Author Topic: Japan 2023  (Read 3814 times)

RonS

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Japan 2023
« on: October 16, 2023, 08:38:55 pm »
  I must start this post with a tip of the hat to all of you who are able to post journals in real time on your tours. That was my grand plan, but, the reality was that I had neither the time nor energy to make a daily blog post with my glacial keyboarding speed and rudimentary photo editing skills. I did keep a paper journal, and took many photos, so I can now relive the trip while enjoying a cuppa and learning how to keyboard and use photo editing software. My prose and photos will never match the likes of John Saxby or Simeon, but I hope you will enjoy them.

  A little back story and then Iíll get to the main event. I first visited Japan in 2018 when one of my daughters was working there as an English teacher. I was smitten. Although it was not a cycling holiday, having only cycled one day on rental bikes, I knew it was a cycling paradise and vowed to return for a proper tour. We all know what happened in 2020, so, with my retirement approaching and restrictions falling, I decided my retirement gift to myself would be a grand tour of Japan. On June 23 I retired after 43 years of driving trucks. On August 8 I turned 65. On August 16 I was en route to Japan for the next 7 weeks.

  The trip. This was my first big tour. All I had done previously were motel tours in the two week range, so it was very much a learning experience. I decided my top priorities were to enjoy myself, meet people, and see the countryside. I decided to make the distance fit the time, not the time fit the distance. As such, the only plans that couldnít be changed were fly to Sapporo, fly from Sapporo to Fukuoka, at the other end of the country, September 13, and fly home October 6. Everything in the middle was open. This proved to be fortuitous, as I arrived during an unprecedented heat wave, which lasted almost the entire trip, and my loosely planned daily distances were drastically cut. I only saw about 2/3 of what I planned in Hokkaido. Fortunately, Japan has an extensive rail network, and I just had to put my bike in a ďrinko bagí to take the train back to Sapporo when I ran out of time. Likewise on Kyushu, the southernmost main island, I never planned more than one day ahead as to where I would go.

Itís difficult to compress a 7 week adventure into a couple of paragraphs. Thereís too much bouncing around in my brain. For now Iíll leave it here with a couple of teaser photos.

Photo 1- We're off! The sign reads "Japan 2023" on the left, and the right is "day number xx". At the bottom I added "Hello. I'm Ron" That and the flag opened the doors to many enjoyable encounters.

Photo 2- A little of the open Hokkaido countryside

Photo 3- How open? There was so little traffic on the main highway between Teshio and Wakkanai that I had no trouble laying the bike down in the middle of the road to take the shot.

Ok. Need practice with the uploading of photos. They're out of order. But I'll get better!
« Last Edit: October 17, 2023, 02:01:10 am by RonS »

Matt2matt2002

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2023, 10:24:55 pm »
What a great adventure.
Thanks for sharing.

Re your mention of posting journals in real time; yes, snap.
My 50+ days on Thailand was fantastic but towards the end I found keeping my journal on Crazy Guy a bit of a pain. Which was strange since I was enjoying my ride there enormously.

I'm in two minds about keeping a journal for my return trip next year.
Here's a link if you're interested:
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/TimetotryThai

Best
Matt
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

John Saxby

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2023, 02:32:54 pm »
Great stuff, Ron, a proper and well-deserved retirement gift to yourself! 

Good on yer, mate, as we (well, some of us) say in the Ottawa Valley  ;)

Looking forward to the next chapter(s).

Cheers, John

RonS

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2023, 06:44:52 pm »
 Interestingly enough, Matt and John, you were the two I was thinking about most regarding real time journals.

 Instead of a day to day account of the trip, Iím going to start with a few posts about the trip, and Japan, in general.

  Part one  ďGetting there is not half the funĒ.

  My included baggage allowance for all flights was 2 pieces 23kg each, and that included the bike. Getting everything for the trip into the bike box and one set of 45L panniers shrink wrapped together was a royal pain, not so much for the weight, but the volume. I wound up strapping my helmet to my backpack as carry on. I did get a thumbs up from the ANA baggage staff at the airport, though, when I put the bike box on the scale and it was 23.0kg.
The plan for next trip is to buy a 100L duffel bag from MEC or REI (750g) and use it instead of just the panniers for the checked bag. Then things that go on top of the rack don't have to go in the panniers for the flight. This setup should be easier to carry, too.

Part two ďTwo panniers are not enough for a seven week camping tourĒ.

  My reasons for the two pannier setup were twofold. Firstly, as per part one, I didnít want to incur a hefty excess baggage fee. Secondly, Two extra panniers and a front rack equals 3kg added to the bike before you put in the first pair of socks, and I really wanted to keep the weight down. This proved to be a false economy for this trip. The roll top Arkels were so crammed full that:
1: I never really developed a packing system. It was just stuff everything to fit.
 2: On the few instances where I bought groceries for supper instead of eating out, I had to carry the grocery bag by hand on the way to the campsite- there was really nowhere to put it.
The plan for next time: Four panniers and find some weight savings somewhere else.

Part three  ď Sweat eats bikesĒ

  My trip coincided with a once in a hundred year heatwave that also had 90 percent humidity thrown in for good measure. Never have I sweated so much. The first week I was drinking 10L per day and 250ml was coming out as urine. I didnít notice the havoc it was causing to the bike until the damage had been done. Every bit of exposed steel ( steerer tube, front fork dropouts, where the paint has worn, tiny scratches ) rusted. My brass bell, polished like a mirror, looked like the Statue of Liberty at the end. The worst thing was when I was reinstalling the fork after having removed it for train travel, and the star nut had rusted out. Luckily, a bike shop was less than a km from the station.
Plan for next time. Thatís easy. Rinse off the bike!

Photo 1: All packed and ready to take the train. Carrying the bike, 2 panniers, and the handlebar bag, with a backpack on, was a challenge.

Photo 2: Re assembly in the unmanned train station.

Photo 3: My once gleaming Crane brass bell after a sweat bath

Matt2matt2002

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2023, 08:44:36 pm »
Ha Ha RonS
Yes packing the bike for my flight was err... fun. But I've now flown x4 times+ so have it down to somewhat of a fine art. But finished up using a cheap duffle bag to bag the panniers and gear. Plus my saddle and seat post to keep the weight down. Of course with Sod's Law, nothing was weighed going out with KLM.
I've had very mixed results with the weight/size issues.
Coming out of Addis Ababa on Turkish Airlines, I was waved through security (!) and check in.
From Sri Lanka, the check in lady smiled, said I looked tired & waved me through the excess baggage section.
In fact I'm trying to think of any flight that gave me hassle. But of course there is going to be a first time - so play safe. It's never good to kick off a tour with hassle before getting onto the flight. There's enough of that with the possibility of flights not connecting or being cancelled.

One of my mottos is; It's not the destination that matters; its the adventure getting there.

Cheers

Matt
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

John Saxby

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2023, 11:06:48 pm »
Thanks, Ron.

Those various dilemmas are real enough, for sure, when you're looking at a 7-week camping tour.

My experience with flights has been similar to Matt's, never been checked for weight, either with KLM or Air Canada.  But as you say, best to come in under the allowed weight -- not least 'cos you have to carry the stuff!

Depending on the range of terrain and/or weather that you expect to encounter, I'd say that what you need for 3-4 weeks is not so different from what you'd need for 7-8.  Amount of food to be carried is a big variable.

I think that my 4-pannier setup would work for you:  a pair of Arkel Dry-lites at the back, 2 Dauphins at the front, and a frame bag and handlebar bag. Both the Arkel low-rider at the front at the Tubus Vega at the rear are fairly lightweight (about 565 gms), and robust.  If you'd care to pursue the conversation further, by all means send me a PM.  And/or we could do a phone call.  Are you planning to visit your relative (was it your sister?) in Kemptville anytime soon?

Cheers,  John

Cheers,  John

Andre Jute

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2023, 12:36:45 pm »
My prose and photos will never match the likes of John Saxby or Simeon, but I hope you will enjoy them.

