Good morning from Japan to all you motorcycle riders out there!
I have a question for you to begin with: When do you think you know how much you were missing something? Well, the answer to this question is: Once you are back to where you haven't been in a long time.
I am very happy that Japan has loosened their strikt rules and opened up a little more again to the rest of the world. Almost three years since the beginning of the pandemic, Edelweiss finally was able to come back to Japan to organise our motorcycle tour "The Secrets of Japan" again. And it feels absolutely great being back in this country, which is so exotic to the rest of the world.
Angela and Adrian welcome you to Tokyo, Japan. We will keep you updated with this blog throughout our two week's trip.
My first action after I had arrived to Tokyo was to pay a visit and say hello to the people in the motorcycle rental shop, from where we get our motorcycles for the tour
No no, these are not our bikes But it is awesome to see these vintage Cups standing in front of the shop as well.
Our welcome dinner doesn't take place in the hotel but in a typical Japanese restaurant. Don't worry, it allows us westerners to sit comfortably with our legs underneath the table
You sure won't leave hungry.
Our first riding day led us out of Tokyo and along the coast line towards the coastal mountains of the Izu peninsula. A charity bicycle competition forced us on a detour road. However, there are plenty of alternative curvy roads. So we were not bothered at all by it.
The very foreigner-friendly Japanese way to show you the menue
On top of Mazda Turnpike we got a first distant glimpse of Japan's main attraction: Mount Fuji.
If the view from the distance is already that impressive, how will it be like when we are getting closer?
The second highlight of the day was Mount Omuro. From the distance it looks like a turned over rice bowl. We, however, took the chair lift up and enjoyed the fantastic views.
Once a year, the grass on Mount Omuro will be burned in order to activate it regrowing in bright green again.
Martin and myself where huffing and puffing up the volcanoe's rim walk way to enjoy the great view.
Our first exotic dinner. Everyone in the group enjoyed the delicious food.
What may look like a Japanese shopping receipt to you was our yesterday's menue card.
Not on the menue but in the hotel's pond - Japanese Koi fish
We are getting closer and closer to the big mountain... Mt. Fuji dominates today's ride! But first of all, we start out of Kawatsu on some really remote and twisty country roads. Here in Japan, a wide two-lane can reduce all of a sudden into a single-lane road resembling a goat track. Still paved, but small and leading through forests, these roads demand your full attention on the one hand. But on the other hand they reward you with exhillarating riding fun.
After we had taken enough pictures of Fuji-san from the distance, we finally got to tackle the asphalt ribbon leading about half way up the inactive volcano.
Looking out of the hotel's window you might find some brave Japanese people with their, as it seems, usual morning ritual - riding the waves.
Clutch out at 9 am
Another view of Mt. Fuji at our morning coffee stop
Adrian seems to have a sweet tooth
One of the best experiences today was the 83 (!) year old Japanese man who indulged a little his passion - which was riding his bike on the passes around Mount Fuji.
Tony from Australia and Dietmar from Germany were chatting away over his motorcycle.
While the Japanese gentlemen was admiring the modern motorcycles
We had a wonderful chat with the Japanese rider and ...
... and agreed that he would become our new motorcycle idol
Yeah !! We finally found it ... the 'Riders Paradise'. It lies on top of the Izu Skyline
The interior is decorated with some interesting models of motorcycles
Some of them were being used for movies
Obviously, we can't read, what it says on the Japanese number plates or where the car is registered. Except for this one, of course.
What an mind-blowing view ...
... from half way up Fuji-san
We definitely took a great deal of enjoyment out of riding up here
The color green will be predominant all day long, today. The tiny, winding and sometimes steep roads through the mountains closer to the center of the country were the main playground of today's ride. We spent tonight in a hotel in the city of Hamamatsu.
A last view of Mount Fuji from its southern side before we turn to the mountain roads of the Shizuoka area.
Our morning coffee stop in a rest stop along the highway. It does not sound like a very promising place, but you wouldn't believe how nice this can be.
Of course, they also offer all sorts of things the regular Japanese visitor needs (or actually doesn't need ). Here you have the socks that fits your flipflops ...
... or your "toe-shoe"
Even though it might sound very strange for some to talk about bathrooms on a motorcycle blog, you obviously have to when you are travelling in Japan.
This rest stop area even gives you all the useful information before you enter the bathroom
Very clean and immaculate public toilet. But I have also never seen a more intelligent toilet elsewhere in the world.
Instructions on what to NOT do
Including a "baby parking" in the corner.
Take your time to figure out the instructions on things like "seat heating", "noise canceller", etc.
