Sumo! More workaway and a flying visit to Okinawa – 10 July to 27 July

Tuesday 10th July

Sumo day!!!! This morning we’re up at 4.45am to buy our tickets at the Aichi Prefecture Gymnasium, situated in the castle grounds.  The ticket booth opens at 7.45am and there are only about 100 tickets sold each day of the tournament. There were tickets available online on 24th May for this tournament that runs from 8th to 26th July but firstly they’re more expensive and secondly we weren’t really sure where we’d be and whether getting to Nagoya would be possible.   

We were expecting a huge queue even at 5am but there’s only a small gathering and we’re 10th. Perhaps it’s because it’s early in the tournament or because it’s not as popular as Tokyo but we could’ve turned up at 7.30am and still got tickets. But this way we get to meet a NZ couple who sit with us in the queue and we get the full sumo experience.   Thankfully it’s a beautiful day so we lie out and doze. At 7.45am the ticket booth opens and we purchase our tickets – 2900 yen each.

These tickets allow us sit on the top row but we’re only allowed to leave the gymnasium once. The show opens at 8.30am and finishes at 6pm and as the day progresses the higher the wrestling division. So the top division wrestles from 4pm to 6pm and all the wrestlers fight every day of the tournament.   We decide we need more sleep to fully appreciate the day so we head back to our hotel for breakfast and bed. At 1.45pm we’re back at the gymnasium but we don’t head inside immediately. Whilst queuing this morning we were told at 2pm and 3.30pm there’s something to watch outside and there’s obviously something due to happen because crowds are gathered along the barriers. So we stand and sweat and watch and sweat some more. It’s unbelievably hot.  As we watch cars pull up and sumo wrestlers dismount, some with an entourage of minions acting as bag carriers and door openers. Some of these wrestlers are really popular although the crowd is always very reserved with some limp hand clapping and a few greetings called. We watch for about 45 minutes, always waiting for the “big one” (Daz’s phrase) but actually we wouldn’t know the “big one” if he hit us in the face, although that would undoubtedly hurt, and we’re not entirely sure what we’ve been watching.  Are all the wrestlers returning from lunch or is this the arrival of the top league????

Actually on further consideration we think we watched the arrival of the ‘big guns’, the top league and this was between 2 and 3.30pm. We decide we’ve seen and sweated enough and head inside. We check out our seat options but the back row is way back and that’s not going to be any fun so we follow the advice we were given, find an empty seat near the front and wait for the real occupants to turn up. So we do and find an incredible seat not far from the ring.  The view is excellent and we are really impressed by the splendour and heritage that makes up a sumo event. We sit on mats in a little enclosure for 4 people whilst the gymnasium slowly fills to capacity all around us. Seats to our left and right fill up and we keep our fingers crossed that we don’t get moved too soon.

On to the actual sumo… we have entered as the intermediate division is fighting, with only the big dogs of the Senior Division to come after. We watch on. Just before each bout starts the Dojo is blessed by a man singing.

Then the referee comes on and announces the Fighters. One steps up onto the clay and dirt ring from the East, the other from the West. They rub their hands in salt/sand and throw some into the air. Then they face off against each other and perform a leg lifting and stomping dance, I’m sure if you’ve ever witnessed sumo on TV you know what I mean. Then they hunker down and get ready to battle it out… no wait, they’re back up for some more stomping, hand ringing and occasional showboating. Back they come, face off time again.

We’re not sure what the signal is but the next second there’s an almighty clash as the two behemoths come together, pushing and grunting, face slapping and belt grabbing. Basically if your first out of the straw circle, or if your hands or body touch the floor you lose.  We see quite a few of the front row audience getting an up close and personal introduction to the combatants as they occasionally tumble out of the low ring into their laps!

As the day progresses we get really caught up in the spectacle,  debating who will win, watching the adverts (young lads with banners walking around the ring between bouts!), crowd watching (there’s definitely a few female “companions” dotted around in full kimono.  Explanation: we know Japanese men enjoy the company of an attractive young lady and will pay for such an experience. We’re not talking prostitution, just companionship and talk. There are bars where ‘women’ can be purchased for a chat session.   There’s also the geisha girls). So as we look round the gymnasium we see a number of attractive ladies dressed in Kimono sitting with older, unattractive men. Perhaps they’re genuine couples??? and here to enjoy the bouts themselves. Before the Senior Division starts all the Fighters, both East and West are paraded into the ring. There’s some more pageantry and then it’s their turn.  As mentioned earlier, these fighters will fight each other every day for the whole tournament in a huge round robin. At the end each Division will have a winner but that’s over 20 days away. Mid way through this division having just watched Endo, one of the most popular Fighters in this division, we go off to buy a beer only to return to find our seats taken. Finally the guy who bought these seats has turned up – that’s £100 per cushion and there’s 4 cushions in the enclosure and there’s only 30 minutes of wrestling left!  We are really glad we came, it’s been an amazing experience. We had been told we might get bored after seeing one or two bouts, but how wrong they were. Totally enthralling!

