Where did this tour take me? Toured through Hokkaido, Aomori, Akita and a little of Iwate.
How long? 8 Days all up
How many Kms? 6346
Road types? About 30% Expressway and 30% Heaven
Who did I travel with? Mostly alone but did 4 days with others. Biggest group 4
Accomodations? Camping 3nights, rider house 3nights, ferry 1 night – Onsen 5 nights
Places visited? Wakkanai, Nossapu Misaki, Shiretoko, Noshappu Misaki, Kushiro, Asahikawa, Biei, Furano, Muroran, Hakodate, Aomori, Towadako, Hirosaki, Hachimori, Hachimantai, Tazawako
Roads of merit? Too many from this report. But Iwaki-Skyline was the highlight
Oddities? Foxes in the fog, Long straight roads, seeing Russia, racing a kamoshika
Warnings? Weather changes fast up there, Aomori road signs are understated
I hadn’t had a decent adventure in while and neither had I ventured far north. So north I went with all the touring gear and a couple of ferry tickets to get over to Hokkaido and back. The FZ1 had new rubber, oil and coolant change, a couple of extra gadgets and I even went to work on the chain.
Started out with an ironbutt on day 1 to the very north of Hokkaido to maximize the touring time on the way back. Read about it here:
After arriving at the very north tip of Hokkaido, hardly remember hitting the sack at 3.30am and instantly falling asleep. Woke to the sound of gulls and lapping waves with a frozen rear end, crooked knees and blood shot eyes 4hrs later. Add to that a dire need to open the southern flood gates. So, squirm out of the silk sleeping pocket, rip open the tent zippas, slip on the boots and launch out into the cold(15-16deg: cold for summer!) morning air. Only wearing my jocks the air was a nipple shrinker and the sun blinding. I reached back into the tent for the sunnies and then staggered around the bike and off in the direction of the toilets. Once the ground levelled I looked up across the park and luckily for the toilet auto pilot, I just kept on walking through the throngs of tourists there to get a pic with the Soyamisaki monument. Hahahaha! Yabanjin they must of all thought. What was the likelyhood of seeing someone I knew there? Or of me coming back there soon? Be proud and strut it! If they weren’t awake before they certainly were now. Serves em right for being out here at 7.30am anyway I thought. Come to think of it, why was the carpark almost full at 7.30am?
Getting back to the bike, it was well after sunrise so I packed up the tent and loaded up the bike again.
Gotta say this took a while for some reason. At least I had clothes on. I was on the road again by 9am in search of the mapple recommended restaurant at the tip of Noshappumisaki to the west. That was a great decision as the seafood was fresh off the boat scallops and octopus on rice with a crab/miso soup, pickles and a flounder on the grill. Great rider fuel right there!
Taking some winding roads south a little, I was reflecting on how the shop attendant had been so friendly and the other bikers there also, as well as all the waving from ALL other riders I passed. Wow friendly place I thought as a big eagle came soaring over the road. That’s when I was shown how friendly the folk up there really were. A couple of guys in a truck were kind enough to knock that eagle out of the sky so I could take a few close up snaps.
Luckily, the grand raptor was able to soar again after the photoshoot and recovering from a little shock.
Belly content with the north-wests finest, turned the FZ south along the coast (106-232) and some very long straight roads that had me thinking I was back in Oz.
Around Tomamae, swung east onto the mapple recommended 239 to sample some of Hokkaido’s twisties. Pretty cool road at about 40km but had many dips and too many of them mid corner. Sure kept me on my toes. Then crawled across Shibetsu to the 61 and one of Hokkaido’s hidden treasures. Not marked as recommended but recently(still a work in progress) retunneled and paved in the best sections it was a hoot with some cool views too.
Coming off this leg the FZ1 started pulling to right and getting a bit jumpy. Seemed it wanted a run at this
The day was getting late and a lot of long straight roads(273, 238, 334) were taking me west in the hope of making Shiretoko in the east by nightfall. Around 6, at Notoroko(beautiful sunset)I started calling around to the campsites and found one.
12hrs and 550+km from Soya I rolled into camp at Shiretoko after a long but great days ride. The MURANO campsite in Ootoro had an onsen open till 10 and accepted traveller’s till 9 so I rolled in there @ 8.30pm after a visit to the 7/11 for supplies.
The camp area was quite full but the riders area had a big space for me near the centre by all the fun. I asked those gathered around the fire if it would be ok to set up tent there and they were great, even lighting up the area and giving me a beer while I got the tent set. Then I scampered off to the onsen, with a great rotenburo, before returning to cook some dinner. We gassed on fire a whike and I got some good tips for roads further east and south while parching dry throats and then we all drifted off to tents. I promised myself a long nights sleep. At least 7hrs!
But what were those bleeting noises outside the tent?
Woke up to the beautiful fresh, dry air of a fine day on Shiretoko’s west cost overlooking the bay below. Had slept for 7 1/2 hours and everyone was gone except for last night’s bleeting deer, no more than 4metres away on the other side of the electric fence, and the youngest member of the previous evening’s troop. He was there setting up his fishing gear in anticipation of the Aleutian monster he’d travelled so far to snag.
Had some breaky and packed up camp and got the fisherman to roll my bike around while I sprayed some link saver on the chain. Saw the sorry state of his cb400’s chain and we moved on to his next. Hope he made it home on that thing.
It was a beautiful day so tied the jacket over the pack on the back and prepared for a little warm weather riding.
1st stop was to be the Shiretoko 5 lakes. So swung right out of the campsite and proceeded up the 334 which offered a great view back over the bay.
And a gossamer omen on the distance hill tops
Following the procession of tour buses and minivans, turned off onto the road to the 5 lakes and what a sweet piece of road. Managed to find a gap in the procession and enjoyed the twisty downhill road before finding a packed carpark and a long walk to the viewing location. Couldn’t be bothered with the walk so swung around and avoided the entrance fee to have another run at that choice twisty again before rejoining the 334.
The 334 was a great twisty hill climb that kept on climbing as the temp gauge kept on falling. About halfway up, was questioning the decision to ride jacket less as it was getting cold! Then the fog started and got progressively thicker until a blind man’s guide stick would have come in handy.
Near the top, with about 10metre visibilty, i had a true pucker moment when, on a narrow section of sweeper flanked by a rest area, a parked car appeared suddenly out of the mist right in front and a tour bus inching it’s way down the hill in the opposite lane. It went something like this: HOLYCRAP! BRAKE! Can’t stop, 2 metre gap-shoot it. F##kin idiot! -back into blind fog- HOOOOORN! As quick as it came it was gone, my heart rate had spiked and the horn may as well have been a fog horn.
The climb levelled out and came up on the tail of a harley train with hazards on so settled into the tail of the train and followed those hazards. Bloody cold and covered in dew, putted on thinking it must get warmer going down the other side. It did, but only marginally. Hitting the east coast, swung onto the 335 and headed south for a food stop a friend had recommended. The roads were wide and straight up here with a real harsh environment feeling to it. Something like the southern coast of WesternAustralia. All rusty, dusty and wind swept vegetation. Took a stop here to don the jacket and warmer gloves. Made a huge difference.
Some time later pulled into the recommended food joint for the seafood ramen. Man it tasted good after freezing my ass off earlier.
While sitting there a familiar face came in all bent and frozen. Nobu-san the mechanic from Marutomi who worked on my cb’s flogged front wheel bearing. He was similarly frozen and in need of rider fuel so we feasted together while catching up. He was heading north on a 2 week adventure while I was heading south. He said the weather was no better where he’d come from and advised rugging up. Was good advice.
Jumped back in the saddle and headed south again. Stopped off on some peninsula where Russia can be seen in the distance.
Then continued south for that days goal, Nossapumisaki. Saw some cool scenery thru the swamp lands along the way.
Then onto the most Eastern point of Hokkaido, Nossapu misaki.
Coincedence had a rider I’d shared breakfast with at Noshappu, on the north west coast, there at the same time and we took photos for each other before going our seperate ways again. But just before we split things got a bit freaky.
A Minivan rocked up and these long legs stepped out of the drivers side in a real short miniskirt. A variety the mind tickled. But following the legs up showed a suspiciously narrow set of hips and a really manish head. We were moving saddle sore slow and the legs produced a video camera and pounced on my breakfast buddy to take some shots for him/her. Took this as my cue to make a hasty retreat, leaving breakybuddy to fend for himself. Sorry champ. Got prepped to roll and the minivan chugged out of the carpark before me. Soon passed it but found it was in hot pursuit so put some horsepower to the tarmac and left Miss manish a horizon or so back.
A ways down the road, pulled into a combini to get a snack and access the map for sleeping locations. It was a busy place and a few people approached me for a chat. Cool friendly place I thought. The sun was sinking and a nice golden glow was falling over the place. Drifted around the side of the combini for a better view of the setting sun(set quite early there incidentally) and was enjoying the fresh air, peace and solitude the barren landscape offered up. Was really chilling out when: “MumbleMumbleManishvoiceMumble” turned to say hello and CRICKEY! It’s Frankenstein! The legged minivan had me cornered at the back of the combini. So, I was stumped as what to say. Thought about getting out of it by feigning a complete lack of Japanese and Micron’s usual blurb came to mind: “Nihongo tabemasen” but I luckily shelved this before Frankenstein could teach me other wise and made a hasty retreat for the safety of my bike and helmet. The FZ1 never started so fast and the front wheel was barely on the ground for the 1st few gears out of there.
A bit further down the road a tower with the riderhouse symbol hanging from it appeared in a barren stretch between the road and the beach. No more than some buildings and sheds, with a scaffolding tower, in the middle of nowhere. Must’ve been 5km in every direction to civilization. A bit Hotel California I thought but there were already some other bikes there so pulled in and inquired as to availability. The owner was gruff and direct but accommodating and soon had me signed in and setup for the night.
Place had a nice restaurant come bar building separate from the sleeping quarters, was clean and a welcome respite from the camping of the past few nights. Besides it was cheap. 1st you paid 1500yen. Then you ate at the restaurant and got 1500yen off your bill. A big feed and a few jockeys, with a bed and futons set me back 2300yennies. Good deal. Just before dinner came out of the sleeping quarters to find another GR on the doorstep taking photos. “Hey” I said. “Hey” he said. That’s how I met Cameron from Osaka on a 900Ninja.
