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Japan Hanami Tour 2008 Live!Journal Chapters Menu

Japan Hanami Tour 2008 - Week 02 Chapter : 28 Apr ~ 04 May 2008




Another week of the GlobeRiders Japan Hanami Tour 2008 has come and gone. I had hoped for some more emails with wonderful stories and pictures to match. But it has been rather quiet with one exception.


Frank Leonard has been incredible at sending small postcards of words from every day of this journey. By the use of his PDA we once again will have short stories from the road seen through Frank’s eyes. Thanks so much for your efforts Frank, we enjoy every word that you send us.


Having been there and done that, I can truly empathize with the rest of the group that has been rather quiet in writing stories. It is the Ride that makes the journey, the people you meet and everything that happens that day on the road. This is an intense 17-day tour and I have the feeling that we might get some more stories when it all comes to an end next week.


As you know Mike Paull is the lead guide on this journey and Dan Townsley is second in command. From Dan I understand that it has been some busy days for him educating the group in the use of GPS while navigating the back roads of Japan. We are very happy to have Dan as our new partner with GlobeRiders, his first trip with us. With a team like Mike and Dan we feel that our customers get more than just a tour, it is more like a educational fieldtrip to foreign lands. Enjoy this week's report.



Best Regards,

Helge Pedersen - Founder GlobeRiders



Day 10 to 14- 30 April ~ 04 May 2008 - Ferry, Japan - Frank Leonard



4/30: Sapporo to Rider House. Stopped at Kiriki which is a restaurant that bikers from all around the world stop at and record their photo. They were closed but the owner did let us in to view some of the 40 thousand plus pictures. Some riders even make the trek in winter. The Biker House is in farmland and serene. A short walk around had us spying hawks, cranes and herons. We could not get close due to Jerry's "click click" of his walking sticks on the pavement scared them off.


We had a fun lamb dinner that we cooked ourselves on indoor foil-lined grills. Despite Mike's request that the proprietor have enough beer, we did run out and good friend that I am, I bought the last one and gave it to Jerry (which he still has not thanked me for!). Our shared bedrooms consisted of bunk beds four to a room with futons as mattresses. Quite neat except for those rooms who were unlucky enough to contain snorers.



5/1: The morning greeted us with fierce winds. Our i- country guide, Yuki, explained that a Foen wind (off shore) was predicted for the north part of the island. It was strong and consistent. We visited the northern tip of Japan where, if it was clear, we would have been able to glimpse Russia. All of us took the obligatory photos while the wind howled. At times it seemed as though one of the parked bikes would be blown over due to the force. I nearly was an accident when I stopped to turn myself at the lighthouse above the beach and a gust threw me off balance.


We rode south along the east coast while the wind blew us towards the water buffeting and throwing us sideways. At least it was sunny. A drive through the 45th parallel (we did it on the way up as well) allowed for a fun fast run through the mountains to the first dirt road of the tour which Jerry and I were determined to find despite warnings from locals that it was snow covered and impossible to ride. One we got on it, we realized that they had no clue about the condition. It was flat and dry.


Down to the coast again, we stopped at a small roadside noodle stand for lunch and an ancient Japanese woman smiled as we entered and Jerry ordered "ramen, arigato". She fired up her stove for us, her only clients, and served us the tastiest huge bowl of noodles with soup you can imagine. It's finds like this that reward the travelers in foreign lands. Simple fare yet full of flavor. Down the coast we cruised to our hotel which was perched on the edge of a lake. They had natural mineral hot springs which many of us enjoyed. Communal but segregated baths with access to three pools of varying temperatures refreshed after the ride.


Our dinner had many seafood components arranged perfectly and delicately in bursts of color and tastes. Two tiny individual serving bowls bowls heated by sterno disks provided a hot broth loaded with noodles as well as steamed shrimp and fish. While the dinner was good, we were seated at prepared tables for two which did not allow for easy socializing. We managed nonetheless. The rooms we were assigned had lovely tatami mat sections along with western beds so you could choose how to sleep; the best of both worlds. They also provided "kimono" style robes which some of us actually donned for our dinner, we did look great.


5/2: I woke to the sight of a hawk sitting in the tree outside my window. He flew away as I scrambled for my camera. Our ride today would be the longest one and very picturesque. We rode through mountain and valleys visiting three lakes along the way to the lodge located near the reserve which holds about 2000 red capped cranes (Tancho).


We found the best roads of the trip due to an error I made in navigation, where we were supposed to make a left at the top of our second lake to ride the second dirt road of the trip (it turns out it was closed from the side we were supposed to approach). This mistake found us on perfectly maintained asphalt and concrete. Few cars, smooth, a combination of sweeping high speed affairs with surprises of tight 180 hairpins. The road surface was sticky and almost like a race course. An extremely rewarding road day.


Our group was the last into the hotel since we took an extra trip to Lake Akan, a resort community of high-class hotels, boating and fishing. We watched as a fisherman caught two large fish during the twenty minutes we walked the dock. Daron caught her own fry with a net left by the dock which she dutifully tossed back. Our dinner ended with introductory speeches from all participants since this was the only time since the start of the trip that we had an appropriate venue. Listening to the words, thoughts and comments of everyone I was struck by the truly wonderful personalities that this trip has brought together.


5/3: If you wanted to see some Tancho (Japanese red capped cranes) you had to board the tour bus by six am. It was a misty morning that reminded me of many Japanese scroll paintings where the mountains are shrouded in fog. We were fortunate to come across a number of the cranes as well as deer and fox during our two hour bus tour through Kushiro Shitsugen National Park. The driver of the bus was also the owner of the Taito Inn where we were staying. He is the FOURTH generation to own and run that inn.


Back on the road at 9 am for the long slog to the ferry which, 20 hours later, will put us back on Honshu and allow us to drive to the hotel we started at a scant two weeks ago. On the way, we encountered heavy traffic that was caused most likely by returning "Golden Week" vacationers.


A fine example of the honesty of the people populating this country showed itself earlier this week. One of our riders, Henry Black (Q Tip) had lost his fanny pack the first day of the tour. It contained his sat phone and other valuables. Someone had found it and through sending an email to an address they had read in his pack, they got in touch with and Henry's pack is now waiting for him at our hotel. I doubt this would have happened very many other places on the planet.  


5/4: I have never been on a ferry this large overnight. Sleeping was actually restful as the rocking of the ocean swells lulled me. There is a bit of a pall of smoke in the air at certain sections of the ferry. I woke to the lovely scent of burning tobacco that somehow found its way to our shared cabin through the ventilation system. The ferry has a public (sex segregated) bath with hot spa that was very refreshing.


The seas are smooth and the weather fair. Not a bad ride! We all drove off the ferry and right into a horrendous traffic jam. Everyone split up and took different routes to avoid the gridlock. Times like these are when two wheels are a blessing. Skirting between lanes and sometimes on the sidewalk or gutter we all got through much faster than any car.


Because dinner was "on your own" six of us decided to take a subway train to Roppongi Hills where we found a terrific small Japanese eatery. Later Aillene told us it was a "Tempura Bar". Each dish was served fresh right before your eyes and all of it was tempura except a couple fresh fish slices. I have never experienced such a meal. The sake served in square wooden cups was not bad either!



Greetings, Frank Leonard




Day 08 to 14- 28 April ~ 04 May 2008 - Ferry, Japan - Dan Townsley

Hello from Japan.


Week two of our Tour has come to an end and as we prepare to depart the Island of Hokkaido I find myself thinking how much I want to come back. This being a rather large group by GlobeRiders standards, I am quite taken by the general camaraderie of the group these past two weeks. One thing that got everyone’s attention were the Toll’s on the Express Ways. It seemed like you paid to get on and paid to get off most of the time. I have lots of receipts!


As Mike Paull noted, the food here is, well, incredible. I don’t like all things in the Japanese cuisine but I have eaten three meals a day for two weeks and I seem to have lost a few pounds. The Japanese diet is a rather healthy one. From the simple to the elaborate it was very good indeed. While on Hokkaido we were able to stay a night at one of the more noted “Biker” Houses. In the US we would call this a B&B. The owners and their family run the House which is located in pastoral Northwestern part of Hokkaido.


The roads we traveled were not very busy given the Japanese Golden Week holiday period. From the Northwest side of the Island we headed East along the cost to the some beautiful lakes and then on to Shiretoko National Park. Located on the Shiretoko Peninsula in Northeastern Hokkaido it is one of Japan's most beautiful and unspoiled national parks. In July 2005, Shiretoko was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For someone interested in the ecology of the area you could spend many days here exploring.


For a biking group the roads in the mountains are exceptional and the scenery - distracting! The one thing I didn’t quite get use to in the mountains was the Japanese habit of parking in the road on narrow blind corners to sightsee. Having just missed one such “parker”, the thought of another one will definitely keep you alert for the duration of a ride. As we headed South we stayed in the area of Kushiro Marsh. This National Park was established to protect the endangered population of the Tancho or Japanese Crane. We were lucky enough to see a few juvenile Cranes through the fog from our early morning Tour Bus excursion. Ferry time again. This one is an over-night sail to Oarai a short 125Km from Tokyo.


That’s it for this week. The tour’s about complete so lots to do.




Dan signature



Cheers, Dan




Day 08 to 14- 28 April ~ 04 May 2008 - Ferry, Japan - Mike Paull


Japan – Dining Taken Up a Notch


Any GlobeRiders adventure is about The Ride. But the day doesn’t end when we park the bikes for the night, as there’s no better way to cap off a fine day on the road with great company and the joviality of a shared meal.

I may be biased, but Japan continually surprised and usually delighted in the sheer variety and presentation of our evening meals, whether simple “country fair”, or the epitome of Japanese cusine, Kaiseki Ryori. Kasieki is said to have evolved from a style of food presentation originally evolved by Japanese monks, where simplicity of preparation, and a rotating seasonality of fresh and local ingredients was paramount. Enhanced perhaps by the serenity and grace of the tea ceremony, kaiseki increasingly included presentation and serene surroundings into the mix – it truly brings out the best of Japan both in food and culture.


This style of haute cuisine is best enjoyed today when staying at a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel or inn. Perhaps the most formal kaiseki meal our group enjoyed was at the lakeside Ryokan Abashirikoso, a grand destination hotel in the traditional sense situated on the shores of Lake Abashiri, or Abashiri-ko in Japanese. After being escorted to our rooms, many of the group chose to don yukatta, a lightweight style of dress patterned after the much more costly and heavy kimono, provided in most ryokan. Over this is worn a short coat tied at the front. Guest are encouraged to forgo shoes and wear slippers to complete the dress. Properly attired, we went to the dining room.


An exquisitely prepared individual place setting awaited each rider. No less than 24 pieces of china, stoneware, and bamboo steamers had been prepared for each, and every dish contained several different items. Because of our proximity to the ocean and lake, a variety of seafood was paired with fresh locally procured vegetables (because of Japan’s Buddhist and Shinto roots, meat is usually not included in a Kaiseki meal). In one presentation, a fire was lit in an earthenware holder, and items were simmered in a savory broth. Another burner was lit under a bamboo steamer - fresh crab was paired with corn on the cob. Numerous side dishes complemented the main courses, or were meant to be enjoyed on their own. Cold local beers and sake rounded things out, and ever excellent teas cleared the palate.


McDonald’s doesn’t have a chance….


Mike signature

Best, MikeP




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