Wednesday 11th July

Time to head back. We set off and position ourselves at an on ramp to the expressway in Nagoya centre.  It’s baking hot but there’s lots of traffic so it shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately a little later the Road Patrol comes along and moves us on, we can’t hitchhike on the ramp, and as it’s on the other side of a 4 lane highway it’s impossible to do it from the safe side of the road!  At this point we have a bit of a meltdown, suffice it to say after much walking about, subway travel, bus depots, we end up at Nagoya train station and catch the train to Okayama. This will leave us 55km from our workaway but a bus or local train should finish the job. Well, that’s what we thought. But about an hour into the journey our train makes an unscheduled stop at Himeji. We think nothing of it until there’s a Japanese announcement after 20 minutes wait.  The computer generated English translation of one sentence comes over the tannoy. “Due to a fatal accident this train will not start until 1730”. OK, now we know what the problem is. The restart is delayed again and again until about 1845 we finally pull out of the station. Now there are more delays as we wait for the other trains that had stopped with us in Himeji to clear the stations in front. By the time we reach Okayama we are about 3 hours late. But we hear another English announcement,  “Refund at Train Station “. We get off and enter the 3rd ring of hell, there are people queueing to get on late trains. People queueing to get out of the station, and bedlam in between, all in Japanese! We finally join a queue to get a refund, and receive a partial refund. We ask (argue!) why not a full one? The assistant keeps circling our ticket and saying stuff in Japanese. Finally we walk off, much to the relief of the people behind us in the queue no doubt. So there are no local trains nor will there be any tomorrow due to the recent flooding. The local buses have all finished for the night and every Inn/hotel/guest house in town is full. It’s also dark, time to hitchhike! We walk about 2km to the road we need, thumb out for a while with no joy then decide to walk along the road another 2km to a 7/11 convenience store in the hope of more traffic. Finally a business man pulls in and in stilted English asks us where we are going. “Mimasaka” we respond. He’s going home, another 15km up the road we need and offers us a ride. Yes please!  After some more stilted conversation as we drive along, he says it will be difficult for us to get to Mimasaka tonight. We agree. Hmm, head scratching. “OK I will take you”. Wow, we are overjoyed, but feel bad that this guy is going about 40km (80km round trip) out of his way just to drop us off! One final twist, he says it’s an electric car, so we go to his house first and swap over into his family petrol MPV! So at about 1130pm we finally walk back into the house. Crip and Kazumi are still up, entertaining another couple who are also staying the night, but we are so knackered we head straight to bed!


Thursday 12th July to Sunday 15th

We’re straight back into work mode. Back up at the ‘construction site’ it’s time to do the interior.  The lower half of the wall is plywood, then there’s a dado rail and above is plasterboard. Not forgetting the dreaded rockwool itchy insulation stuff that needs gloves to handle and goes between exterior ply and the internal walls!  

Crip brings the new sliding door he’s had made and helps us fit it into the final wall. I dig a drainage channel and fit a concrete gutter outside to take away excess rainwater.

We fit the back window into a casement, and finish the last exterior wall with outdoor ply and cladding.

After 3 hard and very long days, where each job seems to take an age, we are left with fitting the ceiling panels between the rafters. This by far is the hottest,  most finicky job to date. We have to put the itchy insulation in, batons for the ceiling board to sit on and cut all the boards individually as each rafter space is a different size! But finally we are done.

Wow, a whole new extension built by us, amazing! In the evenings we also fit in some crumble and scone making and even manage some sleep despite the heat and humidity. The rainy season looks to be over and with its departure the heat has seriously kicked in. On Sunday evening as we are returning from the new build we pass the local lake. There’s some type of fishing event going on. We spot Crip and Kazumi and pull in for a gander.  It’s the village annual eel fishing event! BBQ, beer and a spot of night fishing. We are soon handed a plate of food and a beer each and shortly after a fishing rod. As it gets dark I’m casting and catching like a professional… no, wait, that’s the beer talking. My rod gets tangled with ground clutter, other people’s lines, and the drunk Japanese fisherman sat next to us. However it’s great fun and the stars are out in force tonight. Crip catches an eel and the villagers clap and cheer before he returns it to the water for next years fishermen! Finally just before we call it a night I catch a large black bass! Not a native fish, but one brought in by the Americans. It’s not liked amongst the locals as it decimates the local fish stock. It’s quickly thrown on the BBQ and we end up taking it home for the cat to eat!! What a fab evenings entertainment


Bank Holiday Monday 16th July


A late and lazy start for us. We tidy our room, air our futon bed mats and decide what job we want to tackle next. After the construction there’s now painting and plastering and a few prettification jobs to be done. There’s still a gate to be built and there’s always lots of weeding. Decisions,  decisions. But with the heat in the high 30’s and high humidity we take our time! Finally by 1030 we drag ourselves to work. Crip and Kazumi both express shock. It’s a bank holiday in Japan, hence the fishing last night, so they thought we’d take the day off. Relentlessly we persevere in the tropical heat, the cicadas chirping in the forest around us. Normally we do work at a hard pace, but today we have a whiff of the relaxed, some might say Spanish rule of work. Daz builds his mahhosive gate and I fill the cracks between plasterboard with tape and putty. By 5pm, we are done for another day. Dinner tonight…  crispy mackerel in a spicy sauce, delicious.