The riderhouse had a good atmosphere of like minded comraderie and when I entered the restaurant 5 guys at a table gave me a big hello and invited me to their table. Cameron was already there and we had a good night swapping road tales and recommendations while discovering that we were all from far away, except 1 guy from Sapporo, and the guy sitting next to me lived only 15minutes from my office back in Yokohama. It’s a small world.
The talk went on with the Olympics bringing sparodic interest and cheers, until around midnight when everyone drifted back to the sleeping hut.
Another interesting day and Cameron had lured me into joining him for his route the next day. But rain was on the way.
The weather had finally delivered on it’s persistent threats of rain and awoke to a pitter patter of rain on the riderhouse’s tin roof. Always liked waking up to that but in this case it meant a wet day of riding ahead. Cameron, was already up and nowhere to be seen, so I scrubbed the beer taste from the gums and went out to the bike to load up. All the other riders seem to be waking in dribs and drabs and by the time we were ready to roll everybody was roaming about. Including the chickens and a boisterous rooster.
The plan was to head west for Kushiro, check out the Kushiro Shitsugen(marshland National park) and then shoot north for Mashuuko from where Cameron and I would probably part ways.
Heading out of Nemuro Cameron steered us along the 142 and some nice rolling curves. The rain was soft and more of drizzle but slowly picked up as time ticked by and we moved further west. However, even in the rain the scenery was great. Rolling green hills ending abruptly on a craggy cliffed coast line.
Stopped off on various viewing points but the fog and rain took some of the splendour off but made for a cool mystic experience.
Finally had to stop off half way to Kushiro to don the full rain gear and warm up with a hot drink and then soldiered on to Kushiro. Stuck to the 142 and found the paint to be real slick on the road. No offs but had me dodging the paint like potholes.
Got into Kushiro and looked up the 1st riderhouse(named Anglers) and after finding everywhere except the road to the riderhouse, including a Jietai base, we found Anglers. Looked cool with a fish stocked lake in a quiet valley. Unfortunately the owner informed us he was the new owner and it was no longer a riderhouse, just a fishing hole come lodge.
So we took another look at the Mapple and found a recommended eatery nearby and steered our way over there. Initially hard to find we were of 2 minds to find it full. 1st we wanted to eat and not wait. But if it full then the grub must be good. A couple at a table took pity on us and invited us to join them at there table and we didn’t wait for a 2nd invite. Cameron ordered up a plate of fried chicken and me the scallops and shrimp salad. Seems fried food food was their speciality. And man oh man was it their speciality. That grub was fine!
Leaving there bellies content, we headed for central Kushiro and a riderhouse on the dockside. Turns out it was a minshiku and riderhouse with a rather strict matron on duty. We dumped our gear and headed out again as it was still mid afternoon and the rain had eased. Still wanted to see the shitsugen. Which we did. Not bad for a swamp. Stopped in at a look out and took a 600m trek up the hills to a lookout for a better view.
After the trek we were sweaty, stinky and in need of an scrub. So we hit the road, long way round, in search of an onsen. Missed the 1st one and decided to scoot all the way round to the west side to one marked there. The roads were nice and rolling and the sun was receding. I remember getting real sleepy tagging along on autopilot behind Cameron. We stopped for a powow and I told him I needed an adrenalin fix and would catch him at the next turn off. We met up at the junction of 52 and 666(which was mysteriously not marked in the maple) and proceeded to get more than a little lost. Don’t know if it was the devil’s work or fatigue but we missed the onsen turn off and overshot by 15km or so. It was about then I noticed that the FZ1 was dangerously low on fuel. Let me rephrase that. Due to my fatigue and then adrenalin charger oversight I’d not looked at the fuel gauge for near on 100km. STUPID!
Best guess had 10km left in the tank at a crawl and it made about 15 using my best economizing techniques before it spluttered and surged to a stop. 8pm in the middle of a swamp on rt666 with no fuel. That was smart. Luckily I was riding with a smart guy who had a decent length of rope on board. I know, I know, don’t tow on a bike. Now I know why. Sure the arms got longer on that 15km tow. While Cameron was laughing hysterically at the idiocy of the whole situation I was grunting and howling with exertion trying to bloody hang onto that rope. By the end of the tow I was was laughing maniacally too.
Anyways we made it to a gas stand where the FZ1 gulped down 19.5 litres into a 18 litre tank(how I don’t know). Then we hightailed it back out to that onsen. Man it felt good to soak the bones and popeyed muscles. After the simmering we headed back into town for some gut fuel. Was late and couldn’t find much but we ended up in an ekimae restaurant watching the baseball and eating some of Kushiro’s famous seafood.
Finally got back to the riderhouse around 11pm and made some plans for the next day. Cameron had some awesome maps to supplement the mapple and I went to work formulating the route for meeting up with Micron the next day while Cameron and the other guy in our room snored away with the cicadas.
Another different and memorable day on the north island done, I laid down in the sleeping bag and was out like a light.
