Golden Week in Japan
April, 27 th 2019 Takamatsu
Holidays. For our bicycle trip on Shikoku, we booked a ferry from Kobe to Takamatsu. Since the ferry’s departure was announced at 11 am and it was around 35 km to get there for Sayaka, Yoshi and me we decided not to cycle in the morning. Sayaka and Yoshi had a bike bag to carry it on the train, while I brought my bike to Tomal’s place two days before. I met Yoshi in the morning at Shinsaibashi to help her carrying the bike and the luggage. She managed to bring it there on her own and was already sweating. Indeed, carrying a bike in Japanese trains and luggage it’s not fun. I still have no idea how Sayaka managed it on her own. At Ashiya I left Yoshi and went to Tomal’s, who was living 10 km from the ferry. I never needed to carry my cycling bags and this for a good reason. It’s hell. I was sweating a lot, when I arrived at Tomal’s. Not because of the weight, they are super unhandy. We were still in time and since we started cycling we arrived quickly at the ferry port, where Sayaka and Yoshi hit by. We had reservations, so we could enter the ferry without any problems. I love Japanese ferries. As last time this ferry had huge areas with carpet to sit down, sleep or do whatever. I also saw people having a large picnic. The ride was about 4 hours, enough time to take a nap and to increase the excitement of the upcoming trip. In all our planing we forgot to prepare a lunch, but no problem at Japanese ferries: they had a Udon shop and we enjoyed a bowl of tasty noodle soup and Ice Cream for desert. The ferry’s first stop was Shodoshima Island, where almost all passengers departed. When we arrived the beautiful green Island in the deep blue Ocean a nice melody was played to inform the passengers of arrival. These little things make me love Japan. Also the toilet was one of the most excited one in my life. For sure it was one of the fully automatic ones, but in the cabin it was next to a huge window and one could enjoy the amazing view. Maybe it’s better not to use it while being in the harbour… We arrived at Takamatsu and the sun was shining. A perfect start. I had some trouble with my cell phone contract, because they didn’t accepted my Japanese credit card (it’s a prepaid card), so we went to the next Aeon Mall and Sayaka fixed it for me. Sayaka lost her key, she bought, so she also needed a new bicycle lock. Entering the mall was a trap. Too many useful things and no ideas about what to eat for dinner made us spend one and a half hour inside. Finally, with heavy loaded bikes full of food and even a kite, we left the mall and Takamatsu to start into adventure. The traffic was low and we enjoyed a 20 km ride during sunset through small streets and villages. Today’s sleeping place was supposed to be at a park at the Ocean with a public toilet nearby. Only a few thousand meters before it went up very steep. It was kind of unexpected and so we followed different strategies to deal with it from run and push the bike to pedal as slowly as possible. Any time, we thought we arrived the summit it went up again. The last few meters were a fight, but finally we arrived at a public toilet on top of a cliff. Nearby was a huge meadow and I was sure it was not one for camping. Anyway it was already dark and so we pitched up the tents. Here next to the Ocean it was completely dark and the wind freshed up. This night would gonna be cold. I didn’t expect that. My friends neither. We made us a picnic place and ate our bentos. Unfortunately they were cold as well. Someone had the idea to heat up the red wine we bought to drink it German style as Glühwein “hot waino”. I sat in my sleeping bag and it took less than half an hour until I fell asleep while watching the night sky and listen to my friends chatting. It felt a little bit like on that November night with Viraj, Anna and Sumanta. At some time, they woke me up and we crawled into our tents. Oyasumi.
