Japan was the must-see destination of our trip. We can’t wait to dive in this so fascinating and far universe. And the Japanese culture is as wide and unique as what we expected.
First, the roads in Japan are well maintained and safe : drivers are very desciplined. Going fast is not their main goal. That said, however people take his time on the road, there is no question to arrive late at an appointment. That is what you should strongly avoid, as well as eating while walking or blowing your nose in public. Arriving on time in Japan means arriving earlier. Being there at the agreed time is already being late…
But if there is one thing for what we’ve never been late, it’s for eating sushis! And it’s not a myth, Japanese people eat a lot of sushis, very often. But extremely slowly. If sushis are a religion in Japan, with our extraordinary appetite of athlete, we should have had the most impious behavior ever.
By the way, Japan is not as expensive as we used to say in France. If prices for accommodation are approximately the same, restauration is much cheaper. We can easily find menus of sushis, okonomyakis, ramens, bento boxes with similar pricing as a meal in an american fast food.
Walking the streets of a japanese city for the first time, it’s discovering the hubbub of the huge centers of gambling or game machines. We identifie it before getting it, just by the hearing this roaring fanfare. A very characteristic oppressing sound, made of hundreds of songs in 8 bits played offset, very loud, at the same time. This racket which its fake coppery sounds seems to be the work of a transcended organist. Because, it must be said, this represents something mystical : crazy lights of all colors and Japanese guys hypnotized by what allows them to decompress after work.
The Japanese society is ruled by a huge set of cultural principle and social conventions. It’s too heavy a burden according to some Japanese young people we met during the trip. It would seem that in Japan, it’s not good to socialize with anyone unless you have previously ascertained of his social status. And it’s probably this aspect of the Japanese culture we enjoyed the least. Scornful glances, idle aggressiveness from drivers. Sometimes driven away from places where they obviously didn’t appreciate we stop. « Sorry, but this camping is not free » (we expected to pay, thanks). In a country with a very law immigration and racial mix, for some people, the « stranger », especially when travelling in a cheap and strange way, is an intruder. But despite this finding, we had extraordinary meetings ! People on the opposite side of this mentality…
Madam and Mister Fujiyama, 78 and 81, opened the doors of their vegetable garden and their home when we did not have any place to camp. They fist harvested vegetables for our dinner. They brought us 2 kilos of raw rice, cheese, beer. They offered un a hot shower and a warm aperitif in their house where communication was working with gesture and the invaluable help of a yellowed old translator handbook.
Atsushi toured in Japan with his Brompton. We met him in Osaka with his friend Kay (who travelled in the whole world by walking) and we spent an amazing day! First at Loro’s, Brompton reseller in Osaka. Loro’s team maintained our bikes and gave Caroline a new hub ! Then, we went to the city and recorded some videos for this incredible surprise sent few hours later by Atsushi !
Finally, we met Madam Kyota in a park in Maizuru where we were killing time after having sent back from a ferry that had been finally cancelled. Madam Kyota invited us at her home to introduce us to her family. She served us a huge snack and so kindly offered us a traditional lucky charm…
Japan is a safe country where camping is free and comfortable. Public gardens, parks, stadiums are great places where no one will come to bother you if you decide to camp. There is always a shelter, benches and restroom available day and night. And sometimes, a distributor of ice creams ! Party night ! There are also the « autocamps », free campsites with more than descent kitchen and restroom.
The Onsen is a must in Japan. It’s the public bath where Japanese people of any age come to paddle in pools with many virtues for the body and the mind. Men and women are separated because it’s compulsory to be totally naked (I swear, you can get used to). The Onsen is cheap and is the perfect solution after a long day on the bike to wash yourself and totally relax! In addition, the common spaces have relaxation rooms with tables, kitchen (sometimes a restaurant) and free tea. It’s easy to see what I am getting at… Camping near by an Onsen is a very comfortable option!
After riding Honshu island from west to east, the second part of our visit of Japan took place on Hokkaido island. Cool, wild, greed and specialized in milky products. They even make some cheese that could almost be as good as some French one! The landscapes too could remind us France (Auvergne region) and sometimes Iceland as well. In some places, Hokkaido looks more like Europe than Japan. Just one difference : foxes are much much much less timid.