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2011 Grand Prix of Japan October 18, 2011

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 Grand Prix of Japan” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Jg

The 2011 Grand Prix of Japan was originally scheduled to take place in April, but due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the race was promptly postponed.  It was tentatively rescheduled to October 2nd, its traditional spot on the Moto GP calendar.  In the last 3 years, the Grand Prix of Japan was scheduled to take place in March/April.  The first year was run without a problem, but the following year it was moved to October due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.  The volcano prevented teams and some of the equipment from flying out to Japan due to safety concerns.  This year, while rescheduled to take place from September 30 to October 2, the race had been in doubt for some time.  Twin Ring Motegi Circuit is located just over 120km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and with that distance it made the riders and a lot of their crew nervous about coming to Japan.  There were only a few people who were advocates for Japan and the loudest was, naturally, Hiroshi Aoyama.  It doesn’t hurt that he is Japanese and his feeling is that the Grand Prix would help Japan and the riders would be safe.  After Dorna, the rights holder for Moto GP, along with the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme) contracted an Italian University to conduct an independent survey of Motegi and the surrounding towns for radiation levels both at the track, in the soil, and the food, most of the teams started to feel safe.  Unfortunately, while the scientific study said things were safe, the riders and many of the crew were still nervous about going to Japan and up until the last few weeks prior to the race itself, there were still big questions marks over who would or wouldn’t be attending.  In the end all of the riders came to Japan but not all of the teams.  Some of the teams, two as far as I know and both in lower classes, decided to not bring their mechanics and used local mechanics instead.  The entire Moto GP tour also brought their own food and water to allay any fears they still had.  It was an interesting compromise that provided a great event.

If you read my past posts about the Moto GP events, things haven’t changed too much.  This year there was no presence by Kawasaki.  They still had a very small booth last year but that has all disappeared.  Suzuki has also significantly reduced their presence at the event with just a tiny booth that showcased a couple items for sale.  Honda was still the largest manufacturer on display with Yamaha and Ducati a close second and third.  Since I have been to this event many times, I feel as if I’m an expert in what to do when visiting these events.  I typically entered the event and just did a lot of shopping on qualifying day.  I spent more time walking around the event than before as I wanted to check out the vantage points from various places.  Saturday is a great day to check out the various grandstands as they are all open to the public.  On Sunday, the reserved seating areas are closed off to those with valid tickets so watching the warm-up or parts of the race from other locations is not allowed.  This year I decided to change my tradition.  For the last several years, I joined the Yamaha Supporters group where I would get free swag for supporting Yamaha.  My favourite racer, Valentino Rossi, had changed teams this year to ride for Ducati, so I felt I couldn’t support Yamaha completely.  I am a huge Rossi fan so I decided to return to the grandstands that I visited on my first trip to the Japan Grand Prix, the 90 Degree Corner.  The 90 Degree Corner is considered to be the most exciting place on the track to watch the race.  It is named 90 Degree Corner because it is a 90 degree right turn that follows a downhill section.  The turn is also slightly off camber making it very tricky to get around quickly and smoothly.  Many riders have run off at that corner and many have crashed.  The other main corner is corner 3 where many other accidents occur.  The main straight may have the advantage of being where other supporters are as well as the podium, but for real enthusiasts, heading to other corners can be a lot more fun.  I always enjoy trying new areas just to enjoy the racing.

