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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lightcycle, Aug 1, 2012.
ick, couldn't do the raw egg haha.
Michael is hooking us up with the local motorcycling community. This is what we always search for on our travels, but it's so difficult getting in touch with the right people when you don't know where to look for contacts.
When we first left on our trip so many years ago, I was an active member on lots of motorcycling web forums. But over the years, their popularity has declined and it's all social media now. I haven't kept up with the times, so I still post requests up on the forums but there's no response anymore. In fact, one of the boards that I copy our blog to has just recently shut down due to inactivity. I feel like such a technological relic!
Michael gave us the name of a Facebook group he's on, dedicated to motorcyclists in the Kansai region (this area) and recommended that we join up. I pull out my iPhone 4 from 2010 and start taking notes...
He tells us that the Facebook group gets together regularly for rides and meets up every month at a bar for a social. He asked if we would do a presentation at their meeting next month. Of course, we'd love to!
When we leave the restaurant, he gives me the name of another motorcycle rider in Wakayama, further ahead on our route. Over lunch, he had PMed his friend and asked if he could put us up. So now we have a place to stay and another motorcycle rider to show us around in a few nights' time! Wow! That's awesome!
The next morning, when we leave Taketoyo, it's pouring. Of course it is. Of course...
From inside, our Japanese host and her German help look so sorry for us, packing our bikes in the cold and miserable downpour. We tried to assure them that this is very familiar motorcycling weather to us and that we've ridden in much worse conditions, but that did nothing to assuage their looks of abject pity and worry.
SMH. I was wondering when the RideDOT.com rains would figure out that we're in Japan and come join us...
Hi Gene and Neda. Like many others I’ve been following your RR since the beginning. Always a pleasure to catch up. You might know this by now (as compared to when you were in Japan) but the government there recently announced a significant (for them) change in immigration restrictions. Apparently they have come to realize their economy will depend on opening their doors to more foreigners due to their demographic situation (too many people aging out of the work force and not enough coming into it to pay for all their costs). I mention this given your interest in living there. I visited Japan for the first time in May 2018 and felt the same - that I could see living there for a while. Beautiful country, lovely people and so easy to get around. I look forward to your ongoing RR. I’ll post a link to the news report re: immigration if I can find it. Cheers
Hitting the highways again in the downpour. ETC is the Electronic Toll Collection system for Japan's super-expensive toll expressways
Today is another relocation exercise as we leave the Aichi Prefecture and head to the Mie Prefecture. This region has protected areas and is less crowded than the more populated Aichi Prefecture. *This* is where our real motorcycle journey starts and we're looking forward to spending less time paying ETC tolls and more time taking in some beautiful scenery.
....aaaand we can't find our AirBnB once again. Stopping under an awning to stay dry so we can double-check the reservation instructions
We are staying overnight in the tiny village of Ōdai-chō, on the east side of the Mie Prefecture. There are a lot more traditional-looking buildings here than compared to the larger towns of Tokoname and Taketoyo. Although we are a bit lost in the pouring rain, it still doesn't dull my excitement at seeing all these cool traditional Japanese houses surrounding us.
I think this is our place? The address is right, but the pictures don't look the same... We ride around a bit more...
Tea bushes growing in some sort of community garden. Cool!
Turns out that house was where we are staying. This is the garage!
Even our bikes have a Japanese-style roof over them. Cool!
All of the AirBnBs run by Japanese people are self-check-in. They e-mail us specific instructions in English for where to find the key, how to operate all the devices, etc. The Japanese love automating everything, including AirBnB checkins. I suspect that because most of them don't speak Engish, it's probably easier this way.
We find the garage door opener, but there's no garage next to the house. So we walk around the neighbourhood clicking the button until one garage door opened up a few buildings down. :)
To our surprise, we discover we are not staying in the house itself, but a log cabin beside it:
It's beautiful inside! All wood floors and walls and tatami mats and everything! We love it!
After unpacking, Neda turns on the kotatsu and settles down for some very heated cross-stitching
Oh man, we are only here for one night, but we want to stay longer! Now that we have more than one washitsu to compare, this one is a lot better than the one we stayed in yesterday!
And just how long have you been waiting to use that one, sir?
Our futons and bedding are all set up, ready for unrolling for the evening
You can see the tokonoma (alcove) with the flowers and the hanging scroll. The tatami mats are brand new that's why they are green. They will dry up and turn straw-coloured over time. Some people love the smell of fresh green tatami, like the scent of grass. Others prefer the aged look of the yellow-brown straw. You can buy them in both colours.
On the right hand side, you can see the Japanese translucent sliding door panels, called shoji. It's light-weight, lets sunlight in, but also protect privacy as well. This place is way swankier than last night's tatami room!
In the morning, the rains have left us and we are free to explore the grounds of our AirBnB log cabin.
The owners of the house have cultivated a beautiful Roji, or Japanese tea garden in their courtyard. Wow! This was one of the nicest AirBnB places we've ever stayed at!
Nice little touches in the Japanese tea garden
I have to forcibly pull Neda away from the garden, she didn't want to leave!
We have roads to ride, Neda!
Just curious... where did you pack the vacuum cleaner???
Any plans to visit any onsens?
Those would be top on my list.
We discovered that Japanese have a love for something called "neba neba". It describes any food that is slimy, like natto (fermented soy beans), slimy seaweed or raw eggs.
However, apparently not *all* Japanese love neba neba foods. We were talking to another Japanese couple on our travels recently, extolling our love of natto and they wrinkled their nose and told us that thought it was gross.
I love a raw egg yolk in my soup.
Yes, I heard the same.
