Cycling again, the end of Japan 9 Aug – 31 Aug

Friday 10th August

Mimasaka to Kori

Daily Total 58.22 km

Trip Total 23376.92 km

And we’re back on the trikes, cycling again. It’s been a fab workaway but time to move on.

It’s an uneventful ride as we retrace our previous tracks back towards the coast. However we do make one slight detour. Remember the nice man who picked us up outside Okayama one night, took pity on us and drove us all the way back to Mimasaka?  Well we dropped off a small thank you gift on his doorstep. We were overwhelmed by his generosity and kindness and wanted to let him know that we really appreciated his help. For us it was a 42km ride from Crip’s house, so for him an 84km round trip to help out 2 stranded Brits!. Unfortunately there was no-one home so we dropped it off on his doorstep with a thank you note. Job done we cycle back to the same camping spot we used on the way up, with the added bonus of finding a porta-shower at a nearby building! Good news my new rear shock means I’m not bouncing up and down like Zebedee!   Bad news – today I snapped my right brake cable.

Sunday 12th August

Kori to Takamatsu

Daily Total 35.18 km

Trip Total 23412.1 km

Yesterday we stayed in our park.  We had a shower and relative comfort and our Takamatsu Festival doesn’t start until this afternoon.  So better to stay here where we know we won’t be moved on. Our ride to Takamatsu along the lanes beside the river is pleasant and we stop to watch the fishing nets being raised.  Sadly only tiddlers in the net which is really disappointing because we’ve seen some large fish hurling themselves out of the water to catch insects.

We continue to Uno and catch the ferry to Takamatsu – I think this is our third visit.  Our first stop is the Garlic festival where we watch some musical artistes. They’re pretty crap but it’s entertaining.

Then we head to Chuo Park and the ‘real festival’. This is more like it. It’s packed with people, food stalls and there’s some performances.   We watch Miss Takamatsu – unfortunately lacking somewhat when we don’t understand any of the judges’ questions but we can assume it revolves around world peace and saving the planet. We move on to some performing dance groups and then a singer who really has the crowd going.

 Finally we decide to call it a night and head to our designated camp spot. We’re camping on a bit of parkland out on a spit, west of the ferry harbour. We’re setting up and notice people taping down tarpaulins along the promenade facing the Seto sea. They’re marking their territory for tomorrow’s fireworks display.   Apparently it’s Numero Uno display on Shikoku – one of one perhaps????? But purportedly 8000 fireworks!

Monday 13th August


This morning we’re driven from our tent by 7am.  It’s already unbelievably hot and we’ve had a pretty tough night dealing with the heat and mosquitoes.   We wake up in the early hours (2, 3 and 4am) drenched in sweat. It’s relentless. This morning the promenade is busy with people marking their territory for tonight’s fireworks so we do the same!  Daz uses our tent groundsheet and duct tape to fix our spot!

We spend the morning trying to sleep on the benches in the park shelter and whilst I have some success Daz is too busy chatting to anyone that even happens to glance at our trikes.  

At 11am I grudgingly leave the shelter to watch the arrival of the huge cruise ship MS Asuka II. A welcome committee has been arranged with several dance routines. An odd way to greet a cruise ship but we enjoy it. In the afternoon Daz forces me out of my shelter again.  

I’m only going because I need food. My sensitive skin that’s been hidden by full coverage coveralls for the last 5 weeks is punishing me for my sunblock oversight. Day 2 of cycling and I burnt my legs and 30 minutes out in the searing sunshine watching the cruise ship and I’m paying the penalty of wearing a T-shirt.   Apart from food we also find a great bike shop where both my brake cables are replaced. The right cable had frayed so badly it had snapped whilst the left brake cable sheath had split preventing smooth running of the cable. This explains why my brakes needed the strength of 10 men to apply but had minimal stopping power.  

When we return to our shelter and the promenade it’s already filling up with the crowds.  There are 2 hours still to wait until the fireworks display but we decide to sit with the crowds and enjoy some quality people watching.  Just off the promenade there are 2 barges at anchor loaded with the 8000 fireworks. And as we wait various pleasure boats anchor a safe distance from the barges to enjoy the display.

 At last it’s time for the display to start. For the next 50 minutes we watch an absolutely incredible display. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a long display. And the crowd goes crazy with their expressions of awe.  

 After the display we sit around, after all this is our camping spot. The crowds start to disperse religiously picking up their rubbish. In the UK we think it would be left for the council to pick up! We wander over to last night’s campspot.  Unfortunately it’s still overrun by people but also totally illuminated by the moored cruise liner. We decide to recce another park and when we find it’s dark, has toilets and no people we pitch our tent. Our big oversight – there’s absolutely no breeze and there’s swarms of mosquitoes.   We zip ourselves into our tent and proceed to lose our bodyweight in sweat. Another rough night is brought to a premature close when I hear shuffling and look out my window to meet the gaze of some itinerant bag-man who proceeds to shuffle around the tent looking in and muttering to himself.  Freaky! He even picks up our flag for closer examination. He’s happy to examine us in our tent but when we get up he stays in the far corner of the park with his bike and numerous bags. I reckon a few more years and we’ll look like him!

