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Motorcycle Paradise

Islands of Japan Motorcycle tour – part three

Eihme to Miyazaki

Day 5

I am continuing my motorcycle ride to southern Japan. (See part two here) I have a big ride in the mountains of Shikoku planned for today. Shikoku is for me one of the best riding destinations in Japan. It is low population and has a different more relaxed feel to it. It also has some spectacular scenery and the interesting history surrounding Ryoma, the great hero of Japan.

In Shikoku I normally stay in Kochi, a small and interesting Japanese city I would happily move to if I could but last night I stayed in Saijo at the excellent Route Inn hotel chain. Whilst not always in my preferred price range if you book on their Japanese site you can get advance booking discounts which are not listed elsewhere. Quite a number of the hotels I used do not list on the international hotel booking sites at all. Away from major tourist spots Japan is still slowly emerging from it’s shell. You will at times be like a celebrity (as happens in Indonesia away from Bali or Jakarta) and other times make people very nervous as they feel they should be able to speak English to you (when it should be other way around) Enjoy all this while in rural Japan as it has long since passed in the major cities. 

Beautiful sunny morning I set off after over-indulging in the excellent breakfast buffet to try make my way to something referred to locally as the UFO road. Not entirely sure why. Not so much an area 51 aliens thing but a more a very remote high altitude road with clouds that hug the hillside giving it a another world appearance thing. Maybe. This is a bit of a unknown spot still. On route 194 south I exit the long tunnel under the central Shikoku ranges and then find the small service road that climbs the mountain but alas there is signage saying the road is closed for repairs near the top. I rode up some of the way just for a look but then I could see the road was not accessible. What a shame, but even the bit I saw looked really nice and from this photo below you climb to about 1700 metres on a road that hugs the face of the mountain out of view to the right so I shall return here again.

Islands of Japan Motorcycle Tour first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise May 2017

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I was bit disappointed but hey it is a fantastic morning and the alternative route south is beautiful curves through pretty valleys.

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This is a great part of Japan, sweeping roads, low traffic, a joy to ride.

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Route 194 south over the ranges is a great ride also and after here I foolishly tried to cut across north to join up with my original UFO route but ran into a spot of bother as the road I chose turned into a narrow track serving very remote villages. This can happen in Japan, a road will look like a substantial one on Google but in real life is something else.

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Eventually I rejoined the 33 which I should have stayed on and made my way to my next point of interest of the day, the Tengu highlands. Here again I found one of the roads up was closed but fortunately there was an easy detour to the top and the grand vista that it is. Click for a larger view of this.

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Awe inspiring views that seem to stretch forever. This is the less travelled island of Shikoku Japan.

Todays lunch spot. Some fresh sandwiches and a iced coffee + this view = equanimity.

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Met a guy with a new drone and he captured some images of the area and myself. Can you spot it. He sent me a bunch of photos but to be honest I was not taken with the output from it. Moving video sure but the stills reminded me of security camera footage and killed my desire to own one.

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Down the other side lies another of the best rides in Japan. A road with no route number or name and is all but hidden in Google maps yet is a wonderfully surveyed two lane mountain road perfect for riders. View from along the way back up to the highlands in the distance.

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Wonderful afternoon of riding in rural Shikoku. Easy riding roads, the small of fresh cut grass here and there as the road crews did some slashing. 

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A few of these low bridges in this area, sleepy villages and nice river views all afternoon.

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I arrived perfect time in Sukumo for the ferry to Kyushu to be told it was not running due to engine problem. Oh crap. The girl said I could go back up the coast to get the later ferry from Yawatahama. I set off looking at the clock it was a long way to try ride in the time I had left. Then that was a longer crossing and after arriving I had a long ride back down the other side to Saiki if I was to stay in my reserved hotel for the night. I backed it down a bit then found a spot to stop and did the math. This was nuts, it would be a very late evening arrival and I did not feel up to such a journey after a long day. I called in some help to find out if the ferry would run tomorrow morning and indeed yes it was just out for this evening so I rode back to Sukumo and found a nice business hotel at a good price. I figured the booking at the other hotel would be due in full with cancelling it on the afternoon due to arrive but with the ferry not running they did not charge me for the cancellation. Nice to deal with the hotels direct here not Agoda or similar which don’t allow any cancellation like that. So happy I managed to calm down and just go with the flow rather then my usual head strong approach. The hotel turned out to be very nice and with time to spare I did my laundry, business hotels always have a coin laundry on site.

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Went for a walk not having researched the town at all and found a Hotto Motto obento dinner shop not far away. That will do me fine. I got their great Karage chicken dinner set for about $5 and had a relaxing night with a few drinks while I planned out a couple of modified routes on RidewithGPS.com for tomorrow given I would be starting much later after I crossed to Kyushu on the morning ferry which takes 3 hours.

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 Day 6.

I was at the ferry office when they opened at 07.20 then boarding soon after for an 08.00 departure.

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Some great scenery leaving port along the coast.

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I had a breakfast of champions from the cup noodle vending machine on board the rather old ferry (very tasty) and then took a nap.

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My plan for today is to ride the first half of my original route and then take the expressway direct to my hotel. The first half was the feature/main ride focus of the day, revisiting the hidden roads of Oita mountains that I rode last year but in miserable conditions. These roads have no route number and you have to zoom to closest level to reveal them in Google maps yet there is a network of terrific riding well surveyed two lane mountain roads there to be discovered. But first I ride up the lush valley roads from Saiki.

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All the bridges in this area feature a character on each side of them, all slightly different. This is the sort of thing you encounter a lot in Japan. Always some extra little detail.

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After a lovely ride up and into the mountains I come to a road closure. I know last time I was here there was a land slip not far beyond this so I take a gamble it is the same thing and decide to just ride around the try go through as it is a long way to detour back from here.

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So I sneak along, hope I can continue, hope nobody starts to wave hands or shout. I arrive where the land slip is and yes that is where they are working and I pass by and nobody working does anything so I continue to the other side a few kilometres to exit, woohoo! There is a number of sections to this route that seem to be linked in that you will see the orange arrow sign above which I think says something like forestry link road but it seems more like some madman wanted to build a fantastic skyline through the mountains and went bankrupt not finishing it all leaving gaps here and there with narrow connecting roads (which there are a couple)

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The road has some rocks fallen onto the surface now, I presume with the closure no cleaning is going to get done, but otherwise it is a great ride and zero cars. Have a look at my route on ridewithgps.com if you want to know where these roads are. (I also marked them on my best motorcycle roads Japan map)

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There is a very long section like above, great fun, and then much more with sights like below.

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Before rejoining more known and marked roads there is a small rest area that I found last time. Some Japanese visitors to this blog lament that I travel around every prefecture but do not try the different local foods. I would but for two reasons. I love nature best and if the choice is eat somewhere like below with stunning views and sound of waterfall off the my right or eat inside a café then below wins hands down. The other factor is while I can route to arrive in a town for lunch most small eateries have no photo menus and so I am going to struggle to try translate on google app if menu is hand written or in a fancy script as often is the case. But mostly I have simple tastes and prefer to be outdoors like this. I find it very peaceful.

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Now here is a café I do want to go to. Kenny Roberts used to ride this region and there is a wonderful riding road here named after him that I posted about in a earlier tour as well as a café with a collection of things. I was wondering where it was and came upon it by chance today when I took a wrong turn and seeing the road joined the one I was aiming for later just continued on it to come across the café. Next time for sure as I am big fan.

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Riding then south east from the Aso high plains is more terrific roads, actually this area I could probably base myself a few days as there seems endless good riding around Aso. No wonder Kenny chose here as one of his favourite riding areas.

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It turned into a real scorcher of an afternoon. I stopped for a drink and got tempted to try this cumquat fruit soft serve. Different but I’ll stick to vanilla in future.

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Riding route 218 you are up high above this very deep valley. I wanted to take a detour however I was mindful that I was only halfway through my route and it was already past 3pm so another place to explore more.

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Some things are different in Japan yet some are the same the world over. I am on the elevated highway heading south to Miyazaki and the fun police have made passing impossible until you reach places where there is an extra passing lane added for maybe 1 kilometre. The speed limit on two lane toll roads like this is 70kph, lower than the 4 lane toll roads. Cars will be doing around 70kph until the passing lane zone where they don’t just speed up a little but floor the gas pedal. I’ve seen this everywhere but here maybe the silliest. This might be the only place I need the power of the FJR for if I fail to get by they return from their momentary burst up to 140kph back to 68kph soon as the passing lane ends…

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So here is todays revised route. Going west is the hidden roads then south east is high plains around Aso that I did not photograph much this time but appear in some of my earlier posts.

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It worked out well and in a way I am glad I had to change as it let me take it easy in the best bits knowing I could wind up on the expressway anytime and ride down to Miyazaki in the dark if need be as nothing doing once I get there except check in. Tonight I stay at the Green Hotel group, another business hotel chain and one of the best value that I need to look for more often here. I had a great meal at Joyful family restaurant, all this for $6.00 (it’s a bigger serve than it looks) Strangers want to talk to me here, must be getting a fair way south now away from where western tourist visit.

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Join me again soon for more of this motorcycle tour in southern Japan.


(part four now posted here)

6 comments

  1. I have to agree with you. A picnic in nature beats a restaurant or cafe any day. Our favorite way to eat when riding or on any road trip really.

    I am impressed with all of the great roads and bridges you are riding.

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    1. Hi Brandy, I often wonder since I like lunch in nature if I should try move into camping, but not easy to try as need a lot of gear to start.

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  2. I love that gorge in the second picture. Marvelous!!

    Lovely mountain passes and beautiful scenery, you must be loving every minute riding these roads. I have to agree with your choice of places for lunch. Great spot.

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    1. It really has been magnificent riding Steve. Mostly it is still all a 'new road experience' riding here like the first time to ride nice road you have never ridden before in Aus - then on top of that is the scenery. It can be almost overwhelming.

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