I recently went to Okinawa. Japan consists of 47 prefectures or states and this is the only one I had not seen. At nearly 3 hours flying south it is only a little bit less than to the Philippines and quite different to the rest of Japan.

IMG_4087

Okinawa first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise March 2017

Okinawa has a tropical climate not dissimilar to my home town region so I was looking forward to warm weather even in winter. However in the run up to this trip the weather forecast was for rain and temperatures that were half normal for this time of year. In other words lousy for motorcycling.

I had mapped out a ride long ago, north along the coast to the cape. I ended up exploring a good portion of the island but achieved this by four wheels due to weather.  I am going to pass on some information for riding there and just put a few other thoughts into this post.

I had been going to rent a motorcycle in Okinawa from Rental Bike Apro who have a range of small bikes, I was interested in their Yamaha XJR400 or a Honda CB400 Super four. A 400cc would be ample I thought given Okinawa island is small but there but bigger bikes also available if you need room or want to ride two up. They have rider gear and pickup from hotel and airport transfer services but it is not far from the monorail either.

Well as mentioned the weather forecast was lousy and indeed upon arrival it was cold rain blowing across the streets and felt little different to where I had just come from. Across the road from the bike rental shop is Nissan car rental so I gave up on riding.

Navigating Okinawa is so easy, everything is well signposted and in dual language. You could ride without a GPS it is that straight forward, but as always a GPS will make it so much easier and let you focus on the scenery more. There is just a small section of expressway north which whisks you out of the city and past the giant US air force base that I never saw anything of. The historic sites are all ruins, fortifications only and I would advise not to spend much time on them.

I visited one of the ‘castles’ but nothing more than a few stones so leave that for mainland Japan. The modern architecture however is very interesting. Most of the houses seem to have been built at the same time in the same style, namely mid century flat roof which reminds me of the modernist style I was once very interested in however in Okinawa they are all two level raised to capture the breeze in the hot summers. If you enjoy that era I think you will be delighted to be surrounded in early 60’s style buildings. There is also plenty of space compared to Japan with wider roads and large house blocks and all this of course relates to Okinawa being an overseas territory of the USA after World War 2 up to 1972.

7916_thumbnail-1024

While driving I had time to reflect on my current motorcycle and pondering if I should change it soon. It is due for a new safety certificate which is an expensive item here costing about $500 for another two years (initial one lasts 3 years from new). It also needs new tyres, about $350 for a set of Bridgestone BT-023 GT radials if I order them online then another $60-70 to have them fitted by my local shop. Oddly if I buy them from the shop they cost about $200 more and still have same fitting cost.

Servicing this bike is really just change of oil for this year. Very low maintenance motorcycle. I can do the oil change myself for about $40 using generic brand oil and filter Vs genuine Yamaha branded oil and filter and shop labour costing much more. The yearly road tax and insurance is also due, they total about $350.

Timing wise now would be good to trade in I guess however second hand vehicles here do not retain much value. So unlike Australia where a FJR1300 retails for $25,000 and three years old would still be worth reasonable money here it was about $13,000 new and three years old with some scratch marks trade in would be maybe 1/3rd.

I am attracted mostly to naked bikes, and older or retro styling. If I was back in warm Australia doing day rides I would strongly consider a Yamaha XSR900. It is the MT-09 I enjoyed so much in New Zealand in a neo retro style.

img_7692

I previously owned the very retro Honda CB1100 in Australia  however having rented one here previously there is zero protection from the wind and they are not a good long distance motorcycle nor are any of the naked bikes.

Honda CB 1100 EX Special Edition 2016 (Japan) 05

If I was going for a retro motorcycle now I would have to consider the Kawasaki ZRX1200. It’s looks are 80’s with the square headlight and turbine smooth lazy power from another air/oil cooled inline 4 I like best.  Here is a 1200 and the earlier 1100 version I saw on the Sunday at Cape Hedo in Okinawa when the sun made an appearance. The small screen would make would of difference for touring.

IMG_4114

The road up to the cape is ‘the’ motorcycle road and it reminded me at times of the southern coast of Sicily as the water was often a beautiful aqua blue shade.

IMG_4108

You can visit the connecting islands on beautiful bridges.

IMG_4098

And explore the many small coves and beaches on the islands.

IMG_4105

And further riding from the Cape on the east is also accessible.

IMG_4120

The southern coast has less good riding roads but would be scenic on a fine day. There is however a very interesting park and museum about the battle of Okinawa from World War two.

IMG_4140

A weekend might seem like not much but it is not a large area to cover and two days you could easy ride the whole island. The capital city Naha is small compared to Tokyo so the traffic is modest.

Renting a motorcycle anywhere seems to cost as much as two or three times that of a car and Okinawa is not much different however the 400cc bikes and smaller would be enough and are a little more affordable.

I went to the famous aquarium while there and whilst it is huge the crowds were even bigger. Thousands and thousands of people. Literally. And this was the off season. Bit difficult to enjoy to be honest.

IMG_4094

(Snip) I edited out a lot of boring text here.

I may end up on the FJR1300 another year. The FJR1300 is too heavy however it rewards a easier pace and I want to take everything in when riding here. I cannot easy do day rides unfortunately so if only riding long tours each year then doing that on a tourer probably makes some sense.

11 Comments

  1. As someone that is considering a FJR to replace my VFR I appreciate your thoughts on this subject!

  2. I am glad you still got out and explored even thought he weather didn't cooperate with bike rental.

    That NC750x in blue sure is pretty. We get the NC700x in black only and the 750x isn't even available in the USA. We are limited on some of the smaller cc bikes. The KTM 690 Duke would be a good size although no real wind protection for you for touring and like you said more expensive. Sounds like the money you spend renewing the things for the FJR would be cheaper than getting something different, but would tide you over until something you really wanted comes along.

    • Thanks Brandy. Oh that is surprising Honda sells a different version there. The 700 in black sounds like the previous model, the new 750X has colour screen and very hi-vis LED lighting.

    • Versys 650 perfect for you Warren.

    • Hi Doc. Yes I toured Ireland on a Versys 650 and liked it in many ways. Similarly I liked the MT-09 Tracer I rode in New Zealand and the NC700 series also. However having ridden all three in cold weather none offer much protection which is what keeps me on the FJR here.

      I could drop a few thousand on some fancy gear from Rukka to go part of the way of dealing with the elements. I also am doing the maths on selling and simply renting here if I am not doing any day rides then it doesn't add up to actually buy another motorcycle.

  3. Sounds like a nice place to visit when its not raining.
    Reading your comments regarding the various bikes it sounds like you're a bit lost as to what to get. Motorcycles are a compromise, always have been always will be. I want a bike that can tour like the Tracer, can handle like the R1 and has the bottom end of the MT10. Yes there is no such machine. You have to pick the closest one to what your heart desires. If only I had the money I would buy one of each.

  4. Hello Warren,

    May I fist please complement yourself on the marvellous information – both written and visual through your photographs and images – you kindly provide? The information you have made available is superb.

    Your trip to Haikkado has stirred me into action and, due to jealousy, I would like to plan something similar.

    Prior riding in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam is fun although a couple of weeks circling Korea upon a Busa proved exhilarating.

    Now I need to work out how to arrange a similar process in Japan for the forthcoming summer!

    The excitement with planning commences.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • Hi Mike, thanks, I am pleased you found something interesting here. Japan is a wonderful motorcycle touring destination, not just Hokkaido but the whole country offers amazing roads and scenery! Hope you can come ride here.

  5. No doubt, this is a Motorcycle Paradise. I hope I will visit the place soon.

Leave a Reply to Doc Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *