The international passenger port of Busan was very well organized. We were allowed to drop off our bikes with all our bags at the freight terminal, which we found without any problems thanks to a description of several pages. There was so much space on the ferry that we were able to spend the night alone in the 8-person room and seize the only small table by the drinks machines. There, we made the acquaintance of a Belgian couple, which made for a very entertaining and amusing crossing.

Entry into Osaka took longer than usual due to the careful baggage inspection. The two young customs officers wanted to see every single item of our equipment, which took some time with a total of 10 bags. We took the procedure in good humor, but felt sorry for the two who did their job very thoroughly and conscientiously😊. They apologized countless times “Sumimasen” and bowed gratefully.
After our successful entry, lunch with our Belgian travel companions was a very nice start to our trip to Japan.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

The next open arms welcomed us just a few kilometers later in Sakai, a suburb of Osaka. Here we were able to stay with our Warmshowers hosts Emi and Koji for a few days and share their everyday life. They themselves had been traveling by bike for three and a half years and today Emi runs her own language school. The stay included a fun Halloween party for the language students with a BBQ, performances and games.

For the excursion to Osaka, we parked our bikes without any worries at Sakai station and took the train to the city center. All we saw of the city were endless shopping malls that merged unnoticed into metro stations and vice versa. The train journey to Kishi was much more pleasant. In 2007, the small railroad line was on the brink of ruin when Tama the cat was appointed as the super station master. The new appointment caused such a stir in Japan that people flocked to Kishi to save the line. Thanks to good marketing, Tama achieved international fame and generated millions in revenue in the region. When Tama passed away in 2015 (over 3,000 guests attended her funeral service), she had already been training her successor for several years. Two stations are now operated by cats. Nitama and Yontama each work 5 days and share the duty. Unfortunately, we only met Nitama, Yontama had the day off😊. The cat waited impatiently in its glass cabinet for its meal and then took a nap. Much more spectacular than the selfie with Nitama were the many cute souvenirs and the various stamps that formed a complete painting. A crazy Japanese story and a great experience!

We also didn’t miss out the visit to the bicycle museum at the Shimano headquarters before getting back on the saddle after five days off. In short daily stages, the journey took us to the deer in Nara and on to Kyoto. The city was in such a flood of tourists that it lacked any authenticity or atmosphere. We were ashamed to be part of this mass tourism and to take pictures of the soulless main sights ourselves. In fact, we were the worst kind, getting up at 04:30 in the morning to see the torii arches of the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine at dawn a little more uncrowded😉. However, the early morning hours weren’t really atmospheric either, as we and everyone else were all about taking nice photos and then rushing to the next attraction as quickly as possible.

After two days, we escaped and drove along the beautiful Lake Biwa to Kanazawa. Sightseeing was a pleasure here, as the ratio of locals to (obvious) tourists was better. We wanted to get to Shirakawa, a village with historic thatched-roof houses, via a small pass road. However, the road we were aiming for was so small that it turned into a footpath halfway through and we had to turn back. By taking a detour via larger roads, we still managed to reach Shirakawa the next day and ventured over another pass with a winter closure. This time we managed the traverse😉. On small, low-traffic roads, we wound through the colorful autumn forest through the Japanese Alps. Each time we stocked up on food in Takayama and Matsumoto before heading over the next pass roads. We could hardly believe that in Japan you can cycle for hours without meeting a car or a person!

Even on the secondary roads in Japan, there are countless tunnels that save many an extra loop or extra meters of altitude. Thanks to good lighting, perfect roads and the courteous Japanese driving style, the tunnel passages were unusually stress-free. For the view of the Japanese Matterhorn, we pedaled in one day through a total of 49 tunnels into the Kamikochi Valley… somewhat disillusioned, we realized that the local Matterhorn only looks similar to its Swiss counterpart because it is a mountain😉.
Shortly before we reached the Tokyo metropolitan area, we followed an insider tip to the Mitsumine Shrine, where we were the only Western tourists for once.

Traveling in Japan is easy and pleasant even without knowledge of the local language and alphabet, the food is wonderful and extremely varied! Most people are very reserved, while others are extremely communicative. When the bag of a hunched grandma fell off her rollator outside the supermarket, David helped her pick it up. She then sat down with us, talked to us in Japanese and showed us her pictures on her smartphone: brilliant fireworks, beautiful gardens, traditional festivals, … We were amazed by what she takes pictures of with just her cell phone! It wasn’t until the cherry blossom photos that we noticed the edge of her TV screen😀.
The operation of equipment such as toilets, showers, air conditioning systems, washing machines and stoves is somewhat unusual. The many buttons are written in Japanese and usually show neither symbols nor common color coding. The fact that there have been no public garbage cans in Japan since the Sarin gas attack in 1995 makes it difficult for us to dispose of our garbage. We can only throw our garbage away in mini-markets while treating ourselves to a warm coffee😉.

Today we enjoy the early evening and the late fall temperatures in front of the fireplace in a B&B just outside Tokyo. Our Swiss-Japanese contact from Saitama invited us to this Japanese-style overnight stay with tatami mat and futon bed. Many, many thanks, Anna!!! We are looking forward to meeting you and your family by tomorrow😊!