Welcome to Shimane, 47th Most famous Prefecture

Yunotsu – Yonago

82 miles


The temperature was dropping now, little by little, on a nightly basis, yet at 12°C it was still more than comfortable. Rising at 05:30am, I was packed up and ready to go by 05:45am, I had this tour cycling lark down to a T now… The other cyclist was still dreaming of bike pump porn as I began to peddle away from the tourist information centre. And, barely had my day’s cycling begun, before I was halted by the kind old lady from the previous night. ‘Ohayou gozaimasu,’ she said, smiling generously. ‘Ohayou gozaimasu,’ I replied, in turn. ‘Asagohan?’ she said, before pointing over to a little building which I presumed to be her home. Breakfast? I’d already refused her futon, so couldn’t possibly refuse her food and so kindly accepted her offer. I walked into an open plan room with tatami flooring, cluttered with hundreds of piles of newspapers. Behind one pile, a greying man appeared with a pair of spectacles perched precariously on the tip of his nose. The man squinted a little and looked a little confused by what he was seeing, before then looking towards his wife with caution. I quickly intervened and got to talking about the weather, this broke the silence and upon hearing me speak some Japanese, the man smiled broadly. I then went on to tell them both about my journey, after which I was truly accepted and invited to the breakfast table. For breakfast, I was served up a mean feast of marmalade on toast and a host of locally picked fruits and uber strong filter coffee – I ate until I was fit to burst. The couple told me that they ran a local newspaper printing business… hence the piles of papers. I was charmed by their kindness, so much so that we exchanged business cards, before shaking hands and getting on with our respective lives.


I traversed easterly toward Matsue, the capital of Shimane Prefecture. Farmers continued to harvest their golden rice crop as eagles soared high, in eager anticipation of exposed prey.


The temperature would raise steadily through the day, making it nearly uncomfortable again. The last remnants of summer stubbornly refused to let go. Along the coast, the beaches were immaculate, yet empty. The roads towards the prefectural capital were also quiet.

IMG_9612 IMG_9606

Just west of the city, sits Lake Shinji, Japan’s seventh largest. Still this didn’t appear to be drawing the crowds and neither did Matsue Castle – the country’s second largest. But this is nothing new, as the prefecture of Shimane has long been hailed as the country’s least visited prefecture. No one goes to Shimane, a place by no means horrible, but at the same time by no means particularly awe-inspiring. The prefecture’s mascot is also the most miserable mascot of them all! Sprinkled across the prefecture, you might find various posters and souvenirs featuring the scowling Yoshida-Kun – with his oddly reddish tuft of hair. He’s a stroppy teenager with nothing to prove and with no intentions of making friends with the general public, anytime soon. He is a far flung character from the lovable, if not quite sickly, Kumamon mascot of Kumamoto.


One poster of Yoshida-Kun with his arms crossed and a face full of hate, reads “Welcome to Shimane, the 47th most famous prefecture.” Not a bad claim, if it wasn’t for the fact that Japan only has 47 prefectures. I liked the cut of his jib though, and found his irony appealing. However, irony was thin on the ground in Japan – and judging by the low numbers of tourists moseying through the streets of Matsue, no one here cared for it too much either.

I would settle some 20 miles to the east of Matsue, just across the prefectural border in Yonago. The city – of an evening – had a much more appeasing vibe to it than Matsue, as I cycled its streets in search of a place to camp. A group of youths formed outside a public hall and sang along with a guy sporting a mullet; he was banging out the tunes on his semi-acoustic guitar. Many gathered around to clap and jiggle. A number of aged shopping arcades were placed around the backstreets, and quirky cafes provided the late evening revellers with their caffeine fixes.

I found what looked like some sort of castle ruin with walls that rose up 10ft high, forming a protective cove that shielded me from a busy main road. Fifteen minutes down the line and I would be playing the part of a happy camper.


Dates: 20/09/2014 – 21/09/2014

Total miles traversed: 5,792 miles

Total time in the saddle: 582 hours and 41 minutes


For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Cycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Japan Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stinkymon Goes to Onsen Town

As nightfall approached, any preconceptions about being stuck in the mountains after dark, were countered by finding the remote, backwater onsen town of Yunotsu. Up until the 17th Century, Yunotsu was used as a port to transfer silver, harvested from one of the country’s biggest mines, the Iwami Ginzan. The tradies used the town as a place to rest up and recoup as they went about their working lives. Today, mining has long since ceased in the area, yet the town’s quaint streets are a testament to time; remaining somewhat untouched by the onslaught of the 21st Century. There you’ll find a number of old-fashioned ryokans and bathhouses.


I brought my bike to a halt outside one such bathhouse; a building dating back to the Meiji-era, known as Yakushiyu. I could hear the splashing of water inside, which made me exceedingly happy; my body really needed this. It had been a long few days in the saddle with nothing but wet wipes for comfort; my body odour becoming so intense that I would have no doubt been able to scare a corpse back to life. A middle-aged Japanese lady came rushing out to greet me, as I went about securing my bike. She probably regretted coming over to me, upon catching a whiff of my putridness. She smiled though, before giving me her business card and, in excellent English, invited me into her bathhouse. The onsen was a small yet cosy affair. As I submerged myself in its scolding hot, mineral rich waters, not only was I cleansed of the filth of everyday life on the road, but I was also pretty certain that the hot spring had eradicated some past sins too. After bathing for 3 minutes and 24 seconds, I rested on the building’s third floor, where I helped myself to tea, before nearly falling asleep in an overly comfortable arm chair. Feeling drained, I begrudgingly scooped myself up and ventured back out on to the far from mean streets of Yunotsu, to look for somewhere secretive to camp my clean white ass. As I was cycling along the chillingly quiet streets, an elderly lady emerged from the shadows on her squeaky mamachari. She stopped to talk to me, as we drew closer to one another, then she asked me where I was headed. I said some place close to the nearby lake – to camp. Instinctively, she offered me a bed at her home, but I felt it would be too much to invade her home at such short notice; also my head was completely dead… so, to converse in Japanese at such a late hour would have probably killed me. I confirmed that I’d be all right, as I had my camping gear with me. She then pointed in the direction of a tourist information centre – which was now closed for the night – but it had toilets and a small yard. These facilities were right next to the lake’s harbour, where I’d be able to camp for the night. I thanked her kindly for her information as she cycled off into the darkness; the eerie creaking sound of her aged bicycle slowly dissipating into the night.


Upon finding the tourist information centre, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Another tour bike was propped up against the outhouse. Poking my nose inside the toilet area, I saw a man lying down, snoring away to himself contentedly. I tiptoed around him and brushed my teeth, did a couple of secret farts and then went back outside to set up camp for the night.


For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan


Posted in Adventure Travel, Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Monkey Rock of Yamaguchi

Hagi – Yunotsu

92 miles


I don’t know what to do about my stupidity sometimes; it is hard to shake off. Heading north out of Hagi along the cracked asphalt road – that was sufficiently spurned by vegetation – spiders floated weightlessly on the breeze, annoyingly entwining themselves across my face and handlebars.


As I tackled a repetitive procession of hills and tunnels, I switched off somewhat, my mind so numb that I couldn’t even be bothered to think of the voluptuousness of breasts. Whilst slowly scaling a coastal mountain road, I passed an extremely odd looking rock. Odd not by the fact that it was grey, like many a rock that I’d seen in my life, but because it was hairy. It was a hairy, grey rock – something which I’d never seen before. Without hesitation, I felt I had no choice but to reach out and touch it, as I cycled past. It was at this point that something completely unexpected happened, the rock suddenly darted directly up the cliff face, before turning around to reveal the angry red face of a Japanese macaque. I’d just figuratively groped a monkey on the side of the road and he wasn’t happy about it in the slightest. The monkey then went into a tirade of verbal monkey abuse, aimed directly at my person, which I found to be very offensive. Not only had he deceived me, but he also called me rude words with his sharp monkey tongue. I offered my sincerest apologies, but he was having none of it; he was disgusted with my sickening human behaviour. Feeling I had little to offer the angry little fellow, I pressed on through another lonely tunnel, deeply embarrassed by my sheer idiocy and slightly fearful of what the monkey police might make of it all.