We continued our ride into the mountains.
We finally found it !!! The ultimate way to get THE partner of your life! This is the Love Bell. Those who ring are said to find him/her soon after
From these two gentlemen we learned a lot about the Japanese green tea.
Green tea - the other "green" highlight of today.
The food explanation doesn't not match the good restaurant we were eating in. But it was, indeed, helpful for us
We start this day by riding straight to the ferry at Irago Cape. It will take us to Tobe on the other side of a huge water inlet. From there we will ride along the Pearl Road and then further south into our today's hotel in Nachikatsuura, where they have beautiful natural Onsens (hot springs). Soaking in the hot volcanic waters will be just what is needed at the end of a riding day.
You recognise easily that Japan has opened up to the rest of the world only a little. The parking spaces are as good as empty ...
... same as the ferries
As soon as we had disembarked on the other side, the plan was to ride along the Pearl Road. The road is called like that because of the local woman who were diving there for pearls.
The week before our tour a taifun had hit this part of Japan, so that the Pearl Road still was closed in a part that we wanted to ride. Luckily we could continue below it on a small, narrow road even further to the cliffs. It was even better there
Fueling up in Japan: At some gas stations filling up your bike can be very unusual at first sight.
As religion, respectively Buddhism, is a big part of life in Japan, naturally it is also part of our tour. Today, we enjoyed great roads with sweeping curves all morning long until we arrived at Koya-san, one of the most important religious centres in Japan. Afterwards our paths led us straight to Kyōto
Dietmar and Tony at one of the temples in Koya-san
Koya-san radiates a great meditative atmosphere
Which ever direction you turn, you will find a temple of some sort
It seems to be lunch time
Today, we chose for a Tofu restaurant. Tofu is something I never eat at home, because it never seems to be as good as it is here in Japan.
The Tofu restaurant we went to here in Koya-san offers a delicious and appealing selection of the soy-bean based food
Kyōto, obviously, is a city that you have to visit and sightsee. We left the bikes parked in the garage for the day and covered a number of sights. First of all our way led us directly to the Arashiyama Bamboo Garden and the attached temple garden area. Afterwards we continued to the Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple. After lunch we added the Senbon Torii, the Thousand Gates. A day full of impressions about beautiful Kyōto was rounded up with a out-of-the-world delicious Teppanyaki dinner.
As there are as good as no tourists in Japan, you will find many Japanese people who use the quiet times for their own vacation.
Around this time of the year, the Indian Summer season is about to start.
Some impressions of the buddhist temple garden
The Arashiyama Bamboo Garden is probably the best indicator in terms of the number of tourists who currently frequent Japan. Normally, around this time of the day, the place would be packed with people.
The Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Temple
For good luck, simply throw a few coins
Well, our lunch spot, the Ramen restaurant, turned out to be a great pick. What an experience
The Senbon Torii - the 1000 Gates. I can't tell if anybody has ever taken the effort to count all the Torii. But I am sure there are several thousands of them.
The view from (almost) the top. It was quite a hike but worth the effort.
At the Teppanyaki Restaurant, looking forward to the experience. Oh, if it seems to you that we are always wearing a bib for meals in Japan, I can assure you, it only makes sense when eating Ramen soup and Teppanyaki
After our rest day in Japan's cultural Capital, we were heading on to Himeji. A city that owns one of Japan's most important sights - the Himeji castle. As the visit is well recommended, we took the shorter ride to be able to see it before the gates would be closed.
As almost everywhere in Japan, we saw numerous rice paddies along our ride from Kyōto to Himeji. Like in other Asian countries, rice is the number one food of the Japanese.
Our coffee shop is a place that has many little things to find out. Just like this special motorcycle parking.
Martin and Dietmar ready for coffee and/or ice cream
Another curious thing was this coffee spoon here.
Once we had arrived at our hotel in Himeji, we got changed into more comfortable gear and went to see the quite impressive castle Himeji-jo
There is definitely no Japanese guy hiding behind this mask Dietmar had to bow several times during the visit - just not the same way as the Japanese do
Koi fish in the castle's moat
With today's ride from Himeji to Tsuruga we changed from Japan's southeast coast to its northwest coast.
The highlight was the Mikatago, the Five Lakes of the Mikata region and the Rainbow Line. This is a pass, at the top of which you would have had a breathtaking view over the 5 lakes with their different colours. Heavy rain in the afternoon, however, did change our experience a little in this respect. Hence, only few pictures today.
