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Japan Hanami Tour 2008 Live!Journal Chapters Menu

Japan Hanami Tour 2008 - Week 03 Chapter : 05 May ~ 07 May 2008


Hello Again to you All,


As predicted last week, I am happy to see that we have more stories from different folks this time. The Japan Hanami Tour has come to an end for some and others are on their way to an even bigger journey across Eurasia.


From what I heard of feedback from participants of this journey they have all discovered another side of Japan. I think that is much of the purpose of all of GlobeRiders journeys, to see the other side. One can travel to Tokyo on business meetings dozens of times and learn only that side of the culture. It is not before one has the chance to get out and about meeting people and seeing the land first-hand that you will be able to understand what you had been missing. Doing this on top of a motorcycle makes the experience even that much better.


Personally, I have enjoyed reading these small postcard stories from the group and comparing my own travels in Japan with their experiences. I found many of the same qualities as described in the stories below. Qualities, that all are rooted in the culture of the people. Before I sign off I would like to give thanks to everyone that contributed to the journal this time and especially Roger Hansen for sending so many pictures.


Safe Riding to you All!



Best Regards,


Helge Pedersen - Founder



Day 15 to 17 - 05 May ~ 07 May 2008 - Tokyo, Japan - Frank Leonard


5/5: The last official day of our tour through the land of the rising sun. Some of us are staying a few days later. So before we rode our bikes to the port for loading, our wonderful guide Yuki-San took us to the Japan Railway (JR) station so we could obtain bullet train tickets to various other parts of Japan. The mass transportation system here is amazing. Between subway, busses and trains you can get anywhere and quickly. Seattle could really learn some things from this country.


Our ride to the port was uneventful as Mike had the foresight to hire a cab to guide us instead of relying on our collective ability to hit the right off-ramp in Yokohama. We were a sight. 13 large displacement motorcycles taking up formation down the expressway led by a small taxi with white gloved driver. The really neat surprise upon our arrival at the container facility was that they would wrap our panniers and load our bikes! The process can take up to half a day so we were a happy group.


Our farewell dinner was, as all are, bittersweet. This trip was short and I did not really get to know some of the other riders as well as I would have liked. However, my experience riding the roads of Japan on this GlobeRiders tour was genuinely special as I was able to renew old friendships, make some new acquaintances and see some incredible countryside while tasting, smelling hearing and feeling the unique cultural nature of this island nation. I certainly wish to come back and explore more...........


By the way, Mr. Townsley you actually did a GREAT job in setting up our waypoints. Thanks Dan!


Hiroshima 5/6: Four of us took a bullet train to Hiroshima the day after our tour ended. For me, it was a sobering experience. Being at the place where the first Atomic Bomb was exploded at 8:15 August 6, 1945 felt eerie.


A number of monuments are located centrally in Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Park, one of which is called "A-Bomb Dome" (genbakudome-mae). One of the few structures that survived the bombing and subsequent fire, it is a haunting skeletal reminder of the damage that was done. I felt at times awkward as an obvious outsider when walking through their museum, which detailed the destruction to people, buildings and property and where tears and tissue were not uncommon.


I now can relate to Japanese visitors at the Pearl Harbor Memorial who were looked at "sideways" by some other visitors as if to question why they would want to visit such a place. The hope that the people of Hiroshima have is that we'll all destroy our nuclear weapons so that the horrors experienced in their city and Nagasaki will never be repeated. Should be the hope of all of us.  



Greetings Frank Leonard





Day 15 - 21 April ~ 05 May 2008 - Tokyo, Japan - Debbie & Harrison Christian


5/5:Hello Everybody, What a wonderful time we have had thus far. From the first day riding our bikes in the dark to our Tokyo hotel to the overnight Ferry ride and rush hour traffic back to Tokyo hotel. (the hotel is heaven). Japan is a wonderful, peaceful and clean place. Many beautiful motorcycle roads and excellent scenery. Honshu to Hokkaido....wind, rain and sunny days.


The group is great. We hate to say goodbye to most of them as we will ride at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow for Kobe.. From Kobe we will board a Chinese ferry to meet 4 more riders in Bejing. There will be 7 of us on the ferry and it takes about 3 days. We will have our own sleeping quarters while everyone else will sleep on mats in the aisles.


The trip was very busy and allowed little time for correspondence. I will attempt to download some pics for you to enjoy.



Konnichi wa for now,


Debbie and Harrison


P.S. The food is excellent and we have developed a liking for sashimi!