I enjoyed your description and photos, Ron, a taste of Japan by bicycle, a promise of more to come on your next tour there.

Nobody will match Simeon's photographs, among other reasons because the photo-manipulation software he most likely uses has a steep learning curve even for professional graphic designers, but mainly because he has a unique vision he wants to express, and finds through his camera's viewfinder. As for matching John, a lifelong communicator, I wouldn't even try. You have your own style and it is excellent for what you want to express.

But I'll get better!

Exactly. And when you have refined your existing clear style, a few down the line a new tourer will tell us, "Yes, but don't expect me to write as well as RonS."

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BTW, if you find the keyboard of your phone a bit tight, someone posted here a few years ago about a folding or possibly a rolled-up lightweight Bluetooth keyboard he has. Or you can dictate on most smartphones, just tapping in names not in the dictation memory. Then you copy the text and paste it into your post to the Thorn Forum. Be expensive though in connect time and battery life, as on iPhones you have to leave the connection to the database of your voice at Apple HQ open while you dictate, and presumably the same on Android phones. I routinely use dictation to text (and handwriting to text) on Apple devices, and have for nearly forty years, but have just discovered (in trying it on my Android spare phone used only with some smartwatches i use on my bike) that the process is easier and faster and actually quite smooth in Messages with Google Voice Typing. In both Apple's Notes and Google's Messages, open the keyboard and tap the microphone picon to get dictation to text transcription; you might have to change some settings.

Danneaux

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2023, 02:49:58 pm »
Quote
BTW, if you find the keyboard of your phone a bit tight, someone posted here a few years ago about a folding or possibly a rolled-up lightweight Bluetooth keyboard he has...
Good memory as always, Andre! Here we go...

http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=10593.msg76325#msg76325

Best, Dan.

Andre Jute

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2023, 11:54:10 pm »
Thanks, Dan. As always, you're ahead of the curve.

John Saxby

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2023, 01:32:44 am »
Andre and Ron, thanks for your kind words.  But y'know guys, you'll have to ease off -- otherwise, I'll have to go fullbore "Aw shucks," shuffling my feet and averting my gaze  ;)

But more seriously:  Ron, Andre's advice is spot-on.  Your tale of your grand tour is readable and engaging, and I'll look forward to more of the same.

Cheers,  John

RonS

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2023, 01:41:59 am »
  Thanks, Andre, for the suggestion and Dan for the link. John, I will be messaging you with questions about your setup. Thereís no urgency as the next grand voyage will probably not happen until next May.

  Matt, speaking of security, i have this anecdote. I had read online that patch kit glue tubes are a no no on flights, so I left mine at home. Neither the inspectors at Vancouver nor Tokyo Haneda checked for the glue tube. I purchased a new patch kit in Sapporo, a nice Rema Tip Top unit in a metal box. On the next flight segment I just left it in my toolkit, because  1g of glue in a sealed tube, in a metal box, isnít going to bring down this 777. The inspector at New Chitose (Sapporo) airport homed in on it like a bloodhound. Being Japan, though, he merely apologized for having to confiscate it. I never did replace it, and the patch kit wasnít opened for inspection on the trip home, so, the only time an inspector looked for the glue tube, was the only time there actually was one

Iíve got another post or two about Japan in general and then Iíll get into the tour.  Promise.
I hope it will be of some use for anyone contemplating a trip there.

Is Japan expensive?
Food:   Compared with Canada, USA, or UK, Japan is a relative bargain. The Yen is extremely weak right now. In fact, I could buy 35% more Yen with my Canadian Dollars than when I went in 2018. Currently, •1000 will set you back:
CDN $9.10
USD $6.70
AUD $10.60
GBP £5.50
EUR Ä6.30
Most of my meals were •1000 or less. A plate full of scallops was •1500. The most expensive meal of the trip was •4000 including alcohol. Try getting a plate full of scallops in London for eight Pounds. I have no experience travelling in SE Asia, but, Matt, it seems Thailand is a bargain compared to Japan.
  Most grocery items were cheaper than Canada, with the exception of some fruit.
  Lodging: Hostels were •2500 to •3000. Hotels were •5000 to •13,000. I could have gotten cheaper lodging with a little shopping around. And there lots of accomodations that arenít on the big booking apps.