Thursday 19th July

Tomorrow we’re off to Okinawa to do some diving – well we’re hoping to do some but a typhoon is forecast and we’ve had a hell of a job trying to organise dive trips and accommodation.   But fingers crossed!

Over the last 3 days we’ve sanded, masked and painted the inside of the shed, fitted skirting boards, decorative window and door frames, creosoted the exterior, clad the gaps in the eaves and cleaned and titivated our shed extension.   Daz also finished his GATE (Daz insists his creation is so awesome it requires capitalisation) and Crip and I helped fit it, it looks fantastic, replacing some wire mesh. We even did a bit of weeding.

The heat has been oppressive but Daz has valiantly braved the heat in the kitchen to produce the goods. Potato pancakes, grilled fish, chilli con carne to name but a few.  

 Crop spraying with a remote control helicopter!

We come in after a hard day, shower, and immediately break out into a sweat that seeps from every pore and orifice, I kid you not. God knows what it’s going to be like when we start cycling again!


Friday 20th to 27th August


This morning Kazumi gives us a lift to the bus stop.  We’re catching a bus to Osaka and then a flight to Naha, Okinawa.  We were planning to camp in Okinawa but last night I found a fab couchsurfing host near Onna so hopefully we’ll be staying with him.  So no need to worry about camping in a typhoon or camping in the extreme heat and humidity. Fortunately our flight was only a little delayed and the turbulence wasn’t too bad despite the oncoming typhoon. In Naha we use Über to get a lift to Onna.  It’s like a party bus with flashing disco lights and music – a bit weird.

At the house we meet Shawn, our couchsurfing host, and Xue, a Russian couchsurfer. Shawn is a special forces instructor with the US Marines and spends most of his time at work so

we just relax, sleep a lot, in fact we sleep as if we have sleeping sickness.  Shawn insists on running his air-conditioning constantly so the house is cool and for the first time in weeks we’re not perpetually soaked in sweat.  

A subtropical speck in the Pacific 1,600km from Tokyo, Okinawa shoulders the weight of Japan’s six-decade alliance with America. Local people live uneasily with nearly 30,000 American troops and dozens of military installations, including the American marines’ oldest jungle-warfare training unit. Okinawa was occupied by the Americans after the second world war until it was returned to Japan in the early 1970s

On Sunday Shawn lends us his car and we visit some islands off the east coast, Hamahigajima, Henzajima and Ikeijima.  We do some snorkeling which is great. There’s plenty to see.

 Hels taking a sandie nap!! All tuckered out!! 

On the way home we enjoy a delicious meal of Tacos, and it’s great to have an English menu!  Monday and Tuesday we do some snorkeling near the house and the rest of the time we relax, watch Masterchef and watch movies. It’s a complete break and it’s incredibly relaxing.   

We see Shawn occasionally but he’s usually just come home for some kit or to take Xue somewhere. She flew back to Tokyo 7am Monday morning so he had to take her to Naha airport at 2am.

Wednesday we have an early morning start as we are off diving with George as our guide. George, an easy going Bulgarian came to Okinawa for a doctoral research position in solar energy but has since given that up to dive guide full time! We get kitted up and are soon enterng the crystal clear waters that Okinawa is famous for. Even though it’s early there are still a lot of people in the water at this popular spot.


In the afternoon we move to a quieter spot for 2 more beach dives .


Thursday is boat dive day, another early start but as we are on a boat we are away from the crowds. Another great dive sight and finally there’s turtles! Unfortunately (really!?) the reef shark known to frequent this dive area fails to show up! George has been a fabulous guide over these 2 days. We wish him luck in the future!



Another early start for Friday!!!  Shawn, our amazing host has kindly offered to drop us at tue airport, but it’s got to be before he reports for work so we are up at 530am and by 7 we are at the airport. We haven’t seen much of Shawn but it’s been great staying at his house and relaxing, much better than the tent! We wish him luck for his retirement in a few years time when he also wants to do some travelling and maybe get some rest!




Permaculture workaway – 26th June to 9 July

Tuesday 26th June

Kori to Kamikayama
Distance: 52.30 km
Total Distance: 23301.35 km

A pretty uneventful day cycling wise but we do arrive at our workaway.   There’s Crip (well Crispin), he’s been here in Japan for 30 years but originally he’s from Alton in Hampshire.   He’s married to a Japanese lady, Kazumi, and they have a 6 year old daughter, Emma. They have a small holding and originally we were to live there, in a shed, offgrid, whilst they live in a yurt.

