Kyushu

Nagasaki

Even though it was cold, wet and miserable, I took the back roads most of the way from Hiroshima to Nagasaki;  it may have took me twice as long as using the toll expressways, but I probably saved over 100 USD in tolls.  That’s a lot of sake.

The 400km ride took me all day and I arrived late in the evening, after dark.  Thank goodness for my Open Street Maps (downloaded free from the web and uploaded to my Garmin) which took me directly to my home for the next 2 nights – The Nagasaki Catholic Centre, where I fitted right in.

Pretty cold, wet and tired, I was shown to my dorm by very nice Nuns, jumped into a lovely hot shower, and then jumped back on the bike to ride up Mount Inasa, where the night-time view is ranked as one of the 3 best city night views in Japan and dubbed the “10 Million Dollar View”.  Personally I would not have paid 10 million dollars to see it, which was lucky as the car park was only 2 dollars.  However, it was very nice.

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On the way back to my sanctum, while waiting at some traffic lights, a policeman ran up from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, pointing wildly at my number plate.

I congratulated him on his observance, which he luckily didn’t understand, and smiled politely as he asked how I’d smuggled such a vehicle into the country, under the nose of everybody until now.  Luckily I had all the correct documents and Japanese insurance required exactly for occasions such as these, but unfortunately I had left them all safely under lock and key back at the hostel.

Double unfortunately, I was about to over-run the 11pm night curfew enforced at the good Catholic Centre, obviously made to protect such vulnerable young creatures like myself from the dangers of the night.  Not fancying a night on the streets, no matter how much I liked Nagasaki, I managed to pull up some documents on my iPhone which seemed to satisfy Mr Nice Policeman, after a long conversation with his superiors.

I made it back to the hostel in the nick of time, and even managed to stop quickly at 7-Eleven to grab a very late dinner; I was starving!

Happily fed and watered I slept soundly listening to the voice of angels, and the snoring of a man opposite.

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Night view from the Nagasaki Catholic Centre dorm window

I woke late and enjoyed a good old fashioned Christian breakfast of tea and croissants, and a good lashing with a birch branch for my sins over the years (only a couple actually).

I had plans – big plans.

I was uncharacteristically organised for me, and even managed to draw up a detailed itinerary for the day’s events:

1. See some stuff

2. Find the nearest British/Irish pub

I liked Nagasaki.  It is one of the nicest big cities I’ve ever visited, and small by Japanese standards at less than half a million people.

Like all Japanese cities, Nagasaki is clean and orderly, but there’s something else that makes it stand out for me.  Maybe it was the colourful flowers delicately planted alongside the pavements and in the parks, or the fresh, open feel to it.

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Nagasaki was bright and colourful, and even the pavements were planted with beautiful flowers

Of course on 9th August 1945, ‘Fat Boy’, a plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki, instantly killing over 40,000 people and levelling a large part of the city (twice as many had died 3 days earlier in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima).  Ten of thousands more died horribly from the subsequent fallout.

A visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum was very sobering, and begs the question whether it was right or wrong.  One thing everyone agrees on – nothing like that should ever happen again.

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Outside the Atomic Bomb Museum

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The Peace Fountain, coimplete with rainbow, symbolising a pair of angel wings

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The colourful walkway to the museum

Amazingly one Japanese man was present at both atomic bombings, and survived them both (just).  He must have been the luckiest unluckiest man in history.

I spent most of the day wondering around lovely parks and various museums.  The Peace Park was especially nice, full of various monuments and statues.  It was established near the hypocentre of the explosion and remains of Urakami Cathedral are standing nearby – once the grandest church in east Asia.

