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Motorcycle Paradise

Islands of Japan Motorcycle Tour part 4


Miyazaki to Nagasaki

Day 7


I continue riding south today. I am going to run out of road on the mainland if I keep going that direction. But first a Japanese style breakfast served at the Green hotels chain to set me up for the day. Breakfast also included a salad, soup and breads buffet and unlimited curry rice but this was already ample for me. (read part three of my tour here)

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Islands of Japan Motorcycle Tour first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise

I took an inland route south from Miyazaki to start having read that was nice and indeed a lovely ride over a small range and through some scenic rural area.

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There are a few misconceptions about Japan. I hope my photos might convince people it isn’t all neon. A common presumption is that Japan is a high tech country but this is incorrect. They have refined consumer products over the years but much here is stuck in another time. A recent experience comes to mind. You cannot pay a bill online. Internet banking isn’t really a thing yet. Nor can you pay by credit card because credit cards are only in very limited use here. Cheque books never made it to Japan either. It’s still cash lining up at a counter for everything. I have a friend who is professor in a Tokyo university and he elaborated that many aspects of Japan are stuck in time like this and the stubborn resistance to change is holding the country back. A major university he lectures at uses no computers, everything is recorded on cards in filing cabinets, computers are not allowed... But I digress. Back to the ride.

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I visited a Hydrangea road made by the people in the region that I came upon by chance but was too early to see the blooms. Many thousands of trees lining the road, it would be terrific to see.

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Farm scenery.

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Time for a coffee. You’re the boss uncle Sam.

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I then move to the coast and encountered some strange road side rest area items. These are former satellite radio tracking antennas that were in use in the 60’s. There is nobody around on these roads. So different to Kanto region near Tokyo.

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And then a Sputnik themed bridge.

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Actually I was not surprised. This is where Japan’s Space Agency and launch centre is located. I rode right on in.

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I would have loved to do a tour but everything is only in Japanese so I just wandered around a little then continued the ride south along the ocean.

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Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach” as Don Henley said. Actually there really was nobody on the beach despite this being a fine 28 degree Saturday. Everyone is at the nearest onsen. The national obsession. I’m not one of these foreigners in Japan that feels the need to embrace everything Japanese like so many here. Zero interest in raw fish, taking long hot baths with other blokes and westerners look ridiculous wearing traditional Japanese clothing. 

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Riding this elevated road along looking down at the coastline was really special.

I was riding to Cape Sata but I took a detour in route just on a whim having seen a few signs for a Hanaze Natural Park. Might be a nice spot to have lunch. I arrived at the small village of Hanaze with a lovely park that runs along the bank of a shallow stone creek bed. The creek bed and park become the focus point for festivities for the community.

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This is the Japan I like so much. I broke out todays lunch and relaxed listening to the water. You always get a wet napkin with food be it takeaway (or take out as they say here) or dine in. I miss that elsewhere.

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Well rested I pushed on for the last bit to Cape Sata.

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Alas I cannot ride to the cape. Someone has the idea to try monetize the spot and a new car park was being finished off and the road blocked. You need to buy a ticket for a shuttle bus to a visitor centre… Yeah I don’t think so the whole thing is to ‘ride’ there. Ok well that was close enough for me, I am not trying to tick cape boxes or anything. 

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From this most southerly point I took a last glance south (above) then pushed off as I am still on my way to my main goal of the remote Goto Islands but first I have to get across the ocean to Kagoshima (below).

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I arrive at the ferry terminal and the woman at the counter seems reluctant to sell me a ticket. At first it seems my bike is too big. Then something she does not like about my paperwork, nobody else is asked for their paperwork. I show my Japanese drivers licence also. I wonder if it is because I am not fluent in Japanese, she seems annoyed about my communication efforts, her accent is really tough. Perhaps I am being viewed as an inconvenience to the crew or passengers. That may sound odd but Japan is still a mono culture society. While waiting I was reminded of a line in the superb book about Japan “The roads to Sata” by Alan Booth who walked the length of the country on backroads to arrive at the cape where I had just been. After a long chat with the proprietor of an inn at some village over a drink (Alan could speak excellent Japanese) he was told he could not stay. Asking why the person replied because it was a requirement to speak Japanese to stay at the inn, whereupon Alan asked and what language have we been speaking the last half hour? Her husband arrives looks over my bike and I am sold a ticket. Perhaps her having a bad day came across another way to me. Lost in translation.

The ferry was the smallest I have been on so far and they even had a large bus full of people roll on. It barely moved with it’s engines roaring and bobbed about in the ocean in a manner that made me glad the water was calm.

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I was staying at a famous onsen town Ibusuki with heated volcanic black sands and the hotel had a large hot spring fed public bath. I went for a walk about the town that was sadly in serious decay. A few dubious looking bars, I felt like a few beers and trying to talk to someone, even as a self confessed loner I get really lonely some days here, but no bar access for foreigners. I went to the 7/11 to grab something to eat not able to find any simple place to dine and my purchase entitled me to draw a card from a lucky dip box and I won myself some fake beers, whoot!. I retired to enjoy these free beverages and peruse the toxic waste dump that Facebook has evolved into before deciding I’d be better off to cease using it in future. My fake beer tip: they taste good but the illusion is blown when you pour them into a glass.

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Day 8

My luck with the weather so far on this trip has exceeded anything previous in Japan. Besides the cloudy fog on day 3 I have had mostly sunny days, warm weather so I was not trying to think about weather because I might jinx things.

Nice view of Mt Kaimon-Dake this morning as I start to make my way north.

