Day six – Yamaguchi to Fukuoka prefecture.
Having set off for Tsushima in part one I was confronted with typhoon coming to Japan but decided to ride on then park up while it passed by as it was going to track off the coast. I spent yesterday inside from the rain and now was ready to ride on.
It was still raining steady so I slept in, had late breakfast and checked out at 10. (that is latest check out in Japan) I could see on the radar my destination was clear of heavy rain already so set off.
The rain was not heavy or blowing a gale. I used my Halvarssons neck gator to help create a good seal at the neck which I find is a weak point in rain and I gave the visor anti fog and rain off treatments inside and out so my vison would remain crystal then set off.
As earlier this tour in bad conditions the FJR1300 affords a lot of protection from elements, that is the good part of riding a larger tour motorcycle. Besides that comfort the FJR1300 having eaten a few too many pies sits firm on wet roads and with crosswinds. 11 degrees and rain is miserable conditions but I was not uncomfortable today while moving. I stopped often at highway parking areas to stretch as I tend to ride hunched up in the rain but also to drink hot coffee and check for leaks.
Tsushima Motorcycle tour was first published on Motorcycle Paradise
I left the steady rain within two hours into drizzle and then into passing showers by the time I reached the bridge to Kyushu.
That let the wind air dry my gore-text gear and semi dried out I stopped for lunch at a small highway parking area.
By the time I reached Fukuoka I was riding in sun. Glad I stayed on course
I took a walk around Fukuoka. In Japan there is considerable upsell of Hokkaido and the north. You will see it mentioned everywhere that the scenery is best in Hokkaido (It’s ok but mostly flat farm land) The food is said to be the best there (just marketing since it is agriculture region) and Aomori is said to be the home of the most beautiful women in Japan, not sure origins on that. I think the south is by far the best of Japan. Kyushu has the best ramen, the best scenery, endless good motorcycle roads and Fukuoka IMO is easily the home of Japans most beautiful. I’d love to live here, nice weather still warm tonight while Tokyo is cold and Hokkaido is already snowing.
Day seven – Fukuoka to Nagasaki prefectures.
There is a gale warning this morning but the ferry is sailing still. The ferry is mostly carpeted areas and you can lie down and relax. (taken before most people came aboard)
The trip in total took 5 hours, longer than scheduled due to the high seas reducing the speed. It was a rough ride at times. The cost was about $100 for my fare and motorcycle. The fare to South Korea by comparison with all the taxes and Korean insurance needed would have come in at about $900 (Aus) return. The sailing time is actually not much more however the process starts from 3pm on the day of departure and exiting customs mid morning the following day, ie. overnight sailing but the ship must lay anchor somewhere off shore for ages. Sitting on the ferry today typing this up I come to the conclusion that doing that length of time on board is no longer as appealing to me. Plus once landed the real difficulties begin with customs and then with navigation since motorcycles are banned from highways there. This makes urban areas a chore to ride and limits access to the southern island region which is only accessible by highways. No you cannot sneak on as toll booths will stop you.
I will ride South Korea in the future. Some way. There is one rental shop in Seoul with small capacity motorcycles. I’d actually like to join some sort of small tour there as it is a place that lends itself to having a helping hand with the navigation and other challenges. I found a person offering overnight guided tours from Seoul but he is asking a crazy $1000Aus and I doubt will get any takers.
Getting ready to leave as we arrive Tsushima the ferry hold is half empty, most vehicles alighted at Iki island located about half way.
Alighting at Tsushima it is a beautiful sunny afternoon. I set off along some back roads to the middle of the island to the best view point, Mt Eboshi.
I arrive about 4pm and have the place to myself. It is incredible. I stay until the sun dips low, it is such a beautiful peaceful place.
You can pan the 360 photo below. The ultra wide lens pushes the scenery back but it was not like that at all. In real life felt very immersive, those islands were not far off at all the sense of awe felt does not transfer to my images. Maybe I need a drone.
Day eight – Nagasaki prefecture.
Today am exploring Tsushima. I am riding a loop with time to explore any side road I like to see what is there. A ride with no set plan and no need to look at the clock. This is the sort of riding I like best.
I visit a few small coves and then thought maybe revisit Mt Eboshi view point in the morning see how the angle of sun is, but when I get there there are a few big tour buses, I don’t bother to stop the bike.
The ride up the east coast was lovely. I see a sign for a park and by chance turn down to see if there is a view of the area. By luck I have stumbled upon where one of the masts of the Omega navigation system used to be located. This was a series of 7 beacons transmitting a radio signal that allowed ships and planes to work out their location prior to GPS. The mast that once stood here was incredibly high but was decommissioned with the use of GPS and just a few parts have been kept as a display. The park is tended to but I doubt many people have ever visited as somewhat remote.