Tuesday 14th August


So after a few horrendous nights I decide it’s time to find a hotel.  With the festival in town there aren’t many rooms available but we finally find something reasonable – well £70 with breakfast. (Hotels are expensive in Japan!) Fortunately it’s a relatively early check in – 2 pm but we turn up at 12.30pm and he lets us into our rooms.  OMG air-conditioning and a bathroom. At last I can stop sweating. Time for a nap and laundry. Over the last few days we’ve been overwhelmed by our sour stench. When you can smell yourself and it’s enough to turn your stomach the situation has hit an all time low. This is the first time on our trip (yup 4 years) that we’ve produced this vile odour and it coincided with our workaway.   The only reasonable theory I can think of is that the washing powder / water at Crip’s reacts with our sweat to produce this vomit inducing smell. Within minutes of donning a freshly laundered article of clothing and sweating, we produce this noxious odour. And so not only do we smell bad but so does our tent because of our pillow cases and our liner sheet as we sweat into it copiously during the hot nights.

As evening approaches we head out to watch the dancing element of the Festival.   The main street has been closed off and 75 dance groups parade passed us, entertaining us with their dance routines.  Most of the routines are pretty basic and it’s not the impressive display of the top Festival in Tokoshima but it’s fun nonetheless.

  After 2 hours all the groups are done and it’s time for the prize giving. Those awarded a prize do a second routine on stage, more sophisticated than their street dance.  Award ceremony over and it’s time for bed.

Wednesday 15th August

Takamatsu to Oonohara

Daily Total 67.83 km

Trip Total 23479.93 km

Well our hotel was great.  We’re well rested and smell much better and we even have the opportunity to stuff our faces at the buffet breakfast.   Then it’s time to hit the road and another treat is in store. The temperature had dropped by over 10 degrees and it’s only 27 deg C. It’s overcast and soon the rain comes.  The rain remains all day but I’m perfectly content to cycle in the warm rain. The route is uninspiring but we find a free campsite for the night with a sheltered area we can pitch the tent and coin operated showers.  

Thursday 16th August

Oonohara to Saijo

Daily Total 53.44 km

Trip Total 23533.37 km

Disappointingly when I went for my shower the shower block was locked so it was another bucket wash.  We were joined in our shelter by 2 Japanese motorcyclists. I took great delight in watching them erect their tent, it took 2 of them about triple the time it takes me to put up ours. Bizarrely they’d laid a ground sheet and then placed the tent so it wasn’t sitting entirely on the sheet – I can only assume they were trainee tent pitchers!  They were also up until 2 am and then up at 7am – definitely NOT the neighbours I need. Today another pretty uninspiring day but being so long out of the saddle it’s tough summoning the energy for a day’s cycling. We were expecting rain today but the torrential downpour didn’t materialise until our last hour so once again we’re completely soaked.  Our campsite tonight is on a sports park. Unfortunately there’s only covered seating area but not enough cover for our tent so we’re forced to use the fly so it’ll be another swelteringly hot night.

Friday 17th August

Saijo to Shitadami

Setouchi Shimanami Cycleway.

Daily Total 43.39 km

Trip Total 23576.76 km


Well it rained quite a bit throughout the night but cleverly I pitched the tent so the front door was sheltered by the covered seating area so although the rain fell on the back of the tent we could still have the front door open to get some breeze.

We cycle up towards Imabari, the town before the start of the Setouchi Shimanami Cycleway. The cycleway connects Imabari on Shikoku to Onomichi on Honshu via 6 islands, 6 bridges and 1 ferry crossing (the last bridge isn’t open to cycle traffic). With stunning views of the islands, the Seto Sea and the bridges themselves it’s purported to be one of the world’s most beautiful cycling routes and one of the top cycle destinations in Japan.

Not much happens enroute to Imabari although I do witness my first car accident which was probably caused by us! One car rear ended another car which had slowed because it was waiting to overtake Daz and was probably watching me and not the car infront.  Oh dear I feel dreadful but I don’t hang around to see what happens. We also see our first example of the rice harvest! Mini combine harvesters darting around the small dried paddy fields and unloading into tiny trucks. It’s like harvesting on a toy scale!

We can see the first bridge as we get closer. It’s Kurushima-Kaikyo bridge which is actually 3 joined suspension bridges measuring 4,105 m in length. It’s very high up, but the ingenious Japanese have built a separate ramp which spirals up just for cyclists and pedestrians making it a slow but easy climb to bridge level.  The views from the bridge are gorgeous. The blue seas and green island masses juxtaposed against the backdrop of a setting sun in a cloudless sky! Brilliant.

