Heading to Osaka
October, 1 st Tokyo Shibuya and Shinjuku
Headache. It was too much Sake. I do not even realised the typhoon in the end. I asked Hiro what he usually likes for breakfast. Miso soup and rice mixed with a raw egg and soy sauce. It may sounds strange, but it was quiet tasty and I liked it. Even with a hangover. It was really warm outside and the sun was shining after the typhoon. I went out and was still dizzy. Hiro explained me how to use the metro, but I couldn’t concentrate and just forget. Surprisingly it worked very well, I even could use the machine in Japanese and got a rechargeable card to pay cashless at each entry. I had to change it was also quiet easy. My original plan was to get lost in Tokyo. Maybe later. The only plan I had for today was to go to Shibuya crossing and to get lost. Just being at Shibuya crossing and watching busy people made me realising that I was really in Tokyo. I arrived. Finally. It was a very exciting moment. I was walking around. Everything in Japan is that interesting, so I could spend hours while walking around. Meji Shrine was nearby, so I decided to go there. It was a nice park and interesting to pray at the shrine. The place was very nice and I’m extremely excited to visit more shrines and learn about Buddhism. I’m using the couchsurfing app, where you can share your location and just meet up with other people. So I went back to meet Thomas, a French guy, at Shibuya. Together we went for lunch, which was Soba (noodles). In many restaurants in Japan, you choose your meal and pay at a machine, it was the same there. Everything was written in Japanese, but the stuff was helping us immediately without having asked for it. I asked what she’d recommend and I got Tempura, deep-fried shrimps. We were heading for Shinjuku afterwards and decided to walk. He was as fascinated about random things as me. In Shinjuku he went to museum I was not interested in and the light was perfect for taking nice pictures. So I walked around by myself. Shinjuku is exactly how I imagined Tokyo. I was surprised, I usually don’t like big cities because they stress me a lot. But in Tokyo it was different. The city is crowded, but not that stressful. Maybe it’s because I expected worst or maybe it is just because like Japanese people are very efficient. Everybody seems to exactly know where they want to go. Also there is hardly any noise beside of the pachinko halls, where you can fish for toys or playing video games. It’s extremely loud in there with neon lights which drives you crazy after a few minutes. They don’t stop immediately or behave unpredictable. Another thing I really like is that they just built queues and wait relaxed. We should import this, cause it’s decreasing much stress while forcing your turn. I met up with Thomas again and we were looking for Dinner. We had trouble to find food, not because there was no food at each corner available, no we just couldn’t decide while everything looked amazing. In Shibuya it’s common that you have to pay a table charge, like cuperto in Italy, which is around 3-5€. Sometimes foreigners don’t need to pay for. Joel, also a guy from Couchsurfing who met Thomas yesterday, were joining us. We found a nice restaurant and had Ramen of the month. I wondered that there was no table fee. I loved that Ramen, it was one of the best dish I ever had. Afterwards Hiro was joining us and showed some secret places to us like narrow street, where you can buy freshly grilled street food. It was very nice and since we were tired we left without joining for exploring night life at a bar. It was a very long and exciting day. I arrived in Japan and I’m happy and excited about what this journey holds on.
October, 2 nd Tokyo
Today I felt lost. I got temperature at night and felt very weak in the morning. I went to Ikkebukuro town hall to fix the issue about my Visa. I need to register my address as soon as possible, otherwise my Visa revokes. The problem is I won’t have any address during my stay. Afterwards I went to Akihabara, walked around and ate Gyoza, Japanese dumplings. I decided to go to Tokyo main station and chill a bit in the imperial garden. Unfortunately the garden was closing one hour later. I went back to the main station to meet Nori from Couchsurfing. We walked around and I enjoyed staying with a local to learn more about Japanese lifestyle. We had Ramen together, and even though it was the very same dish like yesterday it tasted completely different. He explained to me it would be very common to wait up to 40 minutes or more to enter a restaurant, although there are that many restaurants everywhere. I really like that patient way of life.
October, 3 rd Tokyo Akihabara
“Your very own Pokémon legend is about to unfold! A world of dreams and adventures with Pokémon awaits. Let’s go!” You might remember those words from your childhood. Today I explored the anime world in Akihabara and visit the Pokémon center in Ikkebukuro. It was nice to see all this heroes from my childhood. I was never crazy about anime, but watching anime after school was a part of how I grew up. I was traveling the whole day by bike and even though I felt still weak because of the flu, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to start cycling soon. In Japan you usually have to use official bike parking lots, which you have to pay for. If you park your bike at a random place the police will remove it and charge you a high fee. In the evening I met Florian, who lives in Tokyo already a long time and was recommended to me by Chris. We had dinner together and had that much to talk so we decided to meet again. When I left back to Hiro’s it was already dark and I just started cycling when the police stopped me on a bridge without any people around. I haven’t expected such a long day, so I didn’t take my front lamp. They could see the holder and were fine with the promise that I would take it in future. It’s quite funny in Germany it is also forbidden, but honestly I was cycling my whole live without getting caught. In Japan I got caught after two minutes at a random place. I had my Dad’s voice in mind judging me.
October, 4 th Tokyo Odaiba
I spontaneously decided to spend one more day in Tokyo. With my fully packed bike I cycled around 40 km through the heart of Tokyo to Odaiba. First I went to Tokyo main station to get a canister of gas. I remember that I heard once it could be difficult to get matching gas cartridges with screw thread, but they even had Primus ones and the store seemed to be a chain similar to Globetrotter. Nice to know. After that I went to visit to Tokyo Tower, which was very important for me. I really like that Symbol of Tokyo and the Zōjō-ji Temple. I spent there a lot of time and enjoyed the garden. I decided to go further and visit Odaiba while crossing the Rainbow bridge. It was still bright outside, but the bridge was impressive. For crossing the bridge I had to fix a self made skateboard at the rear wheel. Cycling on the bridge is forbidden and that’s maybe the way they force you to follow the rule. So far so good, the only problem was they weren’t made for a fully loaded bike and it was exhausting to push the bike along the bridge. The effort was worth it, the view to Odaiba and Tokyo was amazing, even though the weather was rainy and grey. In Odaiba, I was keen to see Daikanransha, the Ferris wheel and Fuji TV which I remembered as locations from the Digimon Adventures series, which was one my favourite series in childhood. Odaiba has a really nice beach, so I spent some time there, relaxing and watching the skyline of Tokyo. While exploring I didn’t realised how far I got with my bike. I already cycled more than 20 km through the busy city and it would take me at least around two hours to get back. In the end I got very tired and was released and happy when I arrived at Florian’s place. Together we went for Dinner and decided to try a Japanese chain for Italian food, which he already knew from China. Usually I prefer local food, but it might would be an interesting Experience as well, especially after my trip to Italia this summer. The opportunity was favourable. I had something called Dori, and I call it something because I never heard about it or saw it during my stay in Italia. It was baked rice with bolognese sauce and the taste was an experience itself. I understood what Italian food adapted to the Japanese taste means. We also shared a pizza and I already ate a lot of pizza in different countries. Since I had this amazing Pizza in the Dolomites I don’t like Pizza elsewhere anymore. So it’s not fair to judge the pizza, but it was also an interesting experience to try an Italian Pizza Japanese style.
