The culture shock came right after landing at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Tarred roads, maglev trains, airplanes, cargo ships and even cycle paths almost all over the city.
After 27 months in Africa, India and Nepal I was simply no longer used to such an infrastructure. In addition, Japan is not honking! What a treat for my ears.
Especially the dimensions in this city are immense. With 36.9 million inhabitants (2015), it is the largest metropolitan area in the world. It is home to about 29 percent of Japan's total population.
Of course, everything is a bit more expensive, if not almost comparable to the Swiss prices. But I could afford a campsite.
After a week I cycled north and visited Nikko first. The place is a popular destination because there are many historic buildings and monuments.
I was most impressed by the temple Nikkō Tōshō-gū. It is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty, and was built in 1617. In 1999 he was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with other shrines and temples in Nikko.
After that I climbed back into the saddle. Japan is not a flat country at all. Either it goes up or down. Flat tracks are rarely found. Especially in summer there is another phenomenon here: typhoons.
These tropical cyclones usually bring a lot of rain with them. At first I tried to set up my tent somewhere in the open air. However, I had to reschedule soon. Luckily, wild camping here in Japan is not a problem at all.
For the first time, I got caught right in front of the port in Grandma, at the northern end of Honshu. Just in time I was able to flee to a garage before the typhoon hit with full force. A summer storm in the Alps is child birthday against!
Japan is the fourth largest island nation in the world after Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. The main islands are Hokkaido in the north, the central and largest island Honshu and Shikoku and Kyushu in the south.
After the Tsunami experience I took the ferry in Grandma and changed from Honshu to Hokkaido. Hokkaido is home to the people of the Ainu, whose language is the result of many geographical names on the island, including the name of the capital, Sapporo.
In the country of Mitsubishi, Toyota, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc. it is not always easy as a cyclist. A real Japanese has to have a car. Displacement instead of living space has the highest priority here.
With 127 million inhabitants, anyone can imagine for themselves how it goes on the streets. There is not much room left for a weird, fully loaded cyclist. In addition, road maintenance is a foreign word here and often the plants grow almost into the street.
Apart from the language barrier and the weather this was the only problem I had to deal with. After a month in Japan, I had a record of 29: 1 in rain vs. Sunny days.
I had to wash my clothes in a coin laundry. There is the same washer and dryer. Otherwise, the laundry will never dry. The song by Peach Weber-Nachem Räägne went through my mind almost every day.
In the Shiretoko National Park, however, I was really lucky with the weather. The park is known for the largest bear population in Japan and for the view of Kunashiri Island, which is occupied by Russia but claimed by Japan.
I did not see any bears. There are two bear species in the forests of Japan - the collar bear and the brown bear. A vegetarian cyclist does not seem to taste so good.
My Primus Kocher enjoys the time here in Japan too. Since the beginning I have practically stopped working. In many shops, as in China, hot water and noodle soups are available almost everywhere in all variations.
Finding vegetarian food is not always easy. In Japan, the principle still applies: "If something moves, click on it and eat it". But you do not have to starve as an herbivore.
Tunneling seems to be a lot of fun for the civil engineers here. However, I think that's not great with the bike. Especially if the tunnels are several kilometers long. After a short time I suffered from acute tunnel phobia.
What I really liked about Hokkaido is nature. On many sections, there are often only wooded hills. After all the desert and bush landscapes in Africa and South Asia, I enjoyed this green diversity to the fullest.
Only I have to scold at this point once with the dear Mr. Peter. Constant rain I do not think cool! If you have to climb in the morning in soaking wet clothes and it rains all day on your head, the fun stops at some point.
After nearly 2 months I reached the port of Tomakomai and reserved my ticket for a ferry back to Oarai near Tokyo. Slowly autumn is here in Hokkaido and I really want to see the southern part of Japan before my 3 month visa expires.