Quit our jobs, sold our home and everything in it, gone riding... | Page 157 | GTAMotorcycle.com

Quit our jobs, sold our home and everything in it, gone riding...

Lightcycle

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Passing more coastal villages on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula


Hey! Fellow motorcyclists braving the cold weather as well! First ones we've seen today! We wave enthusiastically

Sadly for us, Road 136 - that scenic, winding coastal road we've been following all morning - ends at the town of Toi in the northern section of the peninsula. From here, it cuts back inland and curves around Suruga Bay.

From looking the map, we see that the large urban metropolis of Fuji sprawls menacingly ahead of us on the northern shores of Suruga Bay. I remember what a slog it was getting out of Tokyo. A more palatable option is to catch a ferry across the bay, thus by-passing Fuji.

From my rough calculations, taking the Tomei Expressway would probably be the exact same price as the cost of the ferry (¥2000 or $20 each). The ferry would be a heck of a lot faster as well. Plus we get to warm up inside the cabin!

Sign me up for that!


Waiting to get onto that warm ferry
 

Lightcycle

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We've heard about tatami rooms in Japanese houses. There's also one aboard the ferry! Cool!

Tatami mats are made of compressed rice straw and is a popular covering for floors in Japanese houses. I guess the Japanese people are so accustomed to resting on tatami mats that the ferry companies have to offer a special area for their passengers to lie on them during the crossing.

The Sugura Bay ferry is only 70 minutes long, and this is our first time on a ferry in Japan, so we were too busy exploring the boat to test out these tatami mats. Next time!


70 minutes fly by way too fast. Gahhhh! So cold. Slapping back on all the layers to head back outside again

So early in the season! What were we thinking? Oh well, our quest for Cherry Blossoms in the south continues.

Riding off the ferry at Shimizu, we jump back on the super-expensive Tomei Expressway. It struck me that we were paying more in tolls than accommodations in Japan... Crazy. I'm starting to understand why the Japan Rail system is so popular. It's really the cheapest *and* quickest option for traveling around the country. Driving your own vehicle is super expensive and time-consuming!

This section of Shizuoka prefecture is home to some mountainous regions in the north. There is probably some really good riding up there, but due to our earlier experience outside of Mount Fuji, we suspect that those higher elevation roads will still be covered in snow. So we're toll-ing past them for now, but the idea is to hit those routes on our return trip back to Tokyo.

Hopefully the weather and the surface conditions will be more motorcycle-friendly by then.
 

Lightcycle

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We are running down our first tank-full of gas since departing Tokyo. Since I am the one taking point on all communications, I am rehearsing how to ask for High Octane Gasoline in my head as we pull up to the gas station:

"Hai-okutan-gasorin. Haiokutangasorin. Haiokutangasorin."

However, there's no one at the pumps. All we see is this:


AHHHH! Everything is automated and entirely in Japanese!

This is what we get for stepping off the Gaijin Trail. There is no button for English. I don't know even know which button to press for assistance. I have to walk around to the back of the station to try to find a gas attendent.

He seems surprised that someone is seeking him out. I'm probably the only person he's talked to today. And I don't even speak Japanese... Obviously he doesn't speak English.

"Haiku-ramen-gasorin", I sputter out.

He looks at me strangely. I don't think I said it right.

"Haiokutan?" he asks.

I nod my head vigorously, afraid to say anything else that will confuse him (and me) further. He fills up for us, then punches some buttons and shows me where to insert my credit card: "Kah-doh" Yes, I know that word!

"Arigatogozaimas!"

Phew! What an ordeal. I hadn't realized just how much we've gotten by during the last few years not knowing the different languages of the countries we ride through, simply because we are still able to pantomime or muddle through with our limited vocabulary. However, this is going to be much more difficult in Japan now that we're dealing with automated computer screens everywhere! Robots are taking over, and it's not a good thing!

Back on the bikes with a full tank of haiku-ramen, we hop back onto the expressway and continue south-west. Prefectures fall fast behind us as we leave Shizuoka and enter Aichi Prefecture. I see the sign for Hamamatsu flash by us and I'm glad that we're by-passing yet another large city on our quest for good motorcycling roads.


We stop for the day at an AirBnB in the small town of Tokoname on the eastern shores of Ise Bay

Is it my imagination or is it getting sunnier?
 