This year, as mentioned, the event was under a different air.  People were their regular selves and attendance seemed to be average.  The booths were a little different as more secondary sponsors were present and some of the traditional Japanese sponsors had pulled out.  Things are slowly changing, including the food.  I noticed that while the barbecued steaks on a stick were the same, and so was the beer, I never noticed the curry rice before.  I also never noticed how difficult it was to get water at the event.  Most of the places were selling sports drinks, coke, tea, and beer.  It was difficult to find anyone selling water anywhere.  In terms of interviews and such, it was pretty standard.  Suzuki’s test rider was one of the most prominent figures doing interviews and many others were going around.  The most important people had huge crowds.  Trying to watch interviews with Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, or even Casey Stoner was next to impossible unless you were waiting for nearly an hour before the actual event.  I was pretty content to just enjoy the interviews from far away and just listen to them.  Most of the things they talked about were pretty standard.  “It’s good to be here.  The track is a very stop and go track.  You need a lot of horsepower and a good setup.  I hope to do well.”  You really can’t get much more out of a rider who must be very careful with their words.  One of the best characters in Moto GP has to be Colin Edwards.  I had been a fan of his since I first “met” him in a rider’s clinic in Vancouver prior to the 2005 season.  I would discover that Colin has a remarkably frank way of speaking as well as being comical.  He was pretty honest about his opinions without getting into too much trouble.  He praises the bike all the time but hits out when he knows he has troubles.  He is also very honest when it comes to his own mistakes and does what he can to improve.  Next year will see him move from the Tech 3 Yamaha team to a new team that hopes to use his skills to develop their new bike.

In terms of the race, everything was pretty standard.  I was very happy and enjoyed the first two races.  It was the last year of the 125cc class as next year they move to 250cc 4-stroke engines and calling the class Moto3.  It was a nice race and somewhat predictable.  Motegi isn’t well known for its exciting 125 races as the long straights mean the riders can stretch out a bit and get away if they are lucky.  Unfortunately that was the case and nothing much happened.  The only special event was the fact that Frenchman Johann Zarco finally won his first race in Moto GP.  He had actually crossed the finish line in first near the beginning of the season but that was cancelled as he made a dangerous move on the last lap resulting in a 20 second penalty.  A second time he crossed the line tied for first but lost the win because his fastest lap of the race was slower than the other rider.  It was the first time that he was allowed on the top step to celebrate with champagne as the winner of a race.  In Moto2, the race was more interesting.  Marc Marquez has been showing his form and has made a charge up the championship field to take over the championship lead after this race.  The race was won by Andrea Iannone who has a lot of talent but tends to make too many mistakes.  The big event is Moto GP.  It was time for the big boys to come out on to the track.  The Moto GP race was an incident filled race.  It started with a crash by Valentino Rossi in the 3rd corner of the first lap.  He ran into Jorge Lorenzo as he tried to avoid Ben Spies which causing him to crash into the sand.  He retired before he could even finish one lap.  Needless to say I was very disappointed.  Casey Stoner was leading quite well until he had a tank slapper on the back straight which caused his brake pads to move which resulted in him losing his brakes for a second and subsequently running off course and into the sand.  He did rejoin in 7th place before finishing the race in 3rd.  3 riders were given a ride through penalty for jumping the start and 2 other riders crashed before the end of the race.  The field was reduced by a large margin and the winner would eventually be Dani Pedrosa.  It had been a long time since Honda had won on home soil and Jorge Lorenzo did his best to steal the win at the end but couldn’t keep up with the dominant Dani Pedrosa.  There were some spirited passes throughout the field the entire race and it was one of the more enjoyable races I saw.  I usually get a little tired about halfway through the race in the main grandstands but this year was much better and easier at the 90 Degree Corner.  I think I found my new home unless Valentino has his own supporter’s tour that will stay in another grandstand somewhere.

I have said it many times before.  If you love motorcycles, you should watch the Grand Prix of Japan in person.  It is a very fun experience.  Racing in Japan is very similar, be it F1, WRC, or even Moto GP.  I have watched all three now and while they are all different, the feeling is similar.  The fans carry flags and wave them feverishly.  People love their heroes all the time and do their best to will them on.  Like any country, the races themselves are exciting to watch and the food can be expensive.  With the right mindset, you will have the time of your life and memories that will last a lifetime.

2011 Grand Prix of Japan is part of a series of posts recounting my trips to Twin Ring Motegi and the Japanese round of the Moto GP series.  To read my other posts about this race please follow the links below:

Information:

Moto GP Official Site:  http://www.motogp.com/

2010 Grand Prix of Japan (Motegi Twin Ring) October 12, 2010

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2010 Grand Prix of Japan (Motegi Twin Ring)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-wp

The first weekend of October was the second attempt of 2010 to hold the 2010 Grand Prix of Japan.  The Grand Prix of Japan is the annual MotoGP race that was traditionally held in October until 2009 where it was moved to spring.  It was initially supposed to be held in spring of 2010, but due to the Icelandic volcano eruption, the GP was re-scheduled to October.  It was a huge disappointment at the time, but at the same time, I was extremely happy that it would return to the end of the season.  If you have read any of my previous posts on past GPs, you would know that I have been to 4 previous GPs.  When they moved the race up to spring, it was a tough race to enjoy relative to an end of season race.  Rather than being at the end of the season where I would have had time to learn about the different riders and get a chance to recognize the liveries on each of the bikes, spring was a new season where there were no clear leaders.

This year, I had no real changes to my schedule from last year’s trip.  I decided to do a one night, two day trip for only the second time.  I took off from Tokyo Station in the very early morning and reached Motegi Twin Ring before 11am, about 40 minutes late due to heavy traffic in Tokyo.  I had a good chance to relax on the trip up and got excited as always when we reached the main entrance.  Once the bus parked, I jumped out and headed straight to the track.  Being a qualifying Saturday, the track was far from crowded.  I had a lot of time on my hands as there was nothing set to do and the bus would leave for the hotel around 5pm.  I spent most of the morning shopping around the main area.  If you ever visit Twin Ring Motegi, the area behind the main grand stand is where most of the shops are held.  There is an official shop located just below the main grandstands, and various temporary tents set up in the main plaza.  Just past the main plaza, near Victory Corner is where most of the eateries are located, along with an area behind the VIP grandstands.  This year was unique in that there were more Valentino Rossi booths than normal.  The standard booths by all the major manufacturers in the MotoGP class were also there.  There were also the usual interviews with various riders.  I don’t believe that Valentino Rossi was out there, but I was a little too busy watching the actual qualifying to care this year.  Last year, I did take time to try to see Rossi at the interview, but that was due to the rain soaked qualifying.

One of the saddest parts of this GP was the fact that Shoya Tomizawa, a rising MotoGP star had tragically died the month before.  There was a special tent set up with a few pictures of Tomizawa and hundreds of flowers set up under them.  Only a few places had Tomizawa shirts and the like.  It was a very sad thing to see.  All over, you could see his distinctive 48 all over.  When I entered the grandstands, there were the usual flags promoting all of the riders, but there were also dozens, if not hundreds of flags for Shoya Tomizawa.  Many had his number along with the simple words “Arigato”, or thank you.  The other major flag was one showcasing Tomizawa’s personal “symbol”.  It was a stylized gold “S” on a red circle.  Think of it like the traditional Japanese flag but with a gold “S” on top of the red dot.  Before any of the races got underway, Dorna, the commercial rights holders of MotoGP held a special ceremony where they retired Shoya Tomizawa’s number.  They presented his parents with a special plaque with his number, a memorial book with messages from thousands of fans, and an award praising Tomizawa as the best Moto2 rider of the season, as elected by his peers.  Tomizawa is one of the brightest personalities within the MotoGP paddock.  When I watched him on TV, he was always smiling.  In fact, his parents commented that he had a “mischievous” smile.  It was true that his smile was mischievous, but it was also very infections.  Seeing his smile always made me smile as well.  I was deeply affected by his death and the MotoGP paddock will never be the same.  Tomizawa will eventually live on by being memorialized in Japan.  He will be remembered much the same as Daijiro Kato is remembered after his death in 2003.  I’m sure that we’ll be seeing his number flown for years to come at all future Grand Prix of Japan.