October, 5 th Yokohama
Cycling makes me happy. The day started relaxed and Florian and me had a long breakfast together. He gave me a lot of useful information and I was enjoying this relaxing atmosphere after all this days fully on action in Tokyo. I left his place after noon and it was raining. I just impregnated my jacket at his place and I’m not sure if it’s working. But sometimes it is enough to believe. No matter of the rain I enjoyed cycling and I could feel the happiness inside me due to physical activity. I had to cross the busy parts of Tokyo again and in Shibuya it was pouring rain. Honestly in the moment the water entered my pants I was not happy anymore. I already cycled a lot of kilometres in Tokyo and I would say I got used to it. More or less. While using the Apple version of google maps the days before I changed and used the offline app maps.me which is based of open street map. I already used it on my Italy trip and I have to say it is much better. On maps I use the walking route, which is sometimes a problem, when I have to go through a train station. In maps.me there’s you can also calculate a bicycle route. The calculation of arrival time is also not that bad. But in Shibuya the app guided me across a main road or highway which I couldn’t cross. It took me half an hour to find a different way. The pouring rain in that moment was also not helpful. Additionally I got hungry. It’s a problem to find a place for taking a break in Tokyo, so I continued cycling and stopped at a supermarket far away from all the business of Shibuya. I used the supermarket roof as a shelter, sat down and ate my bento box. No doubt it looked strange and people were watching me, but I didn’t care and had no other choice. Rain is no issue as long as you stay cycling. After the break I was totally cold and it took a lot of time to get warm again. While planning this day I totally forgot that in Japan it is already dark around 5 pm now, so it went dark when I still had 20 km to cycle. I was guided through many small and narrow streets and was really happy that maps.me avoided the main roads. It was enjoyable. I cycled to a Sento, a public bath, which was close to Yumi’s place and recommended by her. There’s a special bathing culture and I read a lot about it in Germany. I was keen to do it in Japan regulary. First you have to sit on a small chair and wash yourself very carefully with a towel. I didn’t know how long is normal, but I spend more than 15 minutes washing myself. In Germany I’m used to take a shower within 5 minutes, changing clothes included. Once you are clean, you can enter and enjoy different pools with different smell, oxygen and temperature. Afterwards I felt like newborn. I arrived early in Yokohama and Yumi was still at work, I was looking for a dry place to sit down somewhere but it was difficult. Japanese people go to restaurant only for eating and usually don’t spend time there afterwards. Also it is not possible to hang out in the train station. You have to buy a ticket and bike are generally forbidden. Next to the train station there was a corridor of a shopping center with benches, I parked my bike there when two drunken guys at my age appeared and marvelled at my bike. They were a bit pushy, but I thought it might stops in a few minutes, when a young guy was asking me if I need help. He saw me wandering around the streets. I explained my situation and he also didn’t know a better place. So Kazuki waited with me on the bench, talking to me and the two guys. It was that kind of him. It was still a lot of time until Yumi would finish work and so we decided to go for Dinner (we had Soba). He invited me and it was very nice to talk to me. We finished just in time when Yumi arrived and picked me up at the station. I liked her from the very first moment, she a warm hearted and lovely person. Her apartment was close to station and I could park my bike inside. While drinking tea she recommended me a lot of places to go and so I changed my plan to go to Kamakura next day instead of staying in Yokohama. This is how I love traveling, getting recommendations by locals and change plans. Without ever reading a guide. Yumi was that friendly and we talked a lot until deep in the night. It felt like staying with a well known friend.
October, 6 th Zushi
Yumi cooked a special dish for me in the morning because I was still a bit sick. A special kind of rice with chicken and ginger. It was very tasty. It was hard to say goodbye in the morning, but the sun was shining and I was happy to continue cycling. After a while I arrived at Yokohama bay, which was very nice and crowded. No wonder it was Saturday and best weather. There was an Oktoberfest and even though I know that there are celebrating german Oktoberfest in many countries in the world it was funny and I was grinning. They even played german Schlager music! With Jürgen Drews in my ears I continued to a park next to the bay, which was also recommended by Yumi. It was amazing, there was a food festival with dishes from all over the world and Japanese people did picnic and enjoyed this nice sunny day. It was interesting watching them. By the way I had Indian Naan bread. I headed towards Kamakura which was still 20 km. I had no idea where to stay this night. Maybe I would try an Internet cafe or try to find a green place and sleep in my tent for the first time. I also did a couchsurfing request to Sumiko to stay with her family in Zushi. It was already late and I had no big hope that I could stay with her that spontaneously. She told me that she can’t host me because her husband needs the room for his work, but I could stay at a friend’s house. They live in another place and I could spend the night there. He would pick me up. I waited at the meeting point and I was a bit afraid, there is only her couchsurfing profile I would trust. But he was very friendly and his house was close. He is artist and this was his artelie and working place. Sumiko just showed up. I couldn’t believe that I could stay in this house and I couldn’t believe my luck how kind all of them are to me. He showed me everything and even prepared a bath for me. They took me to the supermarket and helped me to find tasty stuff for Dinner. Sumiko had to leave and even though he only spoke less English and I myself only less Japanese we could talk easily. Back at the house, Sumiko left some cakes for me and he brought me some rice as a gift for breakfast tomorrow. I still cannot believe that limitless hospitality. It touched me…
October, 7 th Nebukawa
Shot over the target. I barely couldn’t sleep that night, the wind was heavy and I was afraid the house will blow away. I couldn’t get rid of the infection of the respiratory tract and it got worse again. I headed towards Kamakura to see the places Yumi recommended to me. First I visited the Waka-miya-shrine, even though it was early in the morning it was already crowded. Afterwards I went to bamboo garden to have a cup of matcha tea. This place was harmony for me, it was very green and silent. I could calm down and relax. I talked to a Japanese family, who were very interested about my trip around Japan and they were keen to make some pictures of me and the bike. I wanted to meet up with a girl from Couchsurfing and explore the small island Enoshima with her. There’s a famous big buddha statue on the way so I also visited Kōtoku-in temple. It was full of tourists, so my stay was diverting. I cycled further towards the ocean and when I could see it my heart jumped. I cycled through the sand and run into the water. It was the first time my
feet met the North Pacific Ocean and I enjoyed it. The Ocean makes me happy. Always. It’s an overwhelming happiness. Each time. I continued cycling to Enoshima, where Tom already arrived. The was along the Ocean, which was just perfect. I thought the salty air should be good for my respiratory track, but the problem was the traffic dust. It felt like everybody wanted to go there and I sneaked with my bike along the queue. And there he was. Without any warning. Mount Fuji! Quiet far away, but I could see him. The sun was burning and I didn’t take care, when I arrived I was dehydrated and a I might had a sunstroke. I parked my bike and took some time in shadow. Then I met up with Tom on top of the shrine. We walked together through the island and had a lot to talk to each other. This island remembered me extremely on Helgoland, which is an island in the north of Germany. People go there by ferry to eat there and to go for shopping souvenirs. It’s also same size and also beautiful. Tom and me went for dinner in a very nice restaurant surrounded by the sea. It was so nice to spend time with her that I didn’t care about the 40 km I still had to cycle. In the afternoon I finally continued to Odawara. The sun was setting and it was quiet nice to cycle. I was really fast, but I still had no idea where to sleep that night and 5 km from Odawara I got an idea and searched for campsites nearby. Luckily there was one around 7 km. It was already dark. I got some food from the supermarket and headed to the campsite. The street I was cycling on got bigger and cars faster, at some point the pedestrian disappeared. It was only around 4 km left to the campsite, but the street looked like a highway. There was no option to turn around or to leave. I got panicked. I had to cycle. I could feel the heat of panic rise in me and sweat dropped on my frame. Finally there was an exit and it seemed like the one I should take to get to the campsite. I took it and stranded at Nebulakawa station. There was nothing. The campsite must have on that highway like street. But if not? The next exit was far away. No way to turn back. I sat down at the station and my body was shaking. I asked an older man if he knows where the campsite is. He stopped a car and an older woman tried to help me as well. They even called the Koban, the local police, but in the end they told me I had to cycle back for an accommodation. I wouldn’t cycle back in the dark. I sat down and waited. Around was no space to pitch my tent. There was a public toilet next to the station. Me and my bike would might fit in the disabled toilet, but the lock was automatically and I didn’t trust. I decided to watch out if there is a better place nearby and started cycling. It went upwards. Nothing. Then I saw some Japanese guys having BBQ in their garden next to the street. I had nothing to lost, so I asked them if they knew a place to pitch my tent. The guy who lived there hesitated, while his friends cheered him up. He show me a picnick site behind the house. I could stay there, but had to leave early. I was just happy. I pitched up my tent and after laying down I fell asleep immediately. I was even too tired to be afraid. This was my first night in my new tent and my very first completely alone while wild camping.
October, 8 th Fuji
I woke up early in the morning. Naturally. I had good sleep and felt energetic and I still had to climb a mountain today. I cycled back on yesterday’s night road and while it was bright it was much better and there was less traffic. I ate breakfast in Odawara and started climbing up the mountain road. It was really hard and compared to climbing up the alps in summer is was way harder. Luckily there was no traffic and I could enjoy the countryside. I sweat a lot, my shirt was completely wet and I was happy nor to have rain neither to have shining sun. For the first time I did something I never did before. I pushed my bike, which was only less better. I climbed up 800 meters on 10 km and was excited when I arrived in Motohakone at noon. On the map there was the Ashinoto-Onsen, a hot spring, but I couldn’t find it. I asked some locals and they explained to me this is the name of the area. Strange. I was very cold and my hair was completely wet. I changed my clothes and got packed into my Jackets. I had lunch with a beautiful view on Lake Ashinoko. Afterwards I went to Hakone-jinja Shrine to see it’s beautiful torii (gate) in the water. To get to the mountain pass it took even more 200 m to climb up. From there on it was just rolling and relaxing. It was funny I could feel how much warmer it got. From Numazu to Fuji I cycled along the beach, because I was tired of the stinky main road and luckily I made a discovery. There was a road on the damm, which was not even noticed by maps.me. And there was asphalt. I could cycle until Fuji on this damm, the sea to the left, coniferous woods to the right. No cars. Only locals fishing. In Fuji I booked a bed in Nasubis Mt. Fuji backpackers hostel and enjoyed the benefits of a shower, washing machine and a king size bed Japanese style. In the hostel was a very familiar atmosphere, so I hang out a while with three guys from the US. I realised for the first time how different the way we travel is and I’m glad about my decision to take the bike with me. It offers the opportunity to get a much deeper insight into Japanese culture.
October, 9 th Shizuoka
All good things come in threes, a German phrase says. I didn’t feel like rush in the morning, even though I planned to cycle 66 km to Shizunami, where should be a campground. I fixed some small issues on the bike, which were annoying me for days and before I knew it everybody else was already disappeared. I wasted a lot of time, but I just didn’t care. I strongly believe that everything will come as it should come. The main lesson the Camino de Santiago taught me. I trust. The owner of the hostel was a really chilly hippy guy, who gave me even some German chocolate for my way. So kind. He recommended a nice place at the harbour, where I would have an amazing view on Mt. Fuji. It was an observation tower and I could see the landmark of Japan. When I tried to take a picture, he hided behind the clouds. Ok, so I will come back. Like yesterday there was a damm with a cycling road on it. Perfect. The sun was shining and the warm salty wind blew me in the face. I felt pure happiness and it was very important to take this night in the hostel to get clean and calm down. Today I cycled without any navigation. I just tried to follow the coastline, while avoiding traffic. It worked fine and I felt a special kind of freedom. I realised I’m far away from tourism. I passed some cities I’m sure seeing foreigners there is really rare and everybody was staring at me. There were not even Konbinis even more. At some point the damm on the coast ended up and I had to take a kind of road next to the highway. It was separated, so I felt and my level of stress was quiet ok, but it wasn’t beautiful at all. I arrived the outskirts of Shizuoka, when I met a jogger in the 50’s and he told me he was also a cyclist and was very interest in me and my journey. We talked a while and he gave me some tips which road I should take through the mountain area to Fujieda. It was in midday heat, I got tired and my mind was cheating me. There were still around 48 km to cycle and the guy told me it would be about 10 km to climb up to Fujieda and he was really impressed that I still wanted to go there today. I was thinking about his words and got worried. I stopped somewhere in the shadow and googled for campsites and hostels nearby. Nothing. Ironically the jogging guy passed me again and talked to me and described the route I should take in detail. I decided to climb the mountain and if it’s to hard I would camp somewhere. I only had some pasta left, so I decided to get some food in the next Konbini to be prepared for camping elsewhere. I was thinking about meeting the jogger again, when he showed up next to me. I told him I got some food for camping in the wild, when he invited me to stay at his place. I agreed and it was close to his house. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of Hideyuki and his wife Yoshiku. They had a very big house and I was happy to had a bath and I even could was my clothes. Together we planned the route for tomorrow very carefully and talked a lot. My Japanese is getting better, but for communication it is just enough to use your heart. Hideyuki is amazing, he’s doing ultra marathons, cycling, climbing, skiing, Karate and much more. It’s seems like his whole life consists of sports. We went to a restaurant and ate Ramen (I told them Ramen is my favourite dish) together. Later at home I got to know their sons Kenta and Kanji, which were at my age. I got many coffee and tea offered ,and even though I repeat myself, I was overwhelmed by hospitality and kindness. I felt like home. Thank you very much!
October, 10 th Hamamatsu
Japan is beautiful. The countryside and it’s people. Hideyuki wanted to escort me the first 20 km next morning, so I woke up at 5 am, because the plan was to get started at 6 am. Yoshiku prepared breakfast and brought it into my room. Hideyuki gave me a warn west as a gift to be safe in the dark. I’m really happy about it. Saying goodbye to her was quiet hard. Hideyuki guided me along the Route 1 on a bike road, which was very beautiful and showed me the passing houses he built. It was amazing to cycle with him and to have the opportunity to get guided by a local. I would never have found this roads. Time was flying and I also had to say goodbye to him. It was still very early and I already cycled a lot of kilometres. I had to cycle around 90 km today, because I wanted to arrive in Hamamatsu where I could stay with Yasuhiro. I was very motivated and the air was cool and clear. There was hardly any traffic and I enjoyed the calmness of the morning. I used maps today, because for no rational reason maps.me couldn’t calculate a route. Maps was annoying me, because once I started cycling the app realised I’m not walking and changed the route guiding me on the highway. To Fujieda there was no ascent, but to Kakekawa. On top there was a very nice view and some ruins, where I made a break. I couldn’t find the ancient ruins, but therefore I found huge spiders! The last 10 km to Kakekawa I decided to trust maps.me and take the more beautiful road. It didn’t worked. It guided me steeply down and it was not possible to climb the mountains again (because of construction works). So I ended up on
the highway like main road again. The rest of the way guided me through one long suburban tunnel with was really ugly and exhausting. The last 10 km I cycled during middle heat and have demanded a lot of me. I arrived at Hamamtsu city and entered the park. On the first bench I took a very long nap, before I visited the castle. It was still early and Takatsuka station where I wanted to meat Yasu was 7 km away. I went there and while waiting I met another couchsurfing guy, Chinmoy, with whom I in touch since I arrived. He was there for a business trip and we shortly met up. Yasu picked me up by bike and it started raining heavily when we arrived. I helped Yasu cooking and together with his father we had dinner. I felt very welcome and they treated me like a family member. I tried a potato like vegetable with the consistence of matcha, which was very tasty and cultivate by Yasu’s father. After dinner we talked a lot about our cultures and drank sake and matcha. Yasu is a very traditional guy, who is deep connected with nature and he and his way of life impressed me a lot.
October, 11 th Toyohashi
Break. Yasu had to leave the house at half past seven and as everyday he wanted to go to the beach before. So I woke up at 6 am and we went to the beach together. It was very nice to walk in the sand in the morning and getting fully awake by the ocean. I might already mentioned I have a special connection to the ocean and it always gives me a feeling of deeply happiness. There was nobody else at the beach and I could exactly feel what Yasu meant when he said this little area was “his beach”, his place to calm down and to breathe. His home. We walked a while and had breakfast at the beach. It was a very nice surprise that Yasu prepared a bento box and miso soup for us in the morning. I’d have love to stay there for hours, but time was limited and we had to go back. I said goodbye to Yasu and started as well. I felt still very tired and exhausted and was cycling very slowly. Maps.me worked out again, so I just followed the zick-zack lines through fields and narrow streets of agricultural villages. I was strongly remembered to Italy. At the beach I made a long break with a short nap and took a second breakfast. I already knew yesterday that I won’t cycle that much today. There was neither a camp ground nor any couchsurfing activity so I just decided to take a “cheap” hotel. I arrived there very early at noon and unfortunately check in was at 4 pm. I could leave my stuff there and walked into the park to take a deep nap on a bench in front of the castle. It went very cloudy and drops of rain were touching me. I still felt weak. I walked around the city center, made some phone calls and went for dinner and shopping in the supermarket. When I checked in I took a bath and was just happy about my decision to stay here.
