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Hakodate and Hachinohe February 24, 2009

Posted by Dru in Hokkaido, Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Hakodate and Hachinohe” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-7D

This is Part VI 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 6 (Hakodate and Hachinohe)

The last day in Hokkaido and the poor weather had returned.  I had a two day journey that would take me straight back into Tokyo.  I had only one morning to get from Sapporo to Hakodate, about 270 km.  While I normally wouldn’t consider this to be tough, I originally planned to take the low roads and enjoy the vast scenery that Hokkaido has to offer.  Instead, with my bike troubles in the back of my mind, I ended up racing in the very early morning from Sapporo all the way to Hakodate along the Hokkaido Expressway.  It was very cold in the morning, but at least it wasn’t raining.  By the time I reached the 1/3 mark, it started to rain again.  In Japan, they call me an ame-otoko, or rainman.  Whenever an ame-otoko travels, it rains wherever he goes.  I certainly felt like this was true for me.  The expressway itself is much better than the Tohoku Expressway.  There is a section just past Muroran where you start to enter a narrow section of the island.  It is a very windy place and there are many windmills making the scenery very picturesque.  On my way to Chitose, I mainly took the low roads.  I felt the sea, and saw a little of it, but I never really saw everything.  The highway is located a little ways up the mountain range and every so often, you can see the entire curve of the coast.  It was very beautiful, but unfortunately, I would have preferred to have a car at that moment.  I kept dreaming of a car with a rooftop and a strong heater.

Once I reached Hakodate, I had to find my way to the station and ferry terminal.  Because of my horrible sense of direction, I almost got lost, but I figured things out.  Hakodate really isn’t a bad place.  There is a nice little hill near the city centre that has a nice lookout, and the fish market is one of the best in Japan.  Do note that almost every major coastal city in Hokkaido has a “famous” fish market.  In order to warm up from the cold rain, I decided to get a nice hot bowl of ramen.  It did a great job of warming me up and I was ready for the ferry ride back to Honshu.  If you do have the chance, Hakodate would be a great place to spend a night and enjoy a lot of sightseeing.  I’m sure there are a lot of great places to see.  While Hakodate isn’t the ideal location, there is an underground train station in the Seikan Tunnel on the Aomori side.  The Seikan Tunnel is currently the longest undersea tunnel in the world and the deepest.  There are two stations within the tunnel itself that provides emergency access.  One of the stations doubles as a museum to the building of this tunnel.  There are three tours available everyday.  However, you can only choose one.  One starts in Hakodate and ends in Aomori.  One does the reverse, and one goes from Hakodate, to the station/museum, and back again.  If you are a trainspotter, this might be a lot of fun for you.  If you have a lot of free time, this might also be fun.

Crossing back to Oma was a little different this time.  I knew the crossing, and the seas were rougher than last time.  It was raining and I spent my time drying my clothes.  I wish I was better prepared for all the rain.  The next time I take a long trip, I’ll try to prepare a lot more.  Once in Oma, the sun blocked by the clouds but it wasn’t really raining.  I only had to deal with all the mist from the cars and such.  I made a quick trip from Oma to Hachinohe, which was my final destination of the day.  The trip was cold, wet, and dark.  I had a bit of an adventure about 30km from Hachinohe.  I missed a road sign, or it didn’t exist, and I went in the wrong direction for about 7 km.  I had to turn around and find my way in the middle of nowhere.  Thankfully there was no one around to help me, whatsoever.  To say the least, I was a little scared, but I was happy that I turned around instead of getting completely lost.  It wouldn’t be the last time I got lost either.  By the time I entered the city limits of Hachinohe, I got lost again.  I ended up wandering around the city for about 1 hour before I found the main station.  I found the station and had to decide on where to sleep for the night.  I found a place in the downtown area and headed for it.  Unfortunately, the sign for the hotel was so small, I missed it three times.  I ended up going to a convenience store and asking for help.  After about 10 minutes a very nice man decided to drive ahead of me and show me the way.  I was so happy for the help.  After checking in, I had a few hours to dry my clothes and enjoy the city.

Hachinohe itself isn’t as bad as my personal experience.  It has all the amenities that you could need and everything is centrally located within the city centre.  They were also preparing for the summer festival.  I could hear taiko drums beating for a good portion of the night.  Aside from the festivals, I doubt that there is anything to really do in Hachinohe.  I’d be better off going straight through Hachinohe, but unfortunately, I needed a place to sleep unless I rode all night to 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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Mutsu and Oma January 20, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tohoku, Travel.
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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.
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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。

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