Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The 10 Day Home Stretch!

I find that the closer I get to finishing this whole adventure, the less I believe it is actually happening. I suppose there are enough things to keep me busy during the day, that I don't have much time to think about where I have been or where I am going. According to some random guys math on a bike forum I was just looking at, there are about 280 pedal strokes for every mile traveled. That means I have successfully made about 440,000 circles with my feet so far. A lot can happen during so much geometry practice and it's tough to keep track of it all!

I must say, though, that I am a bit happy to be done with Honshu. Much of my trip was punctuated by small victories/accomplishments that made the distance easier to contemplate, but from Himeji all the way to Aomori, it was just a monstrous 950 mile trek! Oh, and the roads were narrow and rainy. But everything else was amazing. I am not sure if touring by bicycle just adds an extra spice to everything you do and everyone you meet, but it seems like the nicest people on the planet, Japanese and foreigner alike, live in Japan.

While taking an impromptu rest day in Hachinohe, I had the most wonderfully nostalgic time with my couch surfing English buddy Joe. Hachinohe is not a particularly large city, though it does have a bit to offer in terms of things to do and places to see. Though Joe had a bit of a knee injury to contend with, and work the next morning, we decided to venture out to some street-side bars and see where the night would take us. Probably not for Joe, but for me the night was headed straight for good old fashioned American and Japanese nostalgia.

I should first explain that one of the few things that I truly miss from America (aside from friends and family, of course) is cheese. Japan has some cheeses, though it is usually something less flavorful like mozzarella or processed beyond the category of cheese. Furthermore, any other cheeses are just too expensive to be an option. This is where cheese senbei comes in. Traditionally, I believe senbei referred only to a rice cracker of some sort. In modern times, though, almost anything that is relatively flat and about the size of a sand dollar can be called senbei, whether it's fish, seaweed, candy, bone (yes, bone) and others. That night I was able to partake in the joys of a cheese senbei. Basically, this senbei was just some fried cheese with more cheese melted on top of it. A heart stopping dish, both medically and emotionally.

It was too dark for a good picture, so imagine this with even more cheese!
After that nice delicacy, we walked out in search of a nice outdoor pub. We walked along a street that was literally lined with small lean-to shacks that housed tiny kitchens and could seat about 8 people each, which had a wonderfully summery feel to it. The place we finally settled on had a man from Miyazaki prefecture (southern Japan) that we were able to talk to. After I told him that I had come from an area near Miyazaki and that I very dearly missed Shochu (basically rice vodka), he insisted that we drink some together. I am not sure if I actually missed Shochu, but since 6 of the 8 months I have been here have included drinking Shochu exclusively, you eventually build up a taste for it. For the record, and those that know me well know this, I truly hardly ever drank in America...but if you plan to come to Japan and make friends with Japanese businessmen, well let me assure you that your main source of hydration will usually have some hard liquor in it.

At any rate, it was an absolutely wonderful night, and a further testament to the wonders of couch surfing and the kindness of Englishmen.

I have finally been able to make a Google map that doesn't look awful, though it is not yet annotated with my nightly stays, but I will do that when I get the time. At the very least, it is a true representation of almost the exact route that I have taken, as well as the exact route that I have left. So I start the countdown to Cape Soya right here and right now! T-minus 9 days until I have successfully ridden across this crazy, interesting country! Estimated date of completion: Friday, September 16th

View Japan Travels in a larger map


  1. Looks great Dylan! Just one adjustment on your northern tip of the google map, dont take the inland route the final 70k (it'll remind you of Honshu). Hang left on route 106 and ride the coast right to the top!