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A flower bud sheds a tear at Ground Zero. The old Cathedral ruins stand behind

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Peace ribbons

The 10-meter high Peace Statue stands proud in the park as a reminder to everyone.  As symbolic gestures, the statue’s right hand points to the “threat of nuclear weapons while the extended left hand symbolizes eternal peace; the mild face symbolizes divine grace and the gently closed eyes offer a prayer for the repose of the bomb victims’ souls. The folded right leg and extended left leg signify both meditation and the initiative to stand up and rescue the people of the world.” In front of the statue is a black marble vault containing the names of the atomic bomb victims and people who died from the after affects.

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The Peace Statue

I stopped at the Urakami Cathedral on the way back, right across the road from the hostel.  Once the largest church in Asia, it was destroyed during the atomic bombing and rebuilt a few years later.

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Urakami Cathedra

After 2 nights in the Catholic Centre, my soul felt sufficiently rescued, and it was time to hit the road.

On my way out I thought I’d better take in at least one temple, so I chose Sofuku-ji, constructed in 1629 by Chinese residents and one of the best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in the world (including China).

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Sofuku-ji, constructed in 1629 by Chinese residents and one of the best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in the world

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Sofuku-ji – I was glad to see the sun again!

I was heading south to Amakusa (meaning ‘Heaven’s Grass’), a series of smaller islands off the west coast of Kyushu, via the Shimabara Peninsula and the very active volcano Mount Unzen.

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Shimabara Peninsula & Amakusa

From Nagasaki I rode east across to the Shimabara Peninsula, which mostly consists of the active volcano Mount Unzen, which is actually a volcanic group of several overlapping stratovolcanoes, if you want to get technical.

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The view up the south slope of Mount Unzen on the Shimabara Peninsula

 

In 1792, the collapse of one of its several lava domes triggered a tsunami that killed around 15,000 people.  The most recent deadly eruption killed 43 people in 1991, including three volcanologists, proving even so called ‘experts’ cannot fully predict the powers of nature.

 

The road went up the southern slope of the volcano with great views, to a small town near the top called Unzen, where a series of steaming hot volcanic fumaroles pipe boiling water, mud and volcanic gases to the Earth’s surface.  It was pretty strange riding across this parched landscape, especially as the road went right through the middle of all the fuming sulphuric gases.

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Arriving in the small town of Unzen, riding through the volcanic gases

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The walkway through the active volcanic vents

Unzen town is, as you’d expect, laden with hot-spring resorts, which are called Unzen-onsen (onsen being the Japanese word for hot springs).  At least it’s easy to remember!  The boiling volcanic vents are locally called ‘Jigoku’ (the Japanese word for ‘Hell’), and into these numerous Christians were thrown in to their deaths after their failed 17th century revolt.  Not a nice way to go at all.

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There were lots of fumaroles, called ‘Jigoku’ or ‘Hell’, into which unfortunate Christians were thrown after their failed 17th century rebellion

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Pretty impressive

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Unzen town

At 800 meters above sea level, Unzen town is still a popular summer resort due to the much cooler climate in hot summer months.  It also sports great views of the surrounding Unzen Amakusa National Park, one of the first three national parks made in Japan in 1934.

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View from the top of Mount Unzen

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Strange green lake near Unzen, no doubt due to the input of various volcanic gases

 

Most ‘foreign’ religions were banned under Japan’s strict isolationist foreign policies for much of the 17th to 19th centuries, although Dutch, Chinese and a few other merchants were still permitted to enter Japan through Nagasaki in a very limited fashion until Japan was ‘reopened’ again in 1853.  At first glance, anyone may think Japan’s 200 year international isolation may have been a bad thing for the country, but when you consider this produced the one of the longest stretches of peace in their history, and allowed the rich, unique culture of Japan to develop, I’m not so sure.

 

Winding my way back down Mt Unzen to the southeast of the peninsula, I followed the coast to the south.

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Mt Unzen from the southeast coast

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Shimabara Bay

I was very fortunate to arrive at Kuchinotsu Port in the nick of time to catch the ferry south to Amakusa, no doubt saving a long wait, as I had no idea what time the ferries went, how often or even when they stopped running.