We drop down another ramp on the otherside to the first island, Oshima. There’s a Michi-no-eki just around the corner. Sitting on the coast looking back towards the bridge it’s an ideal camping spot for the night.

Saturday 18th August

Shitadami to Setado Sunset Beach

Daily Total 34.19 km

Trip Total 23610.95 km

Last night’s camping spot was a real treat.  As night fell we could see the impressive suspension bridge illuminated and set against a clear moonlit night.  And we also had a good wash down with the hosepipe left in the handicapped toilets but we were wary to disturbing the huge spider that was living there.

 This morning we cycle across Oshima Island, cross Hakata-Oshima Bridge – another suspension bridge 1,165m long, to Hakatajima Island.

We stop at the Dolphin farm.  There are numerous visitors paying £35 to swim with the dolphins. I was expecting huge pools and an exciting swimming experience but these poor guys are in such small enclosures and one poor Narwhale looks really depressed!  

Our next bridge is Omishima Bridge, a short 328m arch bridge crossing to Omishima Island. We could take the advanced route around this island but we settle for the shortened recommended route to Tatara Bridge, a 1,480m cable stayed bridge.   We’ve just crossed the bridge to Ikuchima Island and stop for a drink when we spot a touring cyclist, Maria, from Switzerland. We stop and chat. She’s an incredible young lady. Five years ago she cycled from her home across Europe, Central Asia to her destination which was a volunteer job with a family in a Tibetan village in Nepal.  This time her destination is The Himalayan High mountain trail (a 5 month trek) but before that there’s 11 months cycling – her warm up!!!

We chat for ages and we decide we might as well find a campsite. Just 2 kms down the road there’s Setado Sunset Beach and there’s a festival and fireworks. So we settle down to enjoy the festivities, swapping stories and comparing notes.   Maria is a cycling marvel – she’s knocking out over 100km a day and once when all her gear was soaking wet pushed out a mammoth 230km to reach a hostel in Sapporo so she could dry out. After the fireworks we proceed to find somewhere to pitch our tents.

We thought this would be so simple. First we’re told by a festival official that we can’t camp. Eventually he relents but he wants 1000 yen per tent.  We pack our tents away – we’re not paying that! But it’s after 10pm and dark and we’re not prepared to cycle off to find another spot. Instead we simply put out our bed mats and sleeping bags. No tent, no fee – well that’s our logic.

Sunday 19th August

Setado Sunset Beach to Mukaishima and return to Tatara Bridge rest area.

Daily Total 53.76 km

Trip Total 23664.71 km

This morning we’re up by 7am.  Without a tent there’s absolutely no barrier to the bright sunlight or the nosey locals so there’s no chance of a lie-in.  After a coffee we’re driven away by the festival official who didn’t want us here last night.

We cycle the remainder of Ikuchima Island cross to Innoshima Island via the cable stayed Ikuchi Bridge. We’re still cycling with Maria and I’m enjoying a good natter.  She’s a radio DJ back in Switzerland and has been working hard these past 4 years saving for her trip. As we near the end of Innoshima Island we decide to stop for breakfast at a beach. We’ve stumbled across a training session of huge rowing boats, there’s maybe 14 rowers,  2 abreast and one guy on a drum beating the time. At times they go hell for leather and practically skim across the water, very impressive.

We’re at the last bridge, over to Mukaishima island, this is another suspended bridge but this time the cycleway is underneath the main road. It’s here that we say farewell to Maria, she’s continuing on to Hiroshima, before heading to Kagoshima and a ferry to Okinawa. We’ve had a fab time with her, she so upbeat, and we are amazed by her feats. We hope to see her again sometime in the future.

Meanwhile Daz and I are heading back across the bridge and retracing our steps. We’re going to explore the island parts that we missed on the way over.  We obtained a great map at the beginning, and it shows the recommended, Intermediate and advanced routes. So we will be trying some of the other routes out. It still means we end up crossing all the bridges again! By the time we’ve crossed Innoshima and Ikuchijima island we’re ready to call it a day. We climb up to cross Tatara Bridge and just before the span there’s a view point with a waterfountain, camping spot found. Daz still has energy and proceeds to wash some of our stinking clothes before preparing dinner of sauted potatoes with onion and fried Goyza dumplings… yum!


Monday 20th August

Tatara Bridge rest area to Shitadami Michi-no-eki

Daily Total 48.32 km

Trip Total 23713.03 km

Today we cross Tatara Bridge and then take a longer route around Omishima Island and see Oyamazumi Shrine.  Then it’s back over Omishima Bridge and Hakata-Oshima Bridge and we return to the Michi-no-eki at Shitadami where we spent our first night.

It’s been a great couple of days cycling this route and whilst the roads on the islands aren’t dedicated cycleways there’s so little traffic that it’s still a pleasure to cycle.  There are at least another 10 islands that we could have visited and whilst they’re not linked by these incredible bridges they are just a ferry boat away. So there’s scope to spend many days here exploring but we have plans and a ferry to Korea to catch.

