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Motorcycle Paradise

Tsushima Motorcycle Tour – Part one

Tsushima at it’s furthest point from Japan is less than 50km from South Korea. So this was fitting destination for me to choose for my Autumn motorcycle tour this year as I had originally been planning to ride South Korea.

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The above map shows where Tsushima is located.
History or war buffs might recognise the name as where a famous naval battle took part in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war. It was the first using the then new wireless telegraph technology and histories only decisive battle in modern steel ships.
Here is the actual ship the Japanese admiral sailed in, the Mikasa which is preserved in Yokosuka a town close to where I live.

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Tsushima Motorcycle tour was first published on Motorcycle Paradise


It’s a bit of a long story why I did not make it to Korea. There is a ferry from Shimonseki Japan to Busan South Korea that I was going to put my motorcycle on, this naturally was a bit complicated and took me long time to find out the process. I ran into a snag that my motorcycle road tax was linked to my old address. I left it as that as unlike moving interstate there was no actual requirement to update the address. However because this trip involved exporting my bike from Japan to another country then I needed all my ducks lined up. And this being Japan where the old way of doing things and multiple government layers of bureaucracy are the norm something like changing an address becomes weeks of work and I ran out of time.

Then after switching plans to visit Tsushima the day before I am due to leave a typhoon is on the evening news… I had to cancel everything a second time. On a positive note if I had gotten all my papers for the ferry it not have sailed in a typhoon so I may have ended up stranded. Eventually after a few days waiting for the storm to pass I set off.  I need to take a few different routes to the roads I had planned to get a hotel last minute but I am optimistic this will be a positive.

Day One. Kanagawa to Aichi prefecture
Rather than a long ride all day across the expressway to the west coast I broke it up into two days with a simple first day to Aichi prefecture looking for the colours of autumn.
But before this I had to see if the bike starts after sitting the last few months (I have no trickle charger since access to the FJR1300 battery is mind bogglingly complicated and takes hours) Engine fires straight up instantly, bit of a rough idle then runs fine. Top marks to the engineers at Yamaha, the battery is already 3 years old cranking a big engine on a 13 degree morning. But then those same guys thought it would be a good idea to require disassembly of dash and fairing to get to the battery... hmm.

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Although starting to disappear it is full service at many gas stations here still. These roof hanging pumps are common in city areas. Paint still looks shiny despite just getting washed twice a year and living under a plastic cover, good quality that too.
Weather is that low clouds and grey skies that affects Japan quite often. The highway parking areas in Japan are great, besides all the services you can find gems like a Kushitani riders stall.

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Hot ramen is perfect for lunch on a cold day. I tried what I think is local Hamamatsu version but to be honest I have had much better.
I ride some nice roads to Gifu area but the leaves have not changed colour much here. I am about a week early it seems.

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The sun appeared briefly for 30 minutes then it clouded over again.
Never mind the roads were great fun, as are all the roads I ride in Japan, I just don’t photograph them like I once might have done.

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I have a new feature for this trip. A ride flyover of my route. This is my first attempt, they might get better as I progress… not sure yet.




Day two. Aichi to Kyoto prefecture
Woke up to rain and 11 degrees despite the forecast being optimistic yesterday. I see an alert that there is another typhoon coming. Number 22 for this year. Japan has some amazing riding - but it rains so much.
I set off nearly 10.00am and take the expressway abandoning my route. I ride out of rain within a coupe of hours to just occasional passing light shower and pick up my route at Lake Biwa to the Obubiwako parkway but upon arrival road is closed.

Glad to be riding the FJR1300 today. Cold and damp. These conditions on a naked/Adv bike would be less enjoyable. I rode Ireland in their ‘summer’ of 11 degrees and rain same as today on a Versys 650 and in same Alpinestars outfit and I was miserable. Riding the armchair today with its decent fairing and electric screen raised I was shielded from much of the rain and wind. I never felt cold at any point with exception of my hands slightly. Once out of the rain I turned the heated grips on and was ok. I don’t use them in rain as goretex will only work if it is warmer inside than out.

