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Motorcycle Paradise

Islands of Japan Motorcycle Tour - part 6

Nagasaki to Kanagawa

Day 11


Continuing my journey north from Goto islands. Last night I had to decide if I stay another night in Sasebo and sit out the rain or ride on. Accu weather is a terrific tool for riders and my take on things was rain being widespread but passing showers. The rainy season was arriving to Kyushu so I elected to move on. I scrapped my plan for riding to Beppu for an all expressway option so I had time this morning to sleep in and then linger over over a long breakfast since it would take only half a days riding using a direct route. (part five is here)

I made my way north-east using the rain radar to stay in between large areas of rain moving in roughly same direction. I caught up to some of it so on a whim visited the Tachiarai Peace Memorial museum I saw advertised on a regional tourist information board at a highway rest area.

A odd thing in Japan is to navigate with a GPS you input the destinations phone number. Japan does not use the address system we know in the west.  Some roads have names or a route number but this is not used in any part of the Japan address system. It comes from having developed methods to do things long ago that remain in use. Related to this you may find it interesting to know Japan uses it’s own calendar domestically. So this year in Japan is Heisei 29 not 2017. And instead of signing for official items Japanese use a small rubber stamp with their name on it and mark using a red ink pad which I presume goes back to wax and wooden seals and remains in use.   

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Above is a Mitsubishi Zero fighter from WW2. (Mitsubishi ‘type 97’). This is the only example left in the world. It was found in the Marshall islands and with considerable difficulty purchased and returned by one guy then semi restored to stop further corrosion and put on display here. The museum had many interesting items and was quite large but there was no information in other languages for international visitors. It is a common thing in Japan, this idea has yet to catch on.

With the rain stopped I pushed on leaving Kyushu and ran into more rain in Yamaguchi prefecture. I wanted to sit this out and eventually came to a highway service area that wasn’t overfull with the 1000’s of trucks that ply this route.

Bikes always get dedicated covered parking spot. Greatly appreciated on a wet day.   

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Islands of Japan Motorcycle Tour first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise

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A Japanese take on the Thai dish Tom Yum was not bad. However since my visit to Issan earlier this year I discovered the real depth of flavour in Thai food. Everywhere else, including places in Thailand, the food pales in comparison.

Easy ride remainder of day dodging the showers to arrive dry at my hotel in Tokuyama where my original plan was docking here by ferry from Kyushu .I didn’t miss the ferry. I think I have had enough boats already. Plenty of spare time to do some laundry via the onsite coin operated machines. The rain came tumbling down outside but the forecast was clearing tomorrow.

Day 12


Originally today I was going to revisit the fabulous lookout point at Zenitsuboyama that I found on my Japan inland sea tour then cross to Matsuyama by island hop ferry to then cross back over the inland sea again via the Shimanami Kaido bridge that features currently on the landing page of this blog. But I felt like some real riding today and Shimane is a favourite place of mine filled with low traffic roads. I had prepared an alternative route before leaving on this tour in case the weather was poor today for crossing the ocean and this morning loaded that up in the GPS despite mostly fine forecast.

The map shows via some expressway however I detoured when riding to explore the routes that run along the side instead. Route 434 which was terrific except for few km they are yet to make dual lane and then route 186 winds it’s way under the elevated expressway criss crossing it numerous times with excellent surveying providing sweeping curves and interesting views as the huge concrete structures span above. I wanted to take a photo but it was so good I could not stop. One of those roads that make you grin under the visor.

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Quiet rural roads.

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Thatched roofs can still be seen in this region.

Time for a rest and stretch. Check the tourist map of area and my morning coffee hit. 

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I was passing a nice spot I have visited before around lunch time so decided to stop. Very relaxing time out sitting up here today.

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Slow life. Few cars or people.

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Some villages here you can step back in time hundreds of years. The roads now bypass all these places. 

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These guys were in the village gutter. Ok it was larger and deeper drain than normal but still. 

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Not many photos today, but I enjoyed every kilometre. Not a location easy to capture in a image. It’s a feeling I get riding the valleys of Shimane, a peaceful place. 

I was able to enjoy the FJR much more on this tour by managing it’s fuel load better. I am accustomed to bikes having 180-200km range. The FJR with it’s huge tank will do that when on 1/3 fuel. The trip computer gives the estimated range but does not take into account the reserve four litres. So previously I was prone to refueling much earlier missing how the FJR transforms once fuel load reduces. With a bit of thought and luck I managed to ride many of the best parts each day on a lighter steering bike. Today I started with two bars on the gauge and simply rode until I was on reserve then hit the GPS up for the nearest fuel which in Japan is never far away. Average of 4.5 litre to 100km on this tour, it’s impressive from a 1300cc bike.


Day 13


Another change of route today. I always have ridden through Tottori rather than Okayama prefecture. Tottori seems loaded with great roads and excellent scenery but I thought if I don’t try to explore Okayama more then I may be missing out. I tried to route carefully to avoid more busy roads but to be frank the first half of today was more urbanised than I had hoped for.

I stopped on a bridge, see photo below, and looked up at what appeared to be the roof of a temple so I found the narrow path leading up.

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All good journeys have a secret destination that the traveller is unaware of. I just found mine for this tour.

