn't know it was a foot bath either until I sat down in it!

    Probably not. Looks like she brought her own towel to dry her feet...

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    We're riding north up the west coast of the Izu Peninsula and we spot a neat fishing village, so we stop to explore a little bit

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    Neda takes the opportunity to make us a little brunch. Sandwiches on the road! A RideDOT.com staple!

    How many sandwiches have we eaten in the last half-decade? LOL!
  3. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    You can't see clearly in this picture, but Neda goes hiking around the coast with a sandwich in her hand

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    Fishing boats in the small marina where we've stopped to take a break

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    In the bushes nearby, I spot some peculiar plants

    Surprisingly, Neda the botanist couldn't identify these flowers, so she went online to her Instagram community to find out. While other women follow fashion designers and celebrities on Instagram, she follows gardeners, hikers, dogs and cross-stitchers online... A Japanese gardener that she follows DMs her back: "Early Spiketail". Indigenous to Japan. Cool!
  4. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Suruga Bay is home to hundreds of these tiny islets, evidence of earlier volcanic activity

    It struck me that Japan is very much like Iceland, with its geothermal activity and volcanoes. Just with the addition of earthquakes beneath us and nuclear missiles flying overhead...

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    Suruga Bay shoreline

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    Time to suit up and head out

    We really miss our electric liners that we left in Croatia. You can see above the gloves we got from Montbell, that Japanese outdoor equipment store in Tokyo. It has a waterproof outer layer, which is great for blocking the wind. When we arrived, we decided against buying motorcycle-specific gloves and got some snowboarding gloves instead. That and our Uniqlo warm underwear makes the near freezing temperatures bearable while riding!

    We're really impressed with the Japanese clothing and outdoor equipment gear. Good quality stuff and not that expensive either!
  5. Spicciani2

    Spicciani2 Been here awhile

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    Google lens is my new faithful hike ID companion
  6. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Passing more coastal villages on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula

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    Hey! Fellow motorcyclists braving the cold weather as well! First ones we've seen today! We wave enthusiastically

    Sadly for us, Road 136 - that scenic, winding coastal road we've been following all morning - ends at the town of Toi in the northern section of the peninsula. From here, it cuts back inland and curves around Suruga Bay.

    From looking the map, we see that the large urban metropolis of Fuji sprawls menacingly ahead of us on the northern shores of Suruga Bay. I remember what a slog it was getting out of Tokyo. A more palatable option is to catch a ferry across the bay, thus by-passing Fuji.

    From my rough calculations, taking the Tomei Expressway would probably be the exact same price as the cost of the ferry (¥2000 or $20 each). The ferry would be a heck of a lot faster as well. Plus we get to warm up inside the cabin!

    Sign me up for that!

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    Waiting to get onto that warm ferry
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  7. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    We've heard about tatami rooms in Japanese houses. There's also one aboard the ferry! Cool!

    Tatami mats are made of compressed rice straw and is a popular covering for floors in Japanese houses. I guess the Japanese people are so accustomed to resting on tatami mats that the ferry companies have to offer a special area for their passengers to lie on them during the crossing.

    The Sugura Bay ferry is only 70 minutes long, and this is our first time on a ferry in Japan, so we were too busy exploring the boat to test out these tatami mats. Next time!

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    70 minutes fly by way too fast. Gahhhh! So cold. Slapping back on all the layers to head back outside again

    So early in the season! What were we thinking? Oh well, our quest for Cherry Blossoms in the south continues.

    Riding off the ferry at Shimizu, we jump back on the super-expensive Tomei Expressway. It struck me that we were paying more in tolls than accommodations in Japan... Crazy. I'm starting to understand why the Japan Rail system is so popular. It's really the cheapest *and* quickest option for traveling around the country. Driving your own vehicle is super expensive and time-consuming!

    This section of Shizuoka prefecture is home to some mountainous regions in the north. There is probably some really good riding up there, but due to our earlier experience outside of Mount Fuji, we suspect that those higher elevation roads will still be covered in snow. So we're toll-ing past them for now, but the idea is to hit those routes on our return trip back to Tokyo.

    Hopefully the weather and the surface conditions will be more motorcycle-friendly by then.
    B10Dave, Saso, SmilinJoe and 5 others like this.
  8. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    We are running down our first tank-full of gas since departing Tokyo. Since I am the one taking point on all communications, I am rehearsing how to ask for High Octane Gasoline in my head as we pull up to the gas station:

    "Hai-okutan-gasorin. Haiokutangasorin. Haiokutangasorin."

    However, there's no one at the pumps. All we see is this:

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    AHHHH! Everything is automated and entirely in Japanese!

    This is what we get for stepping off the Gaijin Trail. There is no button for English. I don't know even know which button to press for assistance. I have to walk around to the back of the station to try to find a gas attendent.

    He seems surprised that someone is seeking him out. I'm probably the only person he's talked to today. And I don't even speak Japanese... Obviously he doesn't speak English.

    "Haiku-ramen-gasorin", I sputter out.

    He looks at me strangely. I don't think I said it right.

    "Haiokutan?" he asks.

    I nod my head vigorously, afraid to say anything else that will confuse him (and me) further. He fills up for us, then punches some buttons and shows me where to insert my credit card: "Kah-doh" Yes, I know that word!

    "Arigatogozaimas!"

    Phew! What an ordeal. I hadn't realized just how much we've gotten by during the last few years not knowing the different languages of the countries we ride through, simply because we are still able to pantomime or muddle through with our limited vocabulary. However, this is going to be much more difficult in Japan now that we're dealing with automated computer screens everywhere! Robots are taking over, and it's not a good thing!

    Back on the bikes with a full tank of haiku-ramen, we hop back onto the expressway and continue south-west. Prefectures fall fast behind us as we leave Shizuoka and enter Aichi Prefecture. I see the sign for Hamamatsu flash by us and I'm glad that we're by-passing yet another large city on our quest for good motorcycling roads.

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    We stop for the day at an AirBnB in the small town of Tokoname on the eastern shores of Ise Bay

    Is it my imagination or is it getting sunnier?
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  9. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Thanks, trying to get back into it is so difficult after being away from it for so long!
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  10. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Only at certain times of the day.

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    Like at 12 o'clock...
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  11. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Sure. The original videos are somewhere up in the cloud somewhere, I'll see if I can re-download them if I get a faster Internet connection sometime.
    deersSlayer and B10Dave like this.
  12. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    :eekers :super

    #goals
  13. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Yeah, so many differences. The sleds are 2-stroke 180hp beasts and will power up the steepest hills no problem. A 45hp snowbike will get up there. Eventually. With enough inertia...

    As for the physical demands, our guide was very surprised we lasted as long as we did. He budgeted 2 hours for the rental, as most first-timers tap out at that point, but because we had been snowboarding 3-4 times a week, we actually lasted 4 hours. It wasn't our stamina that was the problem, it was our forearms that gave out due to arm-pump. I had problems finding neutral on the KTM, so towards the end of the day, everytime we stopped, I just let the bike stall out in 1st instead of holding in the clutch! :D

    With more experience, I think we'd eventually be more relaxed on the snowbike and be able to go even longer. We did the typical newbie tense-shoulders-death-grip-on-the-bars.
    deersSlayer, B10Dave, Mofrid and 3 others like this.
  14. DrSmooth

    DrSmooth I am third

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    Thanks for the updates! Still love reading them each time
  15. MoreCheese

    MoreCheese Now less Cheezy

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    What he said ^ ^

    For me, commitments I have made and health problems decided for me, I love the escape. Thanks for the updates and allowing us to tag along on your adventures lightcycle / Gene.
  16. mattsz

    mattsz moto-gurdyist

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    What he said ^ ^ :D
  17. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/395.html

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    I know it's only been a couple of days on the road, but we are taking a little one day rest break.

    We're feeling very conflicted and guilty doing so since we're on rental bikes and every day we're not riding feels like we're just wasting money. But we've got to balance that with our travel fatigue. We want to savour Japan. We don't want to speed through it and not be able to properly absorb everything we've seen.

    Also, my back friggin' hurts. Damn F800R sportybike!

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    We are staying in an AirBnB in the suburbs of Tokoname. This is our neighbour's dog below

    Tokoname is a small town in the western part of the Aichi Prefecture. Japan is divided up into 47 Prefectures, like States or Provinces. Tokoname is known for it's ceramics, and tourists visit the giant kilns in the area. But we're not doing that.

    Our AirBnB host, Warwick, is an ex-pat from New Zealand, and we chat for a while about his experiences living in Japan. He's been here 17 years and seems to really like it. From what we've experienced in this country so far, we are really loving it as well. I can totally see ourselves living here! Warwick married a Japanese woman, and when we asked about how easy it is to immigrate here, he regaled us with the long and complicated process to obtaining Japanese residency. Citizenship is an even more tortuous process!

    He mentions the other big tourist attraction in Tokoname:

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    Aeon Mall just opened up and the locals are very excited about it. This is more our speed! :)

    Special parking for our bikes! Also, these boxy cars are the most popular vehicle on the road. With their small engine housed inside the stubby hood and their vertical slab backs, they're so space efficient. Especially when you see them in traffic! There's virtually no wasted space when they're queued up bumper-to-bumper. In Japan, they have to make use of all the space they have!
  18. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Visiting the mall, we get to see what the local Tokonamans do, as well as grab some non-touristy lunch.

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    So, the most popular stall in the food court serves Roast Beef Ohno. I had to line up for 20 minutes to get one!

    In Japan, beef bowls are a traditional dish, it's simply rice underneath slices of cooked beef. However, in Akihabara (yes the electronics district in Tokyo), a restaurant just started serving up a little twist: beef bowl volcanoes, called Roast Beef Ohno. It's all the rage in the big city! They build a mountain of rice and then wrap the sides with slices of roast beef. Then they hollow out the top and pour a raw egg yolk in the crater to simulate the fiery eruption. To complete the effect, white mayo sauce flows down the side, like lava! LOL!

    It's totally kitschy, but the Japanese people love it, and the locals here finally get a restaurant in Tokoname that serves Roast Beef Ohno, so they can see what the fuss is all about in Tokyo! :D

    I'm sure giant ancient kilns are nice and all, but this is the kind of Japan I wanted to see.