April, 28 th 2019 Hiketa Tanoura campsite
Back to the roots. I woke up late and by the sounds of my friend’s voices. When I left the tent an amazing view of the Ocean awaited me. It was still a little bit cold, but sunny. We had a relaxing breakfast, while more and more local people came for taking their dogs for a walk or enjoying the beautiful morning. I’m sure it was forbidden to camp there, but anybody said anything. It took a while until everything was packed and our bikes loaded for the road. In the early noon we started into a sunny day into our holidays. We arrived at a beach I already stayed at during my bicycle trip. It was a very nice place with yellow sands and pine trees. I deeply fell asleep when I was there last time and this time I took a nap as well. We bought some oranges at the nearby Michi no eki (road station) and enjoyed them while watching the Ocean. Back on the road the plan was to eat Udon Tokushima style with raw egg and luckily there was a Udon shop next to the road, which was awaiting hungry cyclists. The shop was very cute and looked authentically made in the sixties. We sat in a kind of indoor balcony and could see the ocean. Service in the countryside is way slower than in Osaka or in the city in general. So we spent there a lot of time, but we didn’t mind. After lunch we headed to a campsite I have been last time, which was located next to the Ocean. Last time I followed the National road to avoid climbing the mountains. This time I was keen to follow the road along the Ocean. We weren’t motivated to climb that much, but decided democratelly to give the road a try. It was honoured with a beautiful forest road through the mountains next to the Ocean. It went slightly up, just perfect for cycling. All of us were excited and happy. And for sure riding down the slope to our free campsite was pure fun. The campsites was crowded, but way less than expected. I thought during golden week and especially at the weekend there would be more people. We had no trouble to find a nice spots to pitch our tents. The way we pitched our tents was well planned using old leaves. One big advantage was to have native speakers among us, so Yoshi and Sayaka found an Onsen nearby. On the way there was the supermarket. Just perfect. We went to supermarket for buying dinner and sent Tomal back with the grocery to the campground, since he wasn’t interested in going to Onsen. Dipping in the hot water was heaven. It was almost too hot, so I took a long dip into the cold water tub as well. I always wonder how different evaluate risk in different ways: in Japan even heating food in thin plastic and aluminium is called safe, aluminium is advertised in deos and while in Germany in some thermal baths (water is warmer than in normal pools and from natural source, but even way less hot than in Japan) children are not allowed to enter due to health risks. While I was struggling with my blood circulation, the children enjoyed a lot next to me. For sure it is forbidden to wash your underwear in Onsen, so I wondered a lot when the other two girls started doing this in the changing room. If I was alone, I wouldn’t be brave enough, but at least we had no choice and nobody said anything. After the bath my body felt heavy and lazy due to a high level of relaxation. After a hot bath one feels like newborn. We cycled back to the campground, where Tomal was awaiting us. We ate our bentos and enjoyed Glühwein again. A campground sometimes is like television and we enjoyed our evening watching other, chatting and laughing until the sleepiness caught us and we disappeared in our tents. I felt a deep satisfaction while laying in my tent. These days I mainly would call it my home, it gives me a feeling I never could achieve in Nishinari: home.
April, 29 th 2019 Katsuura
Rain. Today’s morning was sunny and nice. Hard to trust the weather forecast which predicted lots of rain. The road guided along a main road next to the Ocean to the city of Naruto. Even though the road itself was nice, there was much traffic, so cycling became rather stressful. We still needed to do some shopping: Tomal, who is used to sleep on the bare ground in Bangladesh got used to my picnic mattress and wanted to own one as well and Yoshi needed a mug. Also my gas canisters were almost empty and we urgently wanted to eat Tokushima Ramen with raw egg. It was very useful that Sayaka lived for a while in Naruto and was familiar with the area and guided us. We ended up in a home stock market and found a treasure: a tiny BBQ, just perfect for our purposes. Happily we left the market to get some food. Sayaka recommended a Ramen shop, so we went there. Unfortunately there was a long queue in front of the shop. In Japan people are used to line up at a restaurant, something we wouldn’t do in Europe, and it still feels a little bit strange to me. Anyway we lined up and waited for almost one hour. Typically for countryside there were overwhelmed by so many customers. Under the table we could charge our devices secretly and this big bunch of cable looked very awkward. We finally got our Ramen with raw egg and it was delicious. Sleepy and with a full belly we continued cycling. It was cold outside and the sky became grey. Heavy clouds were around us and not even twenty minutes later it started raining. Great! Within minutes our jackets were soaked with water and we still had to cycle around 30 km. I stopped at a supermarket to do our evening shopping while hoping the rain would stop meanwhile. For sure I was wrong. Unmotivated we entered the supermarket and got our stuff for BBQ this evening. Again the bikes were heavy loaded with grocery and we finally had to face the rain. We also passed a sports equipment store, but Tomal couldn’t find a proper mattress. It was already late afternoon and we kept cycling quietly. During rain passing cars are incredible loud. We cycled up a river for a very long time. We were deep in the countryside and traffic almost vanished. The rain didn’t stop, but as long as we were moving on the bike it wasn’t cold. Even though the wind started freezing up while we crossed the rice fields. We stopped at a Konbini for a bathroom break, which was a major mistake. I got very cold immediately after stopping. It was hard to get started again and face the rain and cold. When we arrived the campsite in Katsuura it was almost dark and the rain got heavier. Unfortunately the small campsite was full. There weren’t that much people, but some tents were extremely big and almost all of them builded up a tarp as well, so the space was occupied. We found a little space at the riverside to pitch our tents in a row. Luckily there were two huge shelters with facilities. There are three main issues which bring me in a bad mood: waking up in the morning, being cold and wet camping gear. I tried to give my best to keep everything as dry as possible. No way. It was pouring rain. I decided to pitch up my tent under the shelter on a table and carry its place while the cabin is already protected by the second skin. A group of people at the shelter were watching me curiously, but I didn’t care. Afterwards Sayaka and me were checking out the location and we found a shower room (only cold). Since it was a group shower it was divided into male’s and female’s. Since we were already completely wet, we decided to take a shower. Then we had a genius idea: Why not sleeping in the shower room. Both rooms were absolutely dry, with a roof and nobody would be that mad to want to take a shower. The facility was just perfect. There was enough space for us and our stuff, while in the other room we could hang our wet stuff. We told the other about the idea and they agreed immediately. We made us a cozy home and then we went for showering. It must have sounded awkward, because all of us couldn’t resist to scream a little bit when the cold water touched our warm bodies. But the feeling of being clean and refreshment was worth it. Funnily while planing the trip I told about my previous trip in Japan and talked about some cold showers. Yoshi, who wasn’t sure if she can join under all these circumstances, was the one who made less sounds. I guess she wasn’t expecting ending up beneath a cold shower that early. Almost all of the tent’s residents weren’t at home, so together with the other group we had many space in the shelter and a nice fire place, where we could enjoy our BBQ. We had a joyful evening and the fire was warming our feet. It was so nice just to be there with wonderful friends around me. We enjoyed to be warm and dry a lot until it was time to go back into our small castle.
April, 30 th 2019 Katsuura
Goodbye Heisei. We stayed dry and also no bugs were visiting us but for that a group of foreigner from yesterday’s night until we locked the door. Finally the rain stopped and the morning was pure freshness. We collected all our stuff to release the shower as early as we could. Usually people in Japan just stay for one night at a campsite and almost all tents vanished. We were alone. Quiet. Within the deep green of surrounded mountain the river wasn’t awake yet, so I was. Time to celebrate a royal breakfast. We bought many delicious stuff previous night in the supermarket and breakfast was indeed gorgeous. We even had eggs and prepared one of my favourite dishes: Ōnsen tamago (hot spring egg), it is the most delicious way to eat an egg and by the way the most energy efficient way on the road. We boiled water, layed the eggs inside and let them dip in the hot water for around fifteen minutes. Since the pot was small and the temperature outside still low, we covered the pot in some towels. The result was not fully perfect, but very close. Four delicious eggs, the egg white and yolk both had a smooth consistence. We decided to stay and luckily the shelter which was occupied last night was free by now. We decided to pitch our tents beneath to be protected for the next rain showers as predicted. Since it was not raining, we used the chance to dry all our wet stuff and soon the campsite hanged full of tents, sleeping bag and clothes. We made us a home. We got very calm and everybody took some time for theirselves. It was a little paradise. The deep green was unbelievable and the heavy rain drops on the leaves and the sparkling river brought were amazingly refreshing. I took my mattress and went to the river shore to do some stretching. The place and surrounding raised a deep feeling of happiness. Calmness. Time was just passing by. I lost any feeling for it. So my fellows. Our empty stomachs remembered us to go into the village. Also we needed to do laundry. While all our laundry was running, we decided to go to a restaurant for lunch. There was only one opened: a ramen shop. It was a very old place and in a corner a television was running. We were the only guest and there wasn’t any big choice of dish. But we were satisfied. The ramen was delicious. In the tv they showed the farewell of the old emperor. I totally forgot about that. Tomorrow Japan’s new emperor will take office and a new era will begin. For Japanese people, a very emotional moment, especially for the elderly ones and by the way the reason for the day off. We watched the tv for a while and felt so comfy at this cozy place that we almost forgot to leave. It was already dark outside and our laundry was awaiting us. On the few meters to the laundry it started slowly to rain, but our laundry was warm, dry and well smelling. It was amazing to held it in the arms. There was also a shoe drying machine (yes, really!), so Yoshi and Sayaka got excited and picked up their still wet shoes. Grocery. We went to the supermarket next door. Rain was getting more and when we arrived at the store we were slightly wet again. When we entered I was shocked. The aircon was turned on so much, that the cold was painful, especially on my naked wet feet. I couldn’t resist and it felt like eternity until the others decided what the wanted to buy. Doing grocery shopping without any list with a group sucks. We, the girls decided to go to the nearby Ōnsen. We sent Tomal home with the grocery (it was his own wish not to join us) and on the short way we got soaked by rain. Even the underwear. We were deep in the countryside and so looked the restaurant and the Ōnsen. But it was cozy. We were almost the only visitors and had the bath for us alone. It was warm inside and the wet clothes could dry again. The bath was amazing and the best I had so far. I was deeply frozen and now dipping in the hot was pure heaven. The water was enriched with some natural supplements and after the bath my skin and hair felt incredible soft. I never experienced it before. Deeply satisfied we went out and non surprisingly it was raining. No, it was pouring rain. The death sentence for our just dried clothes and bodies. We had no choice. We hopped on the bikes and within seconds we completely soaked by cold water again. We got separated since there wasn’t any chance to see anything in the rain anyway. Unfortunately I forgot my lamp and the way to the campsite along the river was completely dark, but with a steep slope. I couldn’t see anything. Sayaka in front of me must have already arrived, while there was no trace of Yoshi behind me. Waiting is not my strength and pushing the bike neither. So I slowly rolled ahead. I could feel the fear. Luckily it was just a short passage and also Yoshi just arrived after me. Huge puddles made the campsite look like a Lake District. Then the shock. The area where my tent was pitched at became an enormous pond. And it was growing. So, I stood there in the pouring rain. Wet. Watching my shelter became a water bed. I couldn’t do anything. My tent is waterproof, but this was definitely off limit. Sayaka offered me a shelter in her tent, but I still hoped the rain would stop and the pond disappear before bed time. Changing clothes again. Tomal was awaiting us with the already fired BBQ. Today’s BBQ wasn’t as cozy as yesterday’s. The rain didn’t stop and additionally the wind blow it into the shelter. We were tired. Tired of rain. But together we made it a joyful and unforgettable evening. And the Maru was warming up our body and souls. It didn’t stop raining, so I found myself again next to Sayaka, Maru in my blood. I layed down. Darkness. Deep sleep. Immediately.
May, 1 st 2019 Tainohama
Hello rainy Reiwa. A new era has begun. With rain. The morning granted us a small break, but the heaven was hung with heavy clouds and it looked that drops could fall on earth any minute. After a short breakfast we got our stuff together and soon we sat on our loaded bike leaving the river and campsite behind us. We just left the small village on the road we came when it started raining. Drop by drop I could watch my Jacket soaking the water. After a while even the high tech rain jackets are giving up. At least it wasn’t cold as long as we stayed in motion. We merged onto a main street and the sound of wet tires separated us. The sky turned grey and the rain became heavier. We dropped off our garbage at a Konbini where I saw many pilgrims, walking the 88 temple “Ohenro” trail, and my heart started bumping. It’s still my dream to hike this trail. Luckily the trail guided us on small countryside roads through rice fields. Even the circumstances weren’t the best, it was a beautiful journey and I enjoyed riding my bicycle on these hidden parts of the real Japan far away from the trodden tourist’s paths. While cycling we didn’t meet any other human being. I felt how my clothes got soaked more and more. The water on my skin wasn’t cold, but we weren’t allowed to stop. So, separated by the rain we continued cycling. After a while we merged onto a main road which would guide us to our today’s final destination: a beachside. Cycling on the main road wasn’t much fun, but we made a lot of kilometres very quickly. The rain became heavier and water run down my helmet. There wasn’t any dry spot anymore. A few kilometres from the destination we stopped and decided to have lunch in a local Udon noodle shop. It was still early and we were hungry. We left our Jackets and wet stuff outside, but still we left wet footprints on the shop’s floor. The owner placed us in a separate room, which was very comfortable. We switched on the heater. After stopping we felt deeply cold. The hot food was served. Unlike Japan a lush portion. Perfectly made for hungry cyclists like us. We enjoyed our lunch so much, especially Tomal was excited about the taste. We felt tired and sleepy and the tatami room next to us looked like the perfect spot for a nap. Our bellies were filled up and painful. We couldn’t move, so we stayed there a long time while trying to gather motivation to get out into the rain again. It felt like hours when we decided to leave. Luckily the beach was close and the rain almost stopped. It was freezing cold on the bike and my body and brain both were craving to make me stop and warm up. It took me all my concentration to keep on cycling. Soon we arrived at the beach. There was a small meadow made for pitching a tent. Next to it a toilet house with even a shower. But, the meadow was completely flooded. Not even a tiny puddle free spot. And no shelter. We definitely needed at least a small shelter to spend the evening. All our tents were tiny. It was just the first spot of a long bay and a little bit further we could see a shelter. Unfortunately it was occupied by a cyclist’s family. No space for us. A bit further there was a BBQ spot where a family enjoyed an enormous picnic. It was a shelter on stalks with enough space to pitch our tents. There was also a meadow next to it, but of corse the perfect place to pitch the tents was here. But it was totally occupied. We were helpless. Rain became heavy again. We climbed up and just waited staring into the grey horizon becoming grey ocean. The family made space for us immediately and offered us a hot self-made soup. No chance to deny. This is typically hospitality in Japan. We explained our situation and asked if we could pitch our tents in the night. Only minutes later they left the place for us and moved into their self made shelter downstairs. I felt sorry that we interrupted their picnic in that way, but I was also just extremely thankful that we now had the chance to make us a home. I was shaking. It was cold. I couldn’t manage to get warm. We didn’t had any food, so we decided two of of have to go to the local supermarket. We played rock paper scissors and due to cheating Tomal, Yoshi and me were chosen to go. While Tomal went out to explore the area we cycled into the small village. I couldn’t stop shaking while my whole body was stiff. The way into the village didn’t seem to end. There were only two small granny styled shops, one offered drinks and snacks, the other one a hand full of foods. Unfortunately the owner of the food shop wasn’t there even though the door was open. We picked our foods and waited and called the owner. Nothing. Yoshi went out and knocked at the back door. No response. I also went out to find anybody who might could know the owner. I found an elderly man a bit away and once I started walking towards him he run away and hide into a house. It was obvious that I wanted to talk to him. When I left, I saw him coming out again and watching me. That’s typically countryside behaviour. Suspicious and curious at the same time. We couldn’t find the owner. What should we do? Just leave enough money? Or go without anything and come back. The cold made me desperate. This couldn’t be true. We couldn’t come back. Luckily moments later Yoshi came back with the owner. It was a cute old lady, who let us try some self made bakery and even gave us some of the fish crackers for our fellows. The elderly lady was in a talkative mood and didn’t let us go. Under other circumstances I would have been up for a talk too, but right now I had to get rid of my wet clothes as soon as possible. Back at the campsite I finally changed, but remained cold. In the shop I saw the same thin mattress I had as a first layer and picnic sheet and told Tomal about it. Since he was a true bangladeshi hiker he proudly told us he didn’t need one for the trip and was using mine instead, because I felt so pity for him laying on the cold ground. So together with Yoshi he went to the village again. What a chaos, but finally he owned a mattress. The family told us that the local Ōnsen was closed. Disappointing. But there was a public bath and at least we might