Getting back to a lighter note, the races had lived up to my expectations.  I wasn’t expecting the best race in history, but it was still a good race.  I was once again in a Yamaha supporters section.  I got a bunch of free swag, and won a nice warm pull over with Fiat Yamaha emblazoned all over it.  I was really hoping to win a photo book to complete my set, but I wasn’t lucky enough.  Being with the Yamaha supporters, I had to sit in the main grandstand, just off to the side of the podium.  Like always, the podium was accessible from the grandstands.  The 125cc and the Moto2 races were normal.  There wasn’t a lot of interesting things happening in the first two races.  The main points of interests were the fact that there were various Japanese riders in the races that had a chance to be on the podium.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do so well, and the typical heavyweights in each class did well.  For the MotoGP class itself, the show was pretty typical until the last few laps.  That’s when all of the action happened.  It was an amazing race and a great way to end the weekend.  I left the race feeling extremely happy and satisfied with what had happened, along with a lighter wallet.

This will be the last time that I attend the Grand Prix of Japan as a Yamaha supporter.  I have been with them for 4 years now and have enjoyed every race with them.  If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend taking a tour with them.  It’s amazing and you won’t be disappointed.  Unfortunately, my favourite rider will be switching from Yamaha to Ducati, so that means I can’t support Yamaha while supporting him at the same time.  Well, I could, but it would feel a little weird.  I will probably return to the first grandstand that I ever sat in, the 90 degree corner grandstand.  It’s probably the best seat I have ever been in at Motegi.  Do note that I have only been to two locations.  You are close to the track and there is a lot of action all the time.  I will also have to figure out how to get there without any help from the tour operators.  A tour is one of the easiest ways to get into and out of the race.  No need to contend with driving, and I can sleep on the way up or down if need be.  It will be a great new experience, and you’ll be able to read about it here next year.

MotoGP Information:

http://www.motogp.com

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Driving in Japan (2010) [Part II] September 28, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Driving in Japan (2010) [Part II]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tt

Our final leg of day 1 was a trip to Sakaiminato, Matsue, and Izumo.  The drive to Sakaiminato was a long and boring one, and one that I wouldn’t recommend.  It wasn’t recommended to me by my map, but it was necessary to reach our destination of Sakaiminato.  The stretch between Yonago and Sakaiminato was one long boring straight stretch.  We got fed up looking for the famous street in Sakaiminato and parked in a supermarket just a couple blocks from the station.  It turned out nice as we could just walk over to the famous Mizuki Shigeru Road.  After a tour of Sakaiminato, my friend took over the driving as I was exhausted and we had agreed to do the switch.  The drive on the north side of the lake between Sakaiminato and Matsue was beautiful and allowed us to see some of the countryside towns of Shimane.  We also got to see how they do construction.  Instead of having flag people directing traffic, they used signal lights and timers.  You would see a timer ticking down with a red light.  When the timer reached zero, the light would turn blue and you could go.  They basically set it up so that there was a “flag person” all the time, even when they weren’t working on the road.  It was the first time I had ever seen that, and we saw it a couple times on this journey.  The roads in and around Matsue and Izumo were nice as well, but there was nothing unique about them, especially when comparing it to other cities in Japan.  It was beautiful to drive around Lake Shinji and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

After a couple days off in Izumo to relax and see all of the sights, we took off on the second section of our tour. We drove from Izumo all the way to Hiroshima.  The first part was a quick jaunt on the San’in Expressway and the Matsue Expressway.  We headed south to Unnan City and then south along the Tojo Ourai, route 314.  It was a nice two lane road that had little to no traffic on it.  It was a nice winding road that flowed along a river and past many villages.  It was a perfect way to see the farms and forests of Shimane before we got to Hiroshima.  My plan for the route was to reach the Okuizumo Orochi Loop.  It’s a double loop, kind of like a pretzel, that ends roughly 105 metres above the starting point.  The total length is roughly 2300 metres.  It’s a fun little double loop with a nice small pullout at the top. Be sure to stop here and take a bunch of pictures.  Whenever you go, it will be quiet as most people take the major Izumo Ourai instead of this road.  After we completed the loop, we continued south until we reached the Chugoku Expressway.  We had another “moment” in a national park just before we reached the Expressway.  Unlike other moments, this one wasn’t comfortable.  I was doing the majority of driving on this section and I had a small beetle join me in the car.  I think we hit him and he just happened to fall into the car and get stuck near my crotch.  It was a fairly uncomfortable feeling for me to have a bug wedged under my pants, and it didn’t help that it was as we approached a corner.  Thankfully, I kept cool enough to continue driving.  After about 10 minutes or so, we came to an intersection where I could get out and sweep the bug out onto the ground.  Aside from the near heart attack I got from being surprised, all was well.  By the time we reached the Expressway, things were good.

