Tour Japan on Motorcycle

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Golden Week Touring Notes

05:10 Left Rush Bikes and took the Highway to Tomei Expressway and continued on to Ebina Service area, arriving at 0610. Roads were not too bad considering it is the first day of Golden week holiday

Stopped for Coffee and a snack before heading on in along the highway to our next stop at Fujikawa Service area.

08:15 Continued on Tomei Expressway and Arrived at Fujikawa service area. Found a good coffee shop and sat outside looking at the great view of Mount Fuji covered in snow and sticking out above the clouds
The highway was pretty congested and we spent a fair amount of the time lane splitting between the traffic, which was a new experience for Allan.
Lots and lots of Bikes at Fujikawa, some of them pretty interesting, lots of modified bikes and quite a few old guys out touring.

10:10 Continued on along Tomei Express way to Makinohara Service area. We have about another 45km of Highway before we turn off and head along normal roads to Irako Port to catch the Ferry to Toba.
Highway is still busy but still OK on a bike so long as you don’t mind a bit of line splitting. The joys of travelling on the first day of Golden week I guess. Anyway It is a nice easy ride along the coastline and weather conditions are good apart some pretty strong wind in places.

12:30: Continued along Expressway to Nishi Hamamatsu interchange and rode along some regular roads through the countryside for about 60km out to Port Irako.
The Ferry for Toba was loading when we arrived but we discovered that they load bikes first and only take 17 bikes per voyage and so had to wait for the next ferry 45 minutes later at 13:30.
We thought this would give us time to relax a bit and have some lunch before the ferry, however after a quick toilet stop, buying ferry tickets etc. and having just bought some ramen for lunch which was really tasty, a quick glance out the window showed they were already loading the bikes for our sailing. So much for lunch!! Two mouthfuls were about it. We were the last two bikes loaded on board but all turned out fine and the boat was not that busy.

Got to remember that you need to take a copy of the bikes registration documents with you to book the ferry tickets, luckily we had these with us.
They take a lot of trouble loading the bikes and securing them to ensure they don’t get damaged in transit, the staff was really careful and helpful.
The trip on the Ferry was fun, a really nice ship , we took some good photos and managed to get an ice cream and a coffee for lunch instead of the lost ramen, which Allan keeps reminding me, was really tasty.

Arrived at Toba and meet up with Soga San as we got off the ferry and are now heading to Ise Jingu Shrine.
15:30: Arrived at Ise Jingu after a little brain fart with the Zumo Navi, but I suspect problem was as much an operator issue as much as anything. Nice road but a bit busy due to the holiday.

Ise Jingu Shrine is pretty crowded but the place is huge so no real problem, the atmosphere is great and it’s a really relaxing place to hang out for an hour or so. There are lots of pretty girls today here today. Found another ice-cream shop and had a quick look around the town part and then back on the bike heading for Ise Zaki and our hotel for today.
Left Ise Jingu Shrine and ignored the directions we had programed into the bike Navi. We followed Soga san along one of his routes, which took us back through Toba then onto the Pearl Route, through Ise Spain Village and along some great twisty winding roads, (This is a good fun ride with plenty of place to get on the gas and well worth a revisit some time) and eventually into the small port of Ise Zaki.
17:50: We took Saga san’s route to the Hotel which ran along a footpath basically on the top of a sea wall to Ise Zaki Ryokan (our hotel for today) The bike Navi was having a fit at this stage as we seemed to be riding virtually in the ocean, I see there is another routing option to get here however but this was more interesting and it worked out in the end. (Local knowledge sure helps I guess but personally I would not even want to try and find this without a Navi on the bike, …do not leave home without it…)

Overall we had a great day arrived at the Hotel just before 18:00 and had time for a cold beer and bath before Dinner. We did a bit over 400km today
The Hotel is right out on a small peninsular with a lighthouse close by, Staff is really friendly, we have Japanese style tatami room looking out over the sea with great view of the sunset. The cold Asahi went down a treat, dinner was good, washed down with some cold sake, took a walk after dinner, without major incident, and all in all it was a great day.