October, 12 th Nagoya
Okazaki fragments. While DNA replication the leading strand proceeds continuously along the DNA molecules as the parent double-stranded DNA is unwound, but on the lagging strand new DNA is made in instalments , which are later joined together by a DNA ligase enzyme. This fragments are called Okazaki fragments. This is because the DNA polymerase synthesizes the new DNA only in 5’ to 3’ direction. I don’t know how often I explained it to my students and even though it is named by Tsuneko Okazaki, who discovered it in 1960, it made me happy to pass the city of Okazaki. At least, staying in a business hotel was worth the experience having Japanese breakfast. Only the coffee was similar to European breakfast. Although it is common to eat soft sweet bread in the morning due to globalisation, there was only rice and some different dishes similar to a
Chinese buffet restaurant in Germany. I tried a bit of everything but cold fish dish. I’m not ready to eat it early in the morning, yet. One thing I love in Japan is that you get eggs nearly elsewhere. I love eggs and Japanese people have the skill to boil it in a very special way, so it is very soft and tasty. It is also common to eat raw eggs and half raw eggs. Even it might sound strange but I’m very used to eat a raw egg with rice and soy sauce. They also offered scrambled egg, which was half raw, but it was cold served and this was even to me a bit strange. But mixed with warm rice it was very nice at all. I also ate kind of fried noodles, which are similar to chines style noodles in Germany, but completely different taste. I felt like after having lunch and with a full belly I started cycling. When I packed my bike, two elderly men were standing next to me. I must be looked very strange and I suggest foreigners are very rare at this place, especially ones traveling by bike. After a while they talked to me and wanted to make picture. This experience happens often to me. At the beginning people just staring at me, but after a while they a very interested and speak to me. Especially elderly people cannot believe what I am doing. Today was the first time, I met another cyclist (from Korea) traveling Japan. I arrived in Okazaki, which was half way and decided to make a break. I could see the roof of a castle and before I
realised where I exactly am, a guide asked me if I want to visit the castle. I agreed and he gave me a private tour in English. He showed me around the castle and its beautiful garden and explained everything carefully. His enthusiasm was amazing, he was excited that I was German and I had the feeling he was kind of proud to show me the castle and tell me about the city he is living in since 40 years. This was another moment of unlimited hospitality I couldn’t believe. He even prayed with me for a save journey at the shrine. He was volunteer, so the tour was even for free! We took some picture together with the bike and he was extremly happy about it. Afterwards I headed towards Nagoya and which each kilometre getting closer to city center it got more crowded until it felt like being back in Tokyo. I just passed by and went to Ajima station where I met Tom. I explored with Tom Enoshima Island and so she invited me to stay two nights at her place in Nagoya. There are some days I feel like fully charged of energy and today was one of it. Taking rest in the hotel was a quiet good decision and after a weaky day like yesterday sleeping for a long time was very important and worked out very well. My infection of the respiratory tract is also gone. Finally!
October, 13 th Nagoya
Street food. But first, sleep in. I missed it so much. It’s Saturday, so Tom and me enjoyed a relaxed breakfast before we went to city center. There was an alley full of street food and I had the chance to try Tacoyaki, octopus balls, which were recommended to me by Yasu just a few days ago. I tried octopus several times before in Spain, where it is called pulpo, and I never liked the taste and consistence that much, but Tacoyaki was amazing. I also found my favourite cake from the supermarket, which I eat every day, freshly made in the streets and enjoyed it. Afterwards we went to Planetarium, where also was a science exhibition, which was really interesting. While the show itself was in Japanese I even managed to understand something. When the show ended it was already dark outside (at the moment sunset begins at 5 pm and it’s completely dark within half an hour). We visited Nagoya TV Tower and went for Dinner. Ramen. It was a day full of food. In Germany I could eat pasta everyday without getting bothered by it. I just love it that much. Here in Japan Ramen is a very hot candidate to become the same. Tomorrow I will go further to Gifu prefecture and also this time saying goodbye is quiet hard again.
October, 14 th Gifu
Being a tourist. I naturally woke up this morning very early. Tom needed to leave the house also early, cause she went for a business trip to Thailand. When I started cycling it was raining and grey outside. Still sleepy I cycled ahead Gifu, but not without stopping at some places Tom recommended to me. Luckily all of them were on my direct way. First I stopped at Tagata Jinja Shrine, which is famous for a weird festival called Honen festival, which is about phallus and and fertility, it’s also known as penis festival. The Shrine was not weird even though there were phallus symbols and a lot of sculptures. Many people don’t know it is not that rare in Japan. There was a young family with their newborn, praying for them. On the way to Inuyama the was a local market where I tried Odango, I would say mochis on a stick. I couldn’t resist to buy a sack of Satoimo, the potato like vegetable, which I already ate at Yasu’s place. I countinued to Inuyama castle, which is a national treasure. There are a lot of Chinese tourists in Japan, so it was in Inuyama castle. The castle itself was beautiful, there were a lot of similarities of castles I already visited. It was possible to enter, while everybody had to take off their shoes and carry them in a plastic back, to protect the wooden floor. It was really nice inside, and the view from the top was amazing. One thing I like that much in Japan, everything is highly organized, so it was like a huge calm queue going up and down and around on top. By the way Inu means dog and the Kanji is a bit similar to the kanji which means big. Anyway visiting the castle was diverting, so I continue to Gifu, while the sun was not hiding anymore. I was slowly guided through contrzside roads by maps.me and enjoyed it very much. In Gifu I decided to continue tourism and took the rope way to Mt. Kinka. I parked my loaded bike in public and was a bit worried, so I asked a guy from a taxi station next to it if I could park it next to his little office. Obviously he was not happy about it, but agreed. On the top there was an amazing view to the countryside. It looked like one city is merging into the next one and only the mountains are free of any infrastructure. It seemed like every little space is used. I visited Gifu castle as well, but not entered this time. On the top, there was a squirrel village, where you could pet squirrels and I usually don’t support keeping pets ins cages I couldn’t resist to enter and have a look. I only booked one way by rope way, so I had the chance to hike down. I enjoyed hiking very after such a long time without it. It was very steap, so in the end the muscles in my legs were shaking. Quiet enough sport for one day, so I cycled towards Shigeru’s place, who invented me to stay with him for this night. By the way his invitation was the reason to go to Gifu and so I’m even more happy about it. Shigeru is also a student and doing similar stuff. He does research on a amino acid pathway in bacteria (I forgot which one). Together we went to supermarket and cooked Okonomiaki. It was my first time I ate them and I loved it. While in Germany nearly every household has a Raclette grill, here in Japan it is a Tacoyaki maker or Okonomiaki maker, which is used in the end like one or two times a year, but good to have them. When I laid down on my mattress I fell asleep immediately.
October, 15 th Hikone
Karaoke. Since the weather forecast said three sunny days in a row and Lake Biwa-ko was really close and was recommend to me by Hideyuki I decided to go for camping the next 2-3 days. I wanted to start in Hikone and luckily I could stay at Hosei’s place. It was around 65 km to Hikone and I only followed maps.me which guided me through the countryside. I enjoyed the ride and were thinking a lot. It was quiet meditative. I made a break next to a river and spent there more than an hour. Usually I’m carrying a simple thermarest for naps and sitting everywhere with me. This time I had to leave it at home and was missing it a lot. Lying in the grass was a worst idea, because I was ten by mosquitoes. Generally I have that much mosquito stitches I never had in my life before, it started already in Tokyo! I wanted to meet up with Hosei at 6 pm, so I had enough time for a second break. I realised the winter is coming soon and it was quiet cold in shorts while wearing a thin merino layer and my windbreaker. I arrived in Hikone very early and was waiting at the local park. Everywhere in Japan I see people fishing. I wonder if you need a special license like in Germany. I spent time while doing some phone calls, when I realised a Sports store at the other side. There was still time left, so I entered. As wished they had a pretty cheap mattress, exactly that one I wished to have some hours ago. I decided to buy it tomorrow, because Hosei was calling me to meet up. I cycled to his place. He told me he is studying social Anthropology and therefore he was in Sweden. He also cycled 700 km through the country. The main purpose for going to Sweden was to do research and he got a chip implanted which is used for paying for example the train. He told me in Sweden already a lot of people have this chip implanted. We went for dinner to his favourite Ramen Shop. It was the best Ramen I ever had and luckily we got the very last portions. This Ramen was quiet different, strong, less soup and served with Rice when the noodles are gone. It was also spicy. Afterwards we went to his bar, we were the only guest, but his friend the barkeeper was pretty nice. We drank beer and I sang karaoke! Yes I did. Hosei was quiet ambitioned and I only was brave enough to sing Wonderwall with together. We played some cards and darts and hang out until I got very tired. It was very cold outside and I was thinking about the decision to go for camping the next days…
October, 16 th Nagahara
Monkeys. Hosei and me waked up very late and I enjoyed laziness. At noon he had to go to University, but I wasn’t ready. He gave me the key and said I could leave whenever I want and come back if I couldn’t find a campground. I went to supermarket first to buy breakfast. There was a Sports store, Sports Depot, and there I bought a really cheap thermarest for sitting comfortable at the break and for protecting my self inflating one. I miss my Camino one and wished I could have taken it to Japan as well. But I’m very happy about my new gear. When I arrived at the lake I had a long breakfast and enjoyed it. I slowly realised it was getting late and I should start cycling now! Cycling around the lake was nice, but not that amazing as expected. Maybe because the other site was much more green in the map. It was going to get dark and I had no idea where to stay. I was happy when I arrived at a roadside rest area, Michi-no-eki, because everybody told me it is common to pitch there a tent and sleep for one night. There were toilets, water and energy, perfect. There were still people, so I asked and surprisingly they said no. I filled up my water storage and went on. I desperately was looking for a place to pitch the tent, but it was impossible. I had to leave the shore and was back on the main road. The cycle trail was officially avoiding the main road, so I took that one with the old tunnel. There was a barrier on the street and I couldn’t read. It was the only way back to the lake. I have two Japanese friends and I sent both of them a picture and asked what to do. One said, it’s ok to pass for bikes, the other one said it’s forbidden. Luckily the one who said it would be ok was faster, so I continued. On top of the mountain there were two places, which might be ok for pitch a tent, but I felt uncomfortable. I googled and found a campground around 10 km away and asked Mami if they are open. She said yes, but self check in after 5 pm and 1000 yen fee. It was ok, it was dark and I was sweating. I cycled and was forced to use the main road. I was really happy about the warn west Hideyuki gave me and felt much more safer with it. I arrived at the campground and everything was dark and quiet. I saw a toilet shelter with facilities and were thinking about to stay in it, when a shadow run through the forest nearby. It must be an animal which was bigger than a cat and less gracile. It was a monkey, a Japanese macaque. Those ones with red faces. There was no power supply in the toilet, so I decided to enter the campground. For a moment my heart made a jump, when I saw tents, until I realised they are installed. I was completely alone and it felt like a ghost town. I found another toilet shelter with facilities, the power supply was working. I pitched my tent nearby and started cooking and washing myself. There was no shower, but at least cold running water. I dropped off the water I was carrying. A mistake, because the water from the sink was dense. Anyway I used it for boiling the Satoimo. I spent nearly the whole evening in the toilet house and was thinking about to sleep in there as well. It was very small, but much more comfortable as doing all the stuff in my small tent. I was very tired and slipped into my sleeping bag.u The monkeys made weird noises and I was thinking about if I might be in danger when I fall asleep.
October, 17 th Nihommatsu Beach
Nature. I woke up at 2 am by screaming noises. The monkeys were hunting eachother or was something hunting the monkeys? I was afraid. Would they come close to me? I went to the toilet house and stayed there for I while. Silence, so I decided to go back into my tent and luckily I could sleep easily. The monkeys were screaming all the night, even when it was already bright outside. In the morning I left my tent and could see the whole group. I got ready for breakfast and packed my tent while there were coming closer and watching me interested. There were big ones, small ones and even babies, who were carried by their mothers. From one moment to the other the whole group disappeared. I could see cars, the camp’s stuff might be there. The owner weren’t able to speak any English and my Japanese knowledge was too less to speak with him. He might thought I wanted to check in. He called another guy, who told me I don’t have to pay anything. How kind! So I started cycling. The morning was beautiful and the street was next to the lake. I found a nice place with showers and facilities only 3 km from the campground, I decided to stay there the day and night, but I needed to buy some stuff. The next supermarket was 5 km away along the street. I had to pass several barriers. The same one likeyesterday. I still trusted my Japanese friend and realised how wrong I was. While the most constructions workers didn’t care about me, the very last one was staring at me. I shouldn’t have pass the barrier! It was impossible to get back this way. There was no supermarket at the locations google maps told me, but a 7Eleven, so I could buy food. There was main road through the mountains and so I had to cycle a detour from 8 km. The was also a barrier before the campground, which was only one lane. Yesterday there wasn’t anybody, but today there was a construction worker as well. He told me I cannot pass. I told him I wanted to go to the campground, so he let me pass. This time there were showers, but the toilets were locked. I get more and more used to cold showers and was really happy about it. The beach was a very nice place, but I couldn’t release. I was tense all the time that somebody could know how I was up to. Two times trucks came to bring sand and were looking strange at me. My exceptions of wild Japanese nature and wild camping was a bit different…
October, 18th Takashima
Happiness. It got nicely warmer inside my tent while the sun was rising. I got up, took a cold shower and enjoyed breakfast at the shore of sunny Lake Biwa-ko. I took my time to get ready and started cycling. Winter is coming, although there is sunshine, it is not comfy to cycle without my windbreaker. The west side of Lake Biwa-ko is definantly the beautiful one. There were a lot of nice rest areas at the shore and the way was quiet beautiful. In Makino a guy, who originally looked like Muten Rōshi, stopped me and we were talking to each other. I was happy to be able to do some smalltalk in Japanese. I made a break in the next city. I saw some cats laying in the sun and so I did. I prepared rice with raw egg in the morning (yes I’m carrying raw eggs on my bike and I’m proud of it) and I decided it was time for lunch. Before I knew it there were six cats around me staring at my lunchbox. I cannot see hungry cat and since rice is harmless for them my lunch was gone and the the cats looked as happy as me. It was around 40 km to the campground I found in the internet. On the way I passed one and I saw tents. Time was flying and when I arrived a campground next to the street where already some tents were pitched I decided to stay there. It was still early when I checked in. I need energy supply very urgently, but the campground only offered earth closets and running water. There were no showers or other facilities. I was really wondering because with 1000 Yen it was still costly. There was not even a beverage machine (which is almost everywhere in Japan). But location was quiet nice, so I decided to stay anyway. I pitched up my tent and went to a nearby supermarket. When I came back I realised my gas canister was almost empty, but it was enough to warm up my curry. It might be enough for a coffee in the morning as well. Next to the lake a found an outside shower and since I’m very used to cold showers I took my shower in public. At least better than to be dirty. I enjoyed staying next to the lake and watching sunset. I love my tent and I love being outside. Just before I started this journey I decided to sell my old one and to get this one. It’s much smaller by same weight, but it is completely free standing (luckily because I couldn’t get any pegs into the ground) and I just fit in with all my stuff. It has smart solutions for problems you will only able to see them on the trail. I like smart stuff. In my tent I feel already kind of home. Tomorrow will be rain and I will cycle to Kyoto and leave Lake Biwa-ko. I’m happy about the to go to Lake Biwa-ko for camping.
October, 19th Kyoto
Goodbye Lake Biwa-ko. Hello Kyoto. Sun was shining again and waking me up. No clouds and hard to imagine that there will be rain today. I enjoyed having breakfast outside and took my time to get the stuff packed. After like 15 km I arrived at the place I actually planned to stay. I felt released, it was the right decision to stay at the other place. There was a sandy though but the place was left and next to a main road, which destroys the idyllic. Close to that place there was the Shirahige Shrine with its torii in the water. I was a little bit disappointed, because on all pictures it looks idyllic and amazing. In reality the shrine is like on the crowded main road and it’s really dangerous to cross the road to get to the little space between water and passing cars. Anyway, the torii is nice and I also got my picture. In that moment it started pouring rain, but at least only for minutes, so I continued quickly. After leaving the main road the trail got very nice in the end and was well marked by the municipal. There is a huge problem I have to fight every day. Hunger. Yesterday night I ate all my snacks for today. I haven’t expected that I need that much food. In Italy I didn’t realised it, because we always had an opulent meal for lunch and dinner. I remember on the Camino I have been always hungry as well, but maybe my memories are gone and it’s hard to compare, if it was worse than now. I only could think about food and this is generally the main task during journey. I went to supermarket and sure I bought too much food. I couldn’t carry it. The nice part of the trail was already over, but there was a beach nearby. Happy like a child I prepared my lunch table on my new mattress (I’m so happy about it) and ate Okonomiaki. I ate defiantly too much, so I took a nap in the sun, knowing that would be the last time in nature and at Lake Biwa-ko for the upcoming time. I lost the motivation after my little break and cycled on the main road. There were still 20 km to Kyoto and suddenly I was within a group of Japanese cyclists obviously heading to Kyoto. It went upwards and it was steep, the other cyclists were staring at me while I overtook them. I got sweaty and woke up. Sports. Energy flooded my body, but once I was in it was already over. One of the cyclists took a picture of me secretly and I was wondering, why he just didn’t ask, this way I felt a bit uncomfortable. I arrived in Kyoto through a huge torii and it was amazing beautiful, I liked that city immediately and was excited about the next days. The hostel I booked for one night was quiet cheap and very traditional. I really liked it there. It was already late and I wasn’t up to go outside anymore. I enjoyed sitting in the common room, drinking tea while having internet. I liked the staff and together with two travellers we had dinner together spontaneously. It was a pity that I need to leave next day, because it was fully booked and I need to move into another hostel.
October, 20 th Kyoto
Organisational. Everyday I wake up at 7 am naturally (yes it’s still me, I don’t know if it’s a late effect due to time shift). One of the things I like most in my life is laying in bed without any pressure to get up. For around one hour. The best start to the day. So it was today, it was raining outside and I could hear the drops on the roof. Perfect. They offered breakfast at the hostel, toast with marmalade and an egg. Honestly I missed bread and I realised it. It was delicious and I was happy. I was unmotivated to leave the hostel, it was that nice familiar atmosphere and I was talking to other guests. I could even prepare my daily amount of rice using the rice cooker. It does not help anything, I had to check out at 11 am. The owner knew that I am holding a work and holiday visa, she offered me a job with free accommodation after I’m back from Shikoku in winter. Maybe I’ll have a place for staying and settle down in winter, but let’s see… I brought my stuff to the next hostel which was around 2 km away. Check in was at 4 pm, so I went to city center to buy a new gas canister, food and so on. It was heavily crowded and after being in so many shops and buying more stuff I really needed I still couldn’t get anything from my list. Tired of crowds I went back to the hostel for checking in. Unfortunately they had no washing machine, so I had to use one of the coin laundries (there are everywhere in Japan) for the first time. The staff was really helpful and explained me how to use it (and which one, because there are also machine which can wash and dry at the same time). I went in my pyjama, because after camping this were the only clean clothes I had. Using the coin laundry was quiet simple and cheap (300 ¥), because in Japan they wash cold, so there are no options and in the end you don’t need to worry to shrink your clothes. Interestingly the washing machines are mostly top loaders and the top is not locked, so you can open it and watch your clothes getting clean. It put my Jeans and Sweaters into the dryer afterwards which costs 100 ¥ for 10 minutes and even though the Jeans got almost dry. The washing machines only take around half an hour, so while waiting I ate at the curry house next to that. The hostel is completely new and fancy. It is anynonym and you have a lot of privacy. I used the rest of the evening to settle down in my home for the next 4 days.
October, 21 th Kyoto
In Kyoto there are many foreigners. Tourists. So it’s easy to meet up with other travellers via couchsurfing. I arranged to meet a guy to explore the area by bike yesterday. After breakfast I went out to meet him and another girl to cycle around Kyoto. Simon is danish and Katja German. I haven’t prepared myself about what to do and where to go in Kyoto yet and enjoyed that other people will lead and I can just follow. First we went to Kiyomizu-dera temple and walked through the garden. It is really touristic and I’m not used to see that many foreigner. It felt a bit strange. Afterwards we went to Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine which is famous for it’s thousands scarlets torii. To get to the shrine we passed a long street with street food shops, which were a tasty adventure itself! We climbed up Mt. Inari through all of the thousand torii. It was a nice hike and took us a while. At the top of the mountain we also made a break to drink a Matcha Latte before we could watch sunset and cycle home. It was nice to spend the day with Simon and Katja, again, I’m glad about the existence of couchsurfing community. Kyoto isbeautiful with the nicely charm of Japan’s image in the world.
October, 22 th Kyoto
Travellers and Sushi. I met up with Simon to see the Jidai Matsuri Festival, which is the second biggest festival in Kyoto with a parade of people dressed in typical clothes from different epochs. Simon was with two other couchsurfing guys and we watched the parade in the Imperial garden. It was fully packed with people and I couldn’t see anything, so we decided to look for another place. The parade was really slow going, so after an hour we decided to go to Kurama, a mountain village, to see the fire festival there. I was really excited about this festival and wanted to be very early. There was also an Rotenburo, an outdoor Onsen, which looked amazing and would be the perfect location to waste some time. We were half way by train, when we say a note, that the fire festival is cancelled due to damages of the previous typhoon. I cannot say how disappointed I was. It was already to late for visiting the Golden Temple and we were quiet far away. We walked back to Simon’s hostel in downtown to get some free beer during happy hour. Dimitri, Eva and an American guy joined us and together we went out to get some food. We went to a runnig sushi restaurant and I had sushi for the first time in Japan. There was no space at the running table, so we got a table and ordered via iPad. The sushi came very quickly each time. It was amazing and I never ate such tasty sushi before. I will defiantly eat it again as soon as possible. Afterwards we walked through Gion, the Geisha district, as expected we couldn’t see any of them. It’s a bit strange, tourist are lurking for them and when they leave a house they hunt them by their cameras. Forgetting about all the behaviour they learnt as a child. I cannot understand how people can behave like this. We went to the river shore to get some beers and other couch surfers were joining. It was a nice sit in, but after a while it got really cold and I went back to get my bike. I’m not sure if I already mentioned, but in Japan you have to use special parking lots for the bike, otherwise the police will pick it up and you have to pay a fee to get it back. At the parking lot two cats were cuddling my bike and even though they were very shy, they always came back, when I paid at the machine to release my bike. Maybe they could smell my kitty, cause the last weeks in Germany I parked my bike in the living room. Or they just liked to cuddle up German bikes. Who knows.
October, 23 th Kyoto
Studying Japanese. There was rain today and I decided not to go out and stay at the hostel. It was the first time I had a day off and could do some paperwork and finally to start to open my Japanese workbook and study for a while. I arranged to meet up with Dimitri to go for hiking tomorrow, so I went to supermarket and prepared a bento box with self made rice balls filled with tuna and mayo. I’m looking forward to eat them so much. I also talked a very long time with a girl from the hostel’s staff, so I got even more inspiration of going to Nagoya at some time.