Woke up feeling pretty good. The Riderhouse come Minchiku was a bustle of activity. People were shuffling around everywhere and the sun was shinning in the window. Woohoo! The weather gods had listened. Riding time.
Went downstairs and the Matron of the house was ordering everyone around and complaining that there were too many bikes everywhere(I had to wonder on that one-It is a riderhouse, right?) and some had parked in a neighbours carpark. Us, the night before. We’d just pulled into the only open spaces behind everyone else’s bikes. So rolled the bike out front and started to load up. That’s when things went a little pear shaped. Free-wheeling the bike around front, I’d forgotten to put it back in gear. When strappin the gear down, off it started to roll. 1st lifting up a little over the centre stand and by the time I got along side it was into the leap before the fall. I caught it but the pack on the back toppled and swung like a pendulum over the rear and the bike was falling again. I dug in and started to lift but the gammy knee buckled and I stepped out. Crash-bang! the beast was down! Inevitably, everyone came running to see what the commotion was. Within 5 seconds the bike was upright and hands were pulling me up too. Good mob, them riders. Right then the matron came around commanding me to move my bike over to the curb-side. Bad timing!
So, damage report. Scratched up mirror and bar end. The mirrors bar-end insert was bent, so out came the tool kit and with a bit more banging, some grunting and twisting it was almost as good as new. 1/2hr later we were loaded up and headed North. Went back through the swamp in the morning light but by then it had got cloudy again. Heavy ominous cloudy
We were heading north, Cameron for Akanko and some strange underwater mormo ball thingies, me for Mashuuko-Kasshurako and rt52 that links them(cool road). Mashuuko was fogged in as it is supposed to be 95% of the time. Was looking forward to seeing the caldera lake with it’s mushroom like island in the middle. Did get to see a clear Kussharoko though. Beautiful lake and the cleanest water I’d seen in a long time. Cool local watercraft too.
Then it was time to hit he road again and try to hook up with Cameron for lunch.
Found him outside the local combini drooling over a young lass in chaps on a Harley with particularly tight pants. Couldn’t blame him really. I ate he drooled, then we hit the road again going west. Around here the radar detector starting going nuts every time we came near a town. I emergency braked a few times and we had no trouble. the alarm was for police radio frequency in use. We eventually spotted a pado car lurking in some bushes off the side of a long stretch heading outa town. Spotter in town and pursuit out a town? Maybe? We were on our best behaviour and cruising with traffic in the alarm zone and didn’t attract any attention. Wasn’t the last time to see this set up.
Well, cruised towards to the centre of Hokkaido and hills started to appear on the horizon and we were both looking forward to some twisties.
The route I’d planned out the night before took us off the beaten path and cutting west across the northeast to southwest major arteries in the zone. The back roads were interesting and deserted and more than a few times the mapple had it wrong with unmarked roads and straights where we were carving twisties. Not that we were complaining about it. But we were back in the sodden rain again and some of those back roads were caked in farmer-truck dust that was coalescing into an unnervingly slick mud. Easy on the throttle through there. But more alarming was the smell that had me thinking the mud was the kind extruded by locals not of the 2 legged kind. All was confirmed when first the piggery wafted by and then we came up on a rather vocal pack of bovines eyeing and mooing us from the back of a truck, on their way to somewhere less idyllic than the green rolling heifer heaven around us most probably.
Continuing on, we broke out of the farmlands and back on to civilized twisties heading north. There was some big bear infested bridge in the middle of the woods Cameron wanted to check out and I was headed for Daisetsuzan in the north before swinging west and then south down into Biei and a rendezvous with Micron and his posse. So after a river’s worth of rain, a tow, a tip, several lagers and around 500km, Cameron and I parted ways. See you on the road sometime Champ :thumbright:
The road upto Daisetsuzan was a ripper. And the scenery running through the gorges at the top of the pass were breathtaking. But it was cold enough to consider the heated gear as the temps dropped to 14deg. I was enjoying myself too much to stop or even take snaps so soldiered on in the hope of warming winds on the decent. Fittingly, the road down was a feast of wide open sweeper heaven that kept the heart pumping all the way to the chilling fingers. Definitely one of the roads to to do while up there.
Hitting civilization again, took a look at the Mapple and found a byway that lead down around Biei through the bread basket of corn, rice and flower fields, again with no traffic. It was warmer, brighter and greener than anything the past few days had offered even in the failing sunlight. An encouraging welcome to Biei. The roads were elevated, long and straight giving a great sense of expanse . Quite the contrast to the canyon carving earlier
Finally rolled into the 7/11, where I’d agreed to meet Micron, about an hour late and was discouraged not to find him there but relieved to get his email saying he was running late too. His 6 wheeled posse rolled in about 1/2hr after me and we had a good yarn and, with Yuichi and Keiko on the phone, decided to head for one of the nearer rider houses of the many in Biei.
Got there, unloaded the gear and headed for a splash in the local Sento and a feed. Picked up supplies and got lost on the way back. But we finally made it back.
The riderhouse was cheap 800yennies and seemed to be a big barn in the night light. We drank, spun tales, caught bugs and finally drifted off to slumber. Snug in my sleeping bag I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. Maybe it was the fruit-shed familiarity of back home, maybe the fly blown toilet or maybe the haphazard sleeping arrangements. Too tired to fester on it, I slipped into energy reconstitution mode. Until tomorrow.
