jump to navigation

Hakodate and Chitose January 27, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hakodate and Chitose” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6C

This is Part III of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background: In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 3 (Hakodate to Chitose)

Hakodate is a medium sized city that is well known in Japan.  It know as having the best night view in Japan.  There is a small mountain in the city, where at night, you can see the entire peninsula lit up by the city lights.  I wish I spent a few days exploring the area, but my final destination of the night was Chitose.  I quickly found my bearings and got out of the city.  I took an unexpected detour to look at some of the countryside which was beautiful.  I was prepared for a nice quick ride into Chitose where I would spend the night, but my luck had completely run out.  About a few hours into the ride, I was starting to get miserable.  It was cold and the rain kept was coming on and off.  I was wet, cold, and trying to make it to my final destination.  To make matters worse, I went 15 km in the wrong direction at one point and this is where things went for worse to horribly bad. I had some engine troubles.  I had some bad oil in my engine and my oil light was turning on and off.  I had oil, but something was seriously wrong.  I flagged down a construction vehicle and got some help.  He offered to go and get some oil for me.  He was very nice, but I wished he took me with him to get some oil because I had to wait in a cold light rain until he returned.  After waiting for 30 minutes, he returned.  He brought some oil for me and pointed me in the right direction for the expressway.  I didn’t have time to find my way on the low roads, and wanted to get to Chitose ASAP.  The next 4 hours was HELL.  I had to stop about 6 or 7 times as my oil light kept coming on.  If I stopped, the light would eventually turn off.  To make matters worse, the light rain turned into regular rain and I was cold and drenched.  The temperature was close to 14C and on a bike, at around 80kph, it felt like 7C.  I think I almost became hypothermic.  I couldn’t stop shaking, and I wasn’t thinking straight.  To say the least, it was very dangerous and not very smart, but when you are miserable and cold, you don’t really think.

I kept things very easy on the bike, but didn’t arrive into Chitose until after 9pm.  I went to the very first hotel I could find, Hotel Nikko.  It is a very expensive hotel in Japan but I didn’t know it at the time.  The front desk guy gave me a very nice discount on a regular room rate, and I was lucky that they had a room.  They only had 5 rooms left for that night.  I spent the night researching for a bike shop so I could get my bike checked out while drying my clothes.  It was here that I decided to cancel all of my ambitious plans to tour across Hokkaido and stay in Sapporo instead.  I didn’t even want to ride at all.

The next morning, I was extremely emotionally stressed.  It was still raining a little.  I decided to try a bike shop that I found the night before right away so I could get things checked out.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  It said it opened at noon, and it was early, so I went to get coffee and return when they opened.  At noon, the shop was still closed and there was no one around.  I tried to call the number, but no answer.  I ended up searching for another bike shop.  The second shop was really nice.  They were preparing for some kind of race, and they were really busy.  The owner looked at my bike, started it up, and said it was probably bad oil.  He said he could change the oil and take a quick look, but I should have it completely checked out, just in case.  I thought it would be “okay” to wait until I returned home.  It would take a while before he could really check on it, so I ended up going to an outlet mall for some shopping.

Chitose itself is a very nice suburban city.  It’s located roughly an hour or so outside of Sapporo.  There are all the basic amenities that one needs.  It’s not a great place, and there is nothing special in the city.  The only special thing is an outlet mall that caters to those living in Sapporo.  Japanese people LOVE outlet malls, so there are dozens of them across Japan.  While the city is nice, it’s definitely not a place to stay.  You can visit the outlet mall if you’d like, but it’s no different than any other outlet mall in Japan.

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。

Advertisements

Mutsu and Oma January 20, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Mutsu and Oma” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-6A

This is Part II of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 2 (Mutsu to Hakodate)

On day two, I woke up early and left for Hokkaido.  Mutsu was everything I expected, a simple pit stop.  There are several routes I could have taken to reach a small fishing village called Oma.  I decided to take the main road to be safe as I had to catch my ferry.  I stopped at many places along the way and enjoyed this part of my trip a lot.  It is the best memories I had.  I found a small shrine just outside the city centre.  It was built on the side of a hill and very close to the sea.  I then took brief stops at various villages along the way for pictures.  There was so many things to see and so many interesting and natural things that I took a long time to reach my destination.  The villages were technically part of the “city” but they looked independent of each other.  There was a nice park and lookout along the way as well.  The park looked well maintained, but I was curious as to why it was even there.  The lookout allowed me to see some interesting mini islands.  They look like rocks sticking out of the sea.  If you travel to Matsushima, it’s very similar.  The only difference is that there were no holes under the island, but there were lots of tetrapods around.

