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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    We double back and take the detour.

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    Ran into a bunch of motorcyclists out for a group ride in the mountain roads. We join their gang for a little bit until they turn off towards Mount Aso.

    The detour wasn't that bad, nice and scenic with a few entertaining curves to keep our sporty-bikes happy.

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    A few kms after the detour re-joins the main road, we approach a larger town called Kikuchi. Cherry blossoms greet our arrival.
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  2. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    The main road takes us past a very pretty park, and it's full of cherry blossom trees. We have to stop here!

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    More hanami scenes

    When Neda first told me about this "Cherry Blossom Festival" held in Japan, we thought that it was held at a specific time and place. It was only when we arrived here we found out this "festival" was held all over the country as the blooming season moved from south to north. The festival is wherever you can find a cherry blossom tree!

    Cherry blossoms are called "Sakura" in Japanese, and sakura season is a huge deal here, despite being so short. It takes one week for the flowers to reach full bloom, and a week later, the petals are already falling off. Our plan is to catch the beginning of the sakura in the south and basically travel with the blooming season as it moves upwards, so we're surrounded by cherry blossoms for much longer than a couple of weeks!
  3. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    There are ads and signs everywhere celebrating sakura. In every grocery and convenience store, it looks like someone popped a gigantic bubble gum balloon inside and got pink colouring on all the shelves and merchandise. Almost every product in the stores during sakura season is clad in pale pink packaging!

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    Pink Sakura Pocky sticks! Even the non-Japanese brands get into Sakura season! You go, Makudonarudo!

    The origins of the Cherry Blossom tree are quite contentious. Most people agree that they originally came from South Korea. But lately, China has also laid claim to the birth place of cherry blossoms. But the reality is that it was the Japanese that cultivated this historically unloved tree which bore a sour fruit eaten only by birds. This tree which flowered for only two weeks out of the year was ignored by every other country but Japan, which celebrated its ephemeral nature and made its appreciation part of the fabric of Japanese life.

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    A family enjoying a picnic under a sakura tree. This is Japan in a nutshell.

    While cherry blossoms have gained popularity around the world in the latter 20th century, particularly after WWII, the Japanese have been planting sakura trees all over the country since the 7th century.
  4. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    The recent rains have left a little present upon the sakura petals

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    Neda is having a hanami moment
  5. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    I am day-dreaming of all the gyozas I am going to eat tonight

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    Leaving Kikuchi Park. This motorcyclist approaching us was getting his lean on! Nice!

    You know the weather is getting warmer when you see so many bikes out. We ride to the town of Nagasu at the edge of Ariake Bay. We can catch a ferry here that will bypass the urban centres on the northern shores and take us across the bay towards Nagasaki Prefecture.
  6. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    We line up for the ferry with more bikes! Here's a hotted up Honda CRF, just like the 250s we had in Thailand.
    Dual exhaust, Showa forks... maybe not *exactly* like our 250s in Thailand...

    These ferries are a real godsend. We'd be stuck in so much traffic if we weren't able to cross the waters. Just a scant 45 minutes later, we're in the port town of Taira in Nagasaki prefecture.

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    All of the bikers deep in the hold of the ferry, checking out each others rides and waiting for the ramp to come down to let us off
  7. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    We haven't had lunch yet and we're starving. On all the Japan Facebook groups I'm on, I've read some good things about Mos Burger, which is Japan's largest burger chain. Of course there's one waiting for us in Taira.

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    Neda is not a burger fan, but I manage to convince her to try it out. Verdict: Thumbs down. You don't go to Japan for burgers.

    Give me neba neba anyday over Japanese burgers.

    Shimabara is less than 10 kms away and we stop once again to check out some Samurai Houses!

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    There's a pedestrian street in Shimabara lined with traditional Samurai dwellings from the Edo Period (1600s-1800s)
  8. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Some of the houses are open to the public as museums. Here are some pictures of Neda photobombing the nice Samurai families who live there:

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    The warrior class was considered the elite of Japanese society, so their houses were better quality than the rest of the population

    These houses are decorated not very differently from the tatami rooms where we've been staying: rice paper sliding doors, tatami mats on the floors, and dark exposed wood beams overhead.

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    These houses focused less on the military aspects of the Samurai and more on how they lived at home.
    So no bushido masks, lacquered armor or multiple-folded steel swords here! More tea cups and urns...
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  9. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

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    Well, I'm finally caught up.

    I closely followed your report after we met on that rainy day in Wawa in 2012. Rain? Who could have imagined?

    I followed along for a year or so, and then life got in the way. I moved to Colorado. Started a new job. Stayed busy with job and driving for Uber on the side... Every now and again, I'd poke my head into the thread, but I was overwhelmed with how far behind I'd gotten, you know?

    So a few months ago I decided to dive back in. I couldn't really remember where I left off, so I basically started from the beginning, knocking of 5, 10, 20 pages at a time.