Best lunch spot. Stone table and chairs setting under shade tree. Tranquil view over the countryside. There was even a clean toilet at hand, unlocked of course. This is Japan.

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A couple of nice rural roads but Okayama is not the best riding and I got into some heavy traffic after lunch and the temperature hit 30. I pulled in to get a break from the endless trucks. A soft serve cone (called soft cream in Japan) is a bit pricey, but to hell with it. Very welcome gentle breeze arrived while enjoying a stretch off the bike, in no rush at all, unlike most Japanese who appear to be in a constant rush. Not on the roads like Thailand where everyone is speeding like madmen. Road speed here is low and your greatest risk is being scene like anywhere. No just an observation about daily life, perhaps it is a cultural thing, a need to appear busy to others. Moving about in supermarket aisles like the light cycle scene in Tron.

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The last part of the day as I got closer to Totorri prefecture improved greatly. 

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As can happen in the mountains of Japan minor routes might be two lane for awhile then deteriorate to a narrow road over the top like below then revert to dual lane on the other side.

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I could see the cloud formations then felt the drop in temperature signalling a storm was brewing. I skirted around it for awhile until I caught the tail of it. Wet roads but the rain stayed ahead of me.

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Quite cold from here on as the storm cut the temp in half from 30 to 15 and at one point I was contemplating putting my liner in the jacket. Actually some terrific roads to end the day but I did not stop to take more photos as the light faded quickly.


My gear on this ride:

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Alpinestars Andes Tourer jacket. Perhaps a bit warm at times but a summer jacket would have left me too cold on a number of occasions. Once moving easy enough to get air into sleeves by just opening them over gloves. Top half of jacket clips back to allow air inside. If wearing mesh then cannot easy regulate temperature in mountains. I had my Andes pants with me and wore them yesterday in the rain otherwise I have been riding in my BMW City Pants (version 1) Very versatile pants that regular temperature over wide range and more comfortable than textile or kevlar jean pants.  I got a pair of version 2 of these on sale but the originals are better. Buff. Get one and save your neck from getting toasted in sun or chills down back that lead to a cold. Tatonka bag, 35 litre model. Had this about 15 years, looks like it will last another 15. Has padded straps that unzip to convert into back pack. I use this on all my tours and as my main travel bag flying if not needing winter gear. Febreeze or similar. Great on tour for all your gear. Out of sight are my Held Rain Star gloves, still the best gloves I have ever owned, so comfortable and I can wear them all temperatures. TCX goretex boots, bulky and stiff, still have not fully broken in but probably last me rest of my life. Bone dry in rain, not too hot in summer but that is largely thanks to Alpinestar coolmax boot socks. One of the best gear finds ever (but their ‘summer’ labelled boot socks are crap and best avoided).

Not sure how I ended up all in grey. Not the most visible colour gear but anyway only my helmet is clearly visible to drivers front on due to size of the FJR. That has been the Nolan N44 on this tour. It is very plush inside but a rather noisy helmet. Sitting behind the FJR screen fully raised I am shielded from windblast and have just a nice breeze hence I tend to have the main visor open all the time when it was warm. It’s a comfortable ride on the big bike for sure.

Day 14

Homeward bound. Slabbin’ it as the North Americans say. About 600km on highway today.


A quick look at Fukuchiyama castle. I have stopped visiting Japanese castles as there is nothing in English for international visitors so you wander around with no idea about the history or what the displays are. Maybe after the Olympics Japan might think to do something to grow tourism. Fortunately nature needs no translation and that is what I enjoy to see most.

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Highway rest areas were the attractions today. I kept an eye on the trip timer the FJR provides to make sure I stopped regularly even though it is effortless to cover distance on this bike with the screen up and cruise engaged.

Would dearly loved to have heard these running. 

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Maybe I can get a job helping motorcycle apparel companies with their ‘Engrish’.

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Nagoya style curry ramen for lunch. If you ride here and stop at a highway cafe then you often will need to pay for the meal at a machine choosing the number for the item then handing the ticket to the counter. This saves them having to handle money and is quite simple once you do it once.

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Shame to be going home in weather like this but I was in need of a rest.  

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That’s all for this tour. Thanks to anyone who has been following. Hope you enjoyed to see some of less visited Japan.

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My GPS routes as always are available on ridewithgps.com.

6 comments

  1. Great write-up Warren! I could have happily read more.
    Japan strikes me as being about as "foreign" as you can get. It seems such an insular country that would be hard to "wing" as a big dumb Aussie(I mean me, not you). It is certainly a beautiful place but I get the feeling it would be a hard place to tour as an outsider.
    Thanks again for the write-up.
    Dave

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    1. Hi Dave, thanks.

      Once away from Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto where like all big cities it is crowded, busy and has already lots of tourists not always behaving well you find Japanese go out of their way to help you despite having no English and everything is honest and safe.

      But for sure it is different.

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your write up, Japan sure is a beautiful country. Thanks for sharing.

    It must be difficult touring there as one wouldnt be able to read the road signs, getting lost would be easily done.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Steve, yes navigation needs to be executed well here. Careful planning to avoid the urbanized congestion as well as extended use of street view as old routes here may be wonderful two lane hotmix but at the end of the valley where people live turn into a track over the mountain. Then having a proper GPS with good maps is essential.

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