Once I got into Oma, I got lost looking for the peninsula.  Trying to understand road signs in Japan is a nightmare.  If you ever drive in Japan, you’ll hate them; even Japanese people hate the signs.  The peninsula was nice, but very out of the way.  It is the northern most point on Japan’s main island, and a mini tourist attraction.  The people seemed friendly, but the wind made it cold.  There is a very interesting statue of fists fighting tuna.  It’s a symbol of the town, which makes it’s living by catching bluefin tuna.  There were a few shops there, but I decided that after taking a few pictures I wanted to head straight to the ferry wharf. Only one question… where was it?  The story of this adventure has to be me being lost almost every day that I rode my motorcycle.  Once I found it, I relaxed for about an hour and talked to another rider.  At the time, I got to practice my really bad Japanese.  He was an older guy from the Kansai (Osaka) area and riding an old BMW.  Even his bike was older than me.  I had a few pictures taken at the wharf and then boarded the ferry.

The ferry was a strange design for me.  In Vancouver, the ferry is relatively simple to understand.  Follow the lanes to your parking space.  This ferry was different.  It was a medium sized ferry with a special area for motorcycles.  Unlike Vancouver, they actually had tie downs for my bike.  Once secured, I rushed up to the passenger area.  If you have ever taken a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, I’d consider that luxurious.  This ferry wasn’t good at all.  There were vending machines selling old looking things and a small kiosk selling your average ferry souvenirs.  There is only one place to rest, and that’s the tatami room.  It’s a large open room where you can put your things and lie down.  While it sounds nice, it’s far from it.  The room isn’t that warm and you are given a terrible pillow.  It’s basically a black foam block.  You do have the ability to watch TV, but unfortunately, reception is horrible.  All you can really do is relax and hope the seas are calm.  The ferry ride was short, but I got a little sick on the way.  My destination for this ferry ride was Hakodate.

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。

Tohoku Expressway and the Shimokita Peninsula January 5, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tohoku Expressway and the Shimokita Peninsula” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-67

This is Part I of a multi-part series chronicling my motorcycle adventure from Tokyo to Sapporo and back again.

Background:  In 2007, I had finally gotten my Japanese driver’s license and a motorcycle.  I had been an avid motorcycle rider in Canada before I came to Japan, so after 2 years of no riding, I finally bought a motorcycle and decided to go on a big adventure.  I went from Tokyo to Sapporo by motorcycle and ferry.  It was an adventure to say the least.

Leg 1:  (Tokyo to Mutsu)

On a crisp June morning, I left Tokyo and headed for the Tohoku Expressway.  I would head north as far as I could go in a day.  I started by racing to the Tohoku Expressway which was about 30 minutes away in the city.  In Japan, each expressway is owned by a different company, rather than the government, so taking the regular roads in the city is cheaper and sometimes faster.  Within Tokyo, it can be faster to take the regular roads, but often it’s faster to take the Shuto Expressway (the only expressway in central Tokyo).  I saved a little money, but in general, once I got close to the Tohoku Expressway, traffic was backed up and my plan to save money and time went out the window.  I only saved money.

Once I was on the highway, it would be a short 9 hour trip to Hachinohe, about 700km.  I took many stops along the way.  Along the expressways in Japan, every 50 km or so, there is a Service Area or Parking/Pit Area (SA or PA).  These are very convenient.  They often have local foods during the day, gas stations, and sometimes kid parks and dog parks.  It’s a great way to stretch your legs and relax on long road trips.  Making use of these SAs and PAs are essential.  All expressways in Japan are private roads, and thus, you have to pay to use them.  Because of this, you cannot enter and exit any expressway without paying.  You can also save money if you travel farther in a day, or if you travel at certain times.  Because of this, I decided to go all the way from Tokyo to Hachinohe.  Hachinohe is actually one of two end points for the Tohoku Expressway.  The main branch goes to Aomori, the biggest city in the Northern region of Honshu, while a Hachinohe branch expressway runs to Hachinohe.  The Tohoku Expressway itself is not a very interesting expressway.  It’s pretty straight and boring. Once you are on the Hachinohe branch, things look nicer and more natural.  Being on a motorcycle, you will also experience the changes of traveling 700 km North of Tokyo.  Every 100 km felt like I lost about 2C.

Hahinohe was a nice little town, the first time I passed through.  It’s relatively small, but unfortunately, all of the roads are curved.  This made me disoriented and I always got lost.  It took about 20 minutes before I found a police station and got directions.  I wanted to head north to a small city called Mutsu, and the highway was impossible to find.  Once the police pointed me in the right direction, everything went smoothly.