 But Crip has just bought a house in the village so that’s where we’ll be living.

Already living in the house is a young Japanese lad, Naoki. He’s been working for Crip since February. The small holding is 2km away. We pop up for a visit.  

This land was originally used to grow tobacco, a crop that decimates the soil, so they’ve had to work incredibly hard to improve the soil and grow crops here. Tomorrow we will start working for our keep!


Wednesday 27th June

Last night we went out for Chinese,  a lovely treat, but today we easily work it off – weeding a paddy field bare foot. It takes 4 of us all day, about 7 hours – bloody tough work bending over all day.

Pulling out big weeds and agitating the underwater soil to dislodge the smaller grasses and weeds.   Naoki and Crispin work with us in the heat of the day. It’s slippery and the suction keeps us unbalanced when moving! There are all sorts of amphibians and critters swimming around in the calf deep waters, we even spot a terrapin.

Crispin did say there are many snakes in Japan but fortunately the water snakes are harmless but I’m so glad I don’t have to test the theory,  I definitely don’t want snakes slithering over my bare feet!

This morning Naoki showed us how to make filled rice balls for our packed lunch.  Also at the house, and running around the fields with us is Lyn their hound dog. Still quite young and full of bounce! There’s also a lovely blue eyed cat to relax with.

 Our first day on the farm has been a hard back breaker, but that’s farming for you, we’ll sleep well tonight! In the evening Kazumi cooks us a lovely Japanese style curry.


Thursday 28th June

It’s been raining all night, so no need to do any watering today. Initially Crip says it’s too wet to work but we suggest we start work on the shed extension.  Meanwhile Naoki is heading home to Kobe, it’s his 20th birthday on Saturday. This shed was supposed to be our home.

Crip wants to add a second room and there’s an open end which needs walling and flooring. But first we need to declad the current outer wall. Not too hard a job and Daz let’s me loose with the electric screwdriver.

 Shortly however I’m stuck as I’m too short to reach the high boards! Daz takes over for the final few and then we can take down the tyvek moisture membrane. We also need to do some woodwork to improve some of the previous joinery. Daz sets up the generator then powers up an electric saw to cut new mortices. We need to relocate the existing sills and put in new ones.  I then get given a wood chisel and mallet and instruction from Daz how to knock out the mortice. Excellent, nothing to this woodworking malarkey (yawn, yawn)!  


Friday 29th June

Today Crip spends all day in Osaka teaching English but we have some chores to do.  Daz has work on the shed extension to be getting on with and there isn’t really anything to keep me busy so I agree to do the other chore, fertilising 2 paddy fields – I definitely got the short straw in that labour division.  There are 20 bags of fertiliser, 10 for the field we weeded on Wednesday and 10 for another field.  Crip had described the method: take one bag, open top, walk through field swinging bag so fertiliser is spread in an arc onto the field.  He had said the bags aren’t heavy and it’s true, the fertiliser is a similar consistency to sawdust, but I’m walking bare foot through the paddy fields trying to spread the fertiliser and it’s really tough work. I’m also trying not to cripple myself by standing on the sharp stones!  In addition there’s bouts of torrential rain so I’m getting soaked and my fertiliser bags are getting soggy and starting to rip.

Lyn’s busy guarding me and her rice fields and even she is looking completely disheartened by the rain. Finally I get the job done and go up to see Daz and the shed extension.

Thankfully he’s done all he can so we’re finished for the day.


Saturday 30th June

Crip needs to buy us more wood for the stud work so there’s no point heading to the farm until we’ve got it.  Instead we potter around the house where garlic and onions are drying and tomatoes and corgettes are growing. 

When we do start we work on moving the sill and creating more stud work. Occasionally we glimpse a huge black snake as we walk between the gardens! Apparently it’s not poisonous,  but it is fricking huge. I now refuse to walk about the garden without a stick!!

In the evening we make our first ever crumble – it’s plum (the plums are from the garden) and it’s delicious.  And so easy!

So much so we’ll be trying apple and blackberry next! Naoki came home last night, so it clearly wasn’t a wild birthday piss up, but we really don’t think that’s the Japanese way. At least now he can smoke and drink legally if he so wishes!! 

We share our crumble with him since he’s made the first course, a tasty okonomiyaki.


Sunday 1st July

No Sunday lie in, Crips around early, because it’s ‘keep the village beautiful’ day! All the residents are out strimming the hedgerows and we get collared for strimming Crip’s property.

We spend 3 and a half hours in ditches and up earthwalls strimming and raking with Naoki. After a quick lunch break we head up for more woodwork.  This time moving on to noggins and headers and footers for the new window.


Monday 2nd July

Today we’re rudely awoken by the washing machine at 4am.  Bizarre – it seems Naoki put it on timer????? and then the cat keeps breaking into our room (she’s tearing the insect netting on the windows and then squeezing through the hole she’s made).  So we’re pretty pooped but we push hard with the extension; more noggins and studs, 3rd and final sill, exterior ply on 2 walls, window header fitted and Tyvek (vapour proof membrane) stapled onto the 2 walls with ply and we have just enough energy to fit one joist.

 It doesn’t look like much but these tasks are so time consuming. So today was our 6th day and we’re both feeling the pain; we both ache everywhere which I guess is payback when our daily cycling routine involves so little upper body work. So tomorrow we’re taking a day-off.


Wednesday 3rd July

Yesterday the anti-sleep conspiracy continued.  Naoki had passed the baton to Crip who left his phone in our house and his alarm went off at 5.45am, snooze, 5.50am, snooze, 5.55am – I’m sure you’re getting the picture.   And yes I had tried to switch it off and thought I’d been successful but I was wrong. By 6.15 it was still going off and we finally worked out how to switch it off but too late to get more sleep.  Bizarrely yesterday we manage to spend 5 hours in a 7/11 using their Internet, printing and scanning. What a depressing way to spend our day off but we needed to research and book some stuff. Then Daz gets his baking head on – bread and rock cakes.   Oops I meant bread and fruit scones.

Today 2 of the shed walls are batoned and clad – it looks really good now.  Tomorrow the floor.

Saturday 7th July

It’s my BIRTHDAY – Happy Birthday to me!  Well since I last wrote it’s been raining almost continuously and often it’s been torrential rather than a typical British drizzle.  Despite the rain we did manage to work on the shed Thursday. The single joist we’d laid had to be removed, a secondary sill added and then we laid 5 joists.  Unfortunately Crip had gone into town for more joists and floorboards but he hadn’t returned when we ran out of work. Back at the house we spent a few hours peeling garlic cloves.

 Yup I kid you not. If the garlic bulbs aren’t pretty enough, and by pretty I mean this:

Not pretty is this:

Then the bulbs are split into cloves and the cloves peeled.  Sounds easy? Well yup it’s easy until all your fingernails are split and your finger tips are so sore and burning from the garlic juice that even picking up a clove is painful let alone attempting to peel it. In the evening we share the job of vegetable preparation for the market.  Everything has to be clean, perfect and bagged, or wrapped. The bare garlic cloves are sold in 100g batches in cute little net bags. Whole garlic bulbs in the same type of bag.

And we even try making banana bread.

On Friday the rain continues.  There’s a weather warning of the highest order for the next valley over which has a river running through it. Crip’s never seen this level of warning, that’s how bad the rain is. It’s definitely too wet to run the power tools so we have a choice, a day off or onion peeling.   We decide, foolishly, to peel onions. We have a crate of red onions and a crate of white. These onions are a variety that won’t keep and are too small to be sold with their skins. So we have to peel each onion, top and tail it and later it will be wiped/polished before bagging for the market.   

The end result is a bag of shiney onions that can be dumped straight into a stew/casserole/curry. The Japanese pay a premium for all this preparation, which to us westerners seems very strange and über labour intensive! Also you have to be careful when peeling that you don’t take too many layers off or damage the layer below, because that’s all waste and more peeling! The red onions are particularly onerous with a tight layering that really makes the fingers ache!!!  This is the contradiction that is Japan. Buy organic produce but expect it to processed and packaged to the nth degree. Crip finds it infuriating but if he wants people to buy his produce he has no choice. His ambition is to open a farmers’ market with other local farmers and sell his produce in a more natural state. We manage to peel the crate of white onions before deciding we’ve had enough. Today it hasn’t stopped raining and later we hear that 58.5 cms fell just today.   There have been numerous landslides, flooding, missing people and even deaths. What a nightmare and thank God we’re here, somewhere safe and not cycling or camping in these hellish conditions.

The rain continues into Saturday so we decide to finish the onion peeling as we still have the red onions to finish.  After finishing the onions and preparing them for market we take the rejected peeled garlic cloves, mince them and mix with olive oil and freeze.

This would’ve been tough by hand but we have an ingenious chopping machine and it’s done in no time – what an excellent way of storing excess garlic.  Finally in the afternoon the rain stops and we unleash Naoki on the BBQ (concrete trough with a grill over it). Crip is expecting friends over so we’re having a barbecue.

Unfortunately a weather related emergency stops Crip’s friends coming over but we have a fabulous feast and there’s even birthday cake.  Coincidentally our last proper BBQ was on Daz’s birthday at our last workaway in India.


Monday 9th July

Yesterday it was dry enough to return to our shed extension.   We finish laying the joists and then the floorboards. It looks great but we still need to fit interior ply, insulation and a large window into the last wall.  

Today we’re taking time off and heading to Nagoya for the sumo wrestling tournament. There are only 6 a year and 3 of these are in Tokyo so this is our best chance to see this amazing event.  Crip drops off in town and we start hitching on the slip road to the Expressway. We had hoped to bypass Osaka but instead we almost hit its centre before being dropped off heading towards Kyoto.

 We’ve definitely taken a massive detour and we’re über depressed to find ourselves at the Kyoto service station that featured in our Kyoto hitching adventure – we really didn’t expect or want to find ourselves here and it takes over an hour to get a lift.  And from a beautiful sunny day we’ve moved into a thunderstorm. 

One young lady lift giver decides our technique is sadly lacking and takes us to a 7/11 purchases a marker pen and acquires some card and proceeds to write us a sign ‘Nagoya’.

Unfortunately even with the sign it still takes ages to get a lift.  Finally our 7th lift of the day is from a young lad heading to Nagoya and we foolishly believe we’re done for the day but no such luck!  He’s only heading to the outskirts but we agree a train into the centre will suit us fine but at the train station he discovers there’s a problem and the trains aren’t running so he decides to drive us to another station.  It’s only 8km but it takes an hour, it’s now 8.15pm and it’s taken 12 hours to make it this far. We buy our tickets but then we’re told the trains aren’t running here either and we need to take a bus away from the centre to another station.   At the bus stop we debate the wisdom of following these instructions, I would rather eat now and hope the train problem is fixed by the time we’re done, so we return to the ticket counter to try and establish what the problem is and when it’ll be sorted only to discover the trains have just started running again.  What a relief, finally we’re in Nagoya centre and our hotel.















Toyohashi – Kori: 12th to 25th June

Tuesday 12th June
Toyohashi to Ise
Distance: 55.31 km
Total Distance: 22731.04 km

Yesterday, despite the typhoon forecast, it was a lovely sunny, windless day but we stayed at Aaron’s just to catch up on the blog and do some work on the trikes; fitting a second mirror, a new flag pole for me and changing the oil on the Rohloff hubs.  Daz cooked with Aaron last night and we discovered gazpacho and how delicious it is.

Then Aaron demonstrated his camping rice dish – instead of boiling his rice it’s more like a paella or risotto preparation. Definitely a top tip for a camping stove. This morning we said farewell to Aaron and his landlord and set off for the ferry at Irago.

We stopped in Irago at a seafood cafe recommended by Aaron to enjoy huge meaty baked clams and fried clams with rice and miso soup. When we arrived we showed the restauranteur a picture of the meal Aaron had suggested. Later he came back asking to see it again so then we showed him a picture of Aaron, explaining our friend in Toyohashi had recommended his restaurant.

He recognised Aaron and was absolutely delighted and then gave us all sorts of extra nibbles. Then we missed our ferry by about 3 minutes – we thought they were waiting for us but by the time we’d bought our tickets they’d cast off.

Once on the other side it’s a little while before we find a park and by the time we pitch our tent it’s already dark but we’ve got a toilet block for water and a good wash.

Wednesday 13th June
Ise to Miya River Water Park
Distance: 23.64 km
Total Distance: 22754.68 km

Today we visit the Ise Jingu which consists of 125 jinja (Shinto Shrines) centred around Kotaijingu (Naiku) and Toyoukedaijingu (Geku).  More than 1500 rituals are conducted here annually to pray for the prosperity of the Imperial family and happiness of the world.  We went to Naiku tge most venerable sanctuary in Japan. The Shrine here is dedicated to Amaterasu-Omikami, the ancestral Shinto deity of the Imperial family.   She was enshrined in Naiku about 2000 years ago and has been revered as a guardian of Japan. The main sanctuary contains the Holy Mirror enshrined in the palace surrounded by 4 rows of wooden fences.

Every 20 years a new divine Palace is constructed on a site adjacent to the main sanctuary.   The sacred apparel, furnishings and divine treasures are also remade. Once completed the Holy Mirror is moved to the new sanctuary by the Jingu priests in a ceremony called Shikinen Sengu.

After our visit we soon succumb to the temptation of an early finish and we find a lovely park besides the river to set up camp.


Thursday 14th June
Miya River Water Park to Kii-Nagashima
Distance: 55.92 km
Total Distance: 22812.1 km

Today we’re heading for the coast at Owase but we don’t make it.

For most of the day we climb through woods and beautiful villages but our long awaited downhill to the coast never materialises so we decide to camp behind a Michi-no-eki .

Hopefully we’ll see the sea tomorrow.


Saturday 16th June

Kii-Nagashima to Asukacho Omata
Distance: 50.42 km
Total Distance: 22862.52 km

Thursday night the rains came and stayed for most of Friday.   We were incredibly fortunate because we’d camped right next to a picnic shelter so during a break in the rain we moved all our kit under cover and remained there all Friday, giving our tent time to dry.  

It was actually a great day off because we had easy access to toilets, WiFi and electricity. Today we continue towards Kumano. We are actually in the area of the Kumano Kodo the ancient pilgrimage trails linking the 3 grand shrines of Kumano: Hongu-taisha, Nachi-taisha and Hayatama-taisha.  

This peninsula is mountainous and most of the day has been climbing but the scenery is fantastic. We had a great treat at lunchtime. We met a Japanese cyclist from Osaka, Kenji. He’s a retired policeman, 67 years old, and he’s spent the last 77 days circumnavigating Honshu (about 4700km).  He stopped to say hello and then he insisted on taking us out to lunch – and a fantastic spread it was.