Buzzzz!tikitik.Buzzzz! tikitk Buzzzbuzzz. Eh! What the? Who?What?Where the hell am I? Crikey I hate waking up… . but I hate flies more! And waking up 4 hours after you’ve gone to sleep with furry beer gums and flies all over you is just the pits! Now comes the where ? again. Oh yeah that fruit shed type place in the middle of those endless pastures of green fields. But where the hell have the flies come from? -memories of fly blown toilet pit- Oh HELL NO!
Welcome to Day 6
4.30am the flies came a buzzin. I rolled over. I covered up. I swatted and flicked but those pesky pricks weren’t gonna let me get back to sleep. I finally gave up the hiding around 5.30 and took the fight to them. Killed my fair share without waking everyone up but they were like starfish. You kill one but seem to create 5. So I got up and went to survey the early morning terrain. Once outside, the flies let me alone. Seems they were averse to light. And the sun was just up. A beautiful if cloudy morning.
Went back in after relieving the previous nights beer to pack and snack. Everyone else was still asleep and I did my best to remain stealthy. But as the brain begun to wonder at the surroundings, realization hit. What a shithole! Notice the dirt floors.
Well it was dirt cheap(pun intended)
Then Micron the morning troll flew from his flyblown slumber, mapple in hand ready for another day of northern adventures.
Micron’s posse ready to roll
We mounted up and headed out for the local flower park which brightened us up.
Next stop was a loop around Biei’s recommended roads. A nice hill climb that was cut short by rain and fog. The higher we wnt the thicker it got, so we retreated for the lowlands. And it was a good move with warmer clear air. Poor Keiko looked like she was gonna freeze up there. This is where we got a little lost in the search for breakfast. Never fear the Mapple is here, not that Yui cared. Seems the flies had stolen some of his sleep too.
I was already fed and left the others to feed and sleep a bit while I took in some of the local scenery. Big open flat valley lined by low mountains and criss crossed with horizon seeking roads. While figuring out where exactly we were I noticed a one carriage train putting along adjacent the road I was on and decided to scoot over for a closer look. The train was gone but the station was a time piece so I pulled up for a pic. While digging the camera out from under the maps, ferry tickets and random bits and bobs in the tank bag I didn’t notice the cop car approaching. When I finally found it, I looked up and there they were, slowing and doing a uturn to pull in behind me. What the? Bloody helicopter! Must be.. I thought. I fiend innocence, kept the visor down and gave em a questioning “ok” sign. The younger driver looked cold and the older co driver was brow deep in paper work. Oh-oh! Doesn’t look good. So I flipped the visor and the cold face seemed to turn to terror and the older one shot to attention. Gave em the “ok” hand signal again and the older guy smiled and ‘ok’d back. So, camera in hand I strolled across the road and started snapping away. ‘Go Away, just move along’, I thought. Here’s the relic
A few snaps later, turned to see young stoney face crossing to my side of the road with a folder in hand. What to do? Scooby do style, I thought to scamper off into the rice fields, but to where? Kept cool and just crossed back to my bike and mounted up. Then I saw it. The lights about 1/2km away down the road. They were busting people for running the red. Not interested in a foreigner taking pics of backwater train stations. If only they knew. Hahaha! I chuckled, as I tootled off in search of the others. Great place Hokkaido.. .
Found the crew, Yui sleeping again, but on the carpark floor of the combini this time. We mounted up and headed for the next piece of blacktop entertainment.
Views were good and the downhill was great. At the end we stopped and decided to part ways. They were going east and I west to meet up with TR rider Cliff, a Niseko local(or so I hoped). Riding a bit further south together we split off with big waves, Hokkaido style. Good posse there. I was headed for the 465-38-274 loop before tracking west though. Nice road but the slow meandering sliver before me slowly hypnotised me and the lids became very heavy. Dangerously heavy. Time for a stop. So before falling off my ride I pulled into a michinoeki and did a Yui with the feet on the bars and passed out for a spell. Woke up a little groggy but better and took a walk to get the blood moving. Staggered off down a path and found some hidden scenery.
And an old bridge nature was reclaiming brick by brick
Well, I guess you can see by my subject matter I wasn’t really with it. But the forest air and all them minus eons flying around was refreshing. Emerging back out of the undergrowth, the FZ1 looked ready to roll and then I spotted em. Black and white pado cars don’t camo so well in such lush green. In the carpark on the opposite side, behind the roadside hedge, were the fuzz lying in wait. Not for me(I hoped) but maybe for passing hooligans. My bout of drowsiness had been a godsend. After plugging in the head gear and donning the helmet a few riders went past at a decent clip and with a scrabble of rubber on loose gravel mrPlod was in pursuit. Pulled in behind for the show. They kept accelerating, me about a km back, but at 130kph, at the end of the straight, the pado car eased off and the riders were nowhere to be seen. Disappeared into the twisties. Good job fellas. But now I had the black and white between me and the coming twisties. Then brake lights, uturn and back they went from whence they came. Let the twisties begin. Had a good run around that loop and pulled into Shimukappu to figure out how to get over the mountains to the west. Decided to stick with the 274 which looked interesting.