I visit an avenue of trees I saw featured on the net for turning orange in autumn but they are still green. I have a new gadget this trip. A Ricoh Theta I picked up 2nd hand from Amazon. I got the idea to try one of these in the Himalaya’s thinking how else could I have captured the landscapes there. Not sure yet if this device is a keeper or not. (update well I scratched one of the lenses (too easy done) so no able to be sold now anyway but is still useable for my purpose)



With time to spare I stop for a coffee and try do the math's on retreating from the typhoon back north. The ferry to Tsushima will not sail in a typhoon and I don’t want to be on the road in one.
If I go back home I am not sure I will venture out again. The bike may then need new tyres as I calculate just enough rubber remains on them for this trip as it is. 
I ride over to the Angel scenic road that I have posted previously. Alas the gate there is is also locked. Closed for the season I guess. The clouds grow dark and the temperature drops to 9 so I make tracks to my hotel.

Feeling a bit down so I decided to open my wine I had packed for Tsushima tonight and the location is a good one for doing that – a Japanese ‘love hotel’.

Basically I was unable to find anything else last minute after I cancelled my previous hotel so grabbed a room in a love hotel. But turns out to be fabulous value for about $40. It is huge size room for Japan with spa bath and big bed.
Take a look. Another image from the Ricoh Theta.



After some fine red wine from Chile tonight to bolster my confidence I boldly say to hell with you typhoon no.22 and decide to ride on tomorrow and maybe spend a day holed up somewhere when it arrives. This has some risky aspects but I don’t want to give up on this ride.
Here is todays route video.



Day 3. Kyoto to Shimane prefecture
Breakfast delivered to my door, I’ll have to consider these love hotels more often, undercover parking so the bike is dry in morning. Guess if you are prudish type this sort of place won’t appeal but I have no qualms whatsoever about staying here. Private curtains for parking, I did not need them haha just glad to have undercover parking.

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The sun was shining so I filled up the tank and rode on. I did not get around to making a firm plan for the typhoon coming, enjoying the wine too much, but I’m sure something will come to me.
Some pleasant country roads to begin.

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Then some of my favourites in Tottori. Route 29.

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I stopped for a nature break when slowing for a rail crossing then by chance got to enjoy something lovely.
A small rural train station, the photos inside the wooden waiting room were from a old movie made there. This station is the next one along the line from the Hayabusa station which I have posted about previously on my rides south. (pan up in the 360 image below to see the old photos near ceiling)



Just as I walked outside to the platform I was in time to see a single carriage train arrive decked out in Hayabusa livery. Suzuki obviously picked up on the popularity of the station with same name as their famous sports bike and sponsor the train.

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For some reason this small experience lifted my spirits considerably. I decided two things while sitting on the platform. First of all I will change my hotel for Friday into two nights and try sit out the rain Saturday and stay as late as I can check out Sunday then ride direct to my hotel in Fukuoka. Even if raining heavy it will then just be expressway riding and I have managed that many times here in soaking rain already. Monday is being forecast fine so the ferry to Tsushima will be running. The other thing which eluded me before this moment is I need not stay on my original route to return via Shikoku. I could come back through Shimane and here in Tottori region which are two of my favourite prefectures in Japan and by then should have more trees in colour.

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Some excellent riding this afternoon through scenic valleys with small villages by passed and forgotten.
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I took a random side trip seeing some sign about a highlands, turned out to be ski park but along the way was this hot spring foot bath just on side of road in middle of nowhere. Only in Japan.
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Then expressway to west coast. The expressways are elevated giving a terrific view of the country side but with no place to stop. I did anyway for a quick photo

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I arrive as the sun dips low. Izumo is another rust belt town. Japan is corroding away, in more ways than one.
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Todays route.
People who have never been to Japan continue to tell me how it is so expensive. That was back when Miami Vice was on tv, 30 years ago. Not that anyone believes me. Espresso coffees now at all the convenience stores about $1.50 , 1/3rd Australian prices and as I have posted before family restaurants offer many meals from around $6. 

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Day 4. Shimane to Yamaguchi prefecture
Some easy riding through the countryside of Shimane prefecture this morning. Something about this region makes me always enjoy visiting here.

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Sorry but I was enjoying things so much I did not stop to take many photos, fantastic low traffic country roads like below.

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Almost skipped my morning coffee hit.

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I took the expressway next to cross the central ranges that lie between Masuda and Hiroshima. Well more precisely I went under them in a series of very long tunnels. Spent more time in tunnels than in open air. No joke. 
Stopped for a rest in the middle of all that and enjoyed to see first real sign of autumn with two gingko trees however this was high up and as I descended to route 186 known for it’s autumn colour I again had arrived a little early. But still a great ride.