Tuesday 21st August

Shitadami Michi-no-eki to Iyo

Daily Total 66.14 km

Trip Total 23779.17 km

This morning we’re just having breakfast when we spot a tandem and we flag them down for a chat.  It’s Quentin and Florine from Switzerland and they’re cycling a normal tandem. They’ve only been on the road for 20 days, they flew from Switzerland to Narita, Tokyo.

 After a chat they head off and we return to our breakfast. Eventually we set off. After about 30km we spot the Swiss couple again and then we cycle together for the rest of the day before finding a sports’ park to camp. We compare everything, from our cooking kit to tents, it’s great fun!  A beer or two later and it’s party central!!

Wednesday 22nd August

Iyo to Usuki

Daily Total 54.6 km

Trip Total 23833.77 km


This morning we say goodbye to our Swiss friends. But 20km down the road we see them again! We’re all heading for Kyushu but we plan to take different ferries but it’s nearly the same route. Then we check the Internet and find our ferry has been cancelled today and tomorrow due to the typhoon so now we need the same ferry port. We know there’s a ferry at 1pm – it’s the ferry to Beppu, and it’s going to be tight to do the 27km in time, but we push hard. So hard I’m almost sick and I have repeated outbreaks of goosebumps which I don’t consider a good sign.  Daz is trying to draught me but can’t keep up. Unfortunately we arrive just as the ferry is due to sail, but wait… it’s been cancelled, noooo! We’re then told that there’s 1 more ferry running, not to Beppu our original destination but to Usuki 50km down the coast. With the prospect of all ferries being cancelled for the next day or two we decide to buy tickets and jump on. The ticket lady tells us that the Swiss caught the 1245pm ferry – shit they must’ve been motoring.

Blimey it’s a rough 3 hour crossing and Daz is just about holding the seasickness at bay!  In Usuki having looked at the parks and possible camping spots, we settle for a sheltered area behind the information centre. Admittedly an unusual spot but the kind lady in the information centre said we could use it. So we’ll just have to wait and see what the typhoon brings. Quentin and Florine have taken the luxury option and are staying in a Ryokan – a wise decision and a lovely treat.

Thursday 23rd August

Usuki to Haraji Falls

Daily Total 48.02 km

Trip Total 23881.85 km


Even with the typhoon winds buffeting our tent we were still sweltering.  The latent heat from the concrete pad we were pitched on radiating through the tent. Even with both doors open the heat was suffocating. So during the night we were either awake from the heat or the tent blustering over us! You couldn’t make it up!  This morning the winds have calmed although a further typhoon is expected to hit us this afternoon . Two in quick succession and numbers 18 and 19 for the season. We decide to cycle on and see what happens. We’re following Route 502 uphill towards Mt Aso which is about 90km away so we won’t make it there today. On the way out of Usuki we stop at the Stone Buddha park. There are about 4 groups of ancient carvings of Buddha and other figures on a hillside. The Japanese have lovingly restored and enshrined them in open faced wooden buildings. With the surrounding forest and paddy fields below it’s quite a charming spot.

Onwards we cycle, and although there’s a typhoon due nobody has told the sun! The temperature hits 42 degrees and Daz is feeling it again today. We need to drink more… much more! Finally after nearly 5 hours in the heat we stumble across a rest area next to Haraji Waterfall.  This semicircular waterfall on a tributory of the Ano river sits in a quaint valley with easy access for visitors. It’s still only 3pm so we lay about on some rocks and a park bench reading, oh and checking out the waterfall of course! The waters are refreshingly cold if a little murky. As evening settles we move over to the closed Michi-no-eki rest stop and cook dinner before getting our tired sweaty heads down for the night. There’s still no sign of a typhoon so we’re going without a tent in a bid to get a cooler nights sleep!

Friday 24th August

Haraji Falls to Aso Michi-no-eki

Daily Total 42.14  km

Trip Total 23923.99 km

We had a great night sleeping out on a restaurant floor with overhead cover but a breeze coming down the river Gorge.  We’ve had 2 tough days and today proves to be equally tough. We climb all day. And it’s hot! After about 5km Quentin and Florine catch us.  They camped in the village a couple of kilometers behind us last night. They are heading to a warmshower host south of Aso and we’re taking the northern route so we bid farewell.  We may well see them again as they are heading to Korea before flying to China at the end of September. The tough day is improved 100% when a family flags us down. The 2 boys present us with drinks and flavoured ice – what a wonderful treat.

 We push on and we stop at a Michi-no-eki and get chatting to a guy from Hawaii. He’s spent 17 years working in Thailand – I think volunteer work for the church/mission. He’s been resting here for 3 days and avoiding the bad weather – he’s found some sort of covered stage in an amphitheatre.   He tells us we’re almost at the top and then there’s a plateau before the descent. We only have 8km to push but it’s so hard until we finally break out of the trees and see the Aso mountain range ahead and then there’s a huge descent into Aso.

