Just got back from my holidays in Japan. Me and the Mrs were out there visiting the in-laws, so like you do when you’re visiting your inlaws I rented a bike and squeezed in a cheeky one day ride out. I used to live in Japan which is where I first got into biking, although back in the day, I was riding scooters and small bikes, so this was the first time to get on a proper machine and take it out into the mountains. Awesome day.
Japan really is one of the best biking places in the world - both for the twisty mountain roads and a generally very bike friendly attitude. I took some pics for you lot, below.
Renting a bike in Japan is pretty easy. You just need to get your international driving licence from the post office before you go and have a credit card (and not mind signing a contract you can’t read!) They rented me a helmet with the bike, but to be honest what they gave me felt like papier-mache - the only thing that can be said for it is it was legal, so I really missed my Shoei. I had managed to stuff my jacket/ boots/ trousers into the suitcase as they don’t rent that stuff, although it did mean I had to spend the whole 10 days with only a toothbrush and one pair of grundies!
There’s loads of bike rental places all over Japan. We were based in West Tokyo so I used these guys: http://www.rental819.com/recommended.php I wanted the CB1300 but at my branch the selection wasn’t as good as the website shows, so settled for a ZRX1200. Glad I did as it was an awesome bike and just gobbled up the steepest gradients. It took me a while to get used to it though - I found it a bit light at first for a big bike, but soon I loved it and now I would consider it as a next bike. Shame about the massive zorst though which was huge. It must have been stuffed full of cotton wool or something as it actually made no noise whatsoever! All the locals had replaced theirs, like you do.
While I was picking up the bike I had one of those funny chats with the shop staff who asked me “do you have Kawasaki’s in England?” Brilliant. He probably thinks we’re all riding round on 1960’s Bonnevilles.
The ride was brilliant - hooning up and down the mountain roads in the Okutama area west of Tokyo. Absolutely amazing scenery and the best roads you could wish for. The motorway takes you out to the mountains in less than an hour from Tokyo and then your in twisty heaven. Take a look a the map below and you’ll see what I mean! I was using a bike touring map - the purple roads are the “reccommended routes” (nice!). On top of that you’re going up and down some pretty steep gradients which makes for a very different experience to what you get round the Essex villages.
I kept thinking I’ll just do this good bit, then Ill take a break, but the good bit just never ended and by 4pm I realised I hadn’t stopped for longer than about a minute just to read the map! Couldn’t find anywhere open for lunch at that time as I was in the middle of nowhere, but eventually I managed to find a wizened little old man selling something unmentionable. Hey, when your hungry, hey grilled sparrow’s not as bad as it sounds…
If anyone is seriously interested in taking a holiday to Japan – then do it on a bike. Really it’s the best way to see Japan. Even in the cities it’s the best way to get around and no-one’s going to bother you with parking regulations, theft etc and as well as having some of the best riding of your life, you can get off the normal tourist trail and see some of the real Japan. Japan is a very inexpensive place to be (that rumour is a hang over from the 80s) although there’s no escaping that you’ll need to pay for your rental, but you get a better deal for a longer rental. Next time when baby John is a little bigger, me and the Mrs plan to do the job properly and do a full on 2 week tour. Watch this space.