The trip along the Expressway was quite simple.  We decided to switch drivers as I hate driving in the city.  My friend was really kind enough to “volunteer” his services while I navigated.  We got off the Expressway just before the Hiroshima Expressway started.  We took the main roads and got fooled by our GPS again.  All of the signs and all of the cars went one way, and the GPS said to go another way.  We instinctively ignored our GPS and followed the signs to our next “Expressway”, a tunnel that would bypass a lot of the city and drop us off in the centre of the town.  It was very interesting to exit the tunnel as we were on a bridge over a river and then planted in the downtown core of the city.  Imagine entering a tunnel in the suburbs, with only a few strip malls around.  Once you exit the tunnel, you are immediately on a bridge looking at a big bustling city with tons of traffic.  We managed to safely find Hiroshima Station and then to the hotel.  Needless to say, it was a huge challenge to understand the GPS and we did get a little lost along the way.  When you are travelling in a city, GPS is very difficult to read as the signal tends to bounce off of the tall buildings.  A little heated argument did ensue within our car, but cooler heads prevailed and we made it to our hotel, and dropped off our car at the rental shop and said sayonara to our faithful steed.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, driving in major Japanese cities is very stressful and not fun at all.

I learned a few new things on this trip for my future travels.  The GPS is your friend and your foe.  There were many times where I wanted to use the GPS properly, but I couldn’t figure it out.  I’m sure there is a way, but without the necessary Japanese skills, it was more difficult that it should have been.  If you are trying to get from A to B, there is no problem to input it with basic Japanese skills.  Most of the input data is done in Japanese (hiragana), but finding the way to input in Roman characters was difficult.  It took us a few days to figure it out.  You also have to be aware that many places have the same name.  If you search for a place with a name such as “Sakaiminato”, you have to choose by the city.  Searching for something like Hiroshima Station, while it should mean the train station, it actually means anything with Hiroshima Station in the title.  It was a pain in the butt to figure out how to set it up properly, but with a little fiddling, we got it to work.  Navigation input is also set so that you can’t do anything unless you are parked.  Pressing the brake does not equal park.  You must actually set the car in park.  Other than that, the maps were very detailed and it was easy to navigate.  The instructions were great too, but not as good as the car that I used on my trip to Nikko.

As for maps, I still recommend the Touring Mapple.  It’s a brand that is geared towards motorcyclists.  The routes that are recommended are highlighted, and there is a ton of information on the maps themselves.  In British Columbia, we have Destination Highways, which is a great book, but it can’t compare to Touring Mapple.  Touring Mapple has information on tight corners which are dangerous, information on closed roads, and even information on restaurants and hostels where you can stay.  While it’s a terrible city map, it’s great for travelling between cities.  Do note that Destination Highways does have descriptions on the roads themselves, which is better than Touring Mapple, but Touring Mapple is more complete as you can get information on roads to access the great roads.  It even featured onsen which are great to relax in.  If you are driving a car, I still highly recommend this map as it’s perfect for any adventure that requires the open road.  Choose any route that includes as many highlighted sections as possible, otherwise keep to the Expressways.  If you drive on anything that isn’t highlighted, you can expect to see nothing but traffic and the view wouldn’t be as nice either.  Surprisingly, the rural Expressways are very scenic.  Stopping at the rest stops are wonderful as you can sample some of the local food and there are various activities that you can do.  Most of all just take your time and always venture off the beaten path.  You never know what you might encounter.

