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Dreadful picture but it’s been incredibly windy. Mt Rishiri behind us we climbed halfway up for spectacular views above the cloud line of nearby Rebun Island to where we’ll catch the ferry tomorrow. 

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Leaving the woods of our campsite this morning in Shiraoi on day four of nine heading to the very top of Hokkaido. 

I’m starting to look very grubby which we resolved later in the day with a stop enroute at an Onsen – a Japanese bath house. 

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This is ‘the morning after’ selfie as we rode 141km to reach our campsite on the north east coast of Honshu yesterday and were too busy pedalling to remember to snap a shot. 

The coastline was badly devastated by the tsunami, evidence of which we saw in the dimming light with nonexistent towns and roads that our paper maps were describing. Everywhere there is continuing reconstruction. 

We ride northward following the coastline for the next four days. 

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Heading north down the Chikuma River to Tokamachi. A short easy day of 90km going down hill with the wind behind us. 

It feels properly rural and alpine. There are signs to lay-bys for the changing of tyre snow chains. Snow shovels are still stacked by house door ways. Roofs are steeply pitched with timber slatted screens fixed against dwelling walls and windows to keep wind blown snow away. 

People were skiing last week high up at Nozawa Onsen, beneath which we cycled today. The terraced fields are busy with the planting of rice seedlings. A women was drying root vegetables in the weak spring sunshine, something we’d not seen since Vietnam. 

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After a 115km ride we arrived in Gujo where I’d managed to book accommodation for tomorrow and not tonight. It is Golden Week in Japan when everyone goes on holiday so consequentially there’s no where to stay in this tiny mountain town. 

Luckily we had the tent and were directed to camp in a tiny park next to the roaring river. Other locals had done the same and we were surprisingly happy to be back in our portable home. 

We managed to eat two dinners this evening we were so hungry! We’d only had some noodles and sushi for lunch and after a delicious set dinner of rice, pickles, grilled chicken, salad and miso soup still needed more sustenance. We found a burger joint with an upstairs bar and a DJ playing 70’s disco and ate Japanese burgers made with wasabi. Just what we needed. 

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We’re having coffee and donuts in the largest 7-11 superstore as we make our way out of Osaka to Nara. A short day of only 35km but it’s raining and will do for the rest of today. 

Osaka has interesting residential districts through which we passed as we cycled east, typified by small boutique shops, bakeries and restaurants beneath tall apartment buildings. Amongst all the urban chaos there is a neatness to everything, an order to the inside of shop and office windows and the small manufacturing premises cutting and drilling machine parts in tiny spaces. 

It looks as if the artisan ways of making things still thrives here. We often come across sewing shops selling fabric, zips and everything to make clothing. Similarly DIY shops full of tools and equipment. It is definitely a place of ‘can do’  which is seen on the much larger scale in the built civil engineering structures of bridges, elevated roads and railways, which connects the country so impressively together. 

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As you can see a lot has just happened. 

Yasmin is now ok but she slipped and crashed yesterday on a wet descent and was badly cut and crazed on her face and legs. She split her crash helmet which probably saved her. Immediately a passing car stopped and the kind driver, Inoue, came to help ringing for the emergency services as I tried to look after Yasmin who was concussed and bleeding. They came quickly, considering we were in the middle of nowhere, and were amazing. 

Inoue said to go in the ambulance and he’d organise his business’s truck to collect the bikes and bring them to the hospital. This he and his father-in-law did, later dropping me and the bikes at the Onsen, where we went after treatment, to stay. 

At the hospital Yasmin was given fantastic and immediate medical care. She needed two rounds of X-rays and a CAT scan. The nurses and doctors carefully checked and bandaged her, making another appointment for a checkup the following day and sorting the Onsen reservation and accommodation for us. Remarkably she is now alright and in good spirits, recovering and taking things slowly. 

The doctors all spoke excellent English. People were so kind, professional and helpful. We feel so humbled by everyone’s attentions. At this morning’s hospital checkup the doctor gave Yasmin an origami Crane bird, made by her seven year old daughter, who wanted to wish Yasmin good luck on her further cycling journey. We almost cried when she handed over the beautifully folded paper bird.