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On the ferry to Amakusa from the Shimabara Peninsula

 

On the ferry I met Japanese biker Kazunori who was touring Japan on his Yamaha 250 Raid.  I loved the way he had attached a large storage box to his bike as a tail box – just goes to show you don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve the aim!  Good for you Kazunori – hope you had a great trip!

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Japanese biker Kazunori touring Japan on his Yamaha 250 Raid

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and Me!

Amakusa

 

The ferry ride was relatively short, and once on Amakusa I sped off to treat myself to a dorm-free hotel to relax in privacy for a similar price.

 

I arrived at Hotel Kawacho just before the sun set, and quickly donned my running shoes (and shorts and vest) for a sunset jog along the seafront.  I usually jog listening to music on my iTouch, and so I was able to use it to snap the beautiful red sunset that evening.

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Shimabara Bay on arrival at my hotel

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And just before sunset

By the way, I love my new running shoes I bought in Thailand – Nike Air Pegasus.  For the first time since I can remember, I actually feel comfortable with my pronounced heal strike, for which these shoes are designed for, so a little research really does help!

 

An aside:  Sometimes I wonder how I’m ever doing this trip, being one of the clumsiest, most forgetful and most disorganised people I know.  So the good news is, if I can do it, anyone can!  Somewhere along the line from Thailand to Japan I’ve lost my disc brake alarm. That’s the second one I’ve lost on this trip.  I’ve also lost my summer riding gloves, as well as a whole host of other things.  I even left my laptop on the plane from Yangon to Mandalay and had to go back and get it.  One thing I have got is plenty of photocopies (and copies saved ‘in the cloud’ on gmail) of all my important personal and bike documents in case I lose any originals.  I’ve also got 4 different credit/debit cards and always make sure I carry a good amount of USD (which you can spend pretty much anywhere), distributed in 3 different places. 

 

With my bike parked outside with the panniers still attached (I can take them off and carry them inside if I want to), I suddenly thought how nice it was to be able to leave my bike virtually anywhere without fear of it (or parts) getting stolen or vandalised.  There is very little crime in Japan (it’s lower than in all other industrialized countries) which all adds to its appeal as a great, friendly and safe place to visit.  I certainly wouldn’t leave my bike alone in the UK without a bike chain attached to something, and bear traps hidden around the perimeter (yes, I’ve already had one motorbike stolen in the UK – my classic ZXR 750 – from my sister’s driveway, of all places!).

 

Showered and feeling fit, I was starving and ready for a good meal.  The people at the hotel were great and took good care of me, ushering me into the attached fresh seafood restaurant and recommending local dishes for me to try.

 

I really fancied a good sashimi and ended up with a delicious selection of raw fish and octopus.  I was also brought a lovely starter of winkles (small sea snails), which I hadn’t had since a kid, when we used to catch our own on the mudflats on the North Norfolk coast near my home town.

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Delicious dish of fresh Sashimi

 

As I was finishing my meal an elderly Japanese gent appeared behind the bar and started trying to talk to me.  He was lovely – respectful and elegant – but couldn’t speak English, and of course my Japanese is somewhat ridiculously useless.

 

I hate not being able to speak with people, and I always feel very ignorant and embarrassed when I can’t speak another person’s language.  Unfortunately I just seem to find it very difficult to remember foreign words.  The funny thing was he seemed more embarrassed than me by the fact he couldn’t speak English, and would not stop apologising for the fact.

 

Thankfully we didn’t let a minor thing like language stop us communicating, and after a while the old gent pulled up a stool and produced a bottle of his delicious homemade plum wine called Umeshu for me to sample.  By now I had guessed correctly he was the owner, and I deployed my iPhone and the brilliant ‘Google Translate’ application to start asking him questions, to which he replied in whatever way he could to make himself understood.

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The perfect Japanese gentleman, and my kind host for the evening (and restaurant owner)

 

He had owned the restaurant for many years and it was all run by his large family.  We talked about pretty much everything under the sun, and it was very interesting to hear the views of this wise old man on a variety of worldly subjects.

 

The conversation was aided by a constant stream of local drinks – everything under the sun from beer, sake, shochu and other homemade wine & brews – none of which he’d let me pay for – and he made sure my glasses were never empty (yes, I always had to have 2 drinks on the go).

 

It was a totally unexpected, pleasant evening, and helped cement my view that the Japanese are some of the friendliest and most respectful people I have met on my world tour.

 

I slept very well, no doubt helped by the alcohol intake of last night, and again was ushered through to the restaurant for a huge self-service breakfast buffet.  The old gent’s grandchildren were visiting, and I was surprised to see the children eating with folks and spoons instead of chop-sticks.  I almost asked for some myself – have you ever tried to eat a fried egg with chop-sticks?

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All packed and ready to leave, with my hotel in the background

 

I set off down the west coast of Amakura and along the prehistoric sandstone Myoken-Ura coast formed over 33 million years ago.  Filled with caves, tunnels and arches on pine tree cliffs, the area is designated as a national place of scenic beauty – and it really is.

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Myoken-Ura coast – a designated national place of scenic beauty

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Unzen Amakusa National Park

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Unzen Amakusa National Park

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All along the west coast of Amakusa were beautiful bays like this

 

 

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And views like this

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I just couldn’t understand why there were just so few people around.  Beautiful Jusanbutsu Park car-park was practically empty.

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Still very few people around

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Which was great because it meant no-one else on the road!

I could see from the cliff tops that the water below was crystal clear, and again wished I had my diving gear to jump in and explore.  In a bay further south I actually came across a group of divers and wished I could join them for a dip.

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Crystal clear water below

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Divers diving the Myoken-Ura coast – mind of I join in?

I spent the whole morning leisurely cruising the cliffs until I reached the south of the island and caught a ferry across to small Nagashima island.

 

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South Amakusa

 

As I arrived at the ferry I joined the back of a long line of other motorcycles who’d just been on a club ride.  They welcomed me with open arms and we spent the short ferry crossing chatting about our travels and places I should go and see back in Kyushu.  It’s always great to get some local biker knowledge!

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I was temporarily adopted by the Kyushu Rider’s Club

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Plenty of room!

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Another short ferry ride to Nagashima Island

A quick spurt across there brought me back onto Kyushu via a bridge.  The day was moving on fast and I wanted to get to Kagashima in south Kyushu, often compared with its Italian sister city of Naples due to a similarly mild climate, palm tree lined streets and apparently hot tempered inhabitants.  Kagoshima also stood at the foot of one of the world’s most active volcanos – Sakurajima – which has been erupting almost constantly since 1955.  I was looking forward to it!

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A quick leg-stretch on the way south to Kagashima

 

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South Kyushu

Kagoshima

The cheap hotel (Cent Inn Nibankan) I was staying in Kagoshima was in the city centre, but as they had nowhere I could park my bike I had to take it 10 minutes down the road to a purpose-built ‘motorcycle park’.  It was an interesting experience riding up to the building, pulling a ticket and being let inside a lift-type door which led inside a secure bike park with 24 hour guard.  It seemed overkill for Japan, but perhaps Kagashima is the motorcycle theft capital of Kyushu?  Somehow I doubt it – I’m sure I could have left it outside on the street with the keys in the ignition and it would still be there in the morning.

Kagashima was another nice, balmy southern city, with plenty of things to do, shops to spend your money, and bars & restaurants to refresh.  I ended up down a street with a variety of bars and restaurants catering for nationalities all over the world.  Somehow I ended up in the British Pub drinking a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale; ah, the taste of home sweet home.