    And then I met Kelvin (who I think you know as Zhehong) and Debbie and they mentioned your names! Small world indeed.

    So... I know you're not still in Japan, and I'm looking forward to keeping up with where you've been for the last couple of years to bring you where you are now.

    If you find yourself using your Epic pass in Colorado this winter, be sure to send me a note. I'll throw the skis on the back of the Miata and join you. I'd love to see you two again.

    Oh... it seems Google Translate has improved over the years. When I pointed my phone at the picture of the road sign you couldn't read, it clearly translated the script:

    IMG_5361.jpg

    Jamie
  10. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Who could have imagined that we'd run into Jamie Z of ADV TentSpace fame! :queenie

    Funny, every now and again, I'll start working on the blog, but then I get overwhelmed with how far behind I've gotten.

    So yeah... I know... :D

    Yes! But even if we don't make it out there this season, keep your moto runnin'. We may be headed down to your neck of the woods next summer. I'll keep you updated when we get close! Will be great to catch up again on two!

    Yeah, they have this "improve this translation" link on the Google Translate web page. I guess enough Japanese people got sick of the app mangling their language!
  11. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Neda sharing a meal with a Samurai family

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    We are feeling right at home here! Minus the creepy mannequins, of course...
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  12. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/404.html

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    From Shimabara, we head towards our rest place for the evening, located on the west side of the peninsula. To get there, we have to drive over an active volcano: Mount Unzen!

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    Heading towards Mount Unzen, and then onwards to Obama

    Yes, there's a town named Obama. It means, "little beach" in Japanese. Although it's not named after US President Barack Obama, he is *very* popular in Japan. When he was inaugurated in 2008, there was a huge celebration here in Obama, Nagasaki.
  13. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Twisty roads up Mount Unzen

    We love mountain roads, we always find enjoyable twists and turns that we can attack with our sportybikes. However, I'm a bit worried about roads around active volcanos though. Mount Unzen's last major eruption was in 1972, when landslides and tsunamis kiled 15,000 people. We tip toe on these curvy volcano roads, careful not to set off another eruption...

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    Heading towards the peaks ahead in the distance
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  14. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    As we get higher, fog obscures the way. Near the summit, 1500m above sea level, we stop to look at the clouds below us

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    Road is one-way around the summit of Mount Unzen
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  15. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Near the top we find a resort: Unzen Hot Springs Onsen Resort

    This isn't fog anymore. We are enveloped in steam emanating from the ground. Hot, smelly sulfuric gases seep up from all around us and makes us gag as we walk around the boardwalk that the resort has put up around this hellish rocky landscape. In fact, the Japanese name for this place is "Unzen Hell". Although these gases aren't poisonous, you have to hold your breath the entire time that you walk around otherwise you'll throw up from the smell. *blech*

    Finally we had enough and we scramble back onto our bikes to escape Unzen Hell. Back down the volcano we ride until we reach Obama.

    Looking at the map, this is the western-most point of our travels in Japan. From hereonin, we start heading back east.
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  16. dabirk23

    dabirk23 Adventurer

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    Likin' that old Z1 !
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  17. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    This is our hotel in Obama-cho - we have a tatami room. Yay! A pretty tea set awaits us on the short-legged table (chadubai)I

    This part of Kyushu island is very geologically active, and there are many onsens in the area. Pretty much every hotel and ryokan in the area has an onsen. Including ours!
  18. Jim-Mer

    Jim-Mer Slowing Down

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    Gene, I’ve been a long time reader of your report. While I’ve been to most of the countries you’ve visited, I did it as a business traveler. My typical business trip to Japan: fly into Tokyo, high speed train to (name a city), night out to dinner with hosts / business partners, hotel, train back to Tokyo, flight out to home. Not complaining, I got to see a lot of the world most folks haven’t.

    Your detailed descriptions of where you go and what you see has given me an expanded view of places I’ve already been, but never really “experienced”. Thanks again for taking the time to bring us along with you on your travels.

    Jim
    Canton, OH
  19. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Thanks for the kind words, Jim!

    We feel very privileged to be able to spend so much time exploring the world. If we only had a few weeks to do this trip, it would probably justify zooming through countries without taking off our helmets. But because our travels are open-ended, this really gives us the opportunity to get a better understanding of the people, their language and culture, history, geography, calculus and other stuff I was really bad at in school... :)

    The world is such a fascinating place, I'm glad that others find it as interesting as we do!
  20. ross

    ross Been here awhile

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    Gene, I discovered your thread when it was 100 pages long and read until I caught up and have followed ever since. I want to again express my gratitude for you taking us along on your travels. I have learned more from you than I did in geography class. I know posting like this takes time and it must be daunting to keep going when the thread is this far behind actual time. Starting the new year I want to wish you and Neda the very best in whatever adventure you are on now and I hope to hear about it someday. Thanks again, Ross