MacDoc

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Brought back memories from my honeymoon in Japan ( also had business there as well). It was fine with our agent about but when we headed out to a cabin around Mt Fuji in our rental car pre-GPS days was rather "interesting" finding our way. Having Mt Fuji as a guide post was invaluable.
Getting so far out of the language comfort zone was an eye opener.
Doesn't google have a translator you can use - point your phone at a sign and it translates.

Google Translate can now interpret signs and conversations in real ...
https://www.theverge.com/.../1/.../google-translate-update-real-time-signs-conversatio...

Jan 14, 2015 - Google is releasing a major update to Translate this week, making it much faster and easier to use the app for translating in-person conversations and printed text. ... The update isn't live yet — so we can't say how effective Word Lens is inside of Translate
Translate images
You can use your phone’s camera to translate text in the world around you with the Translate app. For example, you can translate signs or handwritten notes.
Learn which languages you can translate using your camera
Find out which Google Translate features work in each language.
Android iPhone & iPad
Translate using your camera
For some languages, you can translate text by pointing your phone’s camera lens. Translations of small, badly lit or stylised text could be less accurate.
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Translate app
    Translate app
    .
  2. At the top-left, tap the language shown
    and then
    the language that you’re translating.
  3. At the top-right, tap the language shown
    and then
    a language that you read.
  4. Tap Instant translate
    Instant translate
    . If it’s not there, tap Take photo
    Take photo
    .
  5. Point your camera at the text that you want to translate.
    • If you’ve downloaded the language and it’s available for instant translation, any text on your screen is translated.
    • To turn on instant translation, tap Toggle instant translation
      Toggle instant translation
      . You could be asked to download the language.
    • If instant translation isn’t available or you can’t download the language, tap Take photo
      Take photo
      . Then use your finger to highlight the text that you want to translate.
Translate images - Android - Google Translate Help
You would get a kick out this if you can locate a copy. I really enjoyed it.

 
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Lightcycle

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Yeah, we use Google Lens all the time on our travels. Works great on Latin languages, even Slavic ones. But massive fail on Asian script. It translates it to English words, but everything comes out gibberish. Sushi menu will read "Ladies Lunch", stuff like that.

I think it's too literal, that the combination of Kanji characters can mean so many things in different contexts and combinations. The technology still has a ways to go for those languages.
 

MacDoc

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K - bit surprised as I though kanji so phonetic thought it might work. Figured you had that sorted but thought I'd mention it. Partner finally has agreed to Japan trip "sometime" .....
Safe travels
 

Lightcycle

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Updated from A Glimpse Of How We Live In Japan



I know it's only been a couple of days on the road, but we are taking a little one day rest break.

We're feeling very conflicted and guilty doing so since we're on rental bikes and every day we're not riding feels like we're just wasting money. But we've got to balance that with our travel fatigue. We want to savour Japan. We don't want to speed through it and not be able to properly absorb everything we've seen.

Also, my back friggin' hurts. Damn F800R sportybike!


We are staying in an AirBnB in the suburbs of Tokoname. This is our neighbour's dog below

Tokoname is a small town in the western part of the Aichi Prefecture. Japan is divided up into 47 Prefectures, like States or Provinces. Tokoname is known for it's ceramics, and tourists visit the giant kilns in the area. But we're not doing that.

Our AirBnB host, Warwick, is an ex-pat from New Zealand, and we chat for a while about his experiences living in Japan. He's been here 17 years and seems to really like it. From what we've experienced in this country so far, we are really loving it as well. I can totally see ourselves living here! Warwick married a Japanese woman, and when we asked about how easy it is to immigrate here, he regaled us with the long and complicated process to obtaining Japanese residency. Citizenship is an even more tortuous process!

He mentions the other big tourist attraction in Tokoname:


Aeon Mall just opened up and the locals are very excited about it. This is more our speed! :)

Special parking for our bikes! Also, these boxy cars are the most popular vehicle on the road. With their small engine housed inside the stubby hood and their vertical slab backs, they're so space efficient. Especially when you see them in traffic! There's virtually no wasted space when they're queued up bumper-to-bumper. In Japan, they have to make use of all the space they have!
 

Lightcycle

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Visiting the mall, we get to see what the local Tokonamans do, as well as grab some non-touristy lunch.


So, the most popular stall in the food court serves Roast Beef Ohno. I had to line up for 20 minutes to get one!

In Japan, beef bowls are a traditional dish, it's simply rice underneath slices of cooked beef. However, in Akihabara (yes the electronics district in Tokyo), a restaurant just started serving up a little twist: beef bowl volcanoes, called Roast Beef Ohno. It's all the rage in the big city! They build a mountain of rice and then wrap the sides with slices of roast beef. Then they hollow out the top and pour a raw egg yolk in the crater to simulate the fiery eruption. To complete the effect, white mayo sauce flows down the side, like lava! LOL!

It's totally kitschy, but the Japanese people love it, and the locals here finally get a restaurant in Tokoname that serves Roast Beef Ohno, so they can see what the fuss is all about in Tokyo! :D

I'm sure giant ancient kilns are nice and all, but this is the kind of Japan I wanted to see.


The AirBnB we stayed at was only available for one night, so for our next rest night, we booked another place in nearby Taketoyo

Taketoyo is only 15 minutes away from Tokoname. The names sound so similar, it's kind of confusing when people ask us where we are coming from. Takenamo? Tokotoyo? Tokyodorifto?

Also, the roads in the residential neighbourhoods are so tight! We got lost trying to find both places. When you miss a street, the road is so narrow that it's impossible to make a U-turn. So we end up having to circle around over and over again, trying to find the right street. It's easier for me to just get off the bike and walk around to search for our accommodations!


Try making a U-turn on this street!
 

Lightcycle

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Found it! So cool! It's a Japanese style guesthouse!

Our AirBnB yesterday was super nice, but it was also modern and westernized. Our new place is very traditional-looking. It's run by a Japanese lady who speaks a little bit of English, but after we are welcomed into her guesthouse, we are checked in by a young girl from Germany who is volunteering in Japan. She does checking in and cleaning duties, and in return, she gets a free room. It's a common arrangement we've seen all over the world, since volunteers, students and long-term tourists can't legally get paid to work in the country without a proper work visa.


We get shown up to our room. To our delight, it's a tatami room!

High on our bucket list for Japan is to stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and sleep in a tatami room. Although this guest house is not really a ryokan, more like a hostel, we do have a tatami room!

There rooms are actually called washitsu, but we call them tatami rooms because of the tatami compressed straw mats laid down on the floor.


Oh. My. God. I've just discovered my new favorite thing in the whole entire world - A Kotatsu!

These old Japanese houses don't have any heating at all. All of the rooms have some kind of gas heater that you lug over to where you are sitting. In a large room, this method of heating is not very efficient.

So a common piece of furniture in a Japanese house is a kotatsu. It's a heated table! There's an electric element under the table that heats your legs. A soft fluffy blanket is curtained over the sides of the table, and that is electrically heated as well! And to top it off, there's a heated pad underneath that you sit on!

These cold early spring temperatures are chilling us to the bone, especially when hunched over that damn naked motorcycle all day. For that reason, I have fallen madly in love with the kotatsu and wherever we settle down, we have to get one in our house!

I know you're not supposed to do this, but I curl up under the kotatsu with only my head sticking out from under the table. Then I crank up all the heated elements to max and take a long nap. AAAAAH! SO GLORIOUS!
 

Lightcycle

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Our sleeping mats were initially rolled up in the corner. In Japanese they're called 布団 - Futon! Haha, I didn't know that was a Japanese word!

Traditionally, the washitsu is devoid of any furniture, just tatami mats. It serves as an all-purpose room. You can use it as a living room, a dining room or a bedroom. You just bring in the furniture as needed based on the time of day or function. So you normally unroll your futon and prepare your bedding every evening. Then in the morning, you roll your futon back up to make space for the rest of the day.

Other elements of a washitsu that you can see above are the sliding doors (fusuma). Also, there is an alcove in the corner (tokonoma) where they sometimes have a decoration like a vase of flowers and a hanging scroll that is changed seasonally. Above us is a ranma, a supporting beam that separates the room, but is intricately carved to let light and air through. So cool! We are in love with our tatami room! :D

Another reason we are staying an extra night in Aichi Prefecture is because we are meeting up with a fellow motorcycle rider! Michael contacted us on ADVRider, one of the forums we copy our blog to, and he lives in Nagoya, not too far from where we are. He offered to come down to see us and asked us where we'd like to meet.

So I gave him the address for the Coco Curryhouse around the corner from us and he laughed! That's like meeting at the local McDonald's. Or I should say, the Makudonarudo.

I told him we are living like locals!


Hanging out, having a nice Japanese curry lunch with Michael and his girlfriend Nori

It's so nice to talk to another motorcycle rider, and they've both traveled extensively as well. Michael is originally from South Africa, and Nori spent some time working in Singapore. We exchanged a lot of stories about life in Japan and on the road.

I'm not sure if they realized, but we were really picking their brains on how to live in Japan. Because we really like it here and had a million questions like how hard it was to learn the language, how accepted you are as a foreigner, etc. Nori told us that it is a very closed culture, and not just for gaijin. She was born here but upon her return after a few years working abroad, she was treated very differently, not as a nihonjin - 100% full-blooded Japanese person - anymore.

She said that the expectations for foreigners are very low. They just presume that you're not going to be as smart or as hard-working as a futsu-no nihonjin (term for "ordinary Japanese person" meant in an exclusionary manner), and that her years living in Singapore pretty much branded her a lazy gaijin when she returned. Also, Japanese culture is very patriarchal, and that they don't treat women as well here as in other more progressive countries.

I think as newcomers to Japan, we've seen this country through some rose-coloured glasses. It's always interesting to get more in-depth insight from people living here full-time. But it's also telling that despite their criticisms, Michael and Nori have no plans of moving out of Japan either... There's good and bad in every place.


There are *some* good things in Japan! :D
 

Lightcycle

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Michael is hooking us up with the local motorcycling community. This is what we always search for on our travels, but it's so difficult getting in touch with the right people when you don't know where to look for contacts.

When we first left on our trip so many years ago, I was an active member on lots of motorcycling web forums. But over the years, their popularity has declined and it's all social media now. I haven't kept up with the times, so I still post requests up on the forums but there's no response anymore. In fact, one of the boards that I copy our blog to has just recently shut down due to inactivity. I feel like such a technological relic!

Michael gave us the name of a Facebook group he's on, dedicated to motorcyclists in the Kansai region (this area) and recommended that we join up. I pull out my iPhone 4 from 2010 and start taking notes...



He tells us that the Facebook group gets together regularly for rides and meets up every month at a bar for a social. He asked if we would do a presentation at their meeting next month. Of course, we'd love to!

When we leave the restaurant, he gives me the name of another motorcycle rider in Wakayama, further ahead on our route. Over lunch, he had PMed his friend and asked if he could put us up. So now we have a place to stay and another motorcycle rider to show us around in a few nights' time! Wow! That's awesome!


The next morning, when we leave Taketoyo, it's pouring. Of course it is. Of course...

From inside, our Japanese host and her German help look so sorry for us, packing our bikes in the cold and miserable downpour. We tried to assure them that this is very familiar motorcycling weather to us and that we've ridden in much worse conditions, but that did nothing to assuage their looks of abject pity and worry.

SMH. I was wondering when the RideDOT.com rains would figure out that we're in Japan and come join us...:(

Bah... Sutoppuraining!
 

Lightcycle

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Hitting the highways again in the downpour. ETC is the Electronic Toll Collection system for Japan's super-expensive toll expressways

Today is another relocation exercise as we leave the Aichi Prefecture and head to the Mie Prefecture. This region has protected areas and is less crowded than the more populated Aichi Prefecture. *This* is where our real motorcycle journey starts and we're looking forward to spending less time paying ETC tolls and more time taking in some beautiful scenery.


....aaaand we can't find our AirBnB once again. Stopping under an awning to stay dry so we can double-check the reservation instructions

We are staying overnight in the tiny village of Ōdai-chō, on the east side of the Mie Prefecture. There are a lot more traditional-looking buildings here than compared to the larger towns of Tokoname and Taketoyo. Although we are a bit lost in the pouring rain, it still doesn't dull my excitement at seeing all these cool traditional Japanese houses surrounding us.


I think this is our place? The address is right, but the pictures don't look the same... We ride around a bit more...
 

Lightcycle

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Tea bushes growing in some sort of community garden. Cool!


Turns out that house was where we are staying. This is the garage!
Even our bikes have a Japanese-style roof over them. Cool!


All of the AirBnBs run by Japanese people are self-check-in. They e-mail us specific instructions in English for where to find the key, how to operate all the devices, etc. The Japanese love automating everything, including AirBnB checkins. I suspect that because most of them don't speak Engish, it's probably easier this way.