It was interesting but also packed with traffic heading west. Had to dart and weave and slide down the side a fair bit until getting past the odd slow truck or bus holding things up. Once past the 1st truck the road was clear and the FZ cleared it’s throat for a howl up the hillclimb. It was nirvana after the stress of dodging traffic. But the fog soon started to thicken and then the rain and then foggy rain and then peasoup. Bloody cold peasoup up top. It was day 6 and it didn’t seem to bother me much though. Suffered the same disillusions I’d fallen for in Shiretoko that things would be better on the other side of the pass . The air got warmer but the rain was getting heavier and heavier. Had the wet weather gear on so it wasn’t too bad. After a couple hours of foggy heavy rain though, the water was seeping in here and there, the gloves were soaked and the cold was starting to bite. Sure kept me awake though.
At HigashiOiwake, gave in and jumped on the expressway trying to outrun the rain in the area. Unfortunately it was everywhere. Around 6pm, exited at Chitose and went looking for shelter. Nothing! Decided on a 2 metre overhanging roof at a combini. Jumped off, got out of the weather and stripped off the gear. Called Cliff who reported the weather no better there and advised heading for an onsen to hole up. Good advice. To tell the truth, I’d been slugging along all afternoon with the goal of catching up with Cliff and looking forward to some Gengis and had refused to give in to the weather. He sorted me out and set me on a safer, more realistic track. Thanks Cliff.
So back on the expressway and heading south/south-west. Almost ran out of gas AGAIN before exiting and finding a gas stand at Muroran. A blessing in disguise really as exiting the expressway which runs along the shoulder of the high plains and descending down into clear fine weather, got to ride over the big Baybridge there as the sun was setting. Beautiful! Fuelled up and went back over the bridge with an orangey pink glow lighting the westward skies. A good omen as that’s where I was heading.
Well more rain up on the expressway for the next 60km or so and then it faded away and the air began to feel warmer and drier. Exiting the expressway, stars were evident here and there and so was a healthy dose of traffic. No problem. Ferry didn’t leave till 3am, which left me 7odd hrs to float on down to Hakodate. So I opened all the zippers and let the wet jacket flap in the wind and did a lot of standing riding with the wet weather pants pulled down some to let the sweaty moisture out too. Funny how when you do that the tailgater behind drops a fair way back.
80 or so kms later, floating along the escarpment expressway leading down to Hakodate, I discovered what all the hype was about regarding the beauty of Hakodate at night. With a clear sky, the hourglass shaped peninsula of lights capped by HakodateYama under a near full moon was a sight to behold and kept me in awe long enough to forget about taking a pic. Damn. Made the hard slog worth it though.
Once in Hakodate, found an onsen hotel and soaked away the days woes and then hunted for some grub. The concierge said to head for the morning market area, it was around midnight, and try some miso ramen. That sounded just about perfect. It was.
Around 1am, belly full and feeling a little drowsy , headed for the ferry docks. Used the cool 2D bar-code reader machine again and it shot out my paper passage back to Honshu. Took the bike around to the preloading area and asked one of the dockers what time to board. 2am. Don’t be late. Fair enough. It was a little cool out so headed in to the big terminal for the 45 minute wait and found a recently vacated sofa. Bad move. Sprawled out and next thing I know I wake up alone in a foyer that had previously been packed with fellow road weary bikers. Time check-2.15. Oops, late but not fatal. So shuffled outside, got yelled at by the same docker and skulked the FZ into the big-slow old ferries belly for the tie down. This hour of the morning and the ferry was chocablock full with bikes/cars and huge trucks. Obon eh?
Seems I wasn’t the only late arrival. A husband and wife on CBR 600/1000s were also being grilled so we made a hasty retreat upstairs together. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the ticket and neither could they so we just headed into the main tatami deck and locked for numbers or something that may have matched the tickets. Nothing. Then I spotted a door with a similar big kanji as on the ticket and pointed it out to the others. That was us. Opening the door I suddenly remembered Yuko the super secretaries words, “.. . . you’d better get a sleeping cabin on the way back.. .” I’d totally forgotten and said a big thank you to her for booking it anyway.
Stripped off, hanging everything on the hooks in the bunk, and climbed into the best bed I’d had in 6 nights. Soft mattress, real pillow, real clean sheets and blanket and within nano seconds I was out.
A loud speaker voice: “Don’t forget your belongins” Forget what? I don’t even know where I am let alone what I’m supposed to forget. Couldn’t care really. Pretty happy sleeping in this comfy bed but. Mmmm this bed is the best I’ve slept in since. ..”Next stop Sendai” Oh! grunt, shuffle, bang the head on the above bunk, pull on the riding duds and grab all my gear like a monkey in a banana shop. Next thing I remember is riding out of the ferry into the bright morning Aomori light. Made it!
Another 10 comfy minutes in bed and I would have been trapped aboard for the next 18 or so hours. That would have been a waste as I still had 2 days of riding left before I had to be back under the workman’s whip.