Note:  This is part two of a two part series.  If you haven’t read part one, please head over to Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I].
For further reading about the San’in region, please follow the links below:

Driving Information:

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugoku_Expressway

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/中国自動車道

Izumo Orochi Loop (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/奥出雲おろちループ

Drive Plaza (Information on Expressways in Japan including travel times – JAPANESE): http://www.driveplaza.com/

About Touring in Japan (English): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto/map_e.html
How to Cycle Around Japan (This is for cycling, but it’s very useful for driving as well): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto_e.html

Touring Mapple (Official – Japanese): http://touring.mapple.net/

Rental Car How To (Japan Guide) [Note: There are links to major car rental companies towards the bottom of the page]:http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2024.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I] September 21, 2010

Posted by Dru in Chugoku, Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Driving in Japan (2010) [Part I]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-tq

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I have had many trips in and around Japan, along with many road trips.  I have been taking road trips almost every year now on either a motorcycle or in a car.  In 2007, I took a trip to Hokkaido by motorcycle.  It was my first road trip, and a terrible one at that.  I was alone, cold and wet.  For my second trip, I rented a car for just a day and drove up to Nikko.  The route brought back a few memories of my trip to Sapporo, but with all the comforts of a car.  It was a pretty easy trip, but it taught me the pain of driving in the city, and trying to return to the city on a Sunday night.  One word can sum up that experience, traffic.  Last year, I had my epic adventure, and the last one on my bike.  I took a trip by ferry and rode my bike around Shikoku for two weeks.  It was a wonderful holiday that restored my faith in driving and riding in Japan.  It helped a lot that I went with a friend from Osaka.  Recently, June 2010, I embarked on my big road adventure of the year.  I headed to the San’in region, along with Hiroshima.  What follows is a recounting of what happened as we conquered the roads that lay ahead of us.

As many of you know by now, I have written about my adventures in San’in already.  I have talked about Tottori and Shimane.  My journey started with a flight from Tokyo to Tottori.  I left in the early morning and had time to spend an entire day in Tottori city.  I visited the Tottori Sand Dunes and that was pretty much it.  The actual adventure didn’t start until the next day.  We got up early again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us.  Thankfully, we had two drivers, one being myself, and the other being my friend from Osaka.  We rented a Mazda Axela, which is a Mazda 3 in North America.  It was a little big for what we needed, but we were expecting a total of 4 people in the car, but one person bailed as she booked the wrong tickets for the trip.  The car itself was big for what we needed.  We could have gotten a compact car instead of this one, but the added size made the trip very comfortable.  When we got the car we spent a few minutes fiddling with the GPS navigation system before we took off.  The GPS was easy for us to understand, but it would take at least 2 more days before it was easy to use.  If you ever rent a car in Japan, be sure to learn a little Japanese, or have a good understanding on how to guess the menu system.  It was difficult to use, but we all had various degrees of Japanese knowledge which helped us a lot.

Our first leg of day 1 was a trip along the coast.  We started with a short drive on the mainland to avoid the traffic and made good time.  We reached our junction, ignoring our GPS all the time.  We had our own route planned and the GPS was guiding us to the “best” route but not the most scenic.  Thankfully, we had enough knowledge of the road to navigate smoothly and soon enough we were pros at navigating.  When we hit the coast, we took our sweet time and stopped at a couple beaches. We got our feet wet and took many pictures.  It was a perfect start to the day.  Driving up and down the coast on the Sea of  Japan is amazing. I have heard from many motorcycle riders that the coast is amazing, and I would have to agree.  I would love to just rent a car, or even bring a bicycle to the area and just enjoy the trip.  I was told by a friend that taking the train is also spectacular, but I tend to get a little antsy on trains after a few hours.  At least with a train, I could drink alcohol and not worry about getting into too much trouble.