Something told me that I wouldn’t be welcome back in Yamaguchi anytime soon.


Dates: 19/09/2014 – 20/09/2014

Total miles traversed: 5,710 miles

Total time in the saddle: 574 hours and 19 minutes



For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Cycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Travel, Travel Writing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Japanese Underworld

Shimonseki – Hagi

67 miles


I’d spent the night on a promenade overlooking the Kanmon Strait. Over a convenience store breakfast, I watched a selection of ships sail its busy waters. It is a strait that has seen hundreds of vessels ply its waters on a daily basis, for many hundreds of years. From the surrounding ocean, many a fisherman will return with their prized catches, namely Fugu, a.k.a. the pufferfish. Shimonoseki is considered the “Fugu Capital” of Japan, where specially licensed chefs will precariously prepare the fish, so that they are palatable for human consumption. If prepared incorrectly, the fish contains enough neurotoxins to paralyse every muscle in the human body… which in turn can lead to death. Knowing this, and knowing that I still had over 1500 miles to cover, I decided that for breakfast I’d stick to a 7-Eleven ham and cheese toasty.



A cold front reaching out off of the strait saw me don my fleece for the first time in months; a coldness that would trail north with me up into the highlands of the rather majestic Akiyoshidai Plateau. This is a 50-square-mile area that some 300 million years ago was actually a coral reef, yet through time geological processes have shaped the limestone karst topography into an ocean of weather beaten rocks that dot a landscape of abundantly rolling green hills – making it look like a giant monolithic creature, bathing in an ocean of grass. Underneath these hills run a network of some 400 or so limestone caverns, the biggest of which – the Akiyoshidō Cave – can be explored on foot. The cave is said to span some 5 miles and it is one of the longest in Asia. Walking down a flight of steps, 100 metres into the earth – amongst a permanently cool 16℃ – a dark and mysterious world unfolds. A world of stalagmites and stalactites, with waterfalls that run a dazzling cobalt blue and iridescent limestone pools that sit stacked up like rice paddies of the underworld. A world just as beautiful and imaginative underground as it is above; yet here inside the earth, Nature’s artistry seemed at its most drug fuelled and zaniest.


IMG_9481i IMG_9521i


Emerging back into the daylight, I descended from the scenic plateau into the freshly harvested paddy fields of northern Yamaguchi. By late afternoon, I reached the coast and the old samurai town of Hagi. A town that has been relatively untouched since the beginnings of the 17th Century Edo Period. Here a number of old residential and merchant properties still stand amongst the town’s narrow streets. I explored them before dusk set in, then found a small copse close to Kikugahama Beach, where I set up camp.



I sat on the beach and watched the sun go down. I was beginning to lose light earlier in the day now, and more than the mileage represented upon my odometer, the seasons had dictated the length of time that I had been on the road. From the bleak and freezing sleepless nights of winter, through to the wet and dreary sleepless nights of the rainy season – and then on into the hot and sweaty sleepless nights of summer. I had seasonally gone full circle as the climes finally became agreeable for my cycling trip around Japan.





For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Japan Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Kyushu

Fukuoka –  Shimonoseki

75 miles


Leaving central Fukuoka,  was slow and tedious. Traffic lights, busy three lane highways, clustered and bumpy sidewalks and of course a cutthroat contingent of guileless mamachari. The weather was overcast, yet extremely humid, the vast throngs of heavy traffic and exhaust fumes only adding fuel to the surrounding stickiness. Eventually, when the traffic finally thinned out, and I’d left the last of the high-rise apartment blocks behind me, I secured myself a scenic route through a procession of lonely hills and rice paddies. This would lead me on to the scruffy industrial sprawl of Kitakyūshū. Kitakyūshū is the northern most city of Kyūshū with over a million inhabitants and it serves as one of the largest industrial hubs in the country. It is also a gateway to the neighbouring island, Honshū. Cycling along the north of the Dokai Bay, I saw nothing but dull looking factories and an expanse of power plants.


