Shirakawago is a timeless glimpse at a bygone era and a place everyone visiting Japan should make an effort to get to. And it does need effort as it’s not the closest place to the main touristy draw cards. From its nearest big city Nagoya, it’s about a 3hr tour bus ride or 4hr by train and bus on public transport.
So, how about riding? It’s about 150km directly north from Nagoya and ought to take two to two and a half hours. However, I rode from Yokohama and the shortest route is around 360km and from Matsumoto to Takayama has some great twisties and fantastic views. But, winter snow and ice makes the short route dicy if it’s open. So, it was a safe 450km+ mostly expressway jaunt.
Making it to that last long tunnel was like Shirakawago was rolling out a big warm welcome mat for all the effort.
Got to get back and stay longer next time… Next time… How many attempts and years will that take? 😂
11 hours & @950km
With the lifting of the corona virus state of emergency and local prefectural no-travel requests, it was time for the steed and I to chase the horizon once more.
This was the road that inspired the second wind and got me to thinking that a Coast to Coast Twistybutt had to be done. From here on there were mostly epic roads, views and the autumn colours would be even better. Besides, the 502 was ahead and I’d read a few months before that it’d be open for the start of October. If you get to the 502, it’s all downhill to the coast, right? Onward!
The expressway run home was a cold monotonous cruise control enabled decompress. It was the easiest and most economical leg of the ride though and traffic was surprisingly light.
This twisted fossil thoroughly enjoyed the stretch of legs and right wrist. And the MT10sp is proving a great steed for such stretches. Just wish it wouldn’t drink so much. 😉
TAP the pics below for bigger images.
460km done and home by 3:30pm for a nap. 😂
All done, 485km and some well rounded rubber. Until next Sunday….
Got out for a leisurely 320km through Izu to see out the year.
It’s been a lonely year on the road. Looking forward to seeing off this plague and catching up with the Twistybutts in May!
Roll on 2021!
Left home in the cool pre-dawn for what I thought would be a morning excursion but one thing lead to another and before I knew it I’d gone Coast to Coast and still had to get home, which is near the coast so…
Was a fantastic ride! @1150km in 20hrs with @250km of that on the expressway.
Nice and cool at altitude so tried to stay up there as much as possible.
Got to finally do a road on my bucket list, Sugawa Touge on the 403 between Niigata and Nagano. Exceptional views and a fantastic hillclimb. Bit narrow on the south side though. The phone was overheating unfortunately so here are some other snaps from the ride instead.
About the Bones
Now, why did I start the day with a 190km expressway run out to Nikko? Let’s roll the clock back a bit.
Almost two years ago to the day while returning from several great days of touring Tohoku with a Viking, coming around a right hander into a narrow bridge crossing, I was met with a a black van on my side of the road and a tough choice…
Head on Collision…nope!
Dodge the van and likely hit the guardrail over the bridge…guardrails are rather unforgiving from previous experience, so…nope!
Try to pull up and go off the corner…lots of thick grass to plow, a concrete pole and tree to dodge but ok…
It all happened so fast that there really wasn’t a decision process to ponder. As soon as I grabbed that brake lever, a wide line was inevitable and going off road it was.
The braking was strong enough to leave a faint gray streak for the last metre or so before leaving the sticky stuff but by then we’d slowed to running pace. After shimmying across the dirt and then off the brakes into that long welcoming green grass with about as much traction as butter, the grass had a another surprise for us.
Just as I was sizing up the tree’s thick branch that we were going to have to plow through at just above front wheel height, we launched a little on a hump hidden in the grass. Not a space bound launch but I’ve many a time thought what would have been if I’d hit it with pace… In any case, it threw me out of the saddle enough to unsettle me and after that I was a mere passenger.
It was about then that my eyes widened to dinner plates as there was a gaping trench below the branch which had also been hidding behind that long grass!