So haphazardly, at 7.30am, throw everything under the net on the back, figure from the Mapple I need to be heading out rt7 and so set off tracking the easy to follow signs looking for breaky. Several kms down the strip outa town, pull in for a plastic treat at a white’n’blue combini.
Beautiful morning! Clear sky, fresh cool air and countryside quiet. Still crusty but the sunshine brings me around. Just polishing off the last of breaky, a small gang of equipped riders rolls in. K1200R, KTM Superduke, ZZR1400, MonsterS4R and a Harley bringing up the rear. The K1200R does a few loops sussing out the car park before pulling in near the FZ1. A chat over the mapple had the graying Yamagata locals advising me against my intended route and instead taking the Goldline south to Towado-ko before heading west for Hirosaki. Didn’t take much persuading once I saw all the purple lines they were recommending. After our chat, they mounted up and shot off toward the north west peninsula.
I took the opportunity of great weather and early start to fix the starcom(comms system) which had been trapped under the touring pack on the rear seat since leaving Yokohama. Problem? Feedback and the radar detector wasn’t being heard. Fixed the feedback by a volume/sensitivity adjustment, tuned the vox for better(less) response and gave up on the radar detector which turned out to be causing 1/2 of the feedback. Just had to continue watching for the bright flashing lights. In any case, had the Ipod running, clearly visible and adjustable through the tankbag’s top cover and the phone connecting via Bluetooth whenever it came within 3 metres of the bike with the ignition on. Packed up and hit the road.
After a brief stint along rt7 through Aomori city, swung south and slowly climbed up into the surrounding hills along 103. Got a good view from the lip of the escarpment down over Aomori and when looking west, off toward Hirosaki, a beautiful big cloud tipped mountain standing ominously at it’s back. That must be Aomori’s Fuji, Iwaki-san. My whole reason for getting of that ferry. What a GREAT day! As I yelled that, inside my helmet, a family gave me the weirdo look. Well, if the hat fits.. . .
Heading back into the hills meant twisties and man, had I missed twisties. The FZ1 was rolling and the airbox was growling out of the hairpins. The road just got better and better, a bit dodgy in some spots but, in general a 7+. The strong sunlight was lighting up the road but only managing a dappled effect in the dense greenery off the blacktop.
Slowly the traffic thickened, in the opposite direction, with tour buses and old geezers admiring the numerous waterfalls, streams and mossy undergrowth. My than a few curses expelled there.
But I could see why they were there. It is a breath taking place. One of the few mystical places I’ve felt in Japan. Had to stop
This S sign actually meant severe hairpins ahead. Japan prides iteself on it’s humbleness but in road signs :bad-words: A trend that I got used to in the region
Recharged, headed for Towado-ko. Great lake. The initial section was loaded with tourist there to see the 7 maidens of the lake or something. I wasted about 10 minutes getting redirected around the carpark before giving up.The west side of the lake was mostly empty and really charged. Hit a gorgeous section and had to pull in. Wish it had have been a little later and I would have happily camped there.
Off to Hirosaki was a nice climbing-falling twisty section and the Starcom received it’s 1st call from The Dude. We had a chat but I had to cut him off because I was having to much fun and he was cursing me for the wooping and yeehaing I was bleeting down the line while carving up rt454’s twisties.
Before long the FZ1 had us gliding down toward Hirosaki in search of one of the few remaining original construction castles. Easy to find, just follow the signs. Really, just follow the signs even though it runs contrary to your gut feeling, the other massive castle to the north and the mapple, they will get you there. Although Hirosaki castle is only a small turret tower section of the original construction surrounded by a magnificent moat amongst gorgeous gardens, it is worth the visit even if only to be followed by the semi-retired wannabe ninja security guard. All rather pinkpantherish. The fiendish old cojer evaded my camera but here’s the grounds
Complete with the drop doors for raining down arrows or red hot pitch on the pour unfortunate souls unlucky enough to have swum the moat and found themselves scurrying up the rock wall below.
Got a bit pekish with all that walking so decided to head for some local cuisine, Apple and Scallop curry. Was really good. With fresh apple juice of course
The left foot was starting to ghost shift and the right wrist kept twitching. It was time to hit the road again and the coming road had been on the to do list for a looooooong time. The nerves and senses were edgy. 69 curves in 10km!
A cloudy day with not many people about, the entrance was empty and the toll troll said to take care as it was cold and foggy at the top. So, on with the challenge. The Iwaki Skyline! A climbing, ever twisting set of switchbacks where the straights between the bends get shorter and shorter as you climb higher and higher.
Settling in, the rear started to drift more and more on exits and the pegs were plowing for longer and longer. Around ½ way up, what I expected to be a switchback was only a right hander and was glad no one was coming down in the opposite direction. Then it all returns to the flow again, rising up through and out of the cloud bank and just as things are becoming routine, it comes to an end. That was fun! Let’s do it again! So down and up again.. . . After 200+ curves in 30km I needed a break and the cold air at the top was perfect.
Road condition was pretty good too
Finally got to attack the fat bastard on the 7 day old PilotRoad2s
Heading down from Iwaki went north and followed the coast west and then south. Headed for the coast was a hoot with lots of medium pace long sweepers
But the coast was quite boring and I thought I was gonna have to stop for a kip but Midnightrun rung and the Starcom sprung life. We chatted as the road rolled by for about 30 minutes down some boring blacktop and through the now mundane towns. Thanks MR for the wake up call :thumbright:
Back on the road I set my sights on Hachimori which promised a nice auotcamp and onsen. Along the way the sun was setting and .. .
