Warren
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Each season in Japan brings a dramatic change in the landscape. This begins with the famous cherry blossoms in April, then trees everywhere sprout vivid green new leaves in May. The fields turn emerald green over summer as the rice grows and in Autumn entire mountains turn orange. However catching the fall colours can be difficult.

My first Autumn ride was in 2014 and I got lucky, but since then I have missed the change of colour many times despite having access to expert predictions like above – since they are wildly inaccurate.

However it is a spectacle I try to see every year so I put together an idea for a grand ride spread over three weeks.

I start with a night time sailing on a new ferry to Kyushu from the town where I live. It’s a torrential downpour but they put the bikes on early and I am soon inside and dry.

Taking a ferry sure beats riding in the morning heavy traffic. I have a private cabin which cost only a little more than bunk bed accommodation and there is a restaurant and onsen and many areas to relax.

The sailing past the lower coast of Shikoku the following afternoon was spectacular but the windows had considerable ocean spray making photos too difficult.

I packed thermals for this trip but disembark the next evening into very mild weather. I am going to be seeing that neon a lot this trip. Hotel AZ is a budget chain I am using all over Kyushu.

The ride begins!

Beautiful roads next day with absolutely no sign of autumn. I have reduced my daily distance this tour to under 250km a day, some days just 200km to allow more time to enjoy things.

I detour to visit rocky grasslands but I wanted more rocks… like the New England highlands which is my favourite part of Australia.

Then more great roads to try visit a mountain top temple however the last 1 km turns out to be this stone path and my old knee injury says no.

Still the ride up was superb.

Beautifully surveyed with perfect corners for motorcycles. I arrive at my first road closure this tour and this presents me with a big detour – but that always reveals new roads.

Eventually I return to my original route and stop for a late lunch at more rocks and a faint hint of autumn.

I guess I am a ‘viewpoint chaser’ and as such I am in the right country. Japan loves building observation towers everywhere, even the most remote places.

From here I ride higher on remote backroads in search of another mountain top view but the road was closed.

Returning to my route I round a corner to find it also closed. Sigh. This happens with these remote roads. It’s already mid afternoon so I ride around the barricades to see if I can get through.

It got pretty rough with fallen rocks but a bike could squeeze past thus after 15 minutes I reach the other end to great relief.

And there I find this suspension bridge in the middle of nowhere.

Impressive.

I was happy to get off the narrow back roads today. I like exploring but 1st-2nd gear all day with constant blind corners to tippy toe around gets old. I prefer regular two lane sweeping roads – easy flowing riding.

There isn’t a finite number of good roads in Japan like Australia. Actually there are more great motorcycling roads than most people could ever ride once in a lifetime let alone enough times to become bored. I don’t see a strong case for me to buy a ADV bike here.

It’s showing it’s age but remains a very competent touring machine.

Big day, big feed. Jolly Pasta chain make the best pepperoncino pasta I have eaten outside of Sicily.

After dinner I make sure to look at tomorrows route on the Toyota road routable site for closures which I should have done for today.

Next day I am exploring Saga prefecture. It’s a beautiful morning.

I’m not into temples but I do like how they all have magnificent trees.

Above is a stop on my way to a mountain top where I was surprised to find heavy armed soldiers and a missile defense base. The road was still open to another temple there but no doubt will be gated very soon.

Below is a much nicer mountain I explored next and where I have today’s picnic lunch.

You probably get tired of me saying this on the blog – but it’s just so beautiful riding the countryside here.

From lush valleys an hour later I am overlooking Karatsu bay.

Something different. A viewpoint under a bridge before I proceed over it.

Here I reach the end of Kabe island but the path to the lighthouse is closed for repairs. Still a nice spot.

My final viewpoint for today. What a fantastic area this is. So much more to explore in future.

I always find many effigies when touring Kyushu and not entirely sure what they are about. Morning of day 3 and I am in a very happy mood.

“Let me take you down cause I’m going to strawberry fields, nothing is real”

It’s great to have lots of time and not feel I have to keep moving.

I ride over to the mysterious and beautiful Ikitsuki island located in the northern part of Nagasaki prefecture.

A mini Irish Causeway Coast can be found here, the farms even have stone wall fences.

There is a gale that is getting stronger so after lunch I skip some other sights and get back to the bridge which is closed if wind exceeds a certain speed. I can barely hold the bike in my lane as I cross.

In more peaceful conditions I find my way to a mountain with quite an extraordinary view point. Left I can see all the way to Goto islands which I rode in 2017. To the east is Ikitsuki island. There is a beautiful park here and spotless toilets in middle of nowhere which makes me smile.

Moving south I explore more of Sasebo, a region like Saga I had previously skipped, and wow what a mistake that had been but it gives me great joy to discover a little of it this afternoon.

This is another view tower that sits elevated on a remote hill yet also has a park that is carefully mowed and spotless. In the distance is Hirado island where I just came from. It is plain to see this area needs much more exploring in future.

Motorcycle Paradise visits Paradise Garden. It’s another onsen hotel, Japanese people love public bathing, something I have no interest in. However Indian food, yes please! I’m asked to choose spice level from 1 to 10. I choose 10 but it’s made for local tastes so still too mild for me ha-ha.

I’m aware people’s attention span is short these days so I am trying to write concisely yet still give the reader some images in their mind. I’ve seen quite a upturn in traffic to my blog in 2021. Perhaps people are tiring of YouTube and enjoying more varied content again but I will stop the ride report here to keep things fresh. Part two soon.

6 Comments

  1. Really engaging account, Warren. Thank you again for sharing your travels.

  2. This is pretty amazing stuff with beautiful photos. Another friend has ridden some of Japan hiring an S1000XR and he really loves it too.

  3. You’ve sold me a touring Japan. I’d love to have a crack at riding there in summer when its not wet and windy.
    Beautiful photos yet again Warren, it must be tough with that subject matter to photograph.
    Were most of those towers built back during the war as lookouts to spot ships?

    • Hi Steve, thanks the scenery is truly breathtaking on a fine day.

      All the viewpoints are post war structures. I would guess many are 80’s era but some mountain top areas I visit are old shrines and these could date 1000 years. But I actually have a WW2 site to show you next.

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