A stone walled creek/river of unknown depth and bottom. Yep, the crash that keeps on giving! Branch crack, crunch of fairing-plastic and then the odd pop-click-crack, like lobsters on the reef if you’ve ever heard that when diving but a hundred reefs of them pop-click-cracking out from your marrow to your sensors. Bones n joints doing what they aren’t intended to. Head first into the wall! Just above the helmet visor. Then again to the crown of my head on a lower stone step protruding from the wall.
I came to, draped over the FZ1 with my left fingers in mesh summer gloves filtering clean clear mountain waters gurgling below me. The old beast had saved me once more.
I did the sensory check and then the digit-limb-everything check and I was in one piece, operational but quite badly winded. Clambered to my feet noticing a sore wrist and bit of dizziness. Looking around, I was ankle deep in a 2-3 metre high 2-3 metre wide concrete bottomed, riverstone lined creek/river teeming with life, both plant and insect. The FZ1 had lost the front below the fork stanchions but looked ok. It wasn’t. Discovered a fatal frame crack much later. Still pains me.
Back in the trench, I was bewildered and having a little trouble staying upright when the Viking appeared above. He’d been some way back but close enough to see something amiss. I just remember asking, “Did I fk up?” Oviously!
On extracting myself from the trench with the help of a good samaritan passerby, I painfully realized something was not at all right with my wrists. As the shock and fight or flight chemical dump wore off waiting for the ambulance, it became painfully apparent there were a few things not quite doing what they should’ve been doing.
The ambulance and fire crew were great while the local inspector Cluoseau wannabe bordered on comical with his various hypothesis and line of resulting interrogations.
Later, at the hospital after some xrays and CT scans, the injuries were clear.
Rehab lasted a while. The back is still not right, the left wrist isn’t either but I’m no spring chicken and that wasn’t my first rodeo. I can still ride!
And ride I will. One day shy of the second anniversary of that decisive day, I went to look over that place and make peace with my demons.
It is a beautiful little area and was all the more so in the early summer light.
Think I’ll make this a regular place to visit around this time each year. A pilgrimage to pain and life and what could easily have been my last ride!
Iida to Home @425km
Had a great night’s rest and woke up ready to ride. But the inn was silent. Climbed out of my cubbyhole trying not to wake anybody but old wooden buildings like to chat with even the most cautious of feet. So with creaks and squeaks but never a thud, I dressed, loaded up and crept downstairs. Snoring continued from at least one cubbyhole…
The peace and quiet and soft morning light splashing over the mountains and flooding the vast western windows of the inn before seeping its way through the open wooden labyrinth was a magic way to start the day.
MotoGP pit the night before, twisty hunter staging area the following morning. ☺
And out the door we went.
The Michael way to minimise downtime!
Making our way south east, the conditions were just right and we were having a ball on the wide open bypasses and squeezing through the tighter canyon passes.
Came upon a deserted XR and after a short trek into the thick mossy forest..
… spied Michael soaking up minus eons down by the waterfalls below. Nice!
Then we climbed…
Crossing over into Misakubo, the wildlife are quite different…
Seems the wildlife like to jump onto the back of speeding bikes too. So best to go slowly, apparently. Defies my logic but I’m not a cute girl on a dualsport so…
Michael and John enjoyed the climb. 👍
Who’s that way over there?
Mountains to the horizon..
How do you like that John?
Just like the way up, endless twisties from there on down.
Views aplenty too!
Soon we were back tracing a river and a closer look was warranted.
Out on the mossy bridge taking pics, soon discovered that my new can’t-miss-that-yellow helmet was a flying-bug magnet. And there were plenty of big stingy ones above this river.
So, back on the road I went! 🏃
And where there are steep mountains and deep canyons with roads cut into them, there are almost always sharp stones falling from the walls. The MT10SP picked one up unfortunately.
Fortunately, mechanic Michael was there to save the day. I pulled in under the dragons…
… and he flew into action.
Nice plug mate. 👍
Plugged and pumped up, we got back into it and soon found ourselves in the great green lined hills of tea.
This is the kanji character for cha = tea
Flowing east and then north we twisted our way up toward Ikawa and its mighty dam.
Round the north side of the dam, we pulled into an old favourite for lunch.
The food’s always fresh from the local fields and the kitchen is staffed by local ladies who know what they’re doing with such great ingredients.
From there, with furnaces fueled, we twisted our way back down out of the mountains and headed east for home.
Back in the big smoke, Michael’s work spoke for itself by getting the MT10sp and I back without event. And the rest of the tyres show it was a well rounded test. 😂
The only thing left to do was celebrate @3000km and a week-plus well ridden.
Abalone anyone? Couldn’t wait…sorry. ☺
Now that’s some choice Hayama Premium beef!
Great suggestion Michael. That was an epic post-tour feed. Thank you!
Brilliant Goldenweek of riding with a great crew. Full of sideways skewing events but nay a scar or regret. The weather gods tested us a few times but blessed us with predominantly fine weather and clean clear roads. The tour started and finished with three and hats off to Michael and John for their endless enthusiasm, tireless tyre rounding and being a ZERO-PITA. 😁
Already looking forward to next year!
Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan – @550km
Early morning in a very comfortable bed...
Meanwhile, down by the Pacific Ocean, all fired up and ready after waiting all year to ride coast to coast, 80 odd riders and their steeds were all kinds of excited, sleepy and confused, I’m sure.
Another epic collection of bikes and riders!
5:20am…ishRising up out of a great sleep to a beeping alarm, had the feeling that someone was watching me and none too impressed…
Then it hit me. COAST to COAST Twistybutt day! The one day of the year not to sleep in! So, like Fred Flinstone but onto a bike, I was outa there!
7:15ishRolled in to the start point and of course no one was there. Beautiful morning though 👍
So, with hares to hunt, it was time to get to know the SP side of the MT-10SP.
The Viking caught me here and plied me with rider fuel as I topped up the somewhat thirstier than usual eMpT-10 ☺ Then we were off again!
Toilet stop and refocus here.
Blasting through a subterranean valley to valley wormhole, loving the thrum of the MT10 crossplane rattling the tiles on the tunnel wall, I realized I’d completely missed the turnoff for the snaking touge overhead and as a result had lopped off around 20km of the C2C500 route! Doh! It was time for a pitstop and refocus. The riverside here did the trick. 👍Head back on straight, no time for photos and deciding to try and catch one pack or another doing the same route, the tyres stayed medium-well done all the way till Asama yama was in the mirrors and my furnace needed fuelling. Still hadn’t seen anyone I recognised but it was lunch time.On the road again headed for the Tsumagoi Panorama Line with the bike and belly full, the Touge Express was ready to rock again! But, within 300m, the grey sky turned black and a chill took the air.Ouch! Took a hard hit to the knee… Bug? Maybe. Ping-tock-ouch! Something bounced off the tank, hit the bottom of my helmet and jammed in between my neck and collar. And it burned till I dug it out! Then the heavens opened and grape-sized hail was bouncing around everywhere. Luckily, across the way there was a post-office with a decent verandah out front. In the MT and I darted. And as fast as it started, it finished.The remnants of the hail was melting away and there was road to ride so away we went. Over the 292, through Nakano and Iiyama and along the last farmer/panorama line before dropping down into Joetsu we went. And with plenty of daylight left, the MT10sp and I pulled up on the sand by the Sea of Japan.
Got to the hotel just behind one of the groups I had had in my sights but that was it!The rest of the riders, groups and coast to legends rolled in over the following hours. Yearly acquaintances were renewed, new faces were put to names and we gassed on about our rides and the freedom of carving one’s way from coast to coast, again. Brilliant!It had been a few years since I’d done a solid C2C Twistybutt and although it was only @490km, it was truly one for the nostalgia files.
2019 Coast to Coast Twistybutt Legends