Origin of the Bear

Minamata – Kumamoto

63 miles


It was a crimson dawn, just as beautiful as the previous night’s sunset. Layers of heat were already beginning to ripple off the surrounding mountains, as I ventured over to a 7-Eleven to carry out my morning ritual of causing absolute anarchy in the toilets. Without my iPhone now, I could no longer get casual GPS updates at convenience stores, my route was becoming holistically devised around hand written notes and my untrustworthy ‘Made in China’ map book of Japan – complete with incomplete pages. Today though there would be no qualms, Kumamoto City, being the prefectural capital would be well sign-posted and easy to find.

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It is a city that in recent years has seen a spike in tourism; largely associated with the prefecture’s cutesy mascot ‘Kumamon’. In 2011 Kumamon won the mascot equivalent of ‘Pop Idol’ or ‘The X-Factor’ by being voted the country’s most favourite mascot. And he certainly is a rather infectious character, a big, well-rounded and clunky black bear with big red dimples, that would make the most ardent of badasses go ‘Awww, kawaii!’(Awww, so cute!) One can’t go far around the bustling city of some 700,000 inhabitants without spotting an image of him with teenage girls, and fully grown hairy men alike, posing by his side whilst throwing out the V’s.


He’s got the masses under a spell, that much I’m certain of. But what his true underlying intentions were, I just couldn’t pinpoint – I suspect it to be something baleful and untoward. Citizens of Japan, don’t say I haven’t warned you.

I’d find little in the way of parks or covert places in which to camp, so found myself heading easterly into the city’s outer suburbs to a Manga Café. In the dim and seedy glow of the Café, I filled up a bowl with ice cream and sauntered off to my private booth to infiltrate the world of the Internet, or as my Nan would call it, ‘The Interwebs.’ I love Nans, they’re great.


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

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