There was only one other table occupied in the smallish pub, and in true Japanese fashion, I was soon invited over to join the group of mixed locals and expats.  Two of the expats were from Scotland, and I suddenly realised they were the first Brits I had met and spoken to in quite some time.  It was actually the leaving party for one of the local girls, and I ended up with an invite to the subtropical Amami Islands, almost as far as Okinawa, should I ever get that far.  Once again – what great hospitality shown to a stranger from Norwich!

Sakurajima

In the morning I found I’d reduced to another notch down on my belt.  My stomach has definitely shrunk during my travels, and now it seems it’s shrinking further.  At least it cuts down on my food bill (note – must try and eat more junk food).

I collected my bike from Fort Knox motorcycle park, loaded up and set sail for Sakurajima, which was a very short and efficient ferry crossing away.

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The short ferry crossing to Sakurajima, with the volcano looming majestically in the background

Sakurajima volcano dominated the whole sky from the ferry port, and I could see it smoking majestically as we approached.  She looms over the whole city of Kagoshima like some kind of divine watchkeeper, and it seemed strange to see a large city sitting on the doorstep of potential disaster.

The first thing I did after riding off the ferry was pop into the local supermarket to buy a delicious picnic for lunch later.  Then I rode around the base of the volcano, clockwise, stopping briefly at a lovely park with a free public hot-spring foot spar in the middle.

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A free public hot-spring foot spar in the park, naturally heated by the friendly neighbourhood volcano

Sakurajima, which means ‘Cherry Blossom Island’, used to be a volcanic island in the middle of Kagoshima Bay until a massive lava flow from a powerful eruption in 1914 bridged the gap to the mainland to the east.  I found the name quite interesting, considering I had seen no cherry blossom in the area; one story tells that when the island was first created in a fury of fire, cherry blossoms were seen floating all over the ocean around the island.

Sakurajima is presently one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and last year Japan marked its 500th eruption of the year with an impressive pyrotechnic display in August.  A perfect volcano for enthusiasts and scientists, she has been erupting daily almost constantly since 1955.

In the 2 hours I took to ride around it, I must have seen half a dozen large ejections of ash and gas, and she rumbled constantly, sounding like an enormous jet engine.  Having studied Physical Geography at University, I found it especially fascinating, and one would go so far as to say awesome.

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Ash and gas being ejected from the crater at up to 200mph, sounding like an enormous jet engine

It is not uncommon for the volcano to throw a superheated mix of volcanic gas, ash and debris down her slopes at more than 200 mph (320 km/h), and toss large volcanic cinders more than 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) from its crater (it actually has two active craters).  Because of this, school children on the island are made to walk to and from school wearing hard-hats, which is quite a funny sight, as they look like miniature workmen.

As I rode round to the east side of the volcano, the crater became clearer and the eruptions louder.

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A view of the crater from the east coast

I met another expat biker who worked in Japan teaching English (like almost all the expats I’ve met here do), making best use of his holidays by touring and camping around Kyushu.

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Another biker fellow

One thing I learned while riding around the volcano, was that in 1863 there was a short Anglo-Satsuma War in the bay, when a British Royal Naval ship was fired upon from coastal batteries on the island, and in retaliation bombarded Kagoshima.

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Kagoshima Bay, setting for the short Anglo-Satsuma War in 1863

Random thought of the day that popped into my head while riding:  If I cannot understand someone from Japan, and vice versa, can a Japanese dolphin communicate with a British dolphin?  And can dogs, cats and goldfish understand each other when they travel to different countries on their holidays?

A common theme everywhere I have travelled to in Japan has been the constant, beautiful singing of birds in the otherwise quiet countryside.  It’s very relaxing.  I wish all birds would learn to sing like them, as I remember some untunely noisy ones from my childhood.

It was a beautiful day, and the sun was out in full force as it reached a very warm 20C (68F).  I do love this southern weather, and it was the first day I opened the top air vent on my helmet since arriving in Japan.  What a change from camping on the snowline a few days ago!