Camping:
  I spent the biggest portion of the trip in Hokkaido, where camping is a huge pastime for the Japanese people. Camping in Hokkaido is plentiful and inexpensive. Most campsites were •500. Almost half were free. Even the free municipal campsites had modern toilet blocks, many with bidet toilets, and large food prep/ washing areas. Almost none had showers, but were located within a 5 minute cycle of an onsen ( hot spring spa ), and most onsen cost about •500.
In 42 days of cycling I went without a shower precisely zero days.

Safety:
  I recall a story by Dan about starting to lock up his bike in front of a store in an Eastern European village, and being told by the local that they would be offended  if he did that, because it meant he didnít trust them. That, in a nutshell, is Japan. I locked my fully laden bike to something zero times, and I only locked the rear wheel perhaps a dozen times in the trip. I never worried about the bike once.
  Japanese drivers are exceptionally courteous. I never had an encounter that I considered too close for comfort. The speed limit in Japan is also a slow 60 km/h everywhere except limited access toll roads.

  Iíll leave you with some pics of the places I camped for free, and a typical kitchen station at a campground.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2023, 02:04:48 am by RonS »

in4

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2023, 07:34:59 am »
Iím intrigued by your front rack set up and wondered how it impacts on your steering and/or balance.

RonS

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2023, 10:29:09 pm »
Hi Ian. Hope your tour is continuing well.

There is no front rack. I can see how you could get that impression, though, from the photo in the first post. I'll add add some pics here to make the setup easier to see.

I've got an Arkel handlebar bag, which has an aluminium mounting bracket. See photo 1

My tent is a Nemo bike packing model, with a bag that straps to the handlebars and fills the void between the bar bag and head tube. Photos 2 and 3 hopefully give you an idea of what that looked like.

Lastly, I made 4 grommeted holes in the bottom of the bar bag and cobbled up some elastic tie downs with shock cord and mini carabiners. I then tied a couple of light items to the bottom of the bag. That's photo 4.

I didn't really notice too much detrimental effect on the steering, other than from the weight. In some ways it actually was an improvement. as the tent pushing on the head tube acted as a damper when parking the bike, preventing the front wheel from pivoting violently. Of course, when all that came off, the steering definitely was more sprightly.

Hope this helps.

Re photo 4 shows the bike against a fence in front of a hydroelectric installation. This is a "bridge" according to GoogleMaps. I came from the far side, and that gate wasn't locked. I thought it was open for the local farmers to cross. When I got to this side, though, it was locked up tight. The actual bridge would have meant a 10km detour, so, off came the panniers, over the fence went the bike, on went the panniers, I took the photo, then got the heck out of there. Never did see any police headed there. :)

« Last Edit: October 20, 2023, 10:39:41 pm by RonS »

in4

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2023, 09:44:13 am »
Thanks so much for the explanation and photos, Ron. Really appreciate it. Currently I only use an Ortlieb bar bag which, when in lower gears, swings back and forth a bit. I donít carry much weight in it for that reason. I like the idea of a dampening affect, particularly with low/er weight items.
Iíve a Thorn T bar on my Nomad so Iíll muse over that one today as I ride into Lagos, Portugal.

On a different tangent someone on another forum commented how far Ďbehindí my Carradice Super Cís are from my Rohloff hub. Iíve big feet so heel strike is a consideration. Iíd not thought too much about how this affects my frameís behaviour. I guess after this 3 week ride Iíd have noticed if something was seriously wrong.

BTW yep Iíve done the de-pannier, over the fence/gate, re-pannier routine on this trip. Avoiding those huge sheep guarding dogs they have here.

Anyway, thanks again. 🍻

RonS

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Re: Japan 2023
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2023, 07:36:01 pm »
I have no experience with Ortlieb, but I can tell you that the Arkel mounting system is so secure that the handlebar bag does not move at all. Ever. I think John will second my opinion.