We cycle to the far side of Aso and stop at a Michi-no-eki.   It’s a hive of activity – not typical of most Michi-no-eki. I think it’s the starting point for treks up to Aso and the caldera. There are several camper vans already here for the night and there’s a festival ready to kick off at 6pm and there’s also a train station. It’s so busy that I’m not sure a night here is workable.  There are only 2 viable covered areas: the first is right outside the public toilets and the second is the electric scooter recharging point. We decide the latter is our only hope for some peace and quiet. I’ve checked out the festival and nearby area and noticed an onsen and a launderette. Time for a much needed scrub-up! My clothes are stiff with sweat and salt and are wretchedly stinky.  We head to the onsen – it’s 1100 yen for a family room our first experience of such a thing. The guy watches us prepare – I don’t mean stripping off but going through our panniers for wash-kit and clean clothes. God knows what he thinks of us but he sold us our bath ticket so having smelt us he’s probably worrying about fumigating the bath room we use. Finally we’re ready and he shows us the our bathroom.   There’s a changing room and then the hot tub room with a deep concrete basin and a washpoint against the wall. We scrub ourselves clean and then sink into the hot tub and relax. It’s hot and we return to the shower point repeatedly, dousing ourselves in cold water, then sinking back into the tub. We have an hour’s session but the heat is overwhelming so we don’t last.

Once outside we gather our stinky clothes and throw them into the wash.  Time now to watch the festivities. These Japanese festivals are amazing it’s just a shame that we don’t understand the meaning of the dances or the lyrics of the songs. We’re soon adopted by a Japanese family who want to know all about us. Fortunately Daz can show them photos of our recent adventures! The final show of the night is a magic act. Now this is excellent as it requires no language skills and it involves 3 young, sexily dressed, attractive women.  They are the magicians not the assistants – a far cry from Paul Daniels and his assistant.

The show is over and we head for bed. We just lay out the sleeping mats in the charging-station and we’re asleep in seconds. Unfortunately it’s not a quiet night – there’s a car alarm, a baby crying and a dog yapping all at suitable intervals to disrupt our night to the max but happily no one has come along demanding that we move. It’s strange that no matter how rough we look or smell the Japanese only offer us kindness, help and massive curiosity.   

Saturday 25th August

Mt Aso

Daily Total 0 km

Trip Total 23923.99 km


Yes!! A no cycling day. But instead we’ve decided to walk up Mt Aso to see the steaming Nakadate lake in the inner caldera. Nakadate is one of the most active craters in the world. The lake is normally about 60 degrees Celsius and emits about 1000 tons of sulphur dioxide a day! It has regular cycles through mud eruptions, red glow phenomenon,  Strombolian eruption and phreatomagmatic explosions before returning to a bright green lake again! Fortunately it’s just a lake today but warning signs everywhere mention the sulphur in the air and people with asphma, heart disease and bronchitis should go home! We actually take a bus from the Michi-no-eki to the bottom of the caldera so it’s only about an hour’s walk to see the lake rather than an 18km walk from the bottom.  In the distance we can see the outer caldera of Aso, it’s the biggest in the world at 18km by 25 km! So yesterday evening our steep descent was actually down into the massive caldera – how surreal! The whole area is a beautiful sea of green and this is possibly the most beautiful landscape we’ve seen in Japan.

We return to the Michi-no-eki and decide to have a day off from cycling. So we laze about and read, bit of admin and that’s the day done. Tomorrow we will have to climb out of the caldera and then descend to the coast. Normally we could cycle out via the only gap in the caldera, but in 2016 there was a huge earthquake in the region which destroyed the main road (and alot more damage besides!) and they’re still rebuilding it. So it’s another climb tomorrow!!


Sunday 26th August

Mt Aso to Tairamachi

Daily Total 74.23 km

Trip Total 23998.22 km

We both had a good night last night and sleeping out without the tent is proving so much cooler.  Today I’m determined to have an early start and we’re actually on the road for 7.30am. It’s pretty easy going until we hit the steep climb out of the caldera but the views are incredible and I’m actually glad we were forced into this climb.  

From the top of the caldera it’s a long ride to the ferry – it’s the Kumamoto ferry but it’s about 15km beyond Kumamoto. We only just make the 1pm sailing and 30 minutes later we’re in Shimabara.

There’s a debate as to whether we should stop or push on.  Daz has his eye on a Michi-no-eki but it’s 4km in the wrong direction so I’d rather pootle off in the right direction and see what we find. Our find is a shaded area by the seawall where there’s a good breeze. An added bonus is a hosepipe – wow an ensuite shower at last!  We even have a dip in the sea.

Monday 27th August

Tairamachi to Nagasaki

Daily Total 52.22 km

Trip Total 24050.44 km


Wow I’ve just had one of my worst nights ever.  I kept waking feeling things crawling along my feet and arms.  As I knocked then away they felt all wet. Finally I put my head torch on and already they’re are a few casualties near my bed –  like a giant woodlouse with numerous legs and large antenna. Revolting – they look like this!