October, 24 th Kyoto
Hiking. I had to change the hostel, that meant I had to cycle 7 km across the city with my fully packed bike. I prepared everything the evening before and woke up very early. The plan was to meet up with Dimitri at 9 am in downtown after I dropped off my stuff and bike. I already started later than expected and it took me more than 40 minutes to get to the new hostel. Unfortunately they had no space for the bike and around the hostel it was impossible to park it (the police would remove it). There was a bike parking lot ten minutes walk from the hostel, so I got even more late. I met Dimitri on the way and this parking lot was different and it took me much time to understand how it works. Usually you pay afterwards, this time I had to pay before, but it didn’t locked at the beginning. I was a bit stressed, because the hike was estimated 6 hours, even though it was just 11 km, but it was already after 10 o’clock and it is getting dark around 17 pm. I remembered being with Roman in Italy exactly one year ago and I didn’t want to repeat it, but this time I took my headlamp, just in case. I have never used a bus in Japan and since I’m traveling by bike I’m less used to the train system. Click here to read more about this beautiful hiking trip in Kyoto’s mountains.
October, 25 th Kyoto
Flea market Japanese way. I finally wanted to visit Rokuon-ji Temple, the golden temple, on my last day in Kyoto. Unfortunately the temple was close to my last hostel and very far away from my new one. Bad management. Well I had to cycle 8 km across the city. Just before I arrived at Rokuon-ji Temple, there was a flea market. I just entered and dropped off my bike. It was really interesting and at least not that different to that ones in Germany. There were many things who usually been hidden in the cellar, seeing the daylight the for time for years, old children’s toys, second hands clothes, but also food, new stuff and kind of art. The biggest difference was that most of the old stuff was tableware like tea cups. And also the art was different. Besides herbs and tea tea there was also a lot of street food like Tacoyaki, Japanese pancakes, Odango and much more. They were so many things to explore. I spent there around two hours. Afterwards I headed towards the temple. I parked my bike at 7/11 and entered the garden. There were a lot groups of school kids, all wearing the same cap, and teacher trying to keep the group together. I paid the fee, entered and got a little bit disappointed. There was a really busy and crowded place in front of the temple and all the people tried to take a picture. It was very stressful. Sure the temple and its lake was extremely beautiful, but destroyed by this touristic atmosphere. Unfortunately there was no garden or place to spend time there or enjoy the place and beautiful coloured autumn leaves. It was like a lane in an amusement park who guided you out of the park after taking your picture. Also the temple itself was not to visit. Of course on the way out you cold buy some specialised golden temple souvenirs as well… I went back to hostel and stayed there the rest of the evening. I’m happy to leave Kyoto tomorrow and I’m excited to be in Osaka.
October, 26 th Osaka
A dream comes true. I slowly get a feeling of how long it takes to cycle a specific distance and also a calmness that I will arrive in time in the end. In the morning I just enjoyed laying in my bed for a long time until I got up and went for breakfast. I need my time in the morning and I was motivated to write. So I did. The internet was not working well at this place, so I grabbed my computer and went for writing into the next 7/11 and spent there at least more than an hour. It was warm and sunny outside, so I started cycling at noon, but stopped at the first Konbini to get a second breakfast. When I left the store a French guy overtook me and stopped me. He was also traveling Japan by bike and was interested in my story. We talked a lot and would stay in contact to might meet up in Osaka. He is the second person who is travelling by bike I met after all this time and let’s see what this encounter holds on. At least I’m not alone. The whole day I cycled along the river to Osaka. It was the best trail I had as far in Japan. No traffic and surrounded by nature (luckily the mosquitos seemed to disappeared). It was much warmer today, so I could even more enjoy the ride. This was how I expected traveling in Japan by bike and happiness was flooding me. During break I met some other cyclists, at the beginning it was just one who sat next to me and looked suspiciously until three more cyclists came and started talking to me. Ice were broken and they couldn’t stop talking to me and hide their interest anymore. People say Japanese people are not open, my experience is that’s actually not true. They’re just a bit shy and need their time until you meet the most kindness among people I ever experienced. I continued my journey and although I’m still in Japan for a month now, I couldn’t believe it and felt the excitement about it even more again while cycling. I didn’t realised that I already entered the city of Osaka. The sun was setting and they were more and more people at the river shore. I watched a baseball team practicing. It was amazing how precise they hit and caught this tiny ball. I just stand there for a while. A little bit later I also watched a soccer team, there were also girl’s team playing. It was funny all of them practised in their tricots, but more funny was the smell. Usually it’s not a nice smell a football team is surrounded by but in Japan people seem to be that clean, even the football team was smelling like freshly washed clothes. I wonder how they do that. There were a lot of barriers along the way I had to pass, and they were not made for fully packed bikes. I had to carry my bike each time over them. I arrived Osaka while sun was setting and entered the city center. I still had some time before meet up with Toshi, who offered me to stay with his family. I walked through a narrow street like a market and explored some shops. Then I met up with Toshi. Toshi and his family are amazing, we sat in the living room and were talking and his mom brought me some cake immediately. After a while she asked me if I’m hungry and brought me a huge pot of soup and rice, which was delicious. After that she served us tea. We talked until it was very late. Toshi is hosting couchsurfing friends since 7 years and even though his family doesn’t speak English they support. I was sleeping in Toshi’s private room and while saying good night he gave me some packages of sweets as a gift. I was totally overwhelmed of this hospitality. Toshi doesn’t call his guests guest, he calls them friends and this is exactly how he treated me. We are friends.
October, 27 th Osaka
Yaki. I woke up around 9 am and went into the living room and found a lovingly prepared breakfast on the table prepared by Toshi’s mom. Toshi had to do some stuff for
his upcoming journey near Okinawa, so I spent the morning at his place playing with baby Keito which made my heart shine. At noon we went out to explore some local food in Osaka. I had rice with deep fried vegetables and tempura. Afterwards we went up to Osaka station to enjoy a great view of city including Sky building. We followed the flow through the city center and played a Mario Kart game in the pachinko hall. We definatly need this in Germany. This is much more fun than playing it at home. Toshi also took me to a food corner where we tried Ikayaki (an okonomiaki like pancake) and Kaitenyaki (Gozasourou in Osaka slang), which is a pancake filled with sweet soy bean paste. I had it already before and I love it. Feed up with delicious food we went back to Toshi’s house. I got prepared and had to say goodbye again. And as you might imagine it was quiet hard again. The whole family said goodbye and took a lot of pictures for me. The hospitality was again unbelievable and let a deep mark inside me. I still had some time before I could meet up with Nanay, who invited me to stay at her place, so I went to Namba station to walk around the streets (there are a lot of geek stores). I walked through manga shops and in the end I tried the local Tacoyaki to make complete the yaki day. Afterwards I cycled to Nanay’s place. She’s from Costa Rica, living for more than 15 years in Japan now and I liked her from the very first moment. We had a lot to talk and it was already late, when her roommate Sasha came home and we went to bed after a long day. Interestingly she’s going to the same Island as Toshi due to a new very cheap airline. Maybe I should think about it to do the same for a short trip without the bike. At least a got a lot of inspiration and tips from her.
October, 28 th Osaka
Yoga. Every Sunday morning Nanay gives donation based yoga lessons in a park nearby. After a short breakfast with Sasha we went to that place and for sure we were late. It was
a sunny place at a river triangle and I could feel the warm sun touching my skin. I only did yoga once, thought by Sam (I met on the Camino) and I really liked it. I already knew some of the exercises from Taekwondo warm up. It’s exactly one month I’m in Japan now and I could see how I’m loosing my condition and flexibility every day a bit more. I could feel that was exactly what my body needs after cycling. It would be nice if I could add it to my every day life. After the session I felt pretty good and it was the beginning of a really nice day with blue sky and sun. Nanay needed to leave us for work, so Sasha and me walked through the park, where a Yoga festival was taking place. We had a snack called Nikoman, a ball of dough with (in this case) tomato curry inside. We spoke to other teachers and practiced a bit more. Afterwards we went for supermarket and had some tea and snacks at home. We talked together quiet a long time and it felt like being with long known friends. I really like Sasha and Nanay and I hope I see them again as soon as possible. In the early afternoon I left to spend some time in a park and enjoy the sun before I would meet up with Sam. I was sitting there for around 5 minutes watching people taking their chihuahuas for a walk (by the way it’s totally common that dogs wearing T-shirts no matter which size of the dog). I prepared coffee and ate cakes when a women at my age saw me talking to her little dog, she came to me and gave this shy dog to me that I can pet him. We talked a bit until the next woman with her teddy like mini dog came and both sat down next to me and talking with me. They were extremely friendly and waited over an hour with me until I had to leave to meet Sam. This is Japan. I met Sam at the station and the next few days I’m gonna stay with him. In the hotel there is an Onsen in the basement and I was extremely excited to take a bath (honestly I also needed it after Yoga). The procedure is the same as in Sento, but the water inside the pool comes from natural source and had a brown colour, while smelling a bit, but still very nice. The hot water was flooding my body and after the bath the heat came out of my body. We went for dinner nearby the hotel and had Ramen and a beer. I was remembering my favourite Japanese series “Getränk nach dem Bad am Mittag” and felt exactly like the protagonist. One beer was enough to make me feel tipsy. I slept like a baby.
October, 29 th Osaka
Shopping. The hotel offered breakfast, the next opportunity to make new experiences. This buffet was much larger than that one in Toyohasi. They had European style of food like some kind of croissants, toast with jam, but more interesting was the Japanese part. They had three different consistences of rice, miso-soup, another soup, salad buffet, udon-noodles, little pieces of pork even sushi and much more. A specialty in Japan is fermented soy beans which is for many Europeans unappetising. They were recommended to me yesterday and it was the perfect choice to try them. Usually you eat them with rice. I expected the worst, but it was quiet ok. Nothing special, but defiantly not disgusting (how
I heard from some non-asian people). At least they are very healthy. It was very urgent to make laundry, so I spend the whole morning doing that and until Sam called me that one of his Japanese pupils wanted to meet me. So I went to Osaka station to meet up with Suzuko. We had trouble to find each other at the station, but finally it worked. Two years ago she did an exchange to Germany and lived there for one year and her German was pretty good. It was very nice to spent time with her. For lunch we had Okonomiaki, a specialty of Osaka. In the afternoon she had to leave for University and I went for shopping by mistake. In the end I got some nice souvenir which hopefully Sam will take it home for me.
October, 30 th Osaka
Run in front of the wall. Today I joined a Couchsurfing meet up. For some reasons I was late (I always try to avoid it especially in Japan). I went there by bike and struggled to find the small cafe. I hurried in. Boom. I run against the window. Silence. All the people were watching me. Nice. Mixed up I sat down at the next table, where 3 worried Japanese people sat. I ordered something and started to talk to the others. They were very interested in me although I was more up to get to know more about them. After like 20 minutes the organiser started moderating the session and we all had to move. He placed me at a private table and brought a girl, June. It was nice to talk to her and after 10 minutes we had to shift again. I had to stay. A guy sat down next to me and when we were in talk we had to change again. It felt like a speed dating. Time was flying and after one and a half hour the session was over. There were also some other foreigners and I wonder why the local people had to pay 500 ¥ in the end, but the foreigners not. Quite unfair. They all went to a pub afterwards and I decided not to join. Sometimes travelling can be hard and far away from your expectations. In reality not everything is amazing all the time, but usually nobody is talking about it. This is real life with all ups and downs. On each journey you may looking for something. There is always a deeper reason for a long journey and starting something new. Honestly I don’t what is actually is for me. Of course I’m here for cultural exchange, adventure and to grow on myself. But there is more. At the moment I feel a lot of pressure. I feel being at the wrong place. In general. I’m desperated, because I just realised there is no going back anymore. Actually there is nothing left behind in Germany. I’m might looking for the feeling of arrival in my life and it happened that after reaching this aim everything resets and I have to start again. I know it was my choice to leave and I know a lot of things changed already in Düsseldorf and the reasons which gave me that feeling already vanished. I would have to start something new in Germany as well. So, it was defiantly the right decision to leave, but it was overwhelming me and I spend the half day crying. Follow your dreams, said somebody once to me. But how? Without the yellow arrows? What is my dream? Why I came to Japan? I miss friends and persons who lasts for a while. I miss my the life with all the structures. I miss being in the lab and spending my weekends in Düsseldorf. I miss doing sports (cycling is no sports for me). My Taekwondo group just became an important part of my life and most of the members became friends. Staying at a new place every day is soaking much of energy. I met lot of locals and travellers but I always had to left before we could afford more than a superficial relationship.
October, 31 th Osaka
Halloween. Visibly drawn from yesterday’s day I spent the morning in the hotel. I feel a lot of pressure. The winter is knocking at the door and I’m afraid of the coldness, darkness and loneliness he will bring to me. I still have no solution. While braekfast Sam took a picture of our trays to compare. His one was shown a “typical” Japanese breakfast while mine was a wild mixture of everything including European dishes. I felt judged. For him it might was just fun but for me it gave me the feeling of failing living the culture. I wanted to leave Japan. At some point I managed to pick myself up and went to immigration bureau. I got to know that officially I didn’t entered Japan with my Working Holiday Visa, I immigrated while receiving a resident card. In contrast to Working Holiday Visa, as an immigrant I’m allowed to leave and re-enter Japan as long as the Visa is valid. This information changed a lot. I’m not done with Japan and it is still my dream to travel this wonderful country and to make more life changing encounters. But being trapped in Japanese winter is a nightmare and I don’t want to turn this journey into it. It is not my style to give up during challenging moments. There are always more solutions than problems. So I changed some major things in my plan: I cancelled hiking the Shikoku pilgrimage this year. It is already too late and won’t be successful, especially without my winter sleeping bag Sam couldn’t manage to bring. But I’m looking forward to start the pilgrimage in Spring! It gives me also the change to get emotionally into it, because it is a pilgrimage and I take it very serious. Also it is around 1400 km and I should start it without any doubts and fully energised. For the winter I will go to Okinawa including travelling Taiwan or just “flee” in a country which is warmer and at least cheaper than Japan like Myanmar, Laos or Thailand. I don’t know if I will really leave Japan in the end, but having the opportunity removed a lot of pressure. I feel released. Something I missed the last days is coming back. Hope. I won’t leave Japan before colouring is over, because autumn is my favourite time and was one of my dreams to explore in Japan. I will do it on Shikoku by bike as long as the temperature will allow me to cycle. Simon was in Osaka as well and asked to hang out. I wanted to go to Taekwondo in the afternoon and picked my stuff and cycled to downtown. It was nice to meet Simon, it makes a huge difference if you meet already or not. It already feels like a friendship with Simon and even our talks got more deeper. I told him that it’s a difficult time and he managed to cheer me up. We took a ride in a Ferris wheel and enjoyed the neon lights of the city. I was leaving for Taekwondo which was close to the city centre. The Dojo was located in an apartment house and I couldn’t find it. I was a bit early, so I waited. A guy doing a phone call entered the balding and disappeared in the elevator. I followed him and for sure he opened the Dojang. I was to late, training was one hour later, but I could join. After one hour I came back and there were like seven people and two kids. They couldn’t speak any English, but were very interested. I showed the picture of our group to them. Sport connects. It is an own language. Although I couldn’t understand the Japanese and there was not that many Korean commands, some where the same and I could easily catch up and knew what to do. I suggest they hadn’t a bad impression of my skills. Some points were completely different, others were exactly the same. It was an really interesting experience. We practiced 1,5 hours and afterwards I was extremley sweaty and exhausted, but happy. They only wore Dobok trousers and a shirt, no belts and unfortunately I couldn’t find out who was the Sabonim. They all bow at my direction, which means a great honor. After the lesson, everybody cleaned up the floor carefully. I’m looking forward to experience more sports in Japan and of course especially in Korea. Afterwards I just wanted to get rid of my wet clothes and went back to my hotel, but Simon wrote to me I should come into a hostel joining drinking. The hostel was next to the Taekwondo building, so I went there. We drank a beer together and left the small group to explore the city centre. People there were freaking out. I saw Harry Potter on an electric self-made broomstick driving through the streets. Halloween is not only scary costumes in Japan, it’s more about getting costumed in general. But the costumes look better than at carnival. The city center was freaking out and it was a special experience just to walk through the cosplay crowd. After a while I got extremely tired and went back to the hotel. Sam was already sleeping and I also fell asleep immediately. Simon will leave tomorrow to Denmark. It’s a pity.