Recently I was able to obtain some feedback from the non motorcyclist readers who visit the blog and it was interesting to hear their comments. One suggestion was I include a little more of the off bike things in my travels. Actually this is a good idea as it will encourage me to expand my photography beyond primarily landscapes and record more things since at the end of day this is just my travel journal.
So for upcoming rides I I shall try make a B-roll of other things and as a practice I’m going to post a few things from my recent Japan ride now.
If you go to one of the family restaurants then you will see ‘Japanese style Hamburg’ on menu. This is grated daikon radish with herbal leaf and citrus sauce you pour on the hot stone plate. It is very good.
In the Japanese countryside you will always find these information boards in every community. There is so much to see away from the cities so allow some extra time.
Besides family restaurants and convenience stores the other thing in every town is the huge slot machine halls known as pachinko here. Gambling is illegal but here is what happens. You play not for money but steel ball bearings. In the car park is a shop that pays good money for steel ball bearings that are used in pachinko machines.
Another Japanese thing is every town has 100’s of hostess bars. No foreigners are allowed entry which doesn’t bother me since I can not afford such anyway but there are no regular sports bars like rest of world to watch a game and that is something I miss.
So I tend to spend more time in my hotel room than I do when travelling outside of Japan but simple is ok for me and saving money means more riding. Dinner of super spicy Nagoya noodles with pickles, pretty decent wine from Portugal, wasabi spicy chips and simple breakfast of bread and juice and free hotel coffee. Total cost $12 AUD including the wine. Japan need only be as expensive as you make it.
Here is something that does cost more here, espresso coffee in a cafe or Starbucks is higher than Australia. But then you can go to a convenience store and get a machine made espresso coffee for half.
Sticking with food comparisons one thing crazy is price of pizza in Japan. In a triumph of marketing like how a beer that costs 9 cents to make sells for $9 in Aussie pubs I have seen pizza’s in Japan up to $40. This surprisingly good veggie pizza was $8 in hotel which is rare but no need to be concerned – you are not coming to Japan for pizza right?
Away from the cities you won’t find neon, but many old shops and houses often clad in iron sheeting quietly rusting away.
Old hotels are interesting. You will find these low doors, old rotary dial phones, coin operated tv’s and be told of the hotel curfew, usually 23.00 hours.
You may not believe this but McDonald’s in Japan doesn’t suck. They were doing poorly here and at one point were going to close all stores but instead aimed for higher quality to meet Japanese expectations. The menu is different also the ingredients higher quality. Your order is delivered to your table in most places and the shops although familiar are better fitout.
They still are not that popular. Local burger chains and all the Japanese fast food chains serve up tasty meal sets like above at a low price.
What is really hard for me to capture is the urban decay here. It is said there are two economies in Japan, Tokyo and the rest of the country. There are an estimated 8 million empty houses in Japan and probably just as many shuttered shops in the regional areas where many are close to ghost towns as the population shrinks.
While this is happening they continue to build new roads at an incredible pace. In a days riding I will travel through dozens of long tunnels bypassing what were once nice mountain roads. And more frequently now they barricade the old road thus access is lost for good.
But if you visit regional Japan there is still every chance you will be the only foreigner and get VIP treatment at any event or festival.
It is by far the most interesting and beautiful country to ride a motorcycle. Come soon, don’t wait.