Boy- it’s been a very long few weeks since Hokkaido– We are currently in Takayama, more than 50% through Honshu (the Japanese main island)-
We’ve ridden 1200km or so in Honshu in 2 weeks without any day off~~ On average, we ascend/ descend 1500-1800m/ day. The most has been 2400m or so– that is like 2.5x Mount Diablo!
North Japan is not what I would ever expect Japan to be– the Northern section is definitely a representation of Japan’s aging population and more rural- farm towns. Last time we visited Japan in February of this year, we only visited the urban centers and touristy spots (Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto)– crazy large metropolitan with amazing array of food choices, weirdly dressed youngsters everywhere, barely any family or old people. The Japan that we have been experiencing has been way different- majority of the people we see have been really old (65+), old farmers harvesting their large plots of land, mostly rice. In Tohoku (Northern section), it was so hard to find restaurants! We have seen more barber shops offering perms than actual restaurants. There were barely any kids (0-16 years old), and barely any young people or young family!
It was/is also harvest season- it’s been nice noting the different progression in harvesting as we rode South- from the yellow ripe rice stalks blowing in the wind, to the machines that separates the grain from the stalk, collecting the stalks and drying them into hay stacks and balling/ wrapping them in plastic.
The autumn colors are also in full blast here- we are so amazed by the variety of autumn colors and the different trees– it has been an endless two weeks full of magical autumn views. It also seems that most Japanese choose to holiday in the autumns, rather than summers. We have been having huge difficulties with finding hotels in the weekends. There was also noticeable increase in traffic and people at the rest stops, especially as we got further South, closer to Tokyo.
A huge part of our biking tour has been the Onsen- public bath house– Brady has been hunting for these everywhere we go– they range from a huge place with pools with different temperatures, to a place with just a pool with 5 showers. Usually, they’re full with older people (again, 65+– not surprising since 25% of Japan’s population is of that age). It’s been a pleasant experience, soaking in really hot water after long riding days, especially after we get rained on.
Riding hasn’t been easy and we have been pounding through the miles indiscriminately– either it’s suburbia town where we were essentially forced to ride on the crappy sidewalk, or hilly places with no shoulders and incriminating buses. Either way– we are always happy when we encounter a place to stop for lunch- usually soba, udon or ramen. The visits to the supermarkets have always been amazing too– they have varieties of really good meat.
I have been filling my time with learning Hiragana and reading every signs obsessively. Too bad that Hiragana is only one of three/ four alphabets that the Japanese use….
We have been camping a lot more in order to feel like we can afford Japan– the hotels are so expensive! The campsites have been wonderful and cheaper (ranging from $5-$25). Japanese have a pretty cool camping culture- they have so many portable and compact gadgets. We need to visit an outdoor store before we leave this place.
Here’s where we’ve been in the past two weeks:Disclaimer: Norikura Pass Road not shown correctly here- the road is not open for cars, so ridewithgps would not allow me to map it.
Without further ado– enjoy the pictures. The days feel like they merge together. We are so excited for this rest day.
There have been so many tunnels– we have probably passed through 50-70 tunnels so far- some of them are more terrifying than others. The longest one was 4km. We pedaled for 15 minutes in the tunnel, praying to not get hit by a truck~ Brady bought new (better and brighter!) front and back lights!
Then the stalks are dried before being rolled into balls (for animal feeds)– We have seen the harvesting process for the past 2 weeks– it’s been really fascinating. Not pictured: burning of the cut stalks to replenish the nutrients– not so good for bikers.
We have been staying at Ryokans (Japanese style accommodation) when we’re not camping.
Now, random pictures:
Apologies for the fragmented entry and narration- It’s so hard to puzzle together the events from the past two weeks (it feels like a lifetime!)– I should do these more frequently so they’re more comprehensible.
Next entry– going up the Norikura pass– the highest road in Japan!