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Riding between many tea plantations this morning. I don’t enjoy green tea but it sure is pretty.

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Then another riding highlight of this tour, the Ibusuki skyline, an amazing road, it seems like it was made just for motorcycles. There is a toll, very modest about $4.50 for what is a long and well surfaced road and the toll of course tends to keep local traffic and police away. Perfect. Just a shame the view to the active volcano Mt Sakurajima was not clear today.

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Some congestion clearing Kagoshima city then more nice riding on what are not noted as good roads yet are easy sweeping country routes north. Two small mountain ranges were fun and I was using the GoPro but nothing much came of it. I have made my mind up to sell it after this trip. I’ll talk more about y reasoning in a later post. 

I came upon this old railway semaphore signal sitting in middle of a farm. Later I saw the unmistakable raised land where the line must have once run through this area.

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I found myself looking at the clock a bit this morning. I had two ferries I had to make to get to my destination. I had fully fueled the previous evening and left early skipping breakfast to get wheels rolling swiftly for what was going to be a big day. If I missed my target window at the first ferry I think I would still be ok to make the last ferry of the day at the next port but then again I have never done this so it was all an educated guess.

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I decided to push on a bit now so I could relax in between the ferries on Shimoshima island in a region called Amakusa which like Shodo island on day 3 is a less visited place despite not being that far off the beaten track.

I stopped for a early lunch break around 11.00 at the bridge to Kagashima island viewpoint. After arriving I got the impression you are not supposed to ride up here, haha. Oh well a foreign biker - that’s enough to scare anyone away who might have thought to say something.

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I made the first ferry with oodles of time. I lamented perhaps I could have visited one more view point in the area but it had been a very scenic ride along the coast already so I just took the opportunity to relax. I really enjoyed to have some quiet time to soak up the vibe of this pretty little spot. A shed full with bags of local grown vegetables 100yen ($1) a bag, honesty box for payment, hand painted signs, real slow pace, hot but with a slight breeze now and again, felt like my old home area growing up. I could have nodded off to sleep in complete peace in the waiting area.

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By the way I am not sponsored by Alpinestars however you see me in their apparel often as I was given a box of shirts and cap by them some years back so sometimes wear same when riding. I had a awkward fit on a pair of their boots and they picked up my post and sent me this gear as an apology. Needless to say I was super happy a big brand took the time to listen to feedback from a customer because in my experience that is not common. I continue to find their mid range gear fits my budget and is decent quality so I see no reason to pay 3 times as much for other brands which seem more about showing off wealth than anything.

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This was the nicest sailing yet, very calm waterways passing small fishing villages. Warm sunny day. I grabbed a vanilla ice cream from the kiosk and sat out on deck with the breeze feeling about as ease with myself have I have in some time. A young child was doing laps of the deck and slowing as she passed by me looking sideways at me while I pretended not to notice till finally I looked and smiled at her, then she ran off giggling to mum to say the foreigner smiled. Ha-ha, visitors really are a novelty in these parts of Japan.

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I am glad I left myself extra time to look over Asakusa. This region turned out to be beautiful and I felt like I was the only person there, no cars at all on lightly used roads.

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I went off on some narrow roads to a observation point I found in advance using google maps and it was a place few people had visited recently – but look at that view. 

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This area really surprised me. I had not read anything much promoting it. Perhaps there is no special local food there so it remains off the radar for Japanese as most tourism sites/information are focused on the area having a certain food it is known for, like ramen done a certain way or some fruit that grows there. I have to return to explore in more depth.

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Easy time at next ferry office. Guy wanted to talk bikes with me and where I had come from and was going to as did a few other people waiting for the boat. Nice big speedy ship. That is the Kumamoto bear flying in the flag. Another company supporting the rebuild after the huge earthquake last year.

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I was now in Nagasaki prefecture. I made my way to the town of Obama, yes like the ex president, another famous onsen town that has steam pouring out everywhere. I checked into an old hotel then was delighted to find I had an ocean view balcony and fully renovated room that was huge. I made a sticky note some time ago to try see more sunsets in my life if I have a chance and tonight that was presented to me.

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If you want to see how fast time passes then watch the sun as it is setting. Once low in the sky it slips away in a few moments. Just like our own transient existence.   

Warm night, I had Nagasaki style red champon cold noodles at Ringer Hut for dinner, most spicy dish I have ever come across in Japan.

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Give me steam” as Peter Gabriel said.

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Thanks for following my journey through lesser seen places in Japan.

Coming up next – Goto Islands.


(part five now posted here)

4 comments

  1. Another superb post Warren. I was very interested to read about how backwards Japan is, that quite literally astounded me. No credit cards or internet banking simply wow.

    Another great lunch spot, looks like you cant really go wrong.

    Stunning sunset pictures mate keep them coming.

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    1. Thanks Steve, it has all been going wonderful on this ride :)

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  2. Wonderful, Warren. The scenery is stunning, the pictures beautiful. And I like the tidbits of interaction with the locals thrown in. I wasn't aware how much of a monoculture Japan seems to be, and that foreigners might not be welcomed with open armes all the time.

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    1. Yes it is hard to know Sonja. I am sure some of the smiles and friendly banter is genuine, but then I have come to recognise quite a bit of it is also part of the act that Japanese do in every encounter with other people. Someone here told me to be Japanese is like being on stage every moment in public with set actions and lines one must say and do. It is a deeply complex society but if you choose not analyse everything then you can drift along in a peaceful (albeit ignorant) bubble.

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