And there’s more circling to attack.  I kill all the ones I can see but every 10 minutes I check the area for new advancing insects.  As a result I hardly get any sleep until it gets light and then I can’t get up because I’m trying to snooze so we don’t start until 10.30am and the ride to Nagasaki is bloody tough.  It’s hot and hilly but not one long decent hill but short up, short down and repeat and repeat until I think if I see one more climb I’m going to cry or vomit or both. And of course there’s not just one more climb but many.  It’s a killer! Finally we’re in Nagasaki – all thoughts to find a camping spot are discarded and it’s a Love Hotel for tonight. These hotels are for adults only – designed for a romantic tryst and supposedly anonymous. You can even book by the hour. But these hotels are cheaper with better facilities than most hostels – ensuite bathroom,  TV, aircon and real beds.


Tuesday 28th August

Nagasaki to Saikai

Daily Total 44.21 km

Trip Total 24094.65 km

What a pleasure to have a real bed and air conditioning and a special treat – some TV – an episode of Castlerock and one of celebrity Masterchef.  Today it’s a whistestop tour of Nagasaki; the monument to the 26 martyrs, the one-legged Torii gate and then the Atomic Bomb museum and the Peace Park.  We were told that compared to Hiroshima this memorial to the Atom Bomb is grittier and displays more graphically the horrendous consequences of the bomb.   And it’s true but I found the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum touched me more. The volume of visitors to Nagasaki is a fraction of those visiting Hiroshima – it’s a considerable distance from the main tourist attractions and as a result the memorial is on a much smaller scale.

 Sightseeing done we headed north dreading a repeat of yesterday’s hills but fortunately it’s been much easier. We have the Omura-wan Bay, another inland sea, to our right and we’re often treated to some very pretty sea views. Unfortunately this Highway seems popular with large articulated trucks and there’re several occasions where they’re determined to squeeze passed despite oncoming traffic. Tonight we camp by the water’s edge.  

Wednesday 29th August

Saikai to Karatsu Sports’ Ground

Daily Total 63.56 km

Trip Total 24158.21 km

Last night at around 1am we were rudely awoken by raindrops falling on our heads.   We dashed into the toilets with all our kit debating whether to put up the fly but the rain shower had stopped before a conclusion had been reached.  We decided to risk another ‘open-air’ session with our fly and poles ready for rapid deployment should more showers follow. But thankfully it remained dry.  Today we continued north. This area is very beautiful and we were told the western coastline was unmissable. But we’ve got the bit between our teeth and the end in sight so we just push on.  Tomorrow Fukuoka and buying tickets for a ferry crossing to Busan. We haven’t bothered pre-booking but hope we don’t pay top dollar.


Thursday 30th August

Karatsu Rowing Club to Fukuoka

Daily Total 62.39 km

Trip Total 24220.6 km

Last night we were told we couldn’t sleep in the Sports’ Grounds we’d originally settled in.  We used their showers and cooked our dinner before relocating under a bridge near the sailing club where there was a fabulous breeze blowing down the river.   A group of kids from the rowing club came over to say Hi and tried out our trikes. Later they returned with a box of icecreams. It was an interesting night. First of all I punctured my mattress on a piece of glass and later we woke to a thunderstorm.   We had cover from the bridge but the wind was still blowing rain on us so we had to put our fly out.

Our last day of cycling in Japan was blessed by some beautiful sea views with sandy beaches and clear blue waters. In Fukuoka we discover there were no cheap ferry tickets until 3rd September and since we don’t want to wait we have to pay 9000 yen each plus 1000 per trike plus taxes.  But we will sail tomorrow. Our last night in Japan – what shall we do? Well we stopped at a street food stall sat and ate uterus (yes really!) and started chatting to a guy and drank too many beers and Saki!

Friday 31st August

Fukuoka to Busan

Daily Total 62.39 km

Trip Total 24220.6 km


We’re on board the ferry! But our trikes boarded separately!  Weirdly when we bought our ticket they first asked us to take our ‘bikes’ with us upstairs to immigration and from there we would take them onboard with all the other foot passengers.  When we told them they were too big they still persisted for a while but once they saw our trikes they had a lightbulb moment. We were escorted around to the side of the building and our trikes were loaded onto a cargo truck to take onto the ferry. We then joined the rest if the passengers as normal.  

In a little while we will be setting off for Korea. The crossing takes 5 hours and 30 minutes so we will be in Korea at 6pm today!


So 5 months in Japan to the day. It’s been a fabulous journey all over the country. The four main islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and even Okinawa!  Spring was in the air when we arrived and the cherry blossom was spectacular, now as we leave summer is nearly over and we won’t forget the heat and humidity in a hurry!  Another thing we won’t forget is the Japanese people, so polite, generous and always smiling when they see us. Japan has been incredible and we highly recommend it to all our friends! Next stop South Korea!