My friend from Osaka did the first leg of driving.  He handled the coast very well, which was pretty easy.  There weren’t too many turns and the signs were easy for us to read.  We had one tough section through a small town called Hawai.  The pronunciation is the same as Hawaii, and the town played with that name a lot.  Everywhere you went, you saw Hawaii signs and tourist attractions that were a little tongue in cheek with references to the beautiful island resort.  After the town, we switched drivers as my friend had bad experiences driving on small country side roads.  It was my first time to drive in a few months and over a year since I had last driven on the left side of the road.  It was a little shaky at first, but I got my road legs back very quickly.  Aside from getting used to the car, which happens with almost any new car I drive, things were easy.  We were quickly headed down the road that we chose, but we soon reached what looked like nothing more than an access road.  Being in the countryside of Tottori, some of the main highways between cities are more akin to an access road rather than a true road.  Unlike North American streets where designated highways must meet a certain criteria, in Japan, it just indicates the road.  Our first “moment” came as this access road was about 1.5 lanes wide and we came across a truck.  It was a big truck and a challenge.  I was facing the challenge of passing this oncoming truck with only a few centimetres on both sides of the car.  The truck driver was kind enough to stop on the side and let me do all the work, but considering his side had a wall, and mine a drop into a field, it wasn’t that bad.  Creeping slowly, I passed my first hurdle.  Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of our journey of the day.

The route we took to Daisen, our first real destination, was simple enough and only a few points of caution.  My map had a few warnings that the road we were about to embark upon was closed during the winter months due to the weather.  This didn’t worry me too much.  We had a nice car, supplies to keep us fed and hydrated, and lots of time.  By the time we reached the road, things changed very quickly.  The first challenge of a small countryside road was past, but we had another road that was also only 1.5 lanes wide.  Being the countryside, and having seen the last stretch of road, I thought that this would be a short stretch of narrow roads.  I was wrong.  We also had to contend with a few construction signs with which we had no idea what they meant.  After our trip, we reviewed photos of the signs, and the sign said that cars were not allowed in, but when we went, it had a sticker on top saying it was “cancelled”.  Essentially, we got lucky.  We ended up doing most of the trip up and around Daisen on the narrow style road.  I have had experience on these types of roads before in Canada.  In Victoria, there are a few nice places like this.  The road is narrow and the vegetation is abundant.  On this road, it was the same.  The overgrowth from the bushes and trees made it a challenge to drive.  Being a kinder driver, I took a little more time to get around, along with the fact that I was worried about oncoming traffic, whatever it may be.  We spent roughly an hour or so going up, down, and around the north side of the mountain in what was one of my toughest drives ever.  The road was immaculate, and the beauty of the forest was unrivalled.  If I had the chance to skip that area, I would probably say no.  It’s something that has to be seen and experienced.  Before long, we were at Daisen-ji and taking a long deserved break from the car.

Note:  This is part one of a two part series.  Please continue reading in Part II.
For further reading about the San’in region, please follow the links below:

Driving Information:

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – English): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugoku_Expressway

Chugoku Expressway (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/中国自動車道

Izumo Orochi Loop (Wikipedia – Japanese): http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/奥出雲おろちループ

Drive Plaza (Information on Expressways in Japan including travel times – JAPANESE): http://www.driveplaza.com/

About Touring in Japan (English): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto/map_e.html

How to Cycle Around Japan (This is for cycling, but it’s very useful for driving as well): http://www.e-wadachi.com/howto_e.html

Touring Mapple (Official – Japanese): http://touring.mapple.net/

Rental Car How To (Japan Guide) [Note: There are links to major car rental companies towards the bottom of the page]:http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2024.html

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。


Tokyo (Ueno – Corin Street, Tokyo Bike Town) May 11, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Ueno – Corin Street, Tokyo Bike Town)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-mT

Ueno is one of the biggest hubs in the east side of Tokyo.  It is known as a transportation hub, home of various museums, Ueno Park, and Ameyokocho.  I have mentioned in previous posts that Tokyo’s major centres are all very similar to each other.  There is very little variance aside from the size.  Ueno is not an exception, but it is still unique in its own right.  The area doesn’t have the same feel as Shinjuku or Ikebukuro.  It is smaller than Shibuya, yet retains the character of a major centre.  The cherry blossom season is probably the best time to visit Ueno, but a visit at any other time is also recommended.

