The Puncture King of Miyazaki

Miyazaki – Miyakonojo

53 miles

Regardless of the Japanese public’s diminishing attraction to Miyazaki, it’s most famed prize of past and present, is Aoshima to the city’s south. A small island measuring no more than 11 acres, it is surrounded in a delicate white sandy beach and interior jungle, which attracts a bulk of the prefecture’s summer catchment of tourists. The island’s central shrine is said to bring good luck to married couples and those desperate souls looking for a spouse.

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Walking the perimeter. I dared not venture into the thick of the jungle; visions of marriage putting about as much fear in me as a huntsman spider in my pants copping a squeeze of my priceless crown jewels. No thanks fella, not today.

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And in not paying my respects to the shrine, I would become instantaneously cursed. Less than a mile away from the island, I received a puncture to my rear tyre. Under the shade of an overpass, I patched up the hole and then proceeded west into the mountains. Another puncture happened, 6 miles later! In the car park of a 7-Eleven, I would again fix up another hole in the rear tyre before continuing.

Just 3 Miles later – whilst ascending a steep mountain – puncture number 3 struck. In general disbelief, I began to unload my rig in order to get to the rear tyre once again. On the hilly incline, by the side of a busy road, with a complete lack of shade, the sun beat down upon me maliciously. I became saturated in sweat, making the task in hand all the more difficult. I angrily ripped off my wet-rag of a t-shirt, and threw it to the ground in an act of provoked frustration. A car pulled up whilst I was in the process of assessing my inner tube, and a man reached out and gifted me two ice cold bottles of pocari sweat – a popular nationwide isotonic drink. This act of kindness soothed me somewhat.

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Returning to the inner tube, I came to the conclusion that it was completely fucked, so I whipped in a new one and ventured onwards with caution. Yet this was to no avail, as 4 miles later another puncture decided to join the party, this time at the front.

‘Un-fucking-believable!’ I yelled, jumping off my bike and lobbing my crash helmet across the road in a strop.

I felt truly cursed, finding it bizarre that I’d managed to cycle for some three months at the beginning of my journey – receiving just the one puncture – and yet today I had traversed little over 15 miles and received four! Rotating the tyre, I noticed a big fat drawing pin embedded into it, a true classic. I wondered if I should have gone to visit the shrine on Aoshima, after all. Alas it was all too late to turn back now, the only way forward being westward in the direction of Miyakonojo.

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The rest of the day’s journeying would go without incident and by the time I’d pulled into Miyakonojo, my puncture grief was behind me; a distant memory from a questionable curse. My arrival in this border city (with Kagoshima Prefecture) was somewhat fluky, as the heavy rain and thunderstorms that had been due all day, were now just about gearing up to play their part.

I tracked down a Californian by the name of Seth and would become his first Couchsurfing victim in Miyakonojo, a city famed mostly for producing traditional archery bows from the area’s abundant resources of bamboo.

Our greeting was short and sweet, for Seth had big plans for us. After I’d showered, we headed over to a local izakaya, there I would meet a vast contingent of his international English teaching counterparts. It being a Friday night – and the end of the schooling week – it seemed only natural that they should all get bladdered and talk utter smack, and that I too should become part of that said process.

Outside, an indignant yet fantastical storm unfolded, as thunder shuddered through the very foundations of our surrounds. A vast congregation of lightning bolts blitzed the skies; one bolt cracking off so loud and so close that it would make everyone inside the izakaya scream out like a bunch of end of day’s mentalists. The rain soon flooded the streets, as, like my new found friends, I drank deep into the night.

I awoke with little memory of the night before. A notion that I’m led to believe is how any good solid drinking session should be orchestrated. It was nice to be part of these relatively normal transactions from time to time; the pressures of the road being eased somewhat by partaking in the traditional art of going down the boozer for a skinful and talking a pile of absolute dross. Even if the time spent was with complete strangers – it just didn’t matter. That night we had a distinct narrative and purpose, and what better place to exploit that than down the pub.

 

STATS

Dates: 14/08/2014 – 15/08/2014

Total miles traversed: 4,823 miles

Total time in the saddle: 486 hours and 47 minutes


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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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The Legend of Pokémon Yellow

Kamae Oaza Kusumotoura – Miyazaki

91 miles

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A couple of trucks arrived late and left their noisy engines running, whilst a parade of drunk girls stumbled about in the car park, screaming and shouting, seemingly in search of some trucker cock. At around 4am, a man was outside my tent, chucking his guts up, it was then that I knew it was time to make a move. I screamed like a frightened virgin whilst packing away my tent, after being taken completely by surprise by a spider the size of a clenched baby gorilla’s fist. It had fallen from one of the tent poles and onto the back of my hand. Its big fat juicy abdomen it’s most alarming trait, almost making me shit my pants directly off their hinges. I hate spiders, I’ve always hated them. Several years earlier, whilst working on a dairy farm in Tasmania, I’d pulled on my pants, early one morning, only to discover a huge huntsman spider. To this very day I can still feel it groping my junk. I shuddered as I gingerly packed the rest of my gear away. Forgetting about breakfast entirely, I journeyed south on an empty stomach. It wouldn’t be long before a sinister zig-zagging ascent was in order and I began to burn up calories that my body could barely acknowledge. My only saving grace was the early start, the air still relatively cool would be joined by a light and comforting drizzle. In the mountains, the rice plants were still green – I watched a farmer open up a hand-crafted sluice gate that allowed some more water onto his crop. Another farmer looked at his watch. In time he would reap the benefits of the land, just like his sea level counterparts. But for now, as I descended down from the mountains in order to penetrate my 30th prefecture, the farmers’ would bide their time with patience; as amongst other fine-tuned talents, patience was a virtue.

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Route 10 into Miyazaki City was knackered, bumpy and torturous. Its inhabitants, ruthless. A gran at one point emerging from a supermarket intersection would decide that I was a ghost and attempt to drive directly through me. In order to prevent myself from becoming embedded into the bitumen, I waved my hands about manically. Eventually noticing me, she’d slam on the brakes within a mere fraction from taking my life. Delicately, I swallowed a small lump that had consequently formed at the base of my throat. I then offered her a gnarly frown as she slowly began to sink down behind her steering wheel and out of sight. IMG_8037i

Minutes later, whilst held up at a red light, I witnessed a motorcyclist smash right up the arse of a motionless minivan. The biker flew up and onto the roof of the van, before sliding back down again into a crumpled heap next to his bike. It looked bad, but both vehicles appeared to be unscathed and, within milliseconds, the motorcyclist was back on his feet again and picking up his bike.

There must have been something in the air in Miyazaki, giving its citizens the portentous ability to drive like crazies. And as I veered into the city, I keenly opted for the sidewalk, preferring my chances with the mamachari and pissed up and stuttering salarymen, to losing my spleen on Route 10.

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Before the Americans gave the Japanese back Okinawa in 1972, Miyazaki was once the go-to place for Japanese holidaymakers and honeymooners. A pleasant climate with eye catching beaches in close proximity to a selection of scenic mountain ranges that would wow the masses for decades. Yet this string of success slowly began to deteriorate in the 80’s –  Its city centre slightly frayed around the edges, as it tries its best to wobble on gallantly from a drip feeding of summer migrants.

My Couchsurfing hosts lived to the west of the city and were incredibly difficult to find, with an address of multiple numbers and confusing Kanji that saw me navigate through a concrete jungle of identical looking apartment blocks, whilst I frantically scratched my head in frustration – until it bled.

It was only when I overheard the words ‘Pokémon Yellow’ disperse from over a balcony  in an American accent, that I knew I’d found my hosts. Knocking on the door to their fourth floor apartment, I’d meet Pete and Beatrix, two American English teachers from Virginia. Pete was really excited, as the young couple had only just moved into their apartment and its previous tenant had left a heap of his belongings behind. Amongst them, the classic Game Boy game ‘Pokémon Yellow’.

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‘Good find,’ I commended. ‘Didn’t by chance happen across any tentacle porn, did you?’ I queried.

‘Not yet man, but one can only hope!’ replied Pete, good willingly.

Beatrix poured us all some green tea, as we filled each other in on our respective lives. The couple had married some two years previously and had spent the majority of their married lives teaching in China. After deciding that China was not their cup of green tea, they decided to try their chances in Japan instead. And here they were. Having only been in the country a week or so, I could tell that they were both still buzzing with excitement about the road ahead of them. Watching a weather bulletin on TV, I wished I could have felt the same. For tomorrow saw heavy rain and thunderstorms across the region. I tutted drolly to myself as Beatrix proceeded to pour me out a refill.

‘Good luck, man,’ offered Pete, ‘I’ll be thinking of ya whilst I’m inside playing Pokémon Yellow!’

‘Fuck you Pete, fuck you!’

STATS

Dates: 12/08/2014 – 14/08/2014

Total miles traversed: 4,770 miles

Total time in the saddle: 481 hours and 39 minutes


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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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The Mountains, Yakisoba and the Hangover

Beppu – Kamae Oaza Kusumotoura

81 miles

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It had rained during the night, the ground still wet, stripping the atmosphere of its humidity. A temporary affair however, as by lunchtime the climes had scaled back up into the 30’s and I was beginning to feel quite sick.

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The previous night’s alcohol consumption clearly had not aided my cause. Reaching the city of Tsukumi via a wretched, potholed tunnel – with some deep and nasty open drains to the sides of the road – I would take a short break in order to try and resurrect myself. I sat under the cool shaded eaves of a supermarket, next to a yakisoba marquee, its owner blasting out some southern rhythm & blues via a ghetto blaster. I sat for some time, the music gradually lifting my spirits. Grateful I purchased some yakisoba, it was the least I could do.

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Back on the road and the first signs of the rice harvest became evident. The plants now a rich and golden colour making the paddies look like an ocean of gold. After months of meticulous and intensive labour that all-important payday now finally beckoned. Pulling myself up into the mountains, it was more physically demanding than usual. The sun beat down in its standard and unforgiving fashion, the accompanying inland air was also completely static and without favour. My current state of weakness made my rig feel as heavy as it had ever felt; a slow puncture stealthily beginning to ease air out of the rear tyre was also a far from welcome acquisition. From the forests, the cicadas sawed away raucously, were they mocking me?

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Eventually winding my way back towards the coast would see joy envelop. With very few curvatures in the roads descent to slow me down, I could cruise at a leisurely 35mph. I progressed along Route 368 at sea level, flanking Kawachi Bay. The bay a picturesque fishing hamlet, situated alongside calm turquoise waters. An old fisherman stood at the end of a jetty casting out his spinney, in hope of that big catch. An elderly lady sat close by on a veranda, reading; seagulls cackled high above and crabs scuttled across the road towards the water. Local youths swam; racing one another to a remote wooden docking platform amongst the bay. In my mind’s eye a romantic notion saw me returning to this spot, in order to write my memoirs in peace. Alas it was not to be, a stuffy attic in Cambridge would have to suffice.

Farther along the coast, I found a truck stop with a seating area. I sat and wrote for a while and had a couple of beers – before setting up camp next to a toilet block for a night of limited sleep.


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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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The Bloody Hells of Beppu

 Shunan – Beppu

57 miles

The early morning ferry across to Kyūshū was a bit of a bruiser: rustic, noisy and completely battered. Only myself and a small handful of other fellow humans would be risking passage to Oita Prefecture’s Kunisaki Peninsula – a remote area of farmland stemming down from the foothills of Mt. Futago, towards the coast.

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On a map, the peninsula looks a little like the ball-joint of Kyūshū’s femur; somewhat detached from the fractured socket of neighbouring islands’, Honshū and Shikoku. I followed the perimeter of the ball-joint esque peninsula south – around the coast along its quiet country roads – all the way towards the popular tourist city of Beppu.

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Approaching Beppu, one could perhaps make the mistake of thinking that the place had just been shelled. Vast plumes of white gas drifted up into the sky from all over the city, a scene that would repeat itself all the way up into the distant mountains. This was in fact steam, Beppu’s big crowd-puller. For the volcanic belt that runs directly through the area – known as the Kirishima Range – contributes to some 2,800 hot springs throughout the region… the most in all of Japan. And if there’s one thing that the Japanese truly adore, it is most certainly a good bath. Yet not all springs are for human submersion, especially not ‘The Nine Hells of Beppu.’ These hells, known in Japanese as Jigoku, are a collection of hot springs spread mostly across the mountainside, each yielding a varying myriad of colours and features – accompanied by a curious depiction of names. For example: ‘Monster Mountain Hell,’ ‘Sea Hell,’ ‘Cooking Pot Hell,’ ‘Spout Hell,’ ‘Shaven Head Hell , ‘Golden Dragon Hell’ and, most disturbingly, ‘Bloody  Hell!’ The latter being a sickly blood red colour induced from the surrounding clay soils with steaming hot waters as spicy as 78°C.

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Writings from the Edo Period dictate that this was the place of a number of barbaric human roastings, hence the reason for the water’s bloody appearance. It was surprising to see how many tourists were jokingly pretending to push one another in. Standing next to the water’s boiling edge I gulped at the thought of tumbling into Bloody Hell, it would have probably been a bit like the equivalent of falling into a pool of Xenomorph blood. A fraction too toasty for my liking.

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All bloody hell’d out, I’d scale the steep mountainside down into the hub of the eggy stench of central Beppu. Here I became inspired to have a bath. Amongst the city’s old and winding back alleys, I found a launderette with an adjacent pay as you go bathhouse. I quickly chucked my stinking clothes into the washing machine, before they self-combusted, and then popped next door for a soak. Sticking 200 Yen into a slot in the wall, an electronic door slid open, presenting me with my very own bathhouse. Well, I assumed it was all for me – as it was completely devoid of life. Inside was an extremely barebones affair in a dingy cell of a room, yet the water was piping hot and that’s all that really mattered. I plunged in, committing myself to my standard 3 minutes and 24 seconds. It was celestial.

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With my bath and laundry out of the way, I went to meet up with my night’s Couchsurfing host. Tetsuo was a student at Beppu University and upon my arrival at his apartment was having a little party amongst friends. They conceded that they’d need as much help as possible in consuming some alcoholic beverages. In turn I would confirm with them that they’d found the right man for the job. And with that we all clanged our beers together and had ourselves a party, ‘Kanpai!


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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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Meeting the Locals of Miyajima

Hiroshima – Shunan

74 miles

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Typhoon Halong, which I had been bracing myself for, never made it to Hiroshima, a front of heavy rain passed, but a brunt of the storm passing up through Kyūshū and Shikoku, wound up heading east – colliding heavily with the Kii Peninsula where it would cause widespread damage to Wakayama Prefecture. The typhoon, killer of 10 people – soon weakened as it made way towards Siberia, where it would eventually fizzle out. Hiroshima wouldn’t fully escape the evil doings of Mother Nature however, as exactly 9 days after I’d left the city, heavy rainfall in the area would lead to a devastating series of landslides to the north, causing one of the biggest tragedies of the year – claiming 74 victims.

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Today was dry and overcast; I was eager to finally get moving again, for tomorrow I planned to be on Kyūshū, Japan’s fourth main island. And with my new sparkly rim job (not as gross as it sounds!), a new tyre and a slightly expensive ‘Made in Japan’ waterproof odometer – with accuracy down to the millimetre and enough unnecessary functions to baffle the most constipated of tech-savvy whiz kids – I’d say I was more than equipped to tackle Kyūshū. There would be just one more main stop though, before I left Western Honshū for the penultimate time.

Miyajima, a small island just off the coast across the Onoseto Strait is home to the 16 metre high torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine. The gateway that climbs up prominently out of the sea gives the impression that the inland shrine – set a couple of hundred metres back – is floating, yet it is not. It is considered one of the ‘Three Most Scenic Views of Japan.’

Hopping on a ferry I travelled over with a heap of other tourists, cameras at the ready. Many of us had reason to be thankful, as it was once forbidden for commoners to even set foot upon the island. Despite that rule long ago being overturned, there are still a couple of others that stand defiant. No one can give birth or die on the island, both are deemed incredibly impure to the deities of the Itsukushima Shrine. Again thankfully, I had no plans to do either of these today.

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Disembarking from the ferry terminal, revealed a rather unusual spectacle. Walking amongst the humans were deer, completely fearless. The residential deer with no natural predators were seemingly living the lives of emperors and empresses. They had lost their affinity to the natural world and appeared to be at home with mankind. The deer only neared those who possessed nibbles though. Although the commoners are encouraged not to feed the deer, I feel that the animals’ overall cute factor more than outweighs any human’s morals. Mischievously, they rifled through unsuspecting handbags to munch on used tissues and lipstick, chewed people’s hair, pulled at loose fitting clothing and pestered pretty much anyone in their direct path.

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One small boy was reduced to tears as a deer had eaten his ferry ticket back to the mainland – the boy’s father told him that he would have to remain on the island forever! The boy, very upset, tried to kick out at the deer who made a hasty getaway. Many a commoner pointed at the small boy and laughed, it was great.

Muscling through the crowds, I got my all-important snaps, stroked a deer and then headed back to the mainland to saddle up.

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For the remainder of the day I’d traverse a shoddy road westerly, towards the considerably undesirable city of Shunan in Yamaguchi Prefecture. A prefecture I would have to visit again properly at some point in the future – upon my return from Kyūshū. Alas for just one night I’d find a park in the city to set up camp, my first stint of camping since that humid and restless night some 2 weeks previously on Shikoku.

It was still as humid as hell, but I had developed a new technique. Smothering myself in DEET and lighting two mosquito coils at the entrance of my tent, allowed me to spend the night un-pestered by the spawn of Satan – with the added allowance of some modestly fresh air. A Tom cat however poked its head in my tent at one point to see what was going on, observing me with disgust I snarled back at him sending the pervert scarpering back off into the night.

Come morning and I’d be getting the ferry to Kyūshū, but, for the moment, laying back upon my musky sleeping bag, I thought of my overall progress. Then I fell asleep with a gloating smile imprinted heavily upon my face.

STATS

Dates: 4/08/2014 – 11/08/2014

Total miles traversed: 4,541 miles

Total time in the saddle: 459 hours and 38 minutes


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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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The Split Rim of Hiroshima

Onomichi – Hiroshima

65 miles

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The day was uncomfortably muggy as I took the coastal road west to Hiroshima. The roads heavily congested bore me a number of issues. Punctures today came like buses, I received two simultaneously. I would also notice that the rear tyre had some wobble to it. Finding an inch of shade, next to a stinking toilet block infested with droves of red ants, I patched up my inner tube only to discover that my rear rim had split. It was of no surprise really, considering the abuse it had undertaken over the past several months. It had traversed nearly 4,500 miles, with over 100kg bearing down upon it every day. Essentially, this would just mean that a little shopping binge was in order when I got to Hiroshima.

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The roads became ever more clogged the closer that I got to the city, a city that largely imprints upon many a people’s minds when they think of the final days of World War II.

On the 6th August 1945, the American B-29 Bomber “Enola Gay”, would pass over the city of Hiroshima, from its crew of 12 men only 3 of them knew the real purpose of their mission. I cycled through the beating heart of the city, through a number of vibrant shopping districts, past okonomiyaki joints, karaoke bars and high-rise buildings. I sped along tree clustered boulevards, past a bustling train station and across a network of bridges that oversee many of the city’s six rivers that flow through it – all the time wondering how such a place could have virtually been wiped off the map.

‘My God, what have we done?’ were the words of Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay. For the Enola Gay carried what was known as “The Little Boy”, a weapon of mass destruction – an atomic bomb – the first of its kind to be used in warfare.

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South-west of the train station I came face to face with a ghost from the past. People gathered around it in a morose silence, looking on reflectively as an eerie three-storied structure with a domed roof stood stoically before them; with a sort of dreary pride. Once known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, an exhibition hall designed by Czech architect Jan Letze in 1915, it today stands for something quite different. The Japanese refer to it as the Genbaku Dome, but the International community knows it as the A-Bomb Dome. It acted as the hypocenter of the atomic bomb’s mass destruction. The Little Boy fell for some 43 seconds before packing a punch equivalent to 12,500 tonnes of TNT, a force so powerful that surrounding temperatures would rise to well over a million degrees centigrade – before burning up the surrounding oxygen and creating a fireball that would spread over a 1.2 mile radius.

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The bomb killed 80,000 people instantly, some becoming nothing more than a set of shadows singed into the ground.

69% of Hiroshima would be levelled, the A-Bomb Dome being just one of the few central buildings to withstand the blast. Structurally anyway, for the building today sits scarred with twisted metal, stripped brick work and caved in walls; a constant and haunting reminder of the evils of war. Today that is its exact purpose alongside the Peace Memorial Park and its historically important museum.

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It was a sombre experience, one I would share with not only the Japanese but with people from all across the globe. It is vital that we all learn from the difficulties of our past, for it is the only way to head into a peaceful future. Seeing the pictures and video footage of the aftermath of the bomb in the Peace Museum – and moving around in today’s modern city of Hiroshima with its 1.5 million inhabitants – gave me a hearty feeling. A city once broken and condemned to tatters, and yet exactly 69 years and 1 day on, the city stands firm. Having defied the naysayers that said the ground would be wronged with radiation for years to come, the people of Hiroshima have created a very forward thinking, prosperous and cosmopolitan city. A city to be proud of and a city that I would come to know quite well.

