April 24th I took the ferry from Osaka to Miyazaki, Kyushu. 6pm departure arriving the next morning at 8:30am. The ferry crew do a great job securing the motorbikes for the voyage which can get somewhat rough from the swells off the Pacific. The first night I stayed at a `Riders House` – kind of a guest house for `bikers`. I could meet other bikers, both young and older and share stories and info on sightseeing routes. The manager knocked on my door at 5am the next day to get me up for a visit to the viewpoint over Aso Mountain. I followed him up the steep road to a spectacular view in front of a coffee shop along the rim of the volcano. Soon after, other bikers joined us and we could all admire the beginning of a perfect sunrise. Later that afternoon I said `farewell for now` to the gang and headed north for a soak at Kurakawa Onsen. If you havn`t hit this place, then you are missing out on one fabulous hotspring – it`s co-ed too, so don`t be shy. (Sorry, I decided against posting the photos) The next morning, flying down the road, I got pulled over by the police. 3 officers in a ghost van. The officer who asked for my license looked rather shocked when I took my helmet off. He didn`t appear to be expecting a foreigner. Funny because the only other time I had an encounter with the Japanese police was also in Kyushu and I had to pay a fine and sit through a two hour safe driving lecture entirely in Japanese of course, bored out of my mind. Recalling that experience, I was thinking, how lovely…..not again. The junior officer got right down to business recording everything I was saying on a notepad, so I asked him if he could translate that into English for me. The senior officer`s found that amusing and told the rookie he should take English classes. I told him I have a Smith`s English School in Kyoto and would be welcome. Anyhow, after a brief safety riding lecture and a few compliments for my bike I was waved on with 3 friendly smiles and some translation work for the young fella. Not much further on I passed a guy on the roadside wearing a bright orange suit and matching backpack. I stopped and asked him where he was heading and this senior `genki` Japanese said he was hitch-hiking from Beppu in Kyushu all the way to Hokkaido. He looked perfectly as ease describing his solo adventure for the next few months. Another gentleman I met at a rest area, probably well into his 60`s was cycling all the way around Japan, with a tent strapped to his back. Retired, in great shape and an adventurous spirit – I sure hope I can be in that kind of condition when I reach my 60th! Riding along the scenic coastal highway with the breeze off the Japan Sea I couldn`t help thinking how much these small, coastal communities reminded me of the one`s I rode through last summer in Tohuku before the disaster struck. At this moment, one of my students is helping out up there as a volunteer nurse. What a trooper! Later that day I ended up at a place called Tamatskuri, not far from Deisan Mountain. Stepping into the local izakaya I got mobbed by a group of Karaoke ladies. They wanted to hear me sing. I quickly pointed out that if I started singing, all the customers would run out and that the master would not be pleased. The ryokan I stayed that night was a beauty and the friendly manager bought be a beer with his staff and made me feel right at home. I`ll definitely be back! In the meantime, I`ll practice my singing. As much as I love the charms of Kyoto and the energy of the major urban centers, I never come back disappointed from a tour of rural Japan.
Leave a Reply