.. then Hacimori showed itself
The campsite was great with a big onsen next door that sat on a small escarpment with the rotemburo offering a fantastic night view over the ocean. Staggered outa the onsen, grabbed a couple of beers and headed back to the tent to cook some grub and reflect on the days adventure. Was really starting to feel at home on the road by now but it was to be my last night under the stars
Day 8 Final Day
Waking up to the sound of waves and gulls again had me thinking I was back at Soya Misaki and hoping for a ground hog day. But it was not to be. Fitting though, that the final night in the tent should end like the 1st.
6am and too many people were already up. Cloudy and a little damp, the sun was trying to shine through and a sunny day was predicted so I took my time over breakfast and went for a wander to see where all the fireworks noises had been coming from the night before. Getting to the edge of the cliff and looking down it was obvious. A large group of revellers were flaked out among the rocks below surrounded by the carnage they’d wreaked the night before. Boy were they going to feel crusty.
Packed and oiled the beast and then dropped by the front desk on the way out to leave a fresh bag of instant ramens for the warm reception I’d received on the way in. Besides they were a dead weight from here on. The guy on duty the night before wasn’t around but his wife, although a little confused at first, took them and saw me off and down the road with a farewell fit for a soldier off to war.
So with the Japan Sea to my right and green fields backed by low hills to left, the FZ1 carried us south in search of todays adventure. 1st stage was to get across to Hachimantai. Home of some of the stinkier onsens and bigger wild animals. But i wasn’t there for them. No siree, the roads were meant to be worth a good feast and the right hand was getting twitchy again. But that was still a 100 odd clicks away inland. So it was time to soak up some of the sights.
Lot’s of green fields, the odd bridge and ..
..phsycho fast mini-trucks
Tried to stay out of the towns and found most of the biways ran through rice fields. Quite picturesque in the morning light. Once out of the fields and onto rt285 the right wrist got to let off some steam. Valley tracing.
I’d stopped for this shot after playing chicken with a very hairy ungulate. This thing was as big as my bike, with stubby little horns and shaggy thick legs. Had no idea what the hell it was but it came charging down out the forest to my right and proceeded to try and get ahead of me to cross the road, head swinging this way and that to scan me and its random path ahead. It was already ahead of me and I’d heard of people hitting deer with none to friendly consequences so I slammed on the anchors and pulled up the FZ to save all our skins. The crazy coot also skidded to a halt and was eyeing me off for a bit before charging across the road and up through the undergrowth into the forest. Freaky, I tell ya! Freaky.
A few hours later swung onto 341 and scooted south for the feast. It started immediately with the 341 being a blast to the entrance of the Aspite line.
The twisties and elevation changes were great on the way up and then the road opened into long peg plowing sweepers. And not a car in sight.
Sorry, no other photos I was having too much fun. But I did stop for a breather and a squirt at the top. It was cold up there! While there checked out some of the locals. And look who I found..
Continuing on, the roads got twisty, tight, open and fast, smooth and tunnelled. It was one of the best stretches of riding on the whole trip. the run down 341 was a great flowing downhill that had me wondering, aloud, “why haven’t I been up here before? woohoo!” And I don’t particularly like downhills.
Arriving at Tazawako an hour or so after lunch with a cavernous hunger, pulled into a lakeside restaurant with a huge table lined deck out front. Perfect. Turned out the hordes had already been through and I was the only one in the huge restaurant. The menu was a revelation. Real western food. Promptly ordered up a green salad, which was huge and low on lettuce but high on every other veg, accompanied by a mushroom, tomato, garlic pasta. Finished off with a heavy chocolate cake and coffee. Hadn’t missed this kind of food till then.
After the fantastic lunch it was time to hit the road and with the sun on its downhill leg, decided to make for the expressway. About 1/2hr along the boring, compared to what I’d become accustomed to, 46, the lids once again became heavy and began forgetting the last few corners. It was time for a kip. Pulled off at a rest area, hooked the feet over the bars, laid back on the touring pack and was out like a light. Some time later got woken up by the thump-thump-thump of a nearby single. Lifted a lid and there was some young guy taking pics of my slumbering carcass. Thought that was just rude so swung the legs down, turned her over and hauled outa there. Only when changing into 2nd did I realize that my feet were still asleep and, being previously elevated, blood deprived. Had to muscle the shift and took it right up to 6th. Funny the things you do, then think afterwards, on jaunts like these. Like: Is it right for me to be riding with no feeling in my feet having only woken up 30 seconds ago?
The rest of the trip involved too much lane splitting, rain, sleeping under my bike in a service area to keep warm and dry(FB style) and generally a crappy end to a great ride.
But I did finally roll back into Kanto and onto the Shuto after midnight. Warmer, dry but far too much traffic. Bright lights, big city. A little while later rolling over Yokohama bay bridge I felt the gravity of what I’d just done. An ultimate northern adventure.
6346km in 8 days