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I brought forward some of tomorrows ride plan to visit a few lookout points as the weather was fine today but forecast cloudy the next day turning to rain.
This is a view of some of the inland sea I visited before. Haze is higher than I can filter out in software from the farmers burning off after rice harvest. The rice farmers of Japan have considerable political power so despite it being illegal to burn off they all ignore and nobody does anything.
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Next I rode on to Yashiro island, or that is what google calls it but it may be Suo-Oshima. Shima in Japan means island as does Jima, two English attempts at the Chinese Kanji for island. So when you see google saying Nakajima Island that is saying Naka island island. Anyway this is a place I also visited before on my island hopping Spring Inland Sea tour and it has a number of viewpoints on the top of the mountainous interior.

The road up to the first one was just an overgrown track, but fortunately it had been sealed originally so was still manageable on the FJR. I didn’t see any Honda Africa Twins here Winking smile
 

And as often is the case they have built this terrific viewing platform in the middle of nowhere and an afternoon breeze was clearing the air.

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I decided to spend the rest of my spare time today sitting up here soaking it up as I had the place all to myself. Very peaceful. I could see the next viewpoint I was aiming for up higher inland but it was going to mean rushing here and there so I will leave it for another time.
Todays route.



Day 5. Yamaguchi prefecture
Just holed up today in hotel as it rains outside. I slept in then wrote this report. Did my washing, worked on new routes back through Shimane and Tottori. Cancelled and booked new hotels. If you are travelling here the Priceline group who run Agoda and Booking.com only have limited listings compared to the local booking sites. I find Rakuten travel to often be useful when I ride here and are easy to cancel up to day before unlike the others. 1 days notice for cancellation no fee is standard here.
If you visit Japan then try some of the ramen you make yourself. I was going to say instant but these are far from that, you need to follow a few steps with them, but the results can be amazing, nothing like instant noodles in the west.

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I shall end part one here. Tomorrow I brave the elements to get to Fukuoka then I hope on to Tsushima!
My GPS routes are on ridewithgps.com user Warren.
More photos on Instagram motorcycle.paradise


Part two now posted here.

9 comments

  1. Wow, you threw a few new tricks in there. I like the route following video and the others you posted as well.

    When the sun shines you really do have stunning views. I can see why you love to ride there (typhoons aside)

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    1. Hi Brandy, I am trying to modernise while still resisting changing to video blogging :)

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  2. Excellent post Warren. Are you working for the Japan tourism board because you sure are doing a fantastic job promoting Japan.

    I liked the 360 deg views, where is you bike in the first one?
    Nice videos too, wouldn't want to drop the FJR on that narrow little road, it'd be a hell of a job picking it up again and probably nobody on that road for days if you needed assistance.

    Love hotel eh, I guess it's lonely riding Japan on your own!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Steve, I wish I had a job with them haha.

      My bike is just down the road a bit in the first 360 photo. You should be able to zoom and see it but the Ricoh hosted image won't embed in Google sites as of writing so testing a few 3rd party image hosting sites that have limited functions.

      That road got worse actually I am filming the better part since I am riding one handed holding the camera.

      I do sometimes wish to be riding with someone but then it is like a big adventure by oneself even if I miss out on things I cannot read on the way :)

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  3. Great write up and pictures Warren! You certainly make riding in Japan look easy and attractive. Have you picked up much of the lingo in your time there or can any banana-bender get by?
    Those photos with the Ricoh are amazing. Is it simple to operate?
    Anyway, I am looking forward to the next installment!
    Cheers
    Dave

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dave,

      I have struggled to learn the language and reached a point where I have given up. If I stay I will have to stop all this riding and focus on that but for now I stumble along with a few words. Sometimes I regret when someone wants to talk to me but those times are rare and most Japanese go to great lengths to avoid interaction with foreigners.

      The Ricoh is very easy. One button operation but it works best on a small tripod via smartphone.

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    2. I should clarify my statement above, Japanese people are not unfriendly, rather it is a matter of awkwardness, for want of a better description, that means it is easier to avoid interaction with foreigners.

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  4. Looks great mate. another excellent trip report

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    Replies
    1. Thanks mate the weather came good and Tsushima was amazing.

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