He’s also offered us a bed and shower at his home before we catch the ferry to Shikoku. What a wonderfully generous man. Thank you Kenji. In the afternoon we cycle through stunning scenery. 

 Our campsite tonight is another roadside rest area – loving wildcamping in Japan!


Sunday 17th June

Asukacho Omata to Nachi
Distance: 52.8 km
Total Distance: 22915.32 km

Today in Kumano we visit the Oni-no-Miharashidai lookout with panoramic views over the Kumano sea.  

Then we follow the coast to The Shishiiwa, Lion Rock, a rock 25m high that looks like a lion roaring at the Kumano Sea.  

And our final stop in Kumano is the Hana-no-Iwaya Shrine, possibly the oldest Shinto Shrine in Japan and the tomb of Izanami-no-Mikoto, known as the mother of Japanese deities.  

The huge rock, 45 metres high, is an object of worship. A special rope, 170m long, is made and strung from the top of the rock, across the Shrine, over the road and down to the beach in a special Shinto rope placing ritual.  Then prayer ornaments are hung from it. After Kumano we stop at the Kiho Town Sea Turtle Park where there are numerous pools occupied by endangered sea turtles. It’s an educational centre about the protection of this endangered species but sadly only in Japanese.

Apparently the sea turtles come to Kiho to lay their eggs. Then it’s on to Shingu and the Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine.  This is one of 3 grand shrines making up the sacred site, Kumano Sanzan. They were founded at different times and enshrine different gods. Since ancient times many people have made the pilgrimage to Kumano Sanzan from all over Japan. There are various pilgrimage routes connecting these sites and they’re known as the “Kumano Kodo”.

Our final stop is to see Mifune Island, an island in the middle of the Kumano River.  Every year there’s the Mifune Matsuri Festival where 9 fast boats race around the island recalling the dashing Kumano Suigun Navy of old.


Monday 18th June

Nachi to Hikigawa
Distance: 75.76 km
Total Distance: 22991.08 km

Wowwee, last night we camped under the eves of a toilet block in a Michi-no-eki.

There was torrential rain throughout the night and although our tent was sheltered from the worst of it a large puddle formed under one side of the tent and there was some sort of suck back action until the entire ground sheet was soaking wet and this seeped into our tent so the bottom of our beds were wet too.  There was no sign of the rain abating so we slowly packed away, drying our wet equipment under the rafters. We believe we felt our first earthquake this morning – at 0830hrs we felt the ground vibrate under us! (We later hear that it was a 5.3 magnitude quake centred in Osaka, totally disrupting the train systems and unfortunately killing 3 people!)

This morning we head to Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine.   The main deity is Kumano -Fusumi-no-Okami who is the emanation of Senju Kannon (1000 armed Avalokiteshvara).  There’s also Nachi-san Seiganto-ji Temple and the 3 storied Pagoda. But the highlight is Nachi waterfall which is the divine embodiment of Hiro-jinja Shrine and the most magnificent waterfall in Japan with a drop of 133m.  It is awesome.

The rain continues but we get a bus back to Nachi and head off to find lunch. Lunch over and the skies are clear. Dilemma – it’s already 2.30pm but the forecast for the next week is rain…… and more rain. We decide we must make hay while the sunshines.  

Actually it turns into a beautiful cycle ride along the Eda coast.   There’s a line of rocks similar to the Needles off the Isle of Wight, the Hashigui-iwa Rock, at the southern most point in Kushimodo.  There’s also beautiful beaches and coves and dramatic twisted rock shapes on the rocky shores, more evidence of volcanic activity I think.  

A man we saw several kilometres back gardening, has driven after us to give us some cans of cold coffee – wow what a kind gesture !

The sun is just about to set (7.15pm) and the skies are mostly clear.  It’s very pretty. There’s a Michi-no-eki looking out over the Pacific and numerous places to camp under cover.  We’ve done 55km but after much deliberation we push on.

Another 20km, cycling along the dark coastal road until 9pm, another Michi-no-eki and we stop for the night.  It’s actually been lovely cycling at night; barely any traffic, no wind and just enough moonlight to light our way.


Tuesday 19th June

Hikigawa to Kirime
Distance: 58.44 km
Total Distance: 23049.52 km

Last night the rains came again – yup it’s definitely the rainy season.

  However when we set off this morning it’s just a very light drizzle.

We’re heading to Shirahama peninsula and the Saki-no-Yu onsen.  It’s said to be the oldest onsen in Japan and only has open air baths (rotenburo) looking out over the Pacific. By the time we get there we’re soaked and the heated waters are heavenly, with the sound of the surf crashing against the rocks.  

After our lovely relaxing bath I’d like nothing more than to relax for the rest of the day but with no obvious camping sites and more rain we decide we might as well push on. We cycle along Shirahama Beach and then out towards Tanabe before eventually finding ourselves cycling along the coast.

 After about 2 hours the rain actually stops giving us a chance to dry out before camping for the night. There’s a complete lack of Michi-no-eki, parks and public toilets along this stretch of coast and finally we make do with a concrete path under a railway bridge.

It’s going to be a bit noisy but at least we have some shelter from tonight’s forecast downpour.


Wednesday 20th June

Kirime to Arida
Distance: 50.88 km
Total Distance: 23100.4 km

Our sheltered position turned out not to be so sheltered after all and we awoke to find ourselves sitting in another puddle.  We packed up our wet gear and sat under our railway bridge watching the rain fall and the river rise. Eventually we decided doing nothing wasn’t the most constructive way to spend our time so we cycled out from under our bridge.  Initially it wasn’t too bad but it was just a temporary reprieve. In one town the river had flooded the Highway and cycling through the water, occasionally a foot deep, with bow waves created by the overtaking cars, was pretty nerve wracking.   

We stopped for some snacks and the restaurant owner took pity on our wet, bedraggled appearance and gave us free food and coffee.  As a big thank you he’s allowed to sit on Daz’s trike – a rare opportunity indeed!

By late afternoon, after 4 hours and 40km, the novelty of cycling in the rain had completely worn off. We were drenched and starting to feel the chill.  On the outskirts of Arida we looked for a hotel.

Without anything nearby showing on we asked in a restaurant and they pointed us to a business hotel only 800m away. Result. Off we went only to discover it was fully booked. Desperate measures were required so we headed into the adjacent FamilyMart for WiFi and to book the nearest hotel on   I thought I’d found something, not that close at 10.5 miles but the best available, but having booked it and plotted it, it was actually 24km away! We were just resuming a new search when the guy from the Business hotel appeared – we had abandoned our trikes outside his hotel so I guess it didn’t take much to work out where we were. He asks where we’re going and since we have no where to stay, we shrug our shoulders.   He then offers us his apartment. We thought we were sharing his home but he takes us to a 2 bed apartment and gives us the keys. OMG – speechless and so relieved! I’m pretty sure we’d have been ‘man down’ if we’d had to go any further. We were both absolutely drenched and starting to suffer from the cold.


Thursday 21st June

Arida to Wakayama
Distance: 26.80 km
Total Distance: 23127.2 km

Last night we managed to turn our saviour’s apartment into some horrendous imitation of a Chinese Laundry and the smell from our sweaty and damp cycling gear was foul.  

 So with most of our kit dry we cycle into Wakayama. But I’m feeling a little under the weather and decide I want a break.

So I book into a hotel which, I have to say, is absolutely fabulous. There’s a huge bathroom, limitless free cake, coffee and coke, a fabulous European double bed ie no futon bed and a TV about 5ft wide.  

We can watch UK TV series and recently released films. OMG it’s awesome. We start watching the Endeavour series (The Young Morse) and realise 1 night here ain’t going to be enough. Definitely a minimum of 2 nights required possibly a 3rd???! Lol.


Saturday 23rd June

Wakayama to Tokushima
Distance: 11.47 km
Total Distance: 23138.67 km

Today we must leave the most incredible hotel we’ve stayed in – well possibly ever.  We’ve eaten our own body weight in free cake and just had time to relax and watch some TV – what a super treat.  When I booked our 2nd night yesterday morning Daz had gone down to reception to fetch another tray full of free cake and check we could stay in the same room and was waylaid by the manager, Taku.  Daz had already told him about our world cycle trip and how fabulous our break in his hotel was turning out, so fabulous in fact that we needed a 2nd night to take full advantage and Taku tells him we can stay a 2nd night for free.  Well this morning Taku is trying to take payment from our credit card but the machine won’t accept any of our cards – and that’s 6 cards in total. Finally we realise the machine isn’t going to accept any of our cards but we only have 5000 yen (£33) about half what we owe for 1 night.   We offer to go to an ATM but Taku says we’ve paid enough. Wow 2 nights in an incredible hotel for a quarter of the cost. Taku, thank you so much.


We head to the ferry and get the crossing to Tokushima. When we dock it’s in the middle of a torrential downpour.

Within minutes, even with our ponchos, we’re soaked. Time to find another hotel I think.  


Sunday 24th June

Tokushima to Sambommatsu
Distance: 42.86 km
Total Distance: 23181.53 km

This morning we head off to Takamatsu.   This is Shikoku island, famous for its 88 temples.  

We see 2 of them today and after a long climb over the peninsula we have great views over the coastline.

There’s a free campsite in Sambommatsu, Toramaru Park, so that’s where we finish for the day.


Monday 25th June

Sambommatsu to Kori
Distance: 67.52 km
Total Distance: 23249.05 km

It’s another beautiful ride today over to Takamatsu, followed by a ferry ride to Una and then on to Kori.

We’re heading to Kamikayama and a workaway. Hopefully we’ll be there tomorrow but tonight we camp in a local park.