Kate and Brett’s Visit Part 1 – Himeji, Takamatsu and Naoshima :29th May to 1st June

Tuesday 29th May

Toyohashi to Himeji by train

We’re off to meet Brett and Kate!  We get a lift from Aaron’s neighbour to the train station.  We’d looked at getting a cheap train but with 4 connections and 6 hours of travel we opt to use the bullet train, 1 hour 20 mins direct to Osaka!!

We need to go to Osaka first so we can buy a 7 day JR pass for the railway, which for us is only available in Osaka! Pass bought, but with a huge dent in the budget (what budget!!) we get the train from Osaka to Himeji, a local rapid train that takes 1 hour. We walk about 500 meters to our hotel but we can’t book in until 3pm, so much for rushing! We dump our bags and go out for lunch and some retail window shopping. We also decide to attempt dying my shorts khaki green – an absolute disaster!

Later back at the hotel we book in and find out Brett and Kate (to be known as BK from now on) have arrived but are snoozing after their long flight. We decide to take advantage of the hotels Onsen on the 12th floor.  After a relaxing soak we rest until early evening and then pop out for a bite to eat. BK eventually surface from their recovery slumber and we finally get together.

Hugs and kisses all around! We last saw BK in Toulouse, way back in 2015 and it’s great to see them again.


Wednesday 30th May


Ahh, would you believe it, BK have brought some good old English weather with them! It’s raining this morning and not supposed to stop until early afternoon, so sightseeing is on hold. Instead we do some retail therapy and since BK  love outdoor gear shops and have things to buy, it’s a great way to occupy our time.

We gossip and catch up over coffees whilst looking out at the bleak weather. Finally with just a spit of rain in the air we troop up to Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle also known as the White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is widely considered as Japan’s most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved, complex castle grounds. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site. Unlike many other Japanese castles, it was never destroyed by war, earthquake or fire and survives to this day as one of the country’s twelve original castles. The castle recently underwent extensive renovation over several years and was fully re-opened to the public in March 2015.

Himeji Castle lies at a strategic point along the western approach to the former capital city of Kyoto. The first fortifications built on the site were completed in the 1400s, and were gradually enlarged over the centuries by the various clans who ruled over the region. The castle complex as it survives today is over 400 years old and was completed in 1609. It is made up of over eighty buildings spread across multiple baileys, which are connected by a series of gates and winding paths.

It’s a mighty impressive castle, set against the dark storm clouds.   Well, that’s enough sightseeing for the day, let’s get back to the drinking, gossiping and a good old game of cards!.  


Thursday 31st May

Himeji to Takamatsu

This morning we all troop down to breakfast in our hotel pyjamas, we’re really rocking the pyjama look, and fortify ourselves for the day.

We book out,  but leave our luggage so we can do more sightseeing. We catch a bus to the base of Mount Shosha which is the site of Engyoji an atmospheric temple complex with a history of over 1000 years, but more importantly a film location from the Last Samurai!  It’s located at the edge of Himeji City, on a big hill, but thankfully there’s a ropeway (cable car) up to the base of the temple complex. We still have a steep walk up around the dark misty forest to the temples themselves, but it’s an amazing sight. We’ve caught the weather just right with BK bringing a fine mist from England to shroud the forest and temples – very atmospheric .


Engyoji’s temple buildings are spread over a spacious, densely forested area on the mountain top. From the ropeway station it takes us 15 minutes to walk uphill to reach the Niomon Gate and another 15 minutes to reach the Maniden, a beautiful wooden temple hall, constructed on pillars on a steep slope. We take our shoes off and wander around the ornate wooden buildings, imagining we are Samurai!  Another five minute walk along forest trails brings us to the three massive wooden temple halls, known as Mitsunodo: the Daikodo (main hall), Jikido (lodging and dining hall, now exhibiting temple treasures) and Jogyodo (gymnasium). More buildings and an observation point with views over the urban sprawl of Himeji are located even further along the trails in the Okunoin area.


As we commented earlier, due to the beautiful scenery and absence of modern infrastructure on its temple grounds, Mount Shosha is frequently used as a filming location for historical movies and TV dramas. Besides mostly domestic productions, the Hollywood movie “The Last Samurai” was partially shot on the mountain, incorporating scenes taken around and inside the halls of Mitsunodo.  So we’re actually walking in the footsteps of Tom Cruise – awesome!

Back in Himeji we jump off the bus at Kokoen, a relatively recently constructed Japanese style garden, which was opened in 1992 on the former site of of the feudal lord’s west residence (Nishi-Oyashiki). It consists of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various styles of the Edo Period.

Among the gardens are the garden of the lord’s residence which features a pond with a waterfall, a tea garden where visitors can enjoy green tea in a tea ceremony house, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden. Just to mention, we really don’t enjoy green tea!!   