In the 1960’s, the bay was referred to as the ‘Sea of Death,’ due in part to the amount of wastewater and pollutants that were being evacuated into the bay on a daily basis. Yet amid protests that started with housewives complaining that they couldn’t dry their laundry on washing lines – because when they took it in, it was black with soot… the city council began to feel the pressure. Over the years the city’s industrial sector would learn to grind out the country’s needs in a more environmentally friendly manner. Of course, that doesn’t stop the place looking like a complete shit hole… But then, industrial zones are not meant to be pretty, their job is to produce product and by any means produce it well. And, considering the amount of trucks whizzing past me every 5 seconds, that was exactly what Kitakyūshū must have been doing.


I hit a stumbling block upon reaching the suburb of Wakamatsu, where I found a bridge and a tunnel that could lead me across the bay and further into central Kitakyūshū. Unfortunately, both bridge and tunnel happened to be toll roads, and as the traffic steadily flowed I would be greeted by a no cycling sign. I was though feeling somewhat crafty. Halting near the bridge entrance, I took a sneaky look around.   Go on Dan, you know you want to, it’s probably only about 400 metres across, it’ll be fine, nobody will probably even notice…probably, and if they do just play the dumb foreigner card… My eyes narrowed as I set about pedalling, and the very moment that I did, I heard a whistle blow. Shit! Through some mesh fencing, a uniformed man appeared from a little bunker with a cigarette in his mouth, he wagged his finger at me like an angry headmaster. Double shit! I smiled cheekily and swiftly did a 180° turn, darting off in the opposite direction blushing slightly. I was too embarrassed to look back over my shoulder because I’d been a naughty boy. For some five miles or so I backtracked around the bay, until I found a bicycle friendly bridge. But here my frustrations would mount as I hit the rush hour traffic and a number of other no cycling signs that forced me to find alternate routes. Lacking any maps or notes in which to aid me through this urban nightmare, I would try my best to orienteer my way through the city via compass, but unfortunately it had no way of detecting dead ends. Heading up a steep, almost vertical hill, for about 20 minutes in a residential area, I found a dead end. Coming back down the hill the same way, I found another dead end that I swore wasn’t there earlier. The layout of the city was preposterous. An absolute mindfuck. After further milling about, I found Dokai Bay again and the other side of the toll bridge from Wakamatsu. I’d just wasted the best part of 2 hours! I looked around for something dainty and soft to kick, yet there was nothing but concrete, so I just pushed onwards into the brewing dusk, my rage haphazardly piling up in the process. From the Oseto Strait I trailed the coast through Kokura, considered the heart of Kitakyūshū and once home to one of the biggest armament factories in the country. This had been the primary target for the second atomic bomb during World War II. On the cloudy morning of 6th August 1945, Major General Charles Sweeney piloted the Bockscar to Kokura, yet due to climatic conditions was unable to find the target, thus Kokura was spared. Instead, turning the plane around, Sweeney would guide the weapon of mass destruction to its secondary target of Nagasaki, where fate was not so kind.


Continuing farther afield, I cycled parallel to the Kanmon Strait, across from which I could now see the bright lights of Shimonoseki. A multi-coloured Ferris wheel lit up the night sky, along with an ambient glow cast from the Kaikyō Yume Tower – a structure that standing at 153 metres tall was the tallest building in Western Japan. Reaching the old trading port of Moji, I found a lift that took me deep down into the ground. There a sweaty 780 metre long pedestrian tunnel led me directly under the Kanmon Strait and back onto the island of Honshū.

The final stages of my trip were now drawing ever closer, and suddenly the stresses of the manic streets of Kitakyūshū were relieved.


Dates: 17/09/2014 – 18/09/2014

Total miles traversed: 5,551 miles

Total time in the saddle: 559 hours and 54 minutes

For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Japan, Japan Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Neon

Tosu – Fukuoka

30 miles


With a population of close to 1.5 million people, Fukuoka City is some 5 times larger than Saga City, making it not only the biggest city in Kyūshū but the 6th largest in the country. From Tosu it would take me just over an hour to reach downtown Fukuoka. The city’s streets were choked with traffic whilst its sidewalks took a pummelling from the hoards of shopaholics milling from one shopping mall to the next. I’d booked a night in a hostel close to the city centre and upon arrival found myself taking a little siesta. I’d hammered it from Nagasaki yesterday and the wear and tear on my body was more than evident as from the moment I lay my head down, I was out like a light.


Awaking around dusk I put on my best soy sauce stained t-shirt and took a walk over to Nakasu Island. The inner city island surrounded by the Naka and Hakata Rivers is one of the busiest red light districts in Western Japan after Osaka. Huge neon billboards were perched atop a row of high-rise buildings advertising various alcoholic beverages, hostess clubs and love hotels. Yet on the deck I couldn’t see anything that resembled the seedy world of a red light district, just a few convenience stores, a Mister Donut and a couple of 100 Yen shops. All seemed very innocent and inoffensive. My main draw for being here however was not to experience an expensive and meaningless chat with an attractive Japanese girl, whilst she lights cigarettes that I don’t even know how to smoke properly, but more to sample one of Fukuoka’s yatai, an open air food stand. Across the city one might find some 150 yatai stands which generally sit around 6 to 8 people, and if you can find a seat, it’s yours. The air lingered richly with the fine smells of Japanese cuisine as I took a seat at one such stand and ordered some Hakata Ramen, one of the local favourites. Served with ultra-thin noodles it was a thick bleached white looking broth made from the boiling of pork bones, collagen and fat. It was scorching hot and would take me nearly 30 minutes to nurse, but it was delicious and made a welcome change from 7-Eleven noodles. I washed the ramen down with my first beer since Okinawa. Yes, yes, I know I said I was never going to drink again, but my strange heart palpitations had since ceased and so one could only assume that I was fixed and therefore ready to enter back into the sordid realms of the booze industry.

IMG_9372i IMG_9347

By the time I’d left the yatai stand it was gone 10pm, there were now reams of drunken salarymen parading up and down the banks of the river, one drunk was giving another a piggy back, whilst a colleague chased after them, kicking them both up the arse. Suddenly, the innocence of the pre-10pm watershed was lost. Scantily clad girls began to loiter the neighbourhood, many wielding signboards that detailed some information that I couldn’t understand along with how long one gets and how much money it will cost them. Many of the girls seemed upbeat putting on brave smiles as they screeched out their wares and invited passers-by into their clubs, others looked miserable as sin as their mind played on the night ahead. I watched one young girl lead a happy bunch of middle aged salarymen into a shady looking building, the men would enter happy and no doubt leave happy. Sadly, I felt the same perhaps couldn’t be said for the bulk of girls working in this industry. The thought depressed me a little and I called it a night.




For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Japan Travel, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sleepy Saga

Nagasaki – Tosu

96 miles


Leaving Nagasaki, I cycled back on myself for a short time, as I headed north-easterly – returning to Isahaya momentarily before branching away toward the coast of the Ariake Sea. There, I meandered around the hazy foothills of Mt. Tara, passing through a number of laid back rural villages before slipping into the incredibly sleepy Saga Prefecture.


In my fleeting visit to this quaint prefecture – that plays the part of the middle man between Nagasaki and Fukuoka – I would spend the afternoon cycling amongst its charming and picturesque countryside.


The pace of life here seemed relaxed, its drivers even willing to pass me by with an etiquette of grace. My pace however was rapid, as I made good ground amongst the prefecture’s abundant low-lying agricultural plains and reached Saga City by nightfall. A city about as exciting as a wet sock, where I struggled to find anywhere to bum camp for the night. And so I continued to cycle further and deeper into the night along Route 34, in the direction of Fukuoka.


The entire 40 mile stretch from Saga to Fukuoka, appeared to build up with more highways, industrial factories and residential dwellings, the closer I got to Kyūshū’s biggest city. It would be close to midnight before I’d find some suitable habitat in which to camp.


On the cuff of the prefectural border – in the city of Tosu – I found a patch of parkland in which to throw up a tent for a few hours; knowing that tomorrow morning the overall quiet and sleepy grace of Saga would be a thing of the past.


Dates: 16/09/2014

Total miles traversed: 5,446 miles

Total time in the saddle: 550 hours and 55 minutes


For a more gratuitous insight into my journey please take a visit to your respective Amazon store or contact me directly for a signed copy and colour map:

Tokyo to Tokyo: A Cycling Adventure Around Japan

Posted in Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Japan Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment