Monday, 31 July 2017

Day 101

The day started with a walk to the Hiroshima Memorial Museum. It was in interesting place from the start when we viewed the Peace Clock whilst standing outside waiting for the doors to open. It showed the time as you would expect and also the number of days since the atrocity happened, but in addition to that, and what I had not expected to see, was that it also showed the number of days since the last nuclear test. The museum had a lot of information about the city, both before and after the A-Bomb, shown in text, photographs and electronic displays. There was an eerie silence to the place as everyone quietly went around the displays and no doubt reflected upon what had happened back on the 6th August 1945.

So it was a late start to the days riding which was thankfully not a big mileage day but did end up taking up a lot of time.
We rode through the narrow streets and then into the countryside and winding roads heading towards some islands where we took the express way over the large suspension bridges in between the islands dropping off to have some coastal rides around a couple of the islands. Despite the slow traffic, and narrow coastal roads, the scenery was good and provided a few nice photo opportunities.

The stay tonight was in another traditional style Japanese hotel with Sashimi for dinner, but most of us didn’t bother wearing the Kimono’s this time.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Day 100

From early on this morning we rode on what had to be the narrowest and most winding coastal road of the whole trip! God only knows how Pete got the large Sprinter van down the same road, but looking at it when he caught us up later on, the marks from the tree branches on the side suggested it was a tight fit!

We then went inland and continued on some winding country roads through the lush green countryside for several miles before stopping in the middle of a bridge, well actually it was the top of a dam, where I sat on the top with my feet dangling over for a great photo! ‘Just don’t look down’ I said to myself, however, as I was also the one holding the camera, I didn’t have much choice!

It was at the dam where we met a Japanese guy in his racing car, who was off to a local circuit to do some drifting. He invited us along so the four of us followed him to a small remote private track where we found several other people with various cars there too.

 Amongst them were three U.S. service men, and two of them had what looked like a beaten up old Nissan with the roof, bonnet and front wings missing. Apparently this was due to a previous accident where they rolled it and to get going again they just cut off the roof.

It was amazing to watch the drivers of various skills practising their drifting techniques where some of them had got it very well while others just spun out mid corner.

After a while ‘Eric’, (one of the American’s) asked if any of us would like to go in the passenger seat for a few laps. We all said thanks but no thanks, however with the other three firmly saying no and almost quivering at the thought of it, I decided to step up to the offer and said, “OK, I will have a quick go, but don’t blame me If I am sick”. So I got in the car, not the old banger, but a smart blue Nissan Silvia, fastened the seat belt, chose two objects to grab hold of and off we went to the circuit. After a couple of warm up laps we got into full flow and with the tyres howling and screeching as we proceeded to drift around the circuit, just us to start with then chasing another car going side by side narrowly missing the other car when it spun out in front of us. Thankfully I didn’t feel sick once and was actually quite enjoying it, though I must admit I was slightly concerned when he said we may go air born over the hump, and as the car was sideways at this point, all I could think about was the car rolling. But credit to Eric, he was an excellent driver and I felt that I was in good hands. We stayed out there for at least 16 laps, of which Eric said, ‘just one more lap’ for at least the last six of them! It was a great experience watching it in such a close up environment, let alone having the amazing opportunity of riding passenger.

Our ride away from the track was at a more sedate pace as we rode towards our next stop which was ‘Kintai Bridge’, a historical wooden arch bridge spanning the Nishiki River. It was a nice picturesque view but with the temperature in the high 30’s and high humidity, walking up the steps near it was out of the question in the bike gear, let alone walking across it, so we settled for a cool drink in the shade before riding on to Hiroshima.

We arrived at our hotel in Hiroshima hot and bothered so just crashed out in our air conditioned rooms before getting showered and changed for the evening meeting.
Once the meeting was over it was round to an Irish Bar for a quick drink before walking to Peace Park where we saw the ‘A-Bomb Dome’, the building left partially standing after the Atomic Bomb went off directly above it on August 6th 1945.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Day 99

So today was to be our first full day of riding in Japan and we were all looking forward to riding here. 

Once we eventually navigated our way out of town we headed for our first stop of the day the Taikodani Inari Shrine, which is apparently one of the top five Inari Shrines in Japan. Despite being early in the day it was a busy place and the temperature was warmer than expected but we stayed a while walking around taking photos and buying postcards and stickers.

After leaving the shrine stop, three of us went stayed back for a few minutes letting some of the others go with the guide and a couple of local riders. However, later on we caught up with the others as they were riding as per local rules so we decided to change the route and enjoy the nice coastal roads for little longer where we found a wonderful café by the sea for a spot of lunch.

Having listened to our guide the night before on some of the rules of riding/driving on the roads of Japan, and our own experience in the morning, it soon became clear that the riding was not going to be as progressive as we had been used to for the last couple of months. 

The solid yellow line in the centre of the road must not be crossed and these seemed to be everywhere, so it came down to our own judgement as to when to obey this rule. If we was to stick to it fully then we may as well been in a car. So when it was safe to do so, and with a clear view of the road ahead plus taking in account for junctions etc. I and a few of the others completed our over takes despite of the yellow line. But through the towns and villages the roads were also quite narrow, this meant far less opportunities for filtering so once again progress was impeded. But if the timing was right, when the traffic lights turned red I found you could get a sneaky overtake in before any oncoming vehicles came and get to the front of the queue, all be it ahead of the stop line. 
Speed limits were also very low, but again we made our own decision as to what we thought the appropriate speed should be.
The other thing we were warned about is the law abiding public will happily call the police and report you for doing something you shouldn't. So my thought on this was if performing some sort of disapproved  manouver then I would make sure it is done quickly and not to hang about for them to get my registration number!

Coming from the very relaxed road rules of China, the more open and free running roads of South Korea, I could see riding a motorcycle in Japan as being possibly very frustrating! It was obviously going to take some getting used to but probably good practise for getting back into western driving environments.

Our hotel for the night was authentic Japanese style accomodation where we slept on a thin matress on the floor and ate more Japanese food whilst wearing an authentic Japanese Kimono.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Day 98

It was a pleasant morining waking up on the boat as we headed towards Japan and I took a refreshing walk around deck with my camera in hand.

The ferry arrived into the port of Sakaiminato - Japan, just after mid-day and the procedure for getting ourselves and the bikes through customs went as expected and the staff at DBS Cruise Ferry’s were most helpful.

The longest part was probably where we had to take a 20 minute taxi ride to the JAF office, (Japan Automobile Federation) where they had to verify our Carnet documents were correct against the original documents. Once this was done it was back to the customs office so that they could take a copy of the carnet and wait for the official go ahead call that we could take our bikes out of the compound and ride on the roads of Japan.

Once we got the permission we followed our motorcycle guide, Hiro, on a twenty minute ride to the hotel and thus completed our first ride on the roads of Japan where they ride on the correct, (left) side of the road!

That evening we all went out as a group to a typical Japanese restaurant where we ate some really nice authentic Japanese Sashimi.