We head back to the hotel and pick up our luggage then pootle over to the train station. Next stop on our sightseeing tour, Takamatsu… well actually it’s Okayama, but only to change trains to Takamatsu. Our first train is a high speed Shinkansen, fondly known as the Bullet Train, for its elongated nose.

They are beautiful to behold, and when they silently scream through the station at high speed you wonder why the British Rail system runs on moldy leaves and occasionally to its timetable!!  We switch to a more sedate local train in Okayama and cross the long bridge over the Seto Inland sea to the island of Shikoku and n to Takamatsu. For those of you that haven’t worked it out, Japan is an island nation, and there are lots of islands. The archipelago consists of 6,852 islands (“island” defined as land more than 100 m in circumference), of which 430 are inhabited. The four main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu; Honshu is the largest and referred to as the Japanese mainland.

Tonight we’re in different hotels as we are making a vain attempt to keep our costs down. BK are in another Dormy Inn whilst we are in a hostel but actually it’s very comfortable, the showers efficient and hot and we’ll only be sleeping in it.

As an added bonus our hostel is above a bar, so we enjoy a refreshing beer before heading out to meet BK for our evening meal.  Yet again we have fun ordering various snack dishes from the Japanese language menu, murdering our food with chopsticks and then trying to work out what we’ve actually ordered!!

It really is a voyage of discovery!


Friday 1st June

Takamatsu and Naoshima Art Island

This morning we’re all catching a local ferry to the small island of Naoshima.

Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is known for its modern art museums, architecture and sculptures. Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan’s large urban areas such as Tokyo and Osaka.

Much of Naoshima’s art was installed by the Benesse Corporation, which oversees art museums, installations and sculptures both on Naoshima and on neighboring islands. Benesse’s museums were designed by the well known Japanese architect Ando Tadao and include the Chichu Art Museum, Lee Ufan Museum and all the buildings of the Benesse House. In addition, Naoshima’s municipal buildings and schools were designed by the modern architect Ishii Kazuhiro.

The sun is shining at last and it’s a beautiful crossing ; just one hour with scenic views over the many islands, bridges and fishing boats. We spend the whole crossing playing cards on the top deck. In our defence we are playing our favourite game, Nominations,  and with a rolling score sheet for the whole of BK’s visit, a very important part of our time. B (he of BK fame), has been steadily falling behind and needs every opportunity to recoup some points, but yet again the cards are not in his favour and it’s Kate who maintains and extends her early lead!

We hire some folding 6 gear bikes with 20” wheels when we get to Naoshima and with the sun in our hair cycle off to check out the island and it’s may art installations. First stop a large red and black pumpkin at the terminal! This is Kusama’s first pop art installation, one of the most acclaimed Japanese artists, a precursor of Pop Art and she influenced Andy Warhol as well as Claes Oldenburg.  From the terminal we cycle on. There’s golden beaches, pine forest covered hills and…. Wait! Did I just say hills?? 6 gear mini bikes are not hill climbing machines, whose idea was this! Breaking out into a fine sweat was not on the agenda today!

On the beach near Tutsuji-so we see Kusama’s most famous yellow pumpkin, overlooking the sea with the numerous islands as a backdrop.   It’s definitely worth visiting.

After more art/sweat we descend into Honamura village, a beautiful quaint town on the northern coast. We decide to stop for lunch, and boy, we aren’t disappointed with the quality of the food.  They even have an English menu for us non Japanese speaking tourists!

Honamura village is home to 9 art house projects, or old abandoned buildings that have been artified by local and internationally recognised Japanese artists (go on I dare you to name one,  we couldn’t!!). We don’t have time or really the arty inclination to visit them all so BK visit one and we visit another that has a statue of liberty inside!  We weren’t actually supposed to take photos so don’t tell anyone!


On the ferry trip back we reminisce about the many beautiful things we have seen today. No we don’t!  We play more cards!! On our arrival back in Takamatsu we still have more sights to see. Takamatsu castle is next, also known as Tamamo Castle, it was built in 1590 adjacent to the Seto Inland Sea. It is one of the few Japanese castles built along a waterfront, and features saltwater moats that draw directly from the sea. The Ikoma Clan ruled from the castle for 54 years before their fief was given to the Matsudaira Clan, relatives of the Tokugawa Shogun, who kept the region for the remainder of the Edo Period. Exciting stuff hey!

Takamatsu Castle’s keep was destroyed during the Meiji Period, but there are plans to reconstruct it in the future. A first step towards this goal was achieved in 2013 when the restoration of the castle tower’s foundation was completed after many years of work.

All sightseeing completed we decide to try out one of Japan’s top fast food joints, Sukiya. This noodle, rice bowl restaurant is a refreshing change to our normal deliberations over unfathomable menus, with not only an English menu, but pictures too,  they’ve obviously decided to take pity on us. And it’s another delicious meal (nearly all our Japanese food experiments have been great – just don’t mention the wet smelly mouth popping fish eggs (roe)).