Day 15 - 21 April ~ 05 May 2008 - Tokyo, Japan - Ann & Jeff Roberg


5/5: Hi Helge and followers of Globeriders adventures: This morning part of the group left to begin their World Tour adventure. It was hard to see them go knowing that they are about to begin a great ride through China and across Russia to Germany. We wish that we could go with them.


The last two weeks have been packed with sights to see and roads to travel. We have visited temples and stayed at minka's, which are residences constructed in traditional Japanese building style. We have traveled on bullet trains and viewed rock formations along the coast by boat. The weather has also been varried. From rain to almost snow, from overcast to sunny, I think we have seen it all. You can tell from the fields that spring has arrived as the farmers are just getting their fields ready to plant. As the days pass we see more activity in the fields as the farmers plant this years crops.


On the northern island we travel up the western coast and see the interesting ways that the locals keep the sea from claiming their land. At the most northern point we have to navigate strong cross winds which make keeping the motorcycle in the proper lane challenging. On an early morning outing to see Japanese Crane's, we also see many deer, a fox, and a blue heron. The people in Japan are the most gracious we have ever encountered. They are always smiling and seem genuinely happy to see you.


The one item that we will all miss on retuning home will be the heated toilet seats which all hotels have had as well as many of the gas stations along the road. Today is be our last day in Japan and we will spending it exploring the city around our hotel.


Thank you Helge, Mike, Dan and especially Yuki for making this such an interesting journey.



Ann and Jeff Roberg





Day 16 - 21 April ~ 06 May 2008 - Tokyo, Japan - David Ow


5/6: Hi Family & Friends Well the Globeriders tour of Japan has ended. We dropped off our motorcycles yesterday in Yokohama. Seven of the riders have continued on to China, Russia and Europe. They will be met in China with several other riders. I saw them off this morning and part of me wished I was going.


The Japan tour was everything I hoped it would be. We stayed in a variety of accommodations - 5 star hotels, a biker inn (6 on bunks) and old style inn (slept on a futon) and overnight on a ferry. All were enjoyable and fun. The food is delicious with donburi, sushi and ramen as my favorites. I feel like I gained weight because Mike and Aillene Paull stopped at local restaurants for lunch and the portions were large and mighty tasty. This added to buffet breakfasts and gourmet dinners.


Traffic in the cities was congested and on-ramps to the toll roads were hard to find. Even with the GPS and routing it was difficult. Once we were out in the country we had a blast. The mountain roads gave us curves, hairpins and beautiful scenery. Only one person got a speeding ticket and probably all of us deserved some. It was very hard to go only 80 KMH instead of 80MPH. The riders all got along and helped each other. It seems on the 4 Globeriders tours I have been on this is one thing you can count on - great people.


Mike an outstanding job as tour leader. I would not hesitate to join any tour that he leads. Dan did an outstanding job routing the GPS and keeping us from getting lost. Yuki-san made all the arrangements and was our Japan guide did the most outstanding job of giving us the true Japan. Visiting Temples, fishing villages, samurai houses and Tokyo night life it gave me an everlasting impression of Japan.


Other tidbits -gas was five to six dollars a gallon, a liter of oil was twenty-six dollars and toll roads cost from six to thirty-one dollars depending on the distance. Japan is expensive but for me it was well worth the cost. I am off on my own for the next week to travel through Japan on the bullet train. I bought a train pass and will travel to Takayama, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Hope you are all doing well and miss you.


Love David





Day 16 - 21 April ~ 06 May 2008 - Tokyo, Japan - Roger Hansen


5/6:Hello, We have just arrived at the hotel in Tokyo and have dropped our bikes off at the freight agent in Yokohama. What a great ride. We started with a Minka about 300 km from Tokyo. It was a little hassle getting out of Tokyo due to not being able to find the right entrance to the right tollway. We finally hired a taxi and it got us started on the right route. It was raining and that did not help with the navigation.


The last time I saw Henry he was riding south on the wrong tollway. He arrived at the Minka around 10 that night after seeing most of Tokyo and all the Tollways. We then rode a very scenic mountain route of the Bandai-san Gold Line, Bandai Azuma Lake Line and Bandai Azuma Skyline. What a great motorcycle ride. It was a little rainy but not too bad. We got to our hotel and took a boat ride through the islands of Matsushima Bay. On to Morioka and there we took a Bullet Train to Kakunodate Station to see the samurai warrior homes and the cherry blossom festival. We were a week late for the Cherry blossom blooming but it was a very interesting city.


The next day we went on to Aomori and took the high speed ferry to Hokkaido and then rode to Sapporo. It was a beautiful ride along the west coast. We are now getting used to navigating around Japan and I don’t think anyone got lost. We went to a biker house in the north of the island and it was great fun. The snoring wasn’t too bad and the owners took very good care of us. Today we crossed the 45th Parallel and the next day we rode to the most northern point of Japan, Cape Soya and took a group picture.


The riding in this area of Hokkaido was some of the best motorcycle riding ever. It was a beautiful ride with lots of twistys. We stayed at a very nice hotel near the Kushiro Marsh where we saw the Tancho( Japanese Crane). The ferry ride back to Tokyo was uneventful and we found our way back to the super hotel in Tokyo with out much trouble. All together it was a great trip. The group got along well together and we all learned a lot about the Japanese culture. I can’t wait to take another GlobeRiders Tour of Indo China next year. I am jealous of the group that are going on to the World Tour after we leave them in Japan to go home.



Roger Hansen




Day 18 - 21 April ~ 08 May 2008 - New Jersey, USA - Fred Vahlsing


5/8: Hello, I’m back in New Jersey and wanted to get some pictures posted of some people who went above and beyond to help in getting my bike up and running. A failed fuel pump stopped me in my tracks at the Sheraton Sapporo Hotel.


I would like to give a BIG thumbs-up and thanks to Heather Liu, the concierge atthe Sapporo Hotel for all her help in dealing with the language issues, she was such a great help. Then the staff at CYCLON BMW ,Yasunari Takano,Kazushige Tanaka and Kazumi Hatanaka all worked late to get me back and running the next day. I learned a lot about the people and their culture on my short stay in Japan, it was a well-worth trip.


Thanks GlobeRiders you did it again.








Day 29 - 21 April ~ 06 May 2008 - Barrington, USA - Tom Malia




The Japan Hanami Tour was my first GlobeRiders adventure. It was probably not what you would typically think of as a motorcycle adventure ride. After all, we spent almost one-third of our nights in what had to be a five-star hotel in Tokyo, we had heated toilet seats almost every night, the food was for the most part delicious, the roads were on average better than those found in our country, we experienced world class customer service every day and I have never seen more courteous and patient automobile drivers. And how un-adventurous was it to not have to worry about theft every time we parked our fully loaded motorcycles?


On the other hand, Japan was 6,000 miles (in my case) from home, the language bore absolutely no resemblance to our own, we covered nearly 4,000 kilometers- riding over five different mountain ranges by my count (in one case cutting through 10 foot snow drifts with my bike thermometer flashing a 32 degrees warning) and the customs and culture we experienced were very different from our own. So there were clearly some “adventure” aspects to this journey- after all learning to ride on the “wrong” side of the road was an adventure in itself. .


Regardless of the label one might put on this trip, it was in my view an absolutely wonderful experience. 26 riders on 20 motorcycles riding through some beautiful scenery, enjoying food that was always interesting and frequently delicious and staying at accommodations that were equally as interesting and often bordering on luxurious. But for me the real highlight of this journey, and what will make it most memorable for me, was the people. This would include both the Japanese people we interacted with, who added a whole new dimension to the world of customer service (I have never had a toll booth operator or train conductor bow to me before collecting a toll or fare-and likely will never again see such treatment), and the fellow GlobeRiders I rode with.

I anticipated that these riders would be an interesting group of world travelers and was certainly not disappointed as dinner conversation was frequently like reading a good travel book. But in addition, they were helpful (starting on night we picked up our bikes by helping me retrieve a lost nut I frantically needed to reconnect my battery), fun loving (lunch at some absolutely unknown local restaurant was frequently one of the highlights of the day’s ride), accomplished riders (although we were all a little negligent when it came to abiding by local traffic laws) and absolutely intent on truly experiencing the country of Japan and it’s populace.


So THANK YOU to GlobeRiders and my fellow riders for a great 17-day adventure and for expanding my horizons by helping me experience this part of our globe.


Tom Malia


"The measure of our live experiences ought not be the number of breaths we take; but rather, the number of experiences that take our breath away."




Day 23 - 21 April ~ 09 May 2008 - Beijing, China - Mike Paull


Our Japan Hanami Tour is over.


In fact, as I write this final story, I am already in Beijing, on Day Two of the World Tour, but that’s another adventure for another Live!Journal.


Japan was the first GlobeRiders tour that I pretty much organized and executed on my own. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how appealing it would be to that unique class of rider who has the resources and fortitude to undertake what we call a global adventure tour, especially the special group that we are fortunate enough to have as the former client/riders who are now friends. Any initial doubts were instantly dispelled as the tour sold out in just a few weeks. In fact, due to banking delays in confirming deposits, we had the “happy problem” of having over-booked the tour and wound up shipping two containers of motorcycles to Japan, instead of the one that we’re normally happy to put on the water for any tour. The appeal was there, but would it still hold up under the acid test of actually being on The Ride?


From the comments and feedback I’ve read and heard so far, I think Japan passed the test. Since my first ride with Helge back in 2002 (as a paying client mind you), GlobeRiders has taken me to many more far-away places and incredible spaces than I would have ever dreamed of riding on my own. To the uninitiated, Japan might appear overly-modernized, over-crowded, over-built, and under-challenging to any rider who has journeyed less-developed and infrequently visited countries – nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, highway tolls, expressway on-ramps and off-ramps, and population density aside, Japan at first blush seems almost too perfect for an “adventure rider”. A few days into the tour, I proposed a “Pothole Contest” in jest. If any rider could find and document a pothole in a Japanese paved road (being a pretty techie group, documentation required taking a picture and capturing a GPS waypoint as proof ), I’d buy their drinks for the remainder of the tour. As it turned out, I didn’t have to pony up.


Potholes, the bane of any motorist and a campaign issue for elected officials even in my home town of Seattle, Washington, USA, simply don’t seem to exist in Japan. Perhaps they’re against the law? If so, the Japanese, especially those involved in civil engineering and construction, are very law-abiding indeed! The riding was simply great, the roads sublime, the scenery almost mesmerizing. Yes, we took to the expressways at times to cover miles (or kilometers to be correct), but once onto the primary and secondary roads, riding was never a travail, it was simply a pleasure. The road surfaces were smooth, high-traction and totally predictable.


The Japanese Islands are the exposed tips of a giant chain of undersea mountains, so “winding mountain roads” were pretty much on the riding menu any given day, and based on your approach speed and deceleration points, you could make most any stretch of road as challenging as desired. Much is made of the capability of the adventure touring motorcycle in rough conditions, but guess what, they shine in the twisties as well, and can do it two-up and fully loaded to boot. Worries about riding in that oil slick in the center of the lane, or sliding from an oil spot in the apex of a turn? Apparently, it’s also forbidden for any vehicle to drip oil, coolant, or any liquid other than condensation from an air conditioning system, even the parking lots are spotless. And, don’t even think about garbage or debris! The accommodations were equally top shelf, both in quality and style. At our base hotel in the Shiba Koen area of Tokyo, the Prince Park Tower Hotel, even the manager would rush to take your luggage for as you came through the door. A kimono-clad staff member was there to push the elevator button for you. As you have seen, riders of both sexes have commented on the ubiquitous Toto Washlet toilet.


Our Park Tower rooms had a toilet room separate from the vanity/shower/bath room. Open opening the door, the powered lid on this computer-controlled and sensor equipped wonder would automatically rise, and a built-in bank of diffused LED’s would gently illuminate the room. Upon taking the assumed position on a heated and temperature-adjustable seat, the bidet “cleansing system” would pre-flush itself, and a short flush cycle would rinse and wet the bowl. An under-seat fan then kicked in to whisk away any unpleasantries in that area. Once biological functions were completed, interaction with a wall-mounted, remote, back-lit LCD display panel, equipped with an array of switches with print, iconic and Braille legends, allowed one to select a variety of “cleansing” programs for your nether regions, to include control of water temperature, pressure, cleansing wand oscillation and duration. The Washlet would sense when you stood and waIked away, automatically flushing, refilling its heated cleansing tank, and finally, softly power the lid closed. I’m sure John Crapper could never have imagined his lowly invention would spiral off into this near fanatical cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness synthesis of materials and technology.


The rooms were pretty nice too. In fact, upon our return, the hotel was full, and the super attentive sales manager made the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, happy mistake” of upgrading the entire group to the Executive Level, leaving the “normal” rooms available for those on bus tours. Nice of them to park the Tokyo Tower right outside our windows (equipped with remote-controlled drapes) to enhance the view. Perhaps Park Tower Hotel was meant to be taken literally? In extreme contrast, we went from one of Tokyo’s finest hotels to the village of Ouchi Juku in the Aizuwakamatsu area of the central highlands. From saluting toilets and white-gloved bellhops (none of whom would accept a tip by the by), we wound the lodging clock back 400 years to a dirt-surfaced street lined with Minka, traditional Japanese-style, thatch-roofed farmhouses, converted to Nipponesque B&Bs. With wood, thatch and paper being the primary materials used in construction of these grand homes, a fire watch tower and siren were the central feature of the village. Sliding open the door to the genkan or entry, it’s strictly boots off.


Spartan rooms with shoji doors had closely-packed ranks of futons on tatami floors for sleeping. In the communal area, a charcoal-fired, open pit hearth dried gloves, heated a suspended teapot, and above, mathematically-stacked ranks of local fresh-water fish were skewered on racks, drying out for dinner. We arrived here after a cool and rainy day. It’s a real measure of the hospitality and desire to serve that the spritely lady in whose care we were in found a hammer and nails, and proceeded to pound hanging points into flawless and magnificent exposed beams, twice as old as our home countries, so that we could hang our riding gear out to dry. Needless to say, the toilets were Toto Washlets, though in keeping with the style of these magnificent homes, they didn’t salute. Our itinerary included UNESCO World Heritage sites, and for some of us, visits to two of the Three Most Beautiful Scenic Sites in Japan, the latter being the pine-topped islands in the rich oyster-bearing bay of Matsushima, and the incredible and somber beauty of the Temple in the Sea, Miyajima.


We rode on single-lane roads through towns and cities, and between newly flooded rice paddies and tiny plots of precisely ordered crops. We diced the turns and twists along streams and rivers, and through passes still crowned in snow. We did find Cherry Blossoms, stands of pine and cedar; we cruised through forests of bamboo. We rode the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), which, with a top speed of 300 kilometers an hour was, almost twice the top speed of our loaded and panniered bikes. We had dinner in a low-slung river barge while cruising the water courses of Tokyo. We took to the water to see the islands at Matsushima. We boarded an ultra-modern high-speed ferry to Hokkaido that looked like something out of Star Wars, only with multiple cars decks and first-class seating. On our return, we took an overnight ferry, berthed in private staterooms, that was probably as nicely-equipped as some smaller cruise ships.


I could write a separate Live!Journal about the food . . . . Throughout, a courteous and gracious people, who show how high the concept of customer service can be taken. Coming into a gas station was like bringing a jet into a gateway; on the approach, staff come running out to guide you with precise hand signals to where you are to stop for refueling. Important, as in many station there are no pump islands to provide a visual clue. Instead, remote-controlled, overhead hoses lower from powered reels. A second alert attendant is standing by, who whips out a towel to catch any possible hint of splash as she or he grips a swiveled gun-like, right-angle, trigger finger operated nozzle to precisely dispense a full tank. Free window washing often included. If your bike had an ashtray or trash bag, they’d empty those too, as they do for cars. To a visitor, it all seems wonderful. To those living there, it’s not all lovely and secure.


Japan is faced with a declining birth rate, coupled with the world’s longest life span. Many Japanese will never own their own home, and for those who can, multi-generational mortgages are increasingly common. A surprising number will never own a car even if they could afford one, they don’t have a parking space for one. Utilities and “energy” in general are insanely costly. Job security and company-provided housing are things of the past. Its landmass is about that of California, but it’s largely mountainous terrain meaning that only roughly 15% of that land can be used for farming, habitation and industry. Take half the population of the United States and put it on that 15%. As a country, Japan has almost no natural resources. Over 10% of her workforce are construction workers in a country that has run out of infrastructure to build, and these are difficult to retrain in her vaunted high-tech industries, and won’t take jobs in the service sector.


The “glass ceiling” for women is significantly lower than in America or Europe, women are expected to quit the workforce after having their first child, a long commute on foot, by bicycle, bus and train is the norm. Through it all, the Japanese have learned to take satisfaction in the simple things, in nature, in the preparation and serving of meals, in the pursuit of skills and art, the serenity of the bath, of working hard and serving well. They learned to create privacy and serenity in their heads, even when it can’t exist throughout the crowded and overwhelming complexities of her cities.


Even for the worldly global adventure rider, it’s a Disneyland for motorbikes with plenty of E-ticket experiences. One thing I won’t miss, is Toto, we have a Washlet at home. Thanks to all of our riders for joining us on this inaugural tour, and also to those of you who have travelled with us via this Live!Journal.


See you on the World Tour, coming up next!



Best Regards,


Mike signature




Participants of the Japan Hanami Tour 2008



Henry Black


Kathy and Bard Boand


Mark Boyadjian


Debbie Christian


Harrison Christian


Roger Hansen


Jerry Ivy


Bill Jenkins


Sherrie and Bill Kamps


Yuki Koguchi and Chris Soderberg


Frank Leonard


Tom Malia


Daron and Mac McCaulley


Ed Olsen


David Ow


Aillene and Mike Paull


Jeff and Ann Roberg


Stuart Robertson


Dan Townsley


Debbie, Harrison, and Hanami


Fred Vahlsing







Japan Hanami Tour 2008 Live!Journal Chapters Menu


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