I rejoined the mainland over the ‘lava bridge’ and headed for the east coast of Hyushu, working my way up to Miyazaki where I had found another cheap hotel to pamper myself in.  I do love camping, but I wanted to have a look around the city, a magnet for Japanese tourists, and it’s often hard to find good camping spots close to city centres.

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Riding round to the east coast of Kyushu

When I rejoined the coast I was once again met by scenes of outstanding natural beauty, and a horse.

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Wonderful scenic views of Kyushu’s lonely east coast

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The climate was almost semi-tropical

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How long have you been waiting for me?

Miyazaki

I rolled into Miyazaki late afternoon and after weaving through a little bit of traffic, arrived safely at ‘Hotel Area One’.  The staff were great, as usual in Japan, and showed me where I could park my bike round the back.

I fancied a drink, and it seemed Miyazaki was a good place to sample some local brews.  Wasting no time, I jumped in the shower, jumped out again, and rushed out to explore.

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Miyazaki

I sampled a couple of bars before I found a real gem called the ‘One Coin Bar’, where one coin could buy you a lovely cold beer, so long as that coin was a 500 yen one.  Luckily, I had plenty of them.

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The One Coin Bar, Miyazaki

The bar was tiny, like many in Japan, and could only seat around 12 people.  That wasn’t a problem though, as there were only 2 of us plus the barman/owner who spoke very good English and was a fun guy to chat to.  My fellow drinking companion was in town for work and climbed up towers hundreds of meters high to fix all kinds of things.  I imagined a beer or two would often help to steady his nerves.

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My high-rise climber new best friend

With good music on the jukebox, the night passed quickly, and we were joined by a couple more regulars later on.  Then I got the munchies and the owner magically produced pizza.  All in all, a perfect night at a perfect bar!

When I got back to the hotel, an earthquake shook the whole building around midnight – something residents of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ have to live with frequently.  It was the second sizeable earthquake I’ve experienced, the first one being in Turkey several years ago, which my brother, Mr Edward Bowen, slept soundly through with the aid of several colourful cocktails and the like.

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Kyushu back to Honshu

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.

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The road to Beppu

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Cloudy, but still great views

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.

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Sekura Bloom

Beppu

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.

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Arriving in Beppu

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 🙂

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My next motorcycle 🙂

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Rachel in the Elvis Bar (a-ha)

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…

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Beppu Karaoke – there were certainly some characters on the stage (including me…)

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.

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Off to Hamada

 

Hamada

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!

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Now this is what I call safe parking!

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!

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It was a gorgeous day, and I came across this cool bridge shaped like a harp

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Invasion of the Wind Turbines!

The beaches east of Hamada are famous for being long, wide and sandy, and in the sunshine they really did look wonderful.

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The big, sandy beaches east of Hamada

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Sky doesn’t get much bluer than this

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.

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The super-friendly Best Motorcycle Team

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.

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Only one at the DBS Ferry Port

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.

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See you in Vladivostok old girl! XOX

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!

 

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An amazing 200mph Bullet Train

 

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Sake anyone? Don’t mind if I do!

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This little hole in the wall was like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and had more than 250 different sakes to choose from. It took me quite a long time to get through them all…

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If you’re in Osaka and want to sample the best Sakes in the World, go to Shimada Shoten

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Sakura Bloom down by the Osaka Mint

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Sakura Bloom, Osaka Mint

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Sakura Bloom, Osaka Mint

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Sakura Bloom, Osaka Castle

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Farewell Japan! Here’s the longest suspension bridge in the world I rode over seveal weeks ago – The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge

 

 

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.dbsferryjp@gmail.com

Customs inspection & loading arranged by Mr Nagamoto (limited English) at Kamigumi Agents, phone: +81 859-45-8707, email: k_nagamoto@kamigumi.co.jp

Vladivostok side: Yuri Melnikov (good English), General Manager at Links Ltd, Mobile: +7-902-524-3447, email: ymelnik@links-ltd.com

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