FINAL DAYS ON JAPAN BICYCLE TOUR
|Day 13 35km We have set a pace to reach the ferry off Shikoku Island
and on to the famous hot spring area of Beppu Kyushu for my 59th
Birthday. We also stop at the big Matsuyama train station to activate
our one week rail pass to begin the day after. It is an easy ride on Rt
out of town then Rt #378 down the coast with the sea on our starboard
My wrist is like a painful tooth ache but today I know I will make it to our destination we planned so long ago. Of course today like every day is full of surprises. This time it is Steve's trailer wheel that is slowly moving to the end of it's axel and about to fall off as mine did back on our first days biking in Hokkaido.
A quick fix and we reach the little resort town of Futami squeezed between the mountains and white sandy beaches. Of course our last night on Shikoku has to be straight up a huge winding hill to the Seaside Resort. It is a special treat, we have the place to ourselves. We watch a beautiful orange sunset from the balcony overlooking the sea.
Day 14 63.5km It is our last day on the bicycles. Of course we must not end this journey without a big hill at the end and one last dreaded TUNNEL!! The hill is easy, we have got our biking legs! The tunnel is also a breeze despite the fact that it has no sidewalk and is 3.5km long. Our state of mind helps, taking in every last bit of pleasure, keenly observant of every last minute on the bikes.
We quietly ride past a little girl. She stands attentively watching us and then gives us a very deep bow as we pass. It has been the one most predominate mannerism. The Japanese have a loyalty feeling that is part of their culture of respect called ‘amae’. Just as I am thinking how this is Japan's polite way.........I hear her little shoes clop clopping behind me, coming faster and faster. She is chasing after us. I don't stop! A big smile comes to my face as I ride on imagining her to say......"Please don't go, come back".
See you in Kyushu.
We have arrived on the southern island of Kyushu the third largest of the four major islands of Japan. The ferry ride was 2 hours from Yawatahama, a port town on Shikoku Island, to Beppu on the NE coast of Kyushu.
Steve knows my careful planning was to reach Beppu, one of Japan's major hot spring centers in time for my Birthday.
From the ferry, as we entered the harbor, we could see steam rising out of the hill sides from the thermal springs.
A short bus ride up 25km into the steep mountains behind Beppu (glad not to be biking this one) we find the quiet traditional village of Yufuin.
It is full of tiny galleries, museums and ONSENS!
We have left the bikes in Beppu and have taken a room in one of the nicest and most friendly youth hostels to date.
My Birthday meal is shared with a group of older Japanese men and one women.
But best of all, once again we find the perfect onsen. It is in the very posh Hotel Musouen. Their largest thermal pool is reputed to hold up to100 and is situated outside in a beautiful rock garden high on a mountainside overlooking the valley.
We also have the option of a private small outdoor thatch roofed family onsen with the same view and all for $4 apiece.
We take all the options and spend the day relaxing and soaking in the warm pools in cool mountain air watching the trees turn autumn colors.
Now in our third month in Japan we end our bicycle journey in Kyushu where we will begin our one week Rail Pass and a week in Tokyo. Kyushu proved to be an amazing island and one that is said to be very good for a bike tour. Guess we will have to wait until next time to find out.
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SUMMARY OF BICYCLING IN JAPAN
We added another 324.1 km of bicycling in Honshu, 290.5 km on Shodoshima and Shikoku Islands to our 1165.9km in Hokkaido. We did a grand total of 1780.5km. The last 300km SINGLE HANDED!! (approx. 1200 miles)
Honshu will be remembered as the busy, high traffic, big city part of our tour with lots of culture and history. Shodoshima and Shikoku the pilgrimage , a more spiritual introspective journey with temples and shrines. We found Hokkaido the best for biking because of it's nature, camping and hot springs.
Once off of Hokkaido we gave way to more traditional types of accommodation and Youth Hostels. YH were all very nice in the $50 to $60 a night range for two. The Minshuku's and Ryokans about the same or higher, up to $84 a night. For a few weeks our accommodation expense out priced our food expense.
Except for that first night in Hokkaido we never again missed one single ONSEN OR SENTO!!
Looking back, bicycling in Japan will be remembered as a very safe/affordable/luxurious, biking/camping/onsen experience. A great way to see Japan!
I had visited the Shiki Memorial Museum, dedicated to Masaoka Shiki the premiere haiku poet, and as we passed one last henro (pilgrim) I try a verse: "Henro with cane, Waiting for train, Journeys end, Begins again".
Now off to Tokyo on our Japan Rail Pass.