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Having visited a bike shop in regards to my split rim (not as painful as it sounds!) I was told that they would have to get one shipped down from Tokyo which could take a few days. With that in mind – and a typhoon still fannying about in the Pacific, refusing to make up its mind – I would end up staying in the city for the better part of a week.


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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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The Shimanami Kaidō

Matsuyama – Onomichi

72 Miles

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Matsuyama was a breath of fresh air, when compared to the other three capital cities of Shikoku. The largest of the island’s cities with over 500,000 inhabitants, it’s a city beautified with an abundance of green space, pilgrimage temples, a steep hilltop castle and the rather special Dōgo Onsen. The mineral rich waters of the area have been known to the Japanese for well over a thousand years, and were said to have cured the ailments of a deity.

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The Dōgo Onsen Honkan, the oldest bathhouse in the country – dating back to 1894 – is a three-story wooden building inclusive of a watchtower. This building became the inspiration behind the bathhouse of the spirit world in Miyazaki’s timeless classic ‘Spirited Away.’

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A bulk of the sights, bar that of the castle were fairly close to my guesthouse, this allowed for some limited walking. For today, as a result of yesterday’s trauma, was consequently a rest day and all forms of physical exertion were strictly off the menu. Beer however, wasn’t.

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******

Morning saw me around Ehime’s coast, the climes lacking any hint of a typhoon with clear skies and a skin-blisteringly hot sun that would see me burnt red raw – when I had forgotten to apply sunscreen.

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Trailing the coast eventually led me to Imabari, the last mainland city of Shikoku. From there – and across the Seto Inland Sea spanning some six islands – runs the Shimanami Kaido. This is a 40-mile long toll road for both cars and cyclists, connecting Shikoku with Western Honshū. It’s a popular route once plundered by buccaneers and pirates between the 14th and 16th Centuries. Today, however,  there is safe passage for cyclists from all walks of life.

IMG_7731i The cycling route is some 6 miles longer than the actual toll road for motor vehicles; allowing one to concentrate on nothing more than one’s fellow cyclists and the contrasting views across the inland sea from the island’s interconnecting bridges. IMG_7740i

Local fishermen cart their catch to neighbouring islands, as holidaying family’s island hop – on rented bicycles. The weekend cycling enthusiast is also amongst them with his latest multi-Yen vessel – the type that love to stop and take pictures of their steeds in idyllic settings, which in turn seems to cause a strange set of stirrings within the never regions of their tight spandex shorts. Not that I was looking of course, I’d already had my lunch.

Ikuchi Island marks the beginning of Hiroshima Prefecture. Crossing the bridge from Omishima, I waved goodbye to Shikoku, as I cycled forth across the open expanse of the inland sea – in harmony with a gentle ocean breeze and a plenitude of spectacular island gazing opportunities.

IMG_7706i Reaching Mukaishima, the 6th and final island of the Shimanami Kaido crossing, saw me fumble about amongst the island’s interior until close to sundown. This island once saw 100 RAF Prisoners of War stationed here, after their dreaded journey from Indonesia on one of the Japanese’s fearsome Hell Ships – the Dainichi Maru. These men would soon be joined by 116 American’s, shipped in from The Philippines. Those that managed to survive the perilous journey were soon put to work and used as slave labour on the island’s shipyards; many being worked to death or dying of malnutrition. Just a small chapter from the history of a prefecture that would eventually become synonymous with the build up to the end of World War II. The final bridge connecting Mukaishima to Onomichi on the mainland was not suitable for cyclists, so I took a short ferry ride across a narrow stretch of ocean. IMG_7742i

In Onomichi, I tracked down one of the most impressive guesthouses in Japan. A guesthouse seemingly poised in the past, sitting inside an aged shopping arcade that seemed as if it might slowly be gearing itself up for a long nap. From the outside, the guesthouse could quite easily be mistaken for a place of limited appeal, for in fact the fascia of the building is one of deception, a trend unique to the old townhouses of Onomichi. In an attempt to reinvigorate this part of town, this old townhouse – known as ‘Anago no Nedoko’ (bed of an eel) stems back some 100 metres or so and has been renovated to a traditional yet quirky standard. It contained a chic coffee house, kitchen, lounge area, garden and a number of comfortable dormitories.

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It was a warm and welcoming place, in a town that is unrushed and more accepting to the slowness of time. I settled in for a couple of days as some heavy rain poured down around me – Typhoon Halong looming ever closer, its exact path still uncertain.

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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, Cycle Touring, Cycling, Japan, Japan Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment