Another trip to Japan | GTAMotorcycle.com

Another trip to Japan

slowbird

Well-known member
With the winter blues hitting so strong I have been reminiscing about my trip to Japan this past October. I thought I would try and write some of it out to share.

I last did a bike trip in Japan in 2016 and loved every bit of it.
Riding in Japan

I didn't finish the thread on that trip but it was amazing and I made a bunch of friends that I would be visiting again this time.


This time around I went for 23 days, with the bike portion being for only 6 days of it. Renting a bike is a bit expensive but the rental company offered me 2 free days since I had issues with my bike the last time. Last trip was in September and it was still hot and very Typhoon season. So this time I hoped October would be a better idea.

I landed in Japan October 2nd 2018 and immediately took a domestic flight to Hokkaido, which is the Northern part of Japan. I spent about 3 days in Sapporo eating great food and making new friends.


Susukino, Sapporo. Hokkaido.

Sapporo is awesome. It has a more western layout and it feels (to me) like old school Toronto, without sky scrapers and huge condos...but a Toronto with better food, and nicer people.

On the 3rd day I rented a car in Sapporo and drove it down to the southern tip of Hokkaido. On the way I experienced my first earthquake. It was very surreal. I was in a Parking lot of a Starbucks trying to figure out the Japanese GPS on the Toyota Yaris I rented and all of a sudden the car started to rock from side to side. I looked up and the windows of all the buildings around me were rattling and it felt like a train was going by or something. As in all of the "What do I do?" situations in Japan I looked to see what everyone else was doing. I looked around and a girl was sitting in the car parked next to me, and she was calmly looking in the vanity mirror and applying her lipstick. :unsure: So I figured no need to panic.

I drove a few hours down to the southern point of Hokkaido, a town called Hakodate. I spent the day seeing the sights and enjoying the great food. In the morning I returned the rental and took the bullet train to Tokyo.

Hayabusa Shinkansen. 300km/h


When I got to Tokyo I made my way to the Bike rental place where my steed was waiting. Last time I had a Honda CB400SF Revo which I quite enjoyed but the rental company had gotten rid of it and stuck to a mainly Yamaha/BMW line up of bikes. I waited too long to book the bike and I was stuck with their smallest bike which was a 2017 Yamaha MT-03.



In a country like Japan I wasn't too worried about the small engine size, but the fact that it only had a TopBox did cause me to worry a bit. I left the luggage I didn't need with the rental company and strapped my canvas carry-on to the pillion seat. It actually worked out ok.

I left Tokyo with sunny skies towards my first guest house near Mt.Fuji. After about an hour the weather turned as I hit the edge of a Typhoon passing by, long story short I arrived at the guest house quite wet.

First day on the bike. Bike rental place in Tokyo to Guesthouse in Yamanashi.
 
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slowbird

Well-known member
2nd day on the Bike

The guesthouse I was staying in was filled with other tourists, mainly from Taiwan. I spent the night playing card games with them. The host of the guesthouse suggested a place to get great views of Mt.Fuji not too far from the house, but he recommended getting there early in the morning. Waking up early isn't my best quality but I tried anyways.

The host wasn't wrong and the view didn't disappoint.




I enjoyed my breakfast of a BOSS Coffee which would be a staple during my trip.



I was happy I could see Fuji-san as I really couldn't during my last trip due to the amount of clouds, but apparently the morning after a Typhoon passes the weather is always clear so I lucked out.
I also took the moment to take in this little bike that would be my companion of the next few days.


Definitely one of the smallest bikes I have ridden and the smallest I have toured on by a huge margin, but with Japans low speed limits and the very windy and narrow roads I'm not too worried. Thankfully I can fit my luggage snugly onto the pillion.



After a short break I made my way towards a goal I couldn't fulfill last trip which was riding up Mt.Fuji. There are "5th Stations" on Mt.Fuji that you can drive up. During the peak climbing season you can only go up by shuttle bus or tour bus, so last time I tried I was turned around at the entrance to the road. This time it's open though and I can ride on up!



The road was covered in wet leaves and debris from the passing typhoon the night before but only near the bottom. As I ascended the roads got cleaner and I started to get a feel for this little bike. It makes a nice noise at times, but I'm not used to being in such a low gear for the switch backs. By the end of the day I was getting used to letting it stay up in the high revs where it was happiest.
It was a beautiful ride up and the views from the top were amazing!







I made a vid of the ascent. Not the greatest editing or quality but its better than nothing.
https://youtu.be/5YdS58xfePc

I enjoyed a Tuna Mayo Onigiri at the top and then made my way down.

Here is the video of the way down:
https://youtu.be/uiVVCa8j-Is

I headed south to the Izu Skyline. A great toll road that's frequented by a lot of bikes and cars.


https://youtu.be/PjFHTkt46cs

I stopped for a break at a small rest station off the road and there were a ton of cool bikes and cars parked around.


The owner of the blue one was surprised I knew what a Datsun was.





Lots of female riders in Japan. Waaaaay more than I see here. I wish my Japanese was better.

I went up and down the Izu Skyline about 4 times before I made my way north to another car/bike hang out for a late lunch. There I saw lots of these crazy Japanese style bikes, I forgot the name of the riders but they can be seen in Japan here and there. Really modded out bikes with tall back rests and crazy loud exhaust.





I had a great Japanese Curry and Rice at the Damntrax cafe which I visited last time and loved. Food was great, as it always is in Japan. Made my way out and saw Fuji-san peaking out again.


I then made my way back to the Guesthouse.

 

slowbird

Well-known member
amazing trip report...thanks for sharing. I have to say the envy is real!
Thanks! I appreciate that :)

Japan really is an amazing place to ride. I have ridden many of North Americas greatest roads and the ones in Japan are just in a league of their own. 😍
 
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slowbird

Well-known member
2nd Day Part 2.

So when I got back to the Guesthouse I had a wonderful Japanese bath (Which is another reason why riding in Japan is so great. Soothes the sore muscles after a day on the bike)
Later on in the evening I made my way to a local Izakaya. Ordered some Japanese pickles, and some mackerel sashimi.


I ordered a beer aswell and the old man behind the bar asked if I wanted draft or a bottle. Not wanting a Pint and hoping for just a small regular sized beer I said "bottle". About a minute later I was reminded how large the Beer bottles are in Japan.



I'm not a big drinker so polishing off this 600+ml bottle isn't going to be easy. After a couple hours, me full of food and beer, I made my way back to the guesthouse slightly unsteady on my feet. An old Taiwanese couple from last night was still there and they offered me their phone number and told me to visit them in Taiwan. I was quite surprised by their invite but more surprised when they very casually mentioned their daughter could show me around. 😯

Later the same night I met a new guest, a nice girl from Tokyo. The host asked if I could accompany her outside because he was worried since it was so dark out, and she was a tiny girl traveling alone. Since she was from Tokyo she apparently wanted to see what the stars looked like outside of the city. I was happy to obliged and I had a great time with my new friend from Tokyo. We spent the rest of the night eating junkfood from the Konbini and drinking highballs (I couldn't finish mine, I don't understand why they are so popular in Japan).
 
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slowbird

Well-known member
3rd Day on the Bike

Early start to the day. My new friend from Tokyo wants to go to a local park and I can't say no to a cute face so we spend the morning hanging out. Around noon I saddled up the bike and made my way up to Karuizawa.

The day itself was fairly uneventful. Great roads. Great weather (it was maybe mid 20's).
When riding in Japan, I never had the usual "Holy ****! That was a close one!" moment like I do most days when riding everywhere else. Everyone drives well and everyone gives bikers a lot of space.

Mid way through the day I stopped at a 7Eleven for a quick break and there were some young guys with bikes hanging out there. I gave them a polite and friendly hello in Japanese and I think that sparked their interest. I don't speak or understand Japanese very well but I know a little and it sounded like they wanted to speak with me but none of them spoke English. After about 30 mins I went to go leave and they asked me if my bike was fast and I said "ehh...not really?" "Bike is kinda small." and they reacted with shock. Many people would ask the same question and I would respond the same and they would all be surprised. It wasn't till maybe the 3rd person I clued in that my 300cc bike was bigger than what they were riding. Don't get me wrong I saw lots of big bikes and liters but those riders didn't usually talk with me. I think Japan has a bit more cc elitism than we do.:confused:

Anyways I got to Karuizawa just as it started to drizzle. I found my Guesthouse ok and as I was beginning to unstrap my stuff a little Japanese kid came out with a big "Konichiwa!" I said konichiwa back and he came up and started talking to me in Japanese. He must have been like 5 or something. I said "I don't understand" in Japanese and then told him in English "Sorry bud, I don't speak Japanese." I still had my helmet on so he couldn't tell I was a foreigner, and everytime I spoke he would make this face like "What the hell is that jibberish coming out of your mouth."

So this kid just starts climbing onto the bike and I'm like "woah woah careful!" and he keeps making the "You speak funny." expression at me. After about a minute he's sitting on the tank, grabbing the handlebars and making vroom vroom bike noises. I'm holding the bike steady while he does it praying for an adult to save me.

A Japanese lady eventually comes running out of the guesthouse and apologies to me and says stuff in Japanese. I reply in English "I'm sorry he won't listen to me, but it's ok." She takes a hard look at my open visor and realizes I'm Gaijin. She scoops the kid up and I pull off my helmet and the kids face is like :shock: He asks where I'm from, mom translates and I point to the Canadian flag on my bag "Canadajin desu"

Anyways, lots of other interesting interactions with the mom and kid but nothing bike related.

After I got sorted I walked to a restaurant I saw on TV and had amazing local Soba and Shrimp Tempura for dinner



It was amazing and I was quite full so I walked around the area. Karuizawa is a fancy ski town, but I was too late to enjoy much and it was quite foggy out.



I made my way back to my guesthouse and that was it for the night.

 

PrivatePilot

Ironus Butticus
Site Supporter
Sounds like fun. The Mt Fuji photos remind me a whole lot of Whiteface Mountain, rode up there last year.
 

Underdog

Well-known member
Nice trip...I wish I could relate, but will stick to Ontario for now...


Sent from my iPhone using GTAMotorcycle.com
 

Brian P

Well-known member
Moderator
Site Supporter
Love the videos. I'd be stuck at the toll booth not knowing what the attendant was asking me for.
 

slowbird

Well-known member
Sounds like fun. The Mt Fuji photos remind me a whole lot of Whiteface Mountain, rode up there last year.
I had to google Whiteface Mountain and yeah I can see the resemblance. I remember seeing it on maps when I was planning rides through NY.


Nice trip...I wish I could relate, but will stick to Ontario for now...
Thanks! I'll be stuck here too. That is until I can save up enough to go back :wink:

Love the videos. I'd be stuck at the toll booth not knowing what the attendant was asking me for.
Thanks Brian. I'm no Vloger so I can't get the hang of this editing.

About the Toll Booth, the first time I went to Japan a few years back I ran into some locals on my way to Izu Skyline. There was an English guy with them and he explained to me what to do.
 
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slowbird

Well-known member
4th day on the Bike

I wake up early to an empty guesthouse. No one is around. I take my time packing the bike and enjoying a granola bar and a BOSS Coffee for breakfast.



This is just outside the guesthouse. You can see the luggage situation. It's actually sitting very snug and didn't shift at all. It's a neat little bike. Very nimble.

As I'm getting ready to leave one of the hosts appears and we get to chatting. Her English is alright and she asks where I'm going. I tell her I'm riding up to Niigata Prefecture. (Which is about 3-4 hours away and less than 200kms) She is astounded. "Really?!" she says in Japanese. "So far! ...and on a Bike?"
Not that far, I tell her :confused: but this is another common reaction I run into. Apparently driving/riding for hours is pretty unheard of for people in Japan.

I guess it's like the saying: "In America 100 years is a long time. In Europe 100kms is a long way"...must be the same for Japan and Canada.

Also, we can cover 200kms quite quickly in Ontario, but here with all these curves, twists, low speed limits and Obachan in the 800cc Kei car, all make traveling a bit more lengthy.

So the nice host see's me off in the standard bowing and overly polite and awesome fairwell and I take off north out of Karuizawa.

The road out is nice and windy and after maybe 30mins I stop at a 7Eleven for a quick second breakfast.
(Fun Fact. Convenience stores, or Konbini's, in Japan are ****ing awesome! They have amazing food and it's totally normal to eat at them)

I grab a (you guessed it) BOSS Coffee and a Natto roll.




Natto is fermented Soy beans. An acquired taste, but CRAZY healthy, and a normal breakfast food in Japan. The roll makes it a quick and easy noms.

So I have the GPS set to ignore Toll roads as the Toll expressways in Japan though convenient and fast, aren't exactly the most fun way to go. So the GPS has me taking the next fastest route.



