The culture shock came right after landing at Tokyo airport. After 2.5 years in Africa, India and Nepal I was simply not used to such an infrastructure. The prices are quite expensive.
In the beginning I tried to stay on a campsite. But they soon became too expensive for me. Fortunately, wild camping in Japan is not a problem at all. From then on, I spent the next 3 months as a homeless bicycle nomad.
Greater Tokyo, with 36.9 million inhabitants, is the most densely populated metropolitan area in the world. It officially became the capital after Emperor Meiji relocated his seat from the ancient capital of Kyoto to the city in 1868.
After a week I went north and first visited the city of Nikko. The temple complex of Nikko is enormously impressive. Especially the Nikkō Tōshō-gū shrine is breathtaking. You can barely overcome the astonishment.
Tōshō-gū is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was originally built in 1617 during the Edo period. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Throughout the complex there are many more temples and shrines.
After a few relaxing days, I soon went into the saddle. Nikko is slowly going to the Japanese mountains. The Japanese archipelago consists of 6,852 islands, of which 430 are inhabited.
The four main islands from north to south are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Honshu is the largest and is called the Japanese mainland. From Honshu I first wanted to go to Hokkaido.
Flat sections are rare in this country. Most of the time, you are constantly going up and down. Especially in summer there is another phenomenon: typhoons.
A typhoon only differs by the location of a cyclone or hurricane. Almost a third of the tropical cyclones in the world are in the western Pacific. This makes this pool the most active in the world.
The first typhoon caught me quickly at the end of Hosnhu. On time I was able to escape to a garage. A summer storm in the Alps is peanuts compared to a typhoon! Because of the rain I tried from now on to dry my tent.
I took the ferry from Grandma to Hakodate (Hokkaido Island). Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan and twice as big as Switzerland.
First, I visited the Shiretoko National Park. The park is best known as the home of the largest brown bear population and offers views of Kunashiri Island dominated by Japan and Russia.
I saw no bears, but it rained almost every day. My balance after one month in Japan: 29 rainy days vs. 1 sunny day. Cycling in wet clothes is really no fun. At some point the fun stops.
I really liked a Hokkaido, it was nature. I have pretty much missed this green landscape in Africa and India. Here you will find road tunnels like sand on the sea. Usually these are several kilometers long. Meanwhile, I am suffering an acute tunnel phobia.
After almost two months I want the port of Tomakomai. There I took the ferry back to Tokyo. In the capital I took a short break to pick up some spare parts (saddle, new credit card and brake pads).
A few days later the village of Jukkoku, where there was a great reunion with an old fellow. I had met Clive twice in Ethiopia and Sudan. He invited me to visit his workplace, the Kakurinbo Temple.
Kakurinbo is part of the Kuon-ji temple complex. Founded in 1281 by Nichiren, today it is the main temple of Nichiren Shū. During my visit there was a noh performance in the temple. Noh is a major form of classical Japanese music drama since the 14th century.
After a few eventful days, it was time for me to travel on. My three-month visa expired slowly and Shimonoseki was still far away. On the way, I make a short stop near Nagoya. Mr. Noguchi, a temple employee and her partner, had invited me.
It is not easy to continue the journey. I had the most difficulties with the traffic here in Japan. The roads are usually very narrow and in all traffic there is hardly room for a cyclist.
Another problem is the many traffic lights. At a distance of 100 meters, there are usually several traffic lights. The invention of a roundabout has not yet arrived in Japan.
The island of Honshu is densely populated. Mostly I had great difficulty finding a place to sleep. Playgrounds are great for wild camping and Japan is one of the safest countries I've ever visited. Soon I reached the city of Hiroshima.
Hiroshima is best known as the first city in history to be attacked by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) dropped an atomic bomb on the city on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am toward the end of the world has war II
I visited the monument and the museum. It was interesting to introduce the Japanese opinion of the event. Some passages are very different from our history books.
I had made the last leg to Shimonoseki after a few days. I reached the harbor with running rain and was glad to take a ferry to South Korea that same day.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all people in Japan. Whenever I was in a bad mood, people motivated me with small gestures and if it was just a smile or a big thumb.
Never before in my life have I met such friendly and great people. Every day I was totally overwhelmed by her warmth. It's great that on this planet there is still a country where the principle of "live and let live" works.
I will keep Japan in good memory forever and hope to return someday. Arrigato gosaimas - you are the greatest!