The briefing, yet in dry conditions
Michael at the northwestern coast of Japan
Today's ride started out with a bit of a religious touch, or better say, with a spiritual touch. First highlight of the day was the visit of a Zen Bhuddist Temple. Then we continued further to the north to turn out at the only driveable beach in Japan. However, the weather did not quite cooperate with our plans. And sure enough, at the end of this very rainy day everyone was happy to arrive at our hotel on Noto Peninsula.
Shy of water, ey Dietmar?
There are so many plants that we don't know from home, that even a simple pot plant seems to be an exciting thing
A meditative hunt for pictures while walking through a Zen garden.
At the entrance to the Temple
Our lunch stop in the middle of nowhere. Sitting on a chair at a table in a Japanese restaurant, somehow brings back memories of kindergarden
Martin got so excited about the tree table that he started to count the tree's rings. I remember hearing him saying 250 !!
This dish is a common one in Japan - pork cutlets with sauce. Very similar to a breaded schnitzel.
No beach today!
Not enough room for both, the motorcycles and the stormy waters ...
You feel like a king or a queen when you are a guest being received at a Japanese hotel.
Today is our second rest day. And there is no better place for it than the Noto Peninsula. At 10 am we started our engines to ride for an hour north to see a place where local Japanese artists produce some of the most beautiful lacker ware. It was very interesting and we learned a lot about the production process. A short loop through the center of the peninsula took us back to the hotel where we took a well deserved soak in the hot spring.
At the lacker production place
We were not aware of the fact that the lacker here in Japan is being sapped from a tree.
The finished lacker is being mixed with the desired colour and filtered several times until it becomes very smooth
The golden patterns are all hand-painted !! To finish such a lacker process takes about 6 months, regardless of the size of the object.
We continued our ride along the coast, enjoying the vistas of the rough sea.
There are countless rice paddies all over Japan, but there are not very many that are draped on a rock, reaching into the ocean. This is why this rice field is such a popular picture spot among tourists.
Before Nanao, there is an island that is connected with the mainland by two bridges. This is one of the two Nanao twin bridges.
You are probably wondering why I am showing so many food pictures. Simply look at this one. Every meal, even the simplest meal in a country road side restaurant, is being presented so artfully. Eating here in Japan is like unpacking presents for christmas and for birthday at the same time
A rest day is nice, but it is also nice to get going again. Otherwise we would not get to see more of this beautiful Japan. From Nanao on Noto peninsula we start our ride by taking the national route along the coast into Himi. The local fish market is our first attraction point of the day. Continuing further southeast, we reach the famous remote villages of Shirakawa. Ultimately, we ended up at the foothills of the Japanese Alps.
Martin on the verge of getting started. Just a little contemplation over the meditative view from the motorcycle parking, and then let's get rolling
Our coffee stopp in the morning at the Himi fish market.
For some it might be nothing special to look at fish like this. Being a mountain girl, I find it most interesting each time I see fish that comes from other water than from a mountain river.
Not sure if I would fancy eating suction cups, though
The thatched roof houses are called Gasshō-zukuri, meaning "the praying hands of a monk". In winter, the snow slides off very easily.
An ancient Japanese telephone booth. But you have to bring your own phone, these days.
Adrian at the "bus stop". He is our most loyal "follower"
Today's main focus was on the Japanese Alps. Our ride took us from one spa place (Hirayu) to the next (Kusatsu). Along the way we were passing by the city of Matsumoto and took a different kind of coffee stop at the Wasabi Farm. After our lunch stop we circumnavigated Nagano and wanted to go and see the snow monkeys. Even though we were well in time on our ride, we were too late to see the monkeys. Unfortunate for us, they decided to retreat earlier from their hot pool back into the mountains. The Mount Shirane road finally lead us into Kusatsu, the Hot Spring town in Japan.
At the Wasabi Farm
Adrian, same as Martin tasted the Wasabi ice cream. Although Wasabi is a quite spicey vegetable, the ice cream itself was not at all.
The view of the Japanese Alps from the Wasabi Farm
The Japanese Alps again from another view point during our ride
The higher in altitude we got, the more trees had already changed the colour of their leaves
At some hidden places you will find all sorts of spiritual monuments. This one is made out of rice straw.
The Japanese way of telling you to not leave any trash behind.
The ride up the Mount Shirane road was spectacular. Not only because of the road, but also because of the Indian Summer.
It was just unfortunate that the clouds came in once we had arrived at the photo stop.
According to this monument, the Mount Shirane road is the highest public road in Japan. There are only private roads that are highter.
I am sure, Martin and Dietmar fully understood what is written on the piece of stone