This is why riding in Japan is so amazing. You don't have to look for the great roads to ride, you just avoid the freeways and they will find you. This route was quite a lot of fun and changed from 2 lanes to tiny narrow and back again a few times. I made a short clip for those interested.

https://youtu.be/Z83YtiEo8nI

I eventually stop in a tiny town called Sukawa, and take a break at a Cafe I spotted on the map.



There was a big paved parking lot across from it thankfully. I made my way in, hamfisted my way through ordering food by pointing at pictures and saying "This please." in Japanese and as usual wasn't disappointed with the food.




Food was amazing :love10:

I leave quite incredibly full and head north some more. After some time I see the clouds looming ahead. I stop at a gas station in a fairly large town and it's the typical Full Service Japanese style. (I should have recorded one of these stops because they are super interesting and fun)
So at this station there were like 4 attendants standing outside. As you pull up they beckon you to the pump like you're parking an Airliner, hands waving you in and a loud "HAI! HAI! HAI!"
I get off the bike and ask them to fill it up. One of the attendant lets me know the vents on the back of my jacket are open. (all my other ones were closed) I tell him it's OK. He points to the clouds ahead and says something. I nod and say the word "Rain" in Japanese and shrug. :confused: The attendant seems to take this as a hint I cant be communicated with and walks away with a smile and a nod.

In no time the Bike is full and I've paid with my CC. I mount the bike, start it and turn to thank the attendants, who are now all lined up in formation.

"Arigato Gozaimasu!" I yell through my helmet.

The attendants bow in unison and say something in Japanese back to me.
So rad. :cool:

I reach my hotel half an hour later just as the rain kicks in. Parking attendant tells me to park infront of the lobby where the overhang will keep the bike dry.

It's a large traditional style hotel. Sleep on the floor sorta thing.



Buffet dinner is included, even though I ain't hungry I go anyways. As I make my way through the hotel I realize, I am definitely the only white person here...which isn't unusual in Japan. I'm usually the only white guy most of the places I end up in Japan. But what becomes clear is I am the youngest person here by atleast 20 years. Everyone here is atleast retired...and boy are they all drinking.

I seem to have found some kind of seniors party hotel. All of the vending machines were just filled with Booze!


(I just noticed it's only 320 yen for a King can of Asahi! That's amazing)

This also appears to be an Onsen hotel, but the thought of getting naked and hanging out in a steaming hot bath filled with drunk and naked old geezers isn't very tempting. I decide I will instead watch Japanese TV in my room and eat the chocolate I've been hoarding from the Konbini stops till I fall asleep.


(Overall route of the day)
 
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Hardwrkr13

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Sounds like a trip I would do. Very interesting, thank you.
 

xfactor

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Good trip and nice report. I'll be doing mine this summer. Plan on flying the bike there and hanging out for 3 months, let's see...
 

slowbird

Well-known member
Good trip and nice report. I'll be doing mine this summer. Plan on flying the bike there and hanging out for 3 months, let's see...

Nice! You're flying your bike all the way to Japan? Crazy.

BTW summer in Japan is crazy hot and humid. I hope you ride up in the Northern-ish areas.
 

xfactor

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Nice! You're flying your bike all the way to Japan? Crazy.

BTW summer in Japan is crazy hot and humid. I hope you ride up in the Northern-ish areas.
Yes sir, that's the plan anyways. Yeap, if it's anything like Taiwan it's muggy for sure.
 

slowbird

Well-known member
Yes sir, that's the plan anyways. Yeap, if it's anything like Taiwan it's muggy for sure.
Nice! Be sure to make a separate thread and lets us know how it goes. I would love to hear about shipping a bike over to Japan and the process.
 

Riceburner

Well-known member
I can see the appeal of riding your own bike, but for an extended stay, wouldn't it be worthwhile to buy one there and then resell it after?
 

Lightcycle

Motorcycle Nomad
Site Supporter
I can see the appeal of riding your own bike, but for an extended stay, wouldn't it be worthwhile to buy one there and then resell it after?
If you know someone who is a Japanese resident, you can buy a bike and register it under their name. That takes some trust on their part, no stranger is going to do that for you. And unless you have Permanent Residency, have a work visa or something other than a tourist visa, then it isn't possible to register a bike under your own name and get insurance for it.

Some pretty cool bikes over there that aren't available in North America.
 

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