Finally we reach the last big island of the Japanese archipelago. We have another three weeks of cycling and then the year of pedalling will come to an end.
Japan continues to be a revelation in everything and is somewhere we’ll definitely be returning to but only when we have some better understanding of the language which we’ll try to learn on our return to London.
Hokkaido feels immediately much colder and further north despite being on the same latitude as Rome. Today we had on our warmest clothes just to walk about the old port side town of early merchant houses built typically in timber but with a curious Japanese and northern European twist of sash windows and symetricality.
The stats so far are as follows:
- Distance ridden – 2,261km
- Days riding – 24
- Average daily distance – 94km
- Longest day – 141km from Muryama to Nr. Minamisaniku
- Punctures – 01 when my front wheel’s valve got ripped off by my pannier which bounced off over a pavement’s curb
- Mechanicals – Many. Yasmin’s bike broke when she crashed needing temporary repairs and then a new front brake replacement. We both needed new front tyres as they’d become so worn after New Zealand – a third set. My front wheel’s spoke broke leading to three days of nervous riding on a fully loaded bike with a wheel that was becoming increasingly wobbly until we got a fix in Aomori.
- Other cyclists – 22. We only count the properly touring variety as otherwise in Japan there are cyclists everywhere!
- Pies – They remain at 33 as none have been consumed so far on this leg of the journey.
Beneath Tado Ando’s roof on the approach to the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre.
This is the museum of decorative floats which are paraded through Aomori on their August summer festival every year. The twisted red metal makes a perforated curtain to the building’s facade.
We’re beset by more mechanicals. This time my front wheel’s spoke snapped three days ago and I’ve been riding as softly as possible to prevent any further progressive collapse as the rim slowly distorts.
We finally reached Aomori and through our Airbnb host, Erwin, were kindly taken to his local bicycle mechanic to try and sort a fix. Not only does Pieta replace the broken spoke, but also re-tunes the wheel and re-sets the bearings, charging only 200 Yen – less than £2. I try to pay more but with no success. He says simply ‘enjoy your cycling’.
On the wall there’s a signed poster of Marco Pantani. His website is at:
Good architecture as we head northward.
Super fast and not finished. Sea defences and the darkening expanse of the Pacific.
We ride through many of these but this space-age version, as if from a Stanley Kubrick film, mesmerised us as we climbed through the Hakkoda Mountains on our way to Aomori at the top on Honshu.
We slept the wrong side of this wall which are being rebuilt and extended all along the east coast of Japan. There are tannoys everywhere in all the towns to announce 7am, 9am, midday and 5pm. Initially this felt disconcerting, as if we were being told to get up, start work, eat lunch and then to finish the working day, but we quickly realised this was to reassure everyone that the tsunami alerts systems were in place, working and ready to let everyone know when to evacuate to higher ground.
Everywhere the road signs indicate when you are in a low lying tsunami risk areas. Heights from sea level and distances to the coastline are marked with a graphic of a breaking wave incase there’s any doubt about what’s being communicated.
When we stopped for more coffee and cake at a Seven-Eleven in Yamada I’d asked the cashier (mimed) whether I could plug in my phone for a cheeky recharge. The answer was a ‘no’ so I forgot all about it and went outside to refuel on my purchases. Then this lovely man came up to us and gave me a battery operated phone charger, spare batteries and bag of salted lemon sweets. I’d no idea you could buy the first of these items and he refused adamantly any payment from me. When asked ‘why’ he simply pointed to the sea beyond and said ‘tsunami’.