Day 2
09:00 Left hotel this morning rode back along the sea wall, tried to get some photos on the way with the bike video camera, then rode along route 17 to route 260 and then onto route 42. Down past Kii Nagashima and continued on. Nice roads and good scenery, but a fair bit of traffic due to the holiday.
12:20: We had a really hard time getting Soga san to slow down for a coffee today and eventually managed to get him to stop at Kumano, a roadside parking area. Talk about thirsty !!. After a quick, and long overdue, toilet stop we eventually managed to get some canned coffee from the vending machine, it wasn't great but did the job.
14:25: I now know I can do about 240km on the Benelli before I really need to get gas. We have been carrying on along route 42, which runs down the Kii Hanto Peninsula and have arrived at Nachi No-Otaki waterfall.
This is a really pretty spot and has some nice winding roads on the way. Food is becoming really important but the very clever plan we are working on means we will have to be patient for a little longer.
15:30 Finally food !! Big Food !! We have arrived at Taji a place famous for whales and this restaurant serves only whale meat on the menu.

Allan was pretty sure he wanted to eat a whole whale fillet by this stage, but seeing as we were really late for lunch we made do with a selection of their most popular whale meat dishes and washed it down with some no alcohol beer. Seeing as we were obviously going to be late arriving at our hotel tonight have given them a call to say we will be late so all is good there.
Lunch came and went very quickly. We are now heading for Shinomisaki, which I am told is the most southern port on the island of Honshu.
16:30 At Shinomisaki, nice place with some good roads but quite a bit of traffic in places today which is a bit of a pain at times and has slowed us down a bit. After some quick refreshment will be on our way to Shirahama where we will stay tonight. About 70km to go on good roads so hoping for some fresh air.

18:15 Arrived at Gampus Hotel. As was the case yesterday the last part of the day was the best bit, not much traffic and a great road, so we could really get on the gas and enjoy some really varied twisty conditions. It's a lot fun to be with a couple of guys who like to go quick when conditions allow and being the last guy in the pack allows a little extra space to really blow out the cobwebs.
My lasting memory of the day is the snarl of the Benelli hard on the gas at 7500 in third, which was pretty common during last hour today.
Allan also loved the last hour or so today and judging by the grin on his face is obviously pretty comfortable on the Moto Guzzi now.
Soga san loved the cold beer that was waiting for us on arrival.

Hotel Grampus is pretty decent, the staff is really helpful and allowed us to park the bikes undercover, as the forecast is for rain tonight, and the hotel is friendly, open and airy.
We have a room with four beds plus table and chairs etc., there is a beer machine close by and the Japanese style bathroom is pretty good. Food is plentiful, perhaps not quite as good as last night, but for about 9000 yen person for dinner bed and breakfast it’s very hard to complain. They also have decent selection of cold sake to wash dinner down with.

Day Three.
It’s Raining just like the weather forecast said it would. 09:00: We left Grampus with quite heavy rain falling so are all in full wet mode today. So far we have ridden up along Ryujin Skyline,
which is a great ride, quite challenging in many places particularly in the rain and full of surprises, on a nice day the scenery would also be great.

11:15: We carried on up along side the Hidaka river and stopped at a roadside café on the side of the river at Ryujin Springs at for some coffee and to dry out a bit.
This is a must come back on a dry day road, although Allan’s comment that we are probably safer in the wet is probably appropriate as this is one of those places that just makes you want to go fast.
Enjoying a bowl of ramen watching the rain pour down outside and feeling pretty comfortable in the interesting little place on the side of the river. Got some good photos here.
Next stop is Mount Koya; it should be fun in the rain.

12:15 Mount Koya in pouring rain and fog, very interesting!
Days like this really make you appreciate these great handling Italian bikes. Great Road for sure very twisty and would be great fun in the dry. The rain and fog did add an extra dimension to the experience for sure, as there were times the visibility was down to a few meters and the occasional unexpected metal grating and slippery stuff in the middle of nice tight corners sure did help to keep ones attention on the job. Fortunately it is not cold and in-spite of the rain this has been good fun, looking forward to more of the same as we head down the other side of the mountain. We did take some photos just to show we did actually get here but there is not much to see apart from three wet guys.

Last bit of useless information we are at 1372m above sea level I am told. Got to come back here!!

13:15 The ride down was great, the rain slowed down and pretty well stopped by about ½ way down the mountain, and we even managed to find a few dry bits of road here and there, no traffic and really enjoyable ride got to do this again some time. Even in the conditions it was a lot of fun.
Have stopped for coffee in Koya town and will go take a look around a famous temple and surroundings, which appear to cover a huge area and apparently dates back 700-800 years. Looks pretty impressive, lots of those huge tree again and that very Japanese tranquil atmosphere.
Small incident in the car park when we arrived with feet but no harm done, Allan is buying beer tonight.

Left Koya town at about 2:15 and heading on down the mountain on route 480 on the way to our hotel for today in Nara.

The rain has stopped, road is drying out and we are pretty much back in normal riding mode.
The road down the mountain is great, about 18km of really tight twisty corners and good road surface, very difficult overtake however and unfortunately we had a real dipshit driver ahead of us who was pretty determined to spoil the experience for everyone following. But in-spite of this it was fun, and again just need to do this again sometime.
Found our Hotel Yamashiroya without too much of a problem, people are friendly, we have a huge Japanese style room (for just the two of us today as Soga san has to work tomorrow) and the food is great, the best we have had so far. Enjoyed a bottle of red wine with dinner and will sleep really well tonight. This hotel is nice but a bit too far out of the way and parking for the bikes is poor.
Today was our best day so far in-spite of the rain this morning.

Day Four
9:00 Left Hotel Yamashiroya heading for Otsu tonight. Weather is nice and nice riding conditions.
Headed along Route 24 and then turned onto route 163 to route 5 which was a pleasant ride through the countryside with the intention of following this all the way to 422 however this plan was scuttled by the road being closed.
Plan B. carried on along route 163 and turned onto route 307, a pretty ride through the countryside, then onto 283. This is a skinny little very rural country road, which looked like it was going to be fun, no traffic windy road etc. However!! it quickly became clear the road was seldom if ever used and became progressively slipperier and overgrown right up to the point we meet the road closed sign about 2km from the junction we had intended to turn at.
So much for Plan B! After a quick U turn and ride back to a working road we decided to temporarily abandon the pioneering approach for the morning and revert to the sure to work route. Saved by Garmin Zumo and Google maps on the i-pad. It is pretty handy that even when you screw up the Zumo will still figure out how to get you where you want to go.
Back on Route 24 we find really heavy and slow traffic so after about 30 minutes of this decided another diversion was called for.
Back onto route 307, which was a little busy but not too bad, then onto Route 783, which was a good ride but not that long. Finally onto route 422 heading towards Lake Biwa. 422 was pretty busy, we are Hot and Hungry, it’s time to eat.
1:15 Cocos family Restaurant looms in front of us, time to eat at last. The ladies at the table next to us tell me we are in Ishiyama, which is along side the river flowing out of lake Biwa I believe.
I think as the crow flies we have done about 50-60km so far today, it sure has taken a while. The News on TV is saying the US have got Osama Bin Laden today.

2:15 As Allan says we have just blasted up Mt Hiei which is a real boys road really exhilarating lots of twisties with great road conditions and almost no traffic. We did remember to stop and turn on the video at the bottom so hopefully got some good footage. I followed the Moto Guzzi up the road for a while and love the noise it makes when angry. Then was able to stretch the legs of the Benelli in fresh air, probably way to fast dragging feet in the tight corners, just great fun. We will remember this bit for a while.
It’s a beautiful day but has become quite hazy so sadly the photos from up here will be a bit ordinary I suspect.
There is a nice temple and what have you up here and it is really nice, well worth the stop over. Need to be aware the road down the other side is restricted for motorbikes it seems, no bikes on Sundays or public holiday (today!!) so I guess we will miss that bit, shame as it looks like a lot of fun from what we can see of it. Anyway it’s back down the way we came up.
4:00: Arrived at Hotel Ogotoso, which is on the main road along side Lake Biwa. Found it without a problem thanks to the Zumo. The Hotel have a safe lock up for the bikes, the owners are an old couple and friendly, room is spacious and the fridge has cold beer in it.
After a quick soak in the hot bath and a clean up, it’s time to break out the new green shoes and see what delights the metropolis of Otsu has on offer.
Otsu… mmm… well it’s on the way to where we will meet up with the rest of the gang tomorrow. It seems life here is focused on the lake and the people who come here to fish. There are a few quite nice hotels etc. but that's about it really. Next time I think I would ride on through to somewhere a little more interesting.
Dinner was served in our room and was quite good, huge volume and tasty, overall value for money here is good but next time will look for somewhere a bit more interesting.
Today was the easiest day so far, the adventures this morning were interesting and will be an ongoing source of laughter but without doubt the highlight of the day was the blast up Mount Hiei. Somehow we forgot to take many photos today but have just downloaded the video
onto the I-pad and some of that is pretty good.

Day 5
9:00: We are just waiting out front of the Hotel for Soga san to arrive and will then head off for Hida Takayama.
Left Hotel just before 9:30 and rode up along the side of lake Biwako. Stopped at Makino road station for a coffee. View down over the lake is quite good and there are quite a few guys on bikes up here. The traffic has been slow along the lakeside, not much to see, and had to stop to put on warm gloves, it’s quite cold.
We are heading for the highway now heading to Kanazawa.
12:40 stopped at Amagozen Service Area for coffee and a hot dog, roads are easy and we are just cruising along heading for Kanazawa Castle.
2:15 Arrived at Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Gardens, which are one of the three most famous parks in Japan according to Soga san.

We have spent an hour or so wandering around the Castle and Gardens taken lots of photos, ate ice-creams with flakes of gold in them, lots of laughter and clowning about, now feeling pretty relaxed and ready to carry on to meet up with the rest of the gang who are on their way from Tokyo

5:30 Arrived at our Hotel in Hida Takayama. (Chogoro Minshiku) The hotel is really old style traditional Japanese, does not look thatgreat from the out side but is pretty funky inside with nice atmosphere. It is quite busy here today and we are going to be late for dinner as the Tokyo team will not arrive until about 7:00, so not that popular with the staff but anyway it has given us time to have a bath and enjoy a cold beer before dinner.

We have done about 360km today most of this being on highways so pretty easy riding, the last 100km or so is quite scenic as we head up into the foot hills of the Alps, there is still quite a bit of snow to be seen higher up. Lots and lots and lots of Tunnels.
I had a minor problem with the ETC on my bike late in the day which required stopping to sort out the highway tolls but other than that an uneventful day. The bikes are safely stored away under cover (in the wood shed) so we are all good.
The rest of the gang arrived just before 7:00, after a fair bit of hilarity we all sat down to dinner, and pretty much had the whole room to ourselves which was fortunate as we were probably pretty noisy. The laughter continued until we finally fell asleep at about 11:00.

Day Six.
We started early today with a soak in the hot baths, Allan managed to get this a weeeee bit wrong and ended up using the women’s bathroom (they change each day) but fortunately as it was very early he had the entire place to himself so no harm done, however I can just imagine how different that could have turned out. It is another beautiful day clear and sunny but you can tell we are in the mountains as it is significantly cooler.
Ken still snores… a lot… must remember to keep something heavy nearby to throw at him tonight.

8:20: After a slow and relaxed breakfast, lots more laughter and photos etc. we are leaving the hotel heading for Shirakawago village.

9:30: Took the highway (more tunnels) to Shirakawago village in order to get there before it became too crowded. There are already quite a lot of bikes here, it’s a beautiful day and we have just had a morning coffee and a croquette at the outside café by the parking lot now heading up into the historic village.

Shirakawago historic village is very picturesque with original thatched roof houses etc. set in an idyllic spot, the day is almost perfect and the snow on the mountains in the background make for some great photos (we took lots of them). I see this is a world heritage site. I guess we have spent a couple of hours here.

14:00: We are now at Hirayou falls (or close to them) and have stopped for lunch. Leaving Shirakawago we rode along a national road towards Takayama for about 60km, took some video shots but not great scenery. It was quite an easy road with plenty of sweeping corners and would be a good quick ride with no traffic. Then headed higher into the mountains along some very nice scenic windy roads heading towards Norikura Kogen ski area this is a really pretty part of the country in winter but my first time to visit in spring. Roads are a bit on the busy side but OK. There is still quite a bit of snow on the ground in places and it is quite cool but very pleasant.
16:40 At Midori service area taking a break on the way to lake Suwa where we are staying tonight. The ride down from Hirayou was very scenic and the roads are good but… lots of traffic today. We are all suffering tired hands and bodies so it was nice to get onto the highway for a bit to blast away the cobwebs.
17:30 Meeting up with Kinuko at Suwa inter-change (she will join us tonight and tomorrow) then heading on to our hotel on the edge of lake Suwa.

The Hotel (Kamisuwa Onsen Koizumi) is easy to find, it’s pretty austere but rooms are large bathrooms are good and the beer machine is close by. We are all pretty tired today the golden week traffic was a bit of a pain at times but I guess that is to be expected. There was some great scenery and nice roads, unfortunately the heavy traffic made it difficult to stop to get photos a lot of the time. Looking forward to Dinner.
Dinner was pretty funny, ever the clown Soga san kept us laughing and it was not too long before everyone had adjoined to our room for drinks and to figure out tomorrows plan, more drinks than planning really. I am sure the photos will be good.

Day 7.
08:30 Left hotel and headed onto the highway, some of the guys are heading homewards this morning with only Soga san Allan Kinuko and myself going a bit further a field on this the last day of the trip.
Arrived at Futaba service area an unplanned stop. This morning has had a bit of extra intrigue after Allan missed everyone turning off the highway and carried on down the highway following some other guys on bikes that he thought were part of our group.
After some time he realized he was alone and feeling lonely. We eventually managed to catch up with him about 50km later and stopped at Futaba to regroup and adjust the plans. Anyway, lessons were learned by all, we are OK now and we will carry on with the adventure. The guys heading back to Tokyo directly have headed off home leaving just the four of us to carry on Katsunuma interchange where we left the highway.
12:00: Rode on up to Yanagisawa Toge arriving here just before mid-day. The ride up here is good fun, a narrow twisting road up the mountain, relatively close to Tokyo and
obviously a favorite route for bikers as there were some pretty interesting bikes and characters arriving at the rest area at the top while we were there.
13:20: Arrived at Lake Okutana rest area. Have been riding along route 411 along side the lake, interesting scenery and a nice road, very different from what we have been riding in for the past few days, its hard to believe that all of this is just a few hours from Tokyo. Being the last official day of Golden Week the roads are a little busy but not at all bad considering Liked the new Yamaha MT-01 we saw there.
14:25: Comfort stop at a Seven Eleven in Hachiyoji. Time for a quick can of coffee and a giant frank (sausage on a stick), we seem to have forgotten lunch today.
We have driven down route 411, onto 45, and then back onto 411, onto route 31, onto 32. It has been a good ride, the scenery has been good with lots of variety good last day so far. It’s getting cold though. We will carry on from here onto the highway and head for home. Kinuko will leave us on the way as she lives in another part of town.
16:25: We are back at Rush Bikes. Got onto the Chuo Expressway, which we expected to be really busy but was not that way at all, and had a really clean run into Tokyo, changed onto the Shuto expressway and back to Rush office.
A really quick and easy ride into the city and all in all another great day. After a quick shower and a cold beer we are off to meet the rest of the gang for dinner at our local Korean Barbeque restaurant.