Along the way, I stopped at a park near the town of Misawa.  Misawa is a very small town with absolutely nothing.  It’s mainly a town for the Japanese Self Defense Force and American military.  The park I visited was very little small, but I was able to see and enjoy the Pacific Ocean a little.  The park was completely devoid of life.  I took this opportunity to relax a little and to start enjoying my trip.  This was also my first encounter with Japan’s infamous “tetrapod”.  They are 4-8 legged concrete “jacks” that are placed in the water to absorb the force of the waves.  The purpose of them is to save the coast from eroding and protect any wharfs from typhoons and such.  While I feel this is necessary in some places, Japan seems to go overboard with them.  They are placed in the oddest places and excessively so.  Once I was finished with the park, I continued north in the Shimokita Peninsula.  It’s a very beautiful place.  There are many windmills collecting energy for the area.  It provides a very unique look at technology and nature trying to interact with each other.

By nightfall, I had reached the town of Mutsu.  It is a small city that few Japanese people even know of.  It’s a quaint little town, but in reality, there is nothing special about it.  The area is known for its sciences, but little else.  While I don’t really recommend this place, if you need a base to get out and about in the area, it’s a nice central place.  This was also the destination of leg one.  It took me one full day, and I was completely exhausted.

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。

2008 A-style Grand Prix of Japan October 6, 2008

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Sports, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2008 A-style Grand Prix of Japan” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-2G

September 28 marked the 2008 A-style Grand Prix of Japan.  The A-style Grand Prix of Japan is the Japanese round of Moto GP.  Moto GP is the premier league of motorcycle racing, equivalent to F1.  This championship is, in my opinion, much better than F1.  There is a lot of passing, and lots of excitement.  Going to a true Grand Prix, you’ll be entertained with 3 different races and 3 different racers.  There are 3 classes in Moto GP.  125cc, 250cc, and MotoGP Class.  The 125s are the entry level for world class.  Riders can be as young as 15 to a maximum age of 28.  This is to promote younger talent to rise through the classes.  Generally, good riders will start in 125, move to 250, and finally graduate to the MotoGP class.  It is very difficult as each class gets smaller and smaller. Going to a MotoGP race is an adventure in itself.  The race is held in Motegi, Tochigi Prefecture, about 3 hours North of Tokyo.  The track is nestled within the surrounding hills and mountains and it provides a good change in elevation.  However, the track can be a little boring.  Rather than have nice fast sweeping corners that allow motorcycles to pass, it’s a stop and go track that is better suited to F1.   While it isn’t the best track for motorcycles, it is still a great place to go.  I have been to 2 previous Grand Prix of Japan and I must say, this year was the best.  Previously, it took a long time to get to the track and a longer time to get home.  We got to the GP very quickly (almost record time) and returned home after the race in record time.  If you do go, try to get a packaged tour.  You tend to get free stuff and you don’t have to worry about driving when you are tired.

I took the Yamaha fan tour.  I was picked up at the train station, taken to the event, and got free swag when I entered the race area.  Last year’s package was very similar.  This year, I got a cap, T-shirt, scarf, and bag.  The bag was mainly to carry everything.  I also picked up a few other things.  If you ever go to an F1 race, the amount of goods available are greater, but not as nice (I think) as the Moto GP goods.  Unfortunately, the good things were sold very quickly and I couldn’t buy some things.  On the way back, we were greeted with more free things.  We got a free sticker to celebrate Valentino Rossi’s World Championship, and a free photo book highlighting the 2007 Yamaha Motor GP Season.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the year I’d like to have, but the pictures were amazing.  I’d say they didn’t make much of a profit, if any, with the tickets they sold. The Grand Prix of Japan is a very well oiled machine.  Everything runs very smoothly.  All of the vendors stay the same, yet provide new things every year.  Every year, I want to buy more and more things.  I just can’t stop myself.  I’m sure I’ll buy even more next year.  🙂

As for the race, the 125cc race was the most exciting.  The opening lap saw 3 accidents.  Two being in the last corner.  The 250cc race saw only one accident, but the rest was exciting racing.  Lots of lead changes in the beginning and a young Italian won the race.  The Moto GP class was the most exciting.  It was the first chance Valentino Rossi had to win his first championship in 3 years.  The opening of the race saw Australian Casey Stoner take the lead with Rossi falling back.  He always tends to do that.  Later on, he overtook Stoner and eventually won the race.  After the race, I ran down to the track to help celebrate Rossi’s victory and Championship victory.  The closest I could get was about 20 metres.  Needless to say, it was a very exciting and lively time.  The most fun I had in years.  If you are ever in Japan during the Moto GP, please try to go.  The whole event is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.  One small exception.  I’m a big motorcycle racing fan, so I believe I’m extremely biased.  😉

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。

%d bloggers like this: