Japan day 24

Japan day 24
Akita-Yamatate 125 km
I have seen thousands of election posters as I have cycled the length of Japan, and I’ve come to a few conclusions about the political image they want to put across. The clenched fist is a very common pose by candidates. Now, what does that mean to you? Conviction? Determination? You can rely on me? I’ll get the job done? Well, take a few seconds to study this picture….

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What do you think? Is this the sort of man you could rely on to sort the country out? His clenched fist may say one thing, but his expressionless face puts across a very different message. They don’t go together. If he said he was going to solve the aging problem in Japan by introducing non-voluntary euthanasia for the over 80s, would you believe him? It looks rather like the clenched fist of non-confrontational politics and conformism….or am I being unfair?

For those of you who follow my meanderings on this blog just to get the unexpurgated version of the “mud, wet and gears” of cycling Japan, I’m sorry I get so distracted by things either side of the road. You must get very impatient with me…..

After today, if Japan has a Ministry for the control of over-indulgence, then I might be top of their target list. Not just one onsen…..but two! After 8 days following the coastline of the Sea of Japan, I decided to head inland, up into the mountains,

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where snow drifts still linger on by the roadside, chilling the temperature as you climb and descend. As fate would have it, a sign pointed to an onsen just off the route and, despite only being half way through my day’s ride, I couldn’t resist it.

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It was a tiny place within a community centre, just one plunge pool that might fit 3-4 people. As I looked out on snow, I chatted to a pool companion whom I think was a Buddhist monk. He pointed to his shaven head as if it were a trademark of his profession.
Getting back on the bike after a thermal soak is an exhilarating experience. For some reason, the pedals turn much more easily.

Now, where did the second thermal soak come from? I passed through Odate, having been informed by Tourist Information there was a Michinoeki (Roadside Station) some 18 km up the road. The prospect of a free sleepover prompted me to head out, even though there was only one hour of daylight left.
As luck would have it, when you’re in a hurry, the unpredicted frequently gets in the way, and most of the 18 km were a climb back into the mountains, the temperature plummeting with the increase in elevation.
I arrived only to find that this Roadside Station was unlike the others, where travellers can lie down on tatami matting and have a snooze (like these two below).

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There were no relaxing facilities, because it was a hotel spa. It was a case of either take a room or move on. When the receptionist told me that a tatami room, with breakfast and onsen, would only cost £25……I had no hesitation in accepting……and my first move was to go straight to the spa, this time to an outdoor pool, that came with the chill smell and feel of the surrounding snow, and was completely enveloped in steam.
I was then ready for a large bowl of soba to help settle the empty stomach.

Tomorrow will be my last cycling day on the island of Honshu, and well over 2000 km completed. The end is beginning to feel nigh. All that remains is the island of Hokkaido, the coldest of all the islands, where the skiing season is still in full swing. Maybe….just maybe…..but not promising…. my tent will now stay packed for the duration…..

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on April 13, 2015, in End-to-End of Japan 3000kms and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hi Frank, keep the general commentary going – there is more to touring than cycling and scenery and it’s very interesting to hear the views of someone who is actually there as just an ordinary chap. I do see a book in this…

    • Thanks Chris. Others have said the same….but every time I think of disciplining myself to write, I end up jumping on the bike and doing what I enjoy the most. But keep prompting me…..

  2. is still envious….more so by the day so please stop it 🙂

  3. Is that poster an (overly youthful looking) Shinzo Abe? Perhaps he is getting ready to thump someone.

    I’m sure you are having a great time, but have you seen any Japanese people sleeping in temples, shrines, etc? I wonder if you might be benefiting from your position as a foreigner, who is not expected to conform to Japanese cultural norms – indeed, probably expected to do inexplicable and unusual things? Your (modest!) age and long-distance journey (a form of pilgrimage?) not doubt entitle you to a substantial slice of respect too.

    • There is definitely something in what you say, but here’s a few additional thoughts…..on Shikoku, the pilgrims who walk the 88 temples will frequently bed down in the grounds of a temple, or some annexe……also the grounds of shrines are not such sacrosanct places (like Christian churches for instance), and that coupled with general Japanese tolerance and good humour, nobody seems to mind anyway. But it’s always best to choose smaller remoter places that see few visitors.

  4. Time to look for hire skis?

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