In rural Japan most prefectures have many parks, historic points of interest, viewpoints and roadside rest areas everywhere with spotless toilets. It is the total opposite to Tokyo which has almost no public space or facilities. It is almost like two separate countries and most visitors never see rural Japan. Actually the few Japanese people I know have never seen this side of their own country either spending their entire lives in concrete jungles.
I reach the top of the island and here I find a memorial to the 1905 naval battle. So many young guys lost their lives just off the shore here in the name of empires that just this short time later no longer exist. History constantly repeats this theme. Men and their quests for power.
The sea is particular pretty up here. I was shocked to see people out enjoying the sun since Japanese avoid their beaches but turned out those people in the photo were all South Korean. Actually all the people in the buses seem to be on small trip here from Busan. There is a high speed ferry that connects making Tsushima just a short ride away.
I stop for some lunch at a supermarket. In Japan there is always ready to eat meals in every supermarket as well you will find a microwave and hot water dispenser for making noodles. This one had an in house bakery so I enjoyed a big slice of pizza and a almond pastry item for just a few dollars.My phone went flat about here so my route tracking for today ended. Need to recharge the phone about 3 times over 8 hours to produce a full day route.
From the top I made my way next down the west coast. The scenery continued to be superb.I stopped at a lesser know view point called “hill where neighbour country see’s it” (why does Japan still not ask any English speakers to check things for them… ) I could see the mountains of Busan across the ocean with my eyes although the camera lacked the resolution to resolve the detail.
Lovely empty roads riding south.
One final South Korea viewpoint at Sasino park which is less than 50km from Busan and here I could clearly see the mainland. Beautiful warm afternoon and I have been fortunate to have such rare clear weather. While the camera struggles with haze and lack of resolution the human eyes with about 10 times the optic power were easily able to see through the haze and zoom in on the shoreline and buildings of South Korea across the water. Well this is literally as far west as I can go.
The leaves were starting to turn here on the west coast but I am still a week early. Never mind look at that gorgeous sky. I decided to go back via Mt Eboshi as I am passing by the turn off. Alas when I arrive more tour buses and it is too crowded. I think they do loop from town around the island and probably visit there mid morning and/or mid afternoon so you need to be there early or late or maybe midday as no food there so busses would likely be somewhere else then. Yesterday the small high speed passenger ferries would not have run in those high seas hence perhaps why I saw no buses.
Day Nine – Nagasaki to Oita prefecture.
The ferry back to mainland leaves at 8.50am. The ticket office opens an hour before and I am already there to make sure I have plenty of time. If you have a car then you need to book as space is limited but riders can just turn up no bookings are accepted and long as there is not some big group of bikes you will always be accepted on ferries in Japan in my experience.
If you take a ferry here then you may need to complete a form for your motorcycle as special baggage. Google translate on your smart phone is your friend for this as it will only be in Japanese. You may also need to present your bike paperwork. If the ferry is multi stop then you will be given a tag to tie on your bike mirror that shows where you are getting off. Bikes board first so you need be there in advance but alight last so take time putting on your gear in the hold. On board you will find vending machines for drinks and cup noodles. I suggest buying something to eat from the 7/11-Lawson type shops before buying your ticket as you will then be directed to the staging area and may not be able to go to a shop.
The sailing back is flat calm seas and I take the time to type up this report. I am writing each day as I ride but posting to the blog will be a bit delayed due to technical reasons.
From Fukuoka I cruised down the expressway to Beppu. Which was stupid haha. I was originally going to visit a small island off the coast of Oita then next day take the ferry to Shikoku but as noted in part one I had since decided to return via Shimane to try catch the autumn leaves so no need to be riding to Beppu. I detoured on the way to ride a great bit of road, route 387 that swoops along beside this river with superb surface and a grand set of bends. The above is called the Machu Picchu of Usa (pronounced oo-sa not U S A) found just off route 387. Kyushu has lots of effigies for many things as I have photographed on my travels there before. Not sure meaning of these guys, maybe safe travel, will try update this later. Thought about trying to see more but ran out of light today with the sun gone by 4.30pm. Lovely afternoon ride.
Day Ten – Oita prefecture
A day off the bike. Enjoyed some nice Spanish red wine last night and slept in. Washed my clothes. Did some work on my next ride planned for Christmas. Looked at airfares for where I might hide during the worst of the Japanese winter and wrote rest of this blog article.Some excellent riding roads were sitting just 20km away from me today but I was starting to be concerned about having enough rubber to make it home so I decided to not ride. I did look for tyre shops but Beppu is not big enough place so ended up just relaxing.
I will wrap up part two here. I tried to make it shorter leaving out many things as I am aware I write more than people have time to read.Tomorrow I make my way north from Kyushu seeking some autumn colour.GPS routes are on ridewithgps.com user warren and for more photos follow me on Instagram motorcycle.paradise. Part one is here.