Looking north-east from Ueno station will take you to a fairly unknown area.  It was Bike Town.  Bike Town was an area along the highway, north of the station.  It was hard to find at first, but once you were there, you were greeted with a bike nut’s dream.  The area was dominated by a company called “Corin”.  This company ran several shops that dominated the entire area.  Each shop was slightly different.  One would specialize in Harley Davidson parts, another in old two-stroke racer parts.  Some had scooter parts, but most sold clothes that looked similar to each other.  All of the clothes they sold were either small brands, or their own personal brand.  The quality was good, and everything was fairly unique.  Unfortunately, as of 2008, reported by a blog post, the company has gone out of business.  This is not very surprising.  The entire area never looked like it could support that many shops selling the same items.  It would appear that they were the victims of trying to do too much in such a small area.  In the past, this area was very busy with people selling parts, but in today’s age, it’s not easy as most people can buy parts online.  Tokyo city itself is not a good place to have a full sized motorcycle, as Corin tended to specialize in.  The area has been transformed from being the bike mecca of Tokyo, to nearly being a ghost town.

While the major retailer of the area, Corin, has left, there are still various companies still doing business.  Along the main street, under the highway, there are still several shops that have survived the changing times.  There are a few bike shops selling new and used motorcycles, and there is the Honda Parts shop.  While the Honda Parts shop has “Honda” in its name, and a Honda logo, they are not exclusive to Honda.  They do sell a variety of parts that will fit with most bikes.    There is also “UPC Ride On”, which is mainly an Arai helmet seller, but they do have other gear for sale.  This shop is a personal favourite of mine, and they have various events with a few famous Japanese riders visiting the shop, or signing helmets for them to sell/display.  As with Corin, some of these shops have more than one branch along the main street.  Be sure to check each one as they don’t always carry the same parts, let alone the same goods.  Unfortunately, like Corin, they are starting to carry the same things in each branch, which could be a sign that things are getting worse.

If you are interested in buying a motorcycle, do not try to buy one in this area.  It might seem like a good area as it is called “Bike Town” for a reason.  Unfortunately, it’s mostly a parts and gear town.  For those looking to buy a motorcycle, you are better off visiting one of the major dealers.  The small dealers here do have nice motorcycles, but I myself find it a little scary to buy from them.  They don’t always seem friendly, and you may get a lemon.  I have seen nice bikes in a couple of shops, but one of the shops had nothing but very old bikes just collecting dust.  Besides the seedy bike sellers, if who love motorcycles, this area is still worth a quick visit.  You can still get cheaper helmets and gear from the remaining shops.  Unfortunately, due to the ease of online shopping, I wouldn’t be surprised if many more of these shops closed down.  You can easily buy the same parts for the same, if not cheaper price online.  I would recommend visiting this area soon as I assume that more of the shops might go out of business in the next few years.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a large department store buy several of the buildings and build a new department store in the area.  Do beware that buying a motorcycle from a small shop in this area can be dangerous.  You are better off going to a big shop that’s outside the city than one of the seedy small ones here.

This is part of my series on Ueno.  Please continue to read more about Ueno at Ueno – Ueno Park and Ueno – Ameyokocho.

Ueno Information:

UPC Ride On (Japanese Only):  http://www.upc.ne.jp/
Corin Information (Blog):  http://www.persimmonous.jp/?p=377
Wikitravel (Ueno):  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Ueno
Wikipedia (Ueno):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueno,_Tokyo

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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