I think it's time Japan officially opened their doors to foreigners via immigration policy. It's one of the most closed societies in the world, they don't have a lot of experience with gaijin within their own borders and I think apart from the obvious additional workforce and tax income benefits, they can also do with a bit of outside thinking to inject new life into their business and culture.
And vice versa as well. The west has so much to gain from adopting a lot of traditional Japanese values, like respect for others and valuing society first.
I thought it was a NOS play on words.
Onsens are awesome. More to come.
I love reading this inspiring ride report ! It was the stories from Colombia, way back when, that fired my imagination enough for me to backpack from Cartagena to Santiago last year. Now, Japan is looking mighty interesting.
Thanks Gene and Neda.
Those would be the Japanese that have a sense of smell and working taste buds.
Years ago when I used to travel to Japan on business we ended eating in China town in Yokohama. Somebody ordered a dish with frog legs and my Japanese colleague and friend would not eat the frog legs, so I told him that he was a "picky eater". He spent the rest of the week trying to find stuff that I wouldn't eat. I ate some strange stuff that week, and at the end of the week he found some place that served natto (or as I fondly call it "snoto"). I found it to be unpleasant to nearly every one of my five senses. After I had choked it down so I wouldn't be a "picky eater", my friend told me that most Japanese won't touch the stuff.
I am thoroughly enjoying this RR. Thanks for taking the time to share. i know that it is a lot of work.
She right there on the white bike.
Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/396.html
Today marks the first day of our freedom.
Freedom from the Soul-Sucking, Yen-Gobbling ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) Expressways. I hope we don't have to take another boring, scenery-less toll road for quite a while! It emptied our wallets at such an alarming rate!
Very excited to explore the Mie Prefecture!
The Mie Prefecture is located on the eastern coast of the Kii Peninsula. It's a nature preserve of sorts, with a heavily forested interior, the Nunobiki Mountains running through its backbone, and over a thousand kilometers of squiggly coastline packed inside its 200km length. In contrast to the dense urban centers, only 6% of the Mie Prefecture land is populated. Perfect for motorcycling!
Passing through one of the few villages nestled in the mountains of the Mie Prefecture
We stop in front of a house to consult the map, and suddenly a couple of yappy dogs
come to the window to greet us with some very enthusiastic barking! Oh hush, puppies!
Getting ready to make a pass on the windy mountain roads
Road 42 is a great north-south route that takes you up into the mountains and then back down to the coast along the east side of the peninsula. At the seaside town of Owase, we decide to be a bit adventurous and explore a very tight and squiggly road that we saw on the map.
Road 425 from Owase starts out great, the narrow pavement is smooth and cuts through some dense forested areas
It's obvious this backroad is not used very often because the road quickly devolves into a rough, pot-holed mess and our average speed drops to 40 km/h as we try to dodge all the debris on the ground. To make matters worse, the thick foliage overhead hasn't allowed the rainwater to dry so the roads are still wet. In some areas, the turns in the road become so tight it's like maneuvering through a gymkana course!
This is not so enjoyable. Our sportybikes like to go fast and they're much more suited to smooth pavement.
At one point, the road runs straight into the side of a small mountain. Thankfully there was a rough-hewn tunnel to take us through. We pass by some construction machinery abandoned half-way through the tunnel. Not even sure a car could have squeezed by...
Road 425 opens up again and follows a shallow river to Shimokitayama. You can see Neda waiting for me in the far right
Along the road, we see signs for Shimokitayama Onsen (hot springs resort). These seem to be a big thing in Japan. We *must* try one of these onsens while we're here. But right now, the thought is to abandon this too-narrow road and head back down to the main road. At Shimokitayama, we take 169 which spits us back out to the coast in Kumano, one of the larger cities in the Mie Prefecture.
*whew!* We don't really have a set route through Japan, we're just winging it by looking at interesting lines on the map. But this was a good lesson in what kinds of roads to look for...
Our slow and plodding ride has eaten up much of morning, and speaking of eating, we're getting hungry!
One of the first buildings we see as we ride into Kumano looks like a restaurant
We walk inside and discover that it's a sushi restaurant! Our favorite food!!! If you think those stacks of dishes were high, you should have seen my pile.
To our relief, this place wasn't automated at all. It didn't even have one of those snaking conveyor belts that you grab plates off of. You ordered directly from the sushi chef, and then you watched him prepare it in front of you.
Now, we don't know much Japanese, but when it comes to sushi, we know *ALL* the names of the various seafood. We were totally in our element here, requesting our favorite dishes with confidence: "Saba sashimi! Toro! Ebi nigiri! Maguro! Ikura maki!" To the untrained ear, it sounded like we were native Nipponese. Every time we ordered a dish, our sushi chef laughed in delight at these gaijin speaking fluent sushi.
The fish was so fresh! It tasted just as good as the highly-rated, fancy-pants sushi place we went to in Tokyo. Towards the end, we were just ordering dishes not because were hungry anymore, but because we were so happy speaking Japanese!
I looked at the bill. To my surprise, it was half of what we paid for in Tokyo, and we had ordered so much more as well. Wow, this place was great! We were all smiles and waves as we left and we thanked our chef on the way out: "Arigatogozaimas!"
Just outside of Kumano, we find a stretch of rock along the coast called Onigajo
There's a promenade that's roughly carved into this rocky coast. It lets you walk about a kilometer into this peninsula, made of soft volcanic rock that's been pitted and scarred over the millenia by waves and winds. Legend has it that demons (oni) live in this spooky-looking rock.
Onigajo means Demon's Castle. Very apt!
Sitting on some demon rock, looking out into the Pacific Ocean