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    The AirBnB we stayed at was only available for one night, so for our next rest night, we booked another place in nearby Taketoyo

    Taketoyo is only 15 minutes away from Tokoname. The names sound so similar, it's kind of confusing when people ask us where we are coming from. Takenamo? Tokotoyo? Tokyodorifto?

    Also, the roads in the residential neighbourhoods are so tight! We got lost trying to find both places. When you miss a street, the road is so narrow that it's impossible to make a U-turn. So we end up having to circle around over and over again, trying to find the right street. It's easier for me to just get off the bike and walk around to search for our accommodations!

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    Try making a U-turn on this street!
  19. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Found it! So cool! It's a Japanese style guesthouse!

    Our AirBnB yesterday was super nice, but it was also modern and westernized. Our new place is very traditional-looking. It's run by a Japanese lady who speaks a little bit of English, but after we are welcomed into her guesthouse, we are checked in by a young girl from Germany who is volunteering in Japan. She does checking in and cleaning duties, and in return, she gets a free room. It's a common arrangement we've seen all over the world, since volunteers, students and long-term tourists can't legally get paid to work in the country without a proper work visa.

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    We get shown up to our room. To our delight, it's a tatami room!

    High on our bucket list for Japan is to stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and sleep in a tatami room. Although this guest house is not really a ryokan, more like a hostel, we do have a tatami room!

    There rooms are actually called washitsu, but we call them tatami rooms because of the tatami compressed straw mats laid down on the floor.

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    Oh. My. God. I've just discovered my new favorite thing in the whole entire world - A Kotatsu!

    These old Japanese houses don't have any heating at all. All of the rooms have some kind of gas heater that you lug over to where you are sitting. In a large room, this method of heating is not very efficient.

    So a common piece of furniture in a Japanese house is a kotatsu. It's a heated table! There's an electric element under the table that heats your legs. A soft fluffy blanket is curtained over the sides of the table, and that is electrically heated as well! And to top it off, there's a heated pad underneath that you sit on!

    These cold early spring temperatures are chilling us to the bone, especially when hunched over that damn naked motorcycle all day. For that reason, I have fallen madly in love with the kotatsu and wherever we settle down, we have to get one in our house!

    I know you're not supposed to do this, but I curl up under the kotatsu with only my head sticking out from under the table. Then I crank up all the heated elements to max and take a long nap. AAAAAH! SO GLORIOUS!
  20. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Our sleeping mats were initially rolled up in the corner. In Japanese they're called 布団 - Futon! Haha, I didn't know that was a Japanese word!

    Traditionally, the washitsu is devoid of any furniture, just tatami mats. It serves as an all-purpose room. You can use it as a living room, a dining room or a bedroom. You just bring in the furniture as needed based on the time of day or function. So you normally unroll your futon and prepare your bedding every evening. Then in the morning, you roll your futon back up to make space for the rest of the day.

    Other elements of a washitsu that you can see above are the sliding doors (fusuma). Also, there is an alcove in the corner (tokonoma) where they sometimes have a decoration like a vase of flowers and a hanging scroll that is changed seasonally. Above us is a ranma, a supporting beam that separates the room, but is intricately carved to let light and air through. So cool! We are in love with our tatami room! :D

    Another reason we are staying an extra night in Aichi Prefecture is because we are meeting up with a fellow motorcycle rider! Michael contacted us on ADVRider, one of the forums we copy our blog to, and he lives in Nagoya, not too far from where we are. He offered to come down to see us and asked us where we'd like to meet.

    So I gave him the address for the Coco Curryhouse around the corner from us and he laughed! That's like meeting at the local McDonald's. Or I should say, the Makudonarudo.

    I told him we are living like locals!

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    Hanging out, having a nice Japanese curry lunch with Michael and his girlfriend Nori

    It's so nice to talk to another motorcycle rider, and they've both traveled extensively as well. Michael is originally from South Africa, and Nori spent some time working in Singapore. We exchanged a lot of stories about life in Japan and on the road.

    I'm not sure if they realized, but we were really picking their brains on how to live in Japan. Because we really like it here and had a million questions like how hard it was to learn the language, how accepted you are as a foreigner, etc. Nori told us that it is a very closed culture, and not just for gaijin. She was born here but upon her return after a few years working abroad, she was treated very differently, not as a nihonjin - 100% full-blooded Japanese person - anymore.

    She said that the expectations for foreigners are very low. They just presume that you're not going to be as smart or as hard-working as a futsu-no nihonjin (term for "ordinary Japanese person" meant in an exclusionary manner), and that her years living in Singapore pretty much branded her a lazy gaijin when she returned. Also, Japanese culture is very patriarchal, and that they don't treat women as well here as in other more progressive countries.

    I think as newcomers to Japan, we've seen this country through some rose-coloured glasses. It's always interesting to get more in-depth insight from people living here full-time. But it's also telling that despite their criticisms, Michael and Nori have no plans of moving out of Japan either... There's good and bad in every place.

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    There are *some* good things in Japan! :D