Miyazaki to Beppu
I’d been looking into shipping my bike to Russia and had found a way on the DBS ferry that left from Sakaiminato (back on the main island of Honshu) to Vladivostok. The ferry left once a week every Saturday, and I decided to try and get it on the ferry leaving 5th April, as the ferry was undergoing its annual dry-dock maintenance period up until then. I really loved Japan, and I would have liked to have explored up north, but the weather was against me (lots of snow still), so I thought I would save that to explore on another holiday in the future.
I was speaking to a guy at the shipping company who told me I had to have the bike there by 15:00 on Friday 28th in order to have a customs inspection, which was easily doable. Everything was working out nicely, because I had also been offered a month’s contract at my old workplace (to work mostly in Sri Lanka), which would top my funds up nicely for the final stretch of my journey back to the UK across Siberia, Mongolia and Europe. This would allow me to store the bike safely at Vladivostok customs while I worked in April, and would also give Siberia another month to warm up a bit, as it was still freezing!
Therefore I decided to slowly make my way to Sakaiminato and take an easy ride north up the coast to the small holiday city of Beppu, one of Japan’s most famous geothermal hot spring resorts.
It was a cloudy, overcast day, and because of that the scenery didn’t appear as dramatic and beautiful, but it was still a nice ride.
It was still warm and the cherry blossoms (called ‘Sakura’) had started to bloom. In Japan one of the biggest events of the year is the Sakura blooming in spring, and millions of tourists flock to several well-known spots to witness it. Today I was having my very own mini one.
I had booked myself in at the ‘Spa Hostel Khaosan’ in Beppu city centre and instantly got a great feeling about the place when I was warmly greeted by several travellers as well as the reception staff.
Rachel, an interesting, wise and well travelled American, was especially welcoming, and even put the kettle on for me – how lovely! She was staying in the hostel while looking for a job, and loved the place. I think she should have started her own tour company as she did an excellent job showing me around the extremely interesting small city.
In the evening we went out for a delicious traditional meal and then popped in a few bars, including a great ‘Elvis’ bar with my next motorcycle parked outside 🙂
The evening progressed with good company and interesting conversation until it ultimately ended up at a Karaoke Bar and stretched into the early hours. I’m not too sure, but I think I may have even ended up on the stage at one point…
Beppu to Hamada
The next morning, feeling a little delicate, I had a lazy brunch and then set off north towards Sakaiminato, aiming for a city called Hamada because it was well over half way. I’d had a good time in Beppu and could have easily stayed longer, but the customs inspection was calling.
I could have taken the toll roads and paid a small fortune to do the 300km ride in 3 hours or so, but didn’t want to miss out on exploring the north coast of the bottom of Honshu.
Crossing the bridge from Kyushu back onto the main island, I pulled off the expressway and headed north for the coastal back-roads. The scenery was less mountainous than Kyushu but there were still some nice fishing villages and sandy bays along the way.
I arrived in Hamada towards evening and found the cheap hotel I had booked on ‘booking.com’ – a very useful website.
The Hamada Washington Hotel Plaza was big, and sounded and looked flash, but actually was pretty cheap (off-season sale?). I wasn’t sure if I was hearing the receptionist correctly when she told me to ride my bike into the large reception hall and park it there.
So, weaving past a couple of guests, I rode it through the huge sliding entrance doors and parked next to the reception desk, as though it was a show bike on display (a filthy show bike at that). At least I wouldn’t have to worry about locking it up!
There didn’t seem to be much happening in the city, so I had an excellent meal across the road, where once again I was treated to VIP service and interesting conversation from the chef/owner, and got an early night.
Hamada to Sakaiminato to Osaka
I got an early start in the morning and rode off into the sunshine – it was a beautiful day!
The beaches east of Hamada are famous for being long, wide and sandy, and in the sunshine they really did look wonderful.
As I approached Sakaiminato I wanted to stop and buy a long chain lock to secure my helmet and camping dry bag to the bike for the ferry passage (I’d lost the key to my other one!). I pulled up at a motorcycle shop and asked inside if they had one. Then I experienced one of the most incredible acts of kindness I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.
‘Best Motorcycles’ is a family business and it turned out they didn’t have the kind of lock I needed. However, they wouldn’t let me ride away in need, and insisted (in sign language as they didn’t speak English) that I jump in the work’s van with them to go and find one. Not wanting to put them out, I tried to explain it wasn’t a problem, but they kept on insisting, and so in the end I left my bike at their shop and jumped in the van with them.
Off we went down the road to the local ‘B&Q’ (or ‘Lowes’) where I found exactly what I needed. This made the ‘Best’ team very happy, and off we went back to the bike shop. The family wouldn’t accept any money from me for their time and trouble, and only a friendly bow and handshake would do. What a great family and amazing experience! Yes, I would really miss Japan.
I hoped the ‘Best Family’ would get treated the same if they visited my country (although unfortunately somehow I doubted it), and I will try my best to be a similarly great ambassador for the UK when I eventually return. I couldn’t help thinking that if everyone was like them, then how could there ever be any trouble or worry in the world?
When I arrived at Sakaiminato International Ferry Terminal, the process was as smooth and efficient as I would have expected in Japan. As the ferry was in dry-dock, the place was deserted except for the agent and customs guy.
After a quick inspection I secured my helmet and camping bag to the bike and said my farewells to her until we’d meet again in Vladivostok. It was quite emotional, but I was excited to be moving onto the next phase of my journey.
The friendly agent dropped me off at the train station and I caught a 200 mph bullet train back to Osaka to spend a couple of days relaxing, sake sampling and Sakura Bloom spotting.
See you in Siberia!
Info for anyone shipping from Japan to Russia on the DBS Ferry (via South Korea)
DBS Ferry website: http://www.dbsferry.com/eng/main/main.asp
Spaces on DBS ferry from Sakaiminato booked by Tatiana (speaks English), phone: +81 859-30-2332: email: Tatiana.firstname.lastname@example.org
Customs inspection & loading arranged by Mr Nagamoto (limited English) at Kamigumi Agents, phone: +81 859-45-8707, email: email@example.com
Vladivostok side: Yuri Melnikov (good English), General Manager at Links Ltd, Mobile: +7-902-524-3447, email: firstname.lastname@example.org