I’d only been to Japan once before this trip and that was a few years back. It was there for work and I didn’t see the outside of the office. That’s not totally true. I went out to get a snack once before an 11pm meeting and came back with what I thought was a softdrink and biscuits. It turned out to be dog food and beer.
The more I experience and learn about Japan, the more I realise how I haven’t even scratched the surface. As familiar as Japan seems through pop culture and history, it’s perhaps one of the most “different” places on Earth that I’ve visited. They simply have their own thing going on.
It all started when the Japan Tourism Board got in contact with us wanting to promote the upcoming Shimanami Cycling Festival in October. But as these thing go, it’s kinda hard for us to genuinely promote something that hasn’t happened yet. That’s when I said, “how about a Roadtrip!?”
I called my Saturday morning riding mates Danny and Paul, leave passes were negotiated, and plane tickets were booked. Roadtripping Japan was locked and loaded. After only a short trip north (by Australian standards) and with no jetlag, we could be in a completely different world (and season) in no time at all.
Ever since the day I moved to Australia Danny and Paul have been a part of my core group of riding mates. Danny’s life revolves around his next ride and his next load of laundry. The man was meant to be Japanese. Punctual, conservative, anal retentive, quirky. Danny’s role on this trip was to look good, his encyclopaedia of movie one-liners, and carry all the camera gear. Something needed to slow him down on the climbs…
Paul is on the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s climbed Everest twice (well, only summited once, but we won’t talk about those final 100m on his first attempt) and didn’t even wear a jacket. He says he runs his own business (but nobody has ever seen him work) and everything he touches turns to gold. Paul’s duty on this trip was to help with planning and making sure we didn’t get lost. If those tasks were left to Danny and I, we wouldn’t make it out of the airport.
Knowing how incredibly different Japan is, I knew I needed to plan our itinerary down to the minute. We had lots of riding to do in only a week and I didn’t want a moment to be lost or for us to wake up wondering what we were doing each day.
Where to start? Well, I started by asking my many contacts in Japan about the riding in the Hiroshima Prefecture. “Why would you ride around Hiroshima?” was the unanimous response. I was pointed in the direction of Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, Nagano, Osaka. Expectations began at zero and many contingency plans were made just in case we came back with nothing.
A ten-hour red-eye flight got us into Tokyo and despite the uncomfortable airline sleep we were wide awake with the energy of a city of 13 million people during rush hour.