We find the garage door opener, but there's no garage next to the house. So we walk around the neighbourhood clicking the button until one garage door opened up a few buildings down. :)

To our surprise, we discover we are not staying in the house itself, but a log cabin beside it:


It's beautiful inside! All wood floors and walls and tatami mats and everything! We love it!
After unpacking, Neda turns on the kotatsu and settles down for some very heated cross-stitching


Oh man, we are only here for one night, but we want to stay longer! Now that we have more than one washitsu to compare, this one is a lot better than the one we stayed in yesterday!
 

Lightcycle

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Our futons and bedding are all set up, ready for unrolling for the evening

You can see the tokonoma (alcove) with the flowers and the hanging scroll. The tatami mats are brand new that's why they are green. They will dry up and turn straw-coloured over time. Some people love the smell of fresh green tatami, like the scent of grass. Others prefer the aged look of the yellow-brown straw. You can buy them in both colours.

On the right hand side, you can see the Japanese translucent sliding door panels, called shoji. It's light-weight, lets sunlight in, but also protect privacy as well. This place is way swankier than last night's tatami room!


In the morning, the rains have left us and we are free to explore the grounds of our AirBnB log cabin.
 

Lightcycle

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The owners of the house have cultivated a beautiful Roji, or Japanese tea garden in their courtyard. Wow! This was one of the nicest AirBnB places we've ever stayed at!


Nice little touches in the Japanese tea garden


I have to forcibly pull Neda away from the garden, she didn't want to leave!

We have roads to ride, Neda!
 

Lightcycle

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do you wear a support belt - i never ride without mine now
Image result for motorcycle back belt


some thing like this
That's not a bad idea.

Years ago, when I was a much younger man, I used to be able to ride back-to-back 1000 km days on a supersport. I had good core muscles because I was exercising and playing sports regularly. I haven't seen the inside of a gym in over seven years. Maybe my "flabs" need a bit of external support...

Maybe until I can visit the gym more regularly.
 

MacDoc

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raccoons are not native to Japan and have become a bit of a plague....it all started with a popular cartoon ,....a few were imported as pets and....
The Children’s Book That Caused Japan’s Raccoon Problem
When the story of one man’s childhood pet raccoon became a hit in 1970s Japan, it heralded a biological invasion still troubling the country today

Interesting to see a garden critter

You are really moving Japan up the bucket list ....sigh..
 

Lightcycle

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Updated from Motorcycle Pilgrimage To Kumano



Today marks the first day of our freedom.

Freedom from the Soul-Sucking, Yen-Gobbling ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) Expressways. I hope we don't have to take another boring, scenery-less toll road for quite a while! It emptied our wallets at such an alarming rate!


Very excited to explore the Mie Prefecture!

The Mie Prefecture is located on the eastern coast of the Kii Peninsula. It's a nature preserve of sorts, with a heavily forested interior, the Nunobiki Mountains running through its backbone, and over a thousand kilometers of squiggly coastline packed inside its 200km length. In contrast to the dense urban centers, only 6% of the Mie Prefecture land is populated. Perfect for motorcycling!


Passing through one of the few villages nestled in the mountains of the Mie Prefecture
 

Lightcycle

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We stop in front of a house to consult the map, and suddenly a couple of yappy dogs
come to the window to greet us with some very enthusiastic barking! Oh hush, puppies!



Getting ready to make a pass on the windy mountain roads

Road 42 is a great north-south route that takes you up into the mountains and then back down to the coast along the east side of the peninsula. At the seaside town of Owase, we decide to be a bit adventurous and explore a very tight and squiggly road that we saw on the map.


Road 425 from Owase starts out great, the narrow pavement is smooth and cuts through some dense forested areas

It's obvious this backroad is not used very often because the road quickly devolves into a rough, pot-holed mess and our average speed drops to 40 km/h as we try to dodge all the debris on the ground. To make matters worse, the thick foliage overhead hasn't allowed the rainwater to dry so the roads are still wet. In some areas, the turns in the road become so tight it's like maneuvering through a gymkana course!

This is not so enjoyable. Our sportybikes like to go fast and they're much more suited to smooth pavement.

At one point, the road runs straight into the side of a small mountain. Thankfully there was a rough-hewn tunnel to take us through. We pass by some construction machinery abandoned half-way through the tunnel. Not even sure a car could have squeezed by...
 

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