Well, the sun is shining outside, and quite brightly, as well. But this is how my day starts off:
My left boot is leaking and is still a bit soggy from yesterday's ride.
Plastic bag sock condom to the rescue!
So remember how down I was on Internet web forums, because nobody seems to be using them anymore? I actually got a response from one of the Japanese motorcycle forums I'm on! Dale is an American ex-pat living on Kyushu island, and he replied to one of my posts, inviting us out to breakfast before he headed out for work. He told us to meet him at a diner in Kitakyushu, which was less than 40 minutes away from our ryokan in Fukuoka. Cool! We get to meet another fellow motorcycle rider!
Dale brought all of his maps with him and helps us to plan our route through Japan
Seems like Dale is a regular here. He was conversing quite fluently with the owner! I'm a member of a Facebook group for ex-pats in Japan and from all the chatter on there, it seems that the default job for gaijin is to be an English teacher. But now we're meeting so many people that have other jobs as well. Dale is a technical writer for Yamaha! We spent a lot of time talking about his experiences in Japan and motorcycling specifically! He said that on Kyushu, you never have to put away your motorcycle for the winter.
Well then, Kyushu has automatically jumped up the list for a good place to settle! :)
Dale had to take off to go to work, and we thanked him for the warm welcome and for all the information.
Dale rides a Yamaha, naturally! MT-09 Tracer!
We asked one of a bunch of Japanese ladies passing by to take our picture. After she did, the group of ladies also wanted to take our picture. Well, not of us, just of them and Neda! It seems that a gaijin girl on a motorcycle is quite the curiousity in these parts, same as I was in Latin America! :D
I took a shot of them with my camera as well! Neda towers over most of them! :D
We rode out of Kitakyushu, heading east across the bridge back onto the main island of Honshu. The road we're on takes us through Mine City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This plateaued area is called Akiyoshidai and is littered with thousands of limestone karst formations on the ground around us. Very scenic!
Stopping to take some pictures of all the rocks
The visitor centre at Akiyoshida
There is also a 9-km long limestone cave nearby, it's the longest one in Japan. The first km is open for tourists but there's an entrance fee which we don't want to pay. Because paying to hike a kilometre is just insult on top of injury. They should be paying *me* to go hiking! :)
Plus these cool-looking rocks are free and we're riding around them on motorcycles. No hiking involved!
Carps, blowing in the wind
Further along the way, we cross a bridge and see dozens of these carp-shaped wind socks blowing in the wind. These are called koi-noibori and are usually put up to celebrate the national week-long holiday called Golden Week, where the whole country goes on vacation. It's similar to Ferragosto in Italy, which we had the misfortune to run into.
Golden Week starts in a couple of weeks, so this time, we're going to try to finish up our Japan tour before the holidays begin because it'll be impossible to find accommodations while on the road since everyone has booked their hotels and ryokans months in advance, plus there'll be heavy traffic jams all over the islands!
Congestion around the big cities in Japan is bad enough normally, I can't even imagine how bad it gets during Golden Week!
Fellow two-wheelers on their daily commute
OMG, we're such tourists!
As we get closer to our destination for the evening, we come across this huge shopping centre that's decorated with all the traditional Japanese imagery. Kimonos, paper lanterns, pagodas, etc. But it's obviously a tacky tourist trap! We love it! So we stop to walk around and revel in all the Japanese kitsch!
Tourists in Japan
Browsing through all the tourist trinkets for sale under the coloured lights of the outdoor shopping centre
There's even a temple behind the shopping centre. With a golden cardboard buddha cutout! :)
And of course, the line of requisite vending machines
We've stayed out way too late and now we have to find a place to sleep. Neda checks online to find nearby accommodations
It's after dark as we pull into a suburb on the outskirts of Hiroshima. We find a youth hostel, that's a bit more modern than the ryokans that we've been staying in lately.
It's typical budget accommodations, dorm-style rooms and shared bathrooms. Good enough for the 10 or so hours we'll be staying for!
This is the common area, the Japanese kitsch continues! :)