could take a warm shower in there. It was very close, but already dark when we arrive. And too late. They were about to close. What a mess. On the way back we passed a hotel and just ask if we were allowed to use their bath. Luckily their guests were having dinner, so we were allowed to use it exceptionally. Tomal wasn’t cold, so he left. The hot bath was heaven. No more comment. I felt like a deep frozen Udon noodle getting into the pot. We stayed dry while cycling back to our tents. We were tired and the motivation for BBQ was low. But since we bought the stuff, we had no choice. We sat down on the meadow. It felt like eternity until the first food was ready. I didn’t feel hungry anymore. I just wanted to lay down in my tent. But I didn’t wanted to leave the others with all the mess. Living in Japan brought new skills. I fell asleep while sitting legged, the head falling in my own lab. Sayaka tried to make a fire. It didn’t worked out, but she kept trying all the time. Suddenly Tomal stand up and disappeared. Only moments later we heard snoring. We still had to finish the BBQ, especially to grill the raw meat. It was painful to stay awake. I was happy when we were done, quickly we cleaned up all our stuff and finally I layed down in my tent and fell asleep.
May, 2 nd 2019 Kaiyo
Dry. I almost got a heart attack, when the first train in the morning rode over the tracks next to us. For a millisecond I was thinking the train rode through my tent. Sure, we camped close to the tracks, but this was unexpected. I fell asleep again and the second time I woke up by the warmth of the sun. Finally, after three days of rain the sun was shining. Now I realized the beauty of the beach around us. The others were already awake and with all our stuff hanging in the sun all around the view point it looked like a messy fortress. Finally Yoshi’s wallet and money seemed to be dry again. Breakfast, drying and packing took a long time this morning, but it was very relaxed. It was almost noon when we were ready to set our bicycles and started riding following the street along the coast. The road couldn’t have more beautiful. It was a small side road going along the coast, with many ups and downs which made it pure fun to cycle. The surrounding forest was providing shadow, while the sun was glancing in the Ocean next to it. We passed some very small fishermen’s villages, yet we had entered the very deep countryside of Japan. We stopped in one of the bigger villages with a supermarket and restaurants. There was plenty of housework to do and the noon’s heat was burning on our skin. We left all our clothes in the coin laundry shop while going to the home stock market to fill up fuel and other stuff. Our stomachs were craving for lunch and since there was only a single restaurant, we decided to take our chance. The restaurant was rather the living room of the elderly couple it was run by and it took ages until we got our food even though we there were only few customers. But I liked it very much, it rather felt like visiting your grandmother’s place. Heading out with full tummies and hopping on our bikes again. Ridding wasn’t a pleasure, but it got better. Soon we left the last signs of civilization and climbed up a road leading into the foresty mountains. After passing a tunnel, I was breathless. We were high above the sea on a mountain road meandering along the incedible beautiful coast. We all were stoked. We stopped at a view point with restroom and enjoyed the paradise like view on this sunny day. This was, what we were looking for on this trip. At the view point were a lot of stray cats and I really enjoyed petting them. We continued our journey and the road became more and more beautiful with a lot of ups and downs. It was pure fun, and I could have cycled there forever. From the road we saw many loney paradise like bays, how wonderful would it be to camp there. But we had neither enough water nor food. Today’s destination was the small town Minami whith a very long beach, which should provide us a place to camp. It was a long slope down to the beach and we were speeding up until more then 40 km/h. It was pure fun. We passed some fields and arrived at the beach. Indeed this was a very long beach and super rural place. In the forest next to it were some public toilets, but camping there wasn’t attractive due to an immense amount of bugs. We decided to pitch our tents directly at the beach next to a little viewpoints with three floors which would us provide a shelter in case of rain. The sun was almost setting and we needed go for grocery. We left the heavy stuff behind and headed to the nearest supermarket around 5 km away. It was almost dark and we had to pass tiny village streets which seemed like a mace. On the we we realized the supermarket was about to close and we really need to hurry if we would like to have a dinner tonight. Suddenly Tomal disappeared. He was just gone. The problem was we had no time to search and Tomal wasn’t able to use his phone properly. I was not even sure if he knew our destination. We couldn’t wait and in the hope he would go back to the beach. After ten minutes through the never ending maces he suddenly stand at a junction, as sudden as he disappeared. There was no time for questions and he still did not even knew how he made it. We arrived at the supermarket in time and got everything for a proper dinner. Back at the beach, we pitched our tents. I decided to pitch mine at the top of the viewpoint to be sheltered and enjoying a flat ground while the beach itself was strongly slopy and I didn’t want to spend the night slipping out of my mattress. I watched the other from the top and it was a fantastic view. They called it my little castle and I liked it. The girls pitched their tents right in the sand next to the view point while Tomal didn’t pitch his at all. The beach was very wide and it was a long way to the water itself. We decided to have our BBQ closer to the water and moved all our stuff there. With the darkness came the cold and humidity. We had our usual BBQ and meanwhile grown a perfect team in which everybody knew their tasks. On our tiny BBQ it took a long time and we enjoyed it. It was pretty cold and incredibly humid. There was a film of water on all our stuff and chilliness on our skin. Luckily we had hot maru sake again, which warmed us up again. It was a very joyful time and we laughed a lot. It was the first time I heard about “dancing cars” and when I went to the bathroom I saw a car parking next to my castle and it was dancing. Giggling I went back to the others. After a while the car and sake was gone and stars appeared on the nightsky. We were completely alone on this huge beach somewhere deep in the Japanese countryside. The stars were incredibly bright, the sound of Ocean in the background. This was freedom. It was so peaceful that Yoshi and Tomal soon fell asleep while Sayaka and kept chatting and laughing. It went very cold and even more humid, so I got my sleeping bag. I turned it into a blanket and layed down next to Sayaka. It was warm and cozy beneath it and while thinking that it would be easy and stupid to fall asleep right here, it just happend.
May, 3 rd 2019 Minami
Paradise. “Jen! Jen! Wake up” Tomal’s shouts tore me from sleep. Since I couldn’t see anything due to my scarf on my eyes, the brightness of daylight blind me as well. I was still at the beach. It was grey and blue around me and Sayaka was laying next to me. It was early in the morning, so I grabbed my head again into my scarf and sleeping bag. A few hours later, I woke up again. This time by the sun, shining bright and warming me up. I looked around. Everybody was gone, but Sayaka was still next to me. The ocean was deeply blue and calm and both of us were laying in the middle of this huge lonely beach. I slowly realised, we spent the night at the beach. Without intention, sharing one sleeping bag and mattress. I never slept at the beach without any tent or shelter and to be honest, this was on my secret life’s bucket list, but I was surprised that it happened right now. This was one of the nights I will always remember in my life. Falling asleep while watching the stars in the night sky at a lonely beach and waking up by the sun and sound of ocean next to each other, could be even a romantic scenery. But this was finished by glistening sunlight and an exorbitant strong thirst. Tomal appeared to wish a good morning and together we collected our scattered stuff and went back to our castle. After some refreshment we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast and slowly got ready. It took a while and it seemed that no one of us was motivated to leave this wonderful place. Today’s plan and night shelter was fixed. We decided to stay at a lonely bay we saw from the panoramic road yesterday. Since we would have to leave the main road and cycle down a steep long road we need to prepare well. For sure there wouldn’t be any toilet or fountain. We had to carry everything we need. So, just before noon we cycled into the village’s city centre and the girls fed the washing machine with a huge amount of dirty clothes. This is one of the best parts of cycling in Japan. There are coin laundries and public baths everywhere and you don’t need to smell while being on tour. While our laundry was getting clean, we went to the home stock market to buy new coal and gas. We still had time and decided to eat lunch in the only restaurant the village could offer. It was a cozy place and it felt exactly like at grandma’s place. Also the owner was original. Service in the countryside is slowly, but we weren’t in a rush. With full tummies we collected our laundry and jumped on the bikes. In the supermarket we bought more stuff than we could carry. It is always incredible how you can even load an already fully loaded bike. Everybody was carrying two to three litre water or sake and on our heavy bikes we started into today’s ride. The distance wasn’t too far, but we could feel the overweight and also the temperature increased. I had the feeling this time the panoramic road mainly went up. I still don’t know if it was true. The last kilometres I kind of suffered and really wished for a soon arrival. In the late afternoon we arrived at the viewpoint and had a first look on our tonight’s shelter. It was the last public toilet and the water was, as expected, not drinkable. But it was very fine for a refreshment since we lacked an Onsen or public bath today. I was very excited about today’s shelter and soon we were with high speed on the road down to the bay. In the bay there was only a small space to pitch our tents, which was a little bit messi. Just enough for our needs. But the bay itself was amazingly beautiful. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I always dreamed of staying at such a beach. And we were alone. Just us, the ocean and surrounded by mountains. We pitched our tents and scurried around. I went to the beach and collected wood for a fire. There was so many dried wood, today’s fire would be gorgeous. The others carried all the food and stuff for BBQ and made it comfortable around the fire. Soon, the sun was setting and we all were sitting at the beach in our private little paradise. We were a well-rehearsed team and everyone knew what to do. Sayaka started to make fire, Tomal fired the BBQ, this time Yoshi kept and prepared the maru and I cut the vegetables. It was a calm evening and we all enjoyed to be at this wonderful place. It was already dark and the food was still grilling on our tiny BBQ. The sky was deep black and only the stars were giving a little light into the bay. The silhouette of the mountains were surrounding us. It felt like a protection and I never felt smaller in my whole life. The only gate out to this paradise was the star reflecting Ocean. Suddenly Tomal left without any word and after a while we were wondering about his whereabouts. He didn’t come back and we were very tired today. So, soon we finished our BBQ, collected all the stuff and went to our tents. Tomal’s tent was next to mine and when I sneaked in, I had to laugh. The door was open, his feet hang out of the tent and his headlamp was still shining while he was snoring happily… I went into my tent and while watching the stars and silhouette of the surrounding mountains I fell asleep.
May, 4 th 2019 Anan
Exploring paradise. It was a wonderful sunny day when I woke up in this paradise like bay. I was the last one and everybody scurried around happily. Finally, Tomal had the perfect chance to play with Kite at the lonely beach. Instead of finally playing with my football, I enjoyed my breakfast while watching him. It was a peaceful place. We decided to stay until noon to enjoy this fantastic place. Yesterday I saw roped attached to the rocks at the cliffs and was keen to explore where they would bring me. After breakfast and a bath in the small river which was leading into the Ocean I climbed with Sayaka up to cliffs. I wondered who and why prepared the ropes. The answer was easy, the place on the lower cliffs were a popular spot for local fishermen. We continued climbing on a small trail. I wasn’t sure if this is still a trail anymore. We went almost on the top of the cliffs and were overwhelmed by the view of the deep blue Ocean becoming turqouise in the bay. The sun was shining, no clouds in the clear blue sky. After all the rain, this was the reward. We went back to the cliffs where we had a view all around the bay and saw the fishermen doing literally nothing. We sat down, listened to the waves, enjoying the warmth of the sun and watching the fishermen. Meanwhile Tomal joined us. I could have sit there the whole day. A feeling of lightness and light-heartedness flooded my body. In this moment my life in Ōsaka was as far away as my life in Germany. After a while we climbed down to beach, where Yoshi just finished her Yoga practice. I saw her standing in the water and the little child inside me broke through. Seconds later I stand next to her in the Ocean and moments later I was swimming in the cold, but refreshing Ocean. From the cliffs we saw a cave on the other side Unfortunately it was only accessable by the Ocean. Sayaka and me were keen to explore, so altogether we went to the other side where the cliffs were horizontal. To our surprise there was a waterfall of fresh water into the Ocean. Surrounded by the rocks it felt like a shower and looked as amazing as in a postcard’s scenery. Sharp big rocks were laying at this side of the beach and the Ocean wasn’t calm. It was difficult to enter the sea. Once we could swim in the water and leave the rocky beach it was way better. Yoshi and Tomal were behind us and the cave was further away than expected. Getting onto the shore was way more difficult and I started thinking of the grade of stupidity of this project. I lay flat on the water and let myself be washed ashore with the waves over the stones. So did Sayaka. The terrain was rough, especially after the lace of my sandals just broke and I had to leave them at the beach. The cave was just a crevice and there wasn’t anything special to see. The sun dried and warmed our bodies and it took over to get into the cold water again. It was also even more difficult. We waited until a big wave washed us back into the Ocean again. Happily we swam back and saw Tomal and Yoshi sitting on the beach. We wondered about their whereabouts and were kidding. Shock. Yoshi had a cramp in the water and luckily Tomal could help her to get out. But due to the shock she was still pale and shaking. We went back to the camp and after some chocolate and a coffee in the sun Yoshi felt slowly better. We searched our last supplies together. The wind freshed up and only together we could cover the burner. It was time to leave. From now on we would head back towards Ōsaka. Just before leaving the bay, I turned around, wondering if I would ever come back to this place (having the 88 temple pilgrimage in mind which must be close). Climbing up to the main Street wasn’t as bad as expected. This time we passed Hiwasa without a stop and stayed on the main road. There wasn’t any traffic and almost all the way to Anan was a long slope and it was pure fun to cycle it down. It seemed not to end. Today’s final stop was Anan, a small town just before Tokushima with three nice looking beaches. One must be suitable. The first beach was not bad, but we decided to look around first. An old sign said said there should be a campsite at the second beach, but we only could find a picnic place at the beach. It was calm, we had shelter, and a meadow, so we decided to stay there. But the best was the scenery of a couples of small islands in the Ocean in front of us. Again we managed to find an amazing place to stay for the night. We ate our late second konbini lunch while watching the sunset in this picturesque place. We decided to cycle into the city centre to take a bath at the local Ōnsen and went to a tiny restaurant afterwards. It was time to charge our devices and so the owner got a big bunch of cables and smartphones while smiling at us. On the way back we crossed some fields and it was absolutely dark. Sayaka forgot her front lamp we were cycling close to each other only using one tiny lamp. It was difficult, but worked. Somehow we got lost in the fields, even though we could hear and smell the Ocean. Suddenly we were standing in front of a graveyard, we hadn’t passed it before but this time it seemed to be the only way. The moon was shining behind some clouds. It was absolutely dark. And midnight. The graveyard was close to the beach and therefore fully covered by sand. It was an old one. Yoshi was scared and denied to cross it. Democracy. Slowly we passed the graveyard. While Yoshi was very scared, to me the graveyard’s atmosphere was very calm and peaceful. There aren’t many place with this kind of deep silence. I felt very safe and comfortable and felt the souls living there rather are welcoming and protecting us than cursing us. A few minutes later, Yoshi was able to breathe again and we arrived at the campsite. The Ocean was calm and black while the moon and stars were giving some light. Together we ate a cheesecake as a dessert in this unique scenery until it was time to crawl into our tents.
May, 5 th 2019 Hanan
Ferry again. Today we had to wake up early to arrive at Tokushima to take the ferry. It was a beautiful morning and the sun hadn’t attained its full power. After a quick breakfast at this wonderful beach, we packed everything and were ready to head out in time. Leaving this place felt different today since the it more or less meant a goodbye from our journey. In the early hours of morning we cycled along roads which became bicame soon bigger and bigger and finally merged into a busy main road we had to follow. This wasn’t fun at all, but there was no other way. We arrived at the port in time and luckily we just got one of the last spaces for our bicycles. We had to line up and wait for embarking while the sun was shining merciless with all its power upon us. I got the very first taste of Japanese summer. We entered the ferry and tied up our bicycles. It took some time, so we were the last ones who entered the ship and almost all space was occupied. We found a small place outside and a bench for fitting all of us. This ferry was way less comfortable than the previous one, but it was just a short ride. I got a rice ball for lunch, picked my matress and layed straight on the ground on deck. I didn’t care what people might have thought. I fell asleep quickly, so Yoshi and Sayaka who were curled like a cat on the bench. In the early afternoon we arrived Wakayama port and sat on our bicycles again. As I already discored on my bicycle trip, there was no campsite on the way to Osaka and the area was clearly the suburbs merging two big cities. A very big park at the beach was today’s destination, but everyone seemed to have lost their motivation. The road wasn’t as bad as expected, but to be honest not enjoyful either. The main road lead us to the park. This park was the hot spot for stressed city people and the only oasis providing some green space. Even though it was a wide place, there wasn’t any good place to hide and it was still bright. Before darkness we wouldn’t been able to pitch our tents without running into trouble. And there wasn’t any alternative. With all our stuff we headed to the next Ōnsen, which was on top of a hill. But it was worth it. It was part of a hotel and the bath itself was on one of the top floors. I watched the sunset while sitting on a little chair and cleaning up myself. The bath was surrounded by large windows with a panoramic view of the Ocean. While sitting in the hot bath, I watched the blue Ocean merging into darkness and tiny lights appeared like a chain on the horizion. Somewhere at the end of it must be Osaka. My home. But right now and then I was more relaxed than ever. Deeply clean and feeling just wonderful, we left the bath and went to look out for a restaurant. For a while we were a little bit lost in the amount of choices and finally decided to go to a small chinese one. I really like japanese chinese food, it is way better than the one in Germany and has nothing with it in common. We went back to the park and had a hard time enter it with our bicycles since all gates were closed and it was difficult to pass the specific bicycle barriers with all our luggage. But we made it and the park was silent and empty. In a dark corner we pitched our tents without using any lights. There was a sign warning of snakes. Great. I was in sandals. Unbitten I layed in my tent and already tomorrow I would be back in my tiny room in my bed again.
May, 6 th 2019 Ōsaka
Snakes and centipodes. I woke up by the voices of the others. When I was about to leave my tent I saw something wriggle beaneath my stuff in the outer part of the tent. I screamed. I was sure it was a snake and I was trapped. I hate snakes as much as I am afraid of them. The others came and we found out the intruder was a “mukade”, a japanese giant centipode, which bites causes heavy pain and could even require hospitalization. I was happy it wasn’t a snake. We packed our stuff for the very last time this morning and started cycling. It was basically following the main road all the way next to the coast to Osaka. I already cycled this way, but this time I choose a route using as much little streets directly next to the Ocean as possible. It was nicer than expected and so our last day was not only sunny, it was also still enjoyable. I even found some Aloe Vera plants growing at the beach and picked them to cure my sun burnt skin caused by yesterday’s ferry ride. We stopped in an okonomiyayi restaurant for lunch. This was the end of our trip. After leaving we soon entered the outskirts of Osaka and in the afternoon we suddenly stand at the junction in front of my place. I was the first one to arrive and it was a weird feeling to leave the group and be back at Toyo again. The others texted me about their save arrival within an hour. We were back home after a wonderful trip.