Friday, 1 August 2014


I left Sakata and headed for Tokyo on a very humid morning.  The temperature in Japan has been record breaking the past week and riding with my heavy gear was no picnic.  My head was exploding in the helmet and it made the ride extremely unpleasant.  Luckily the landscapes and the countryside were spectacular making the whole experience easier.  I avoided the highway and the GPS, while still confused about a lot or routes in Japan, took me through very tiny roads through villages with manicured farms and rice fields.  I had to stop often to cool off in the shade of the forests and I must have drunk over 5 litres of liquids. 
I am in awe of Japan’s bamboo forests and rice fields and the peace and silence in the places I rested calmed me deeply.  The thermometer hit 43 degrees around 12 noon and going through villages I encountered a lot of stoplights that made me angry.  Waiting for a stoplight in Japan is like going fishing in a lake without fish.  Patience is the key, and it turns out that the Japanese have a lot of it.  No honking, no noises and what shocked me the most was that the majority of the cars waiting at stoplights turn their engines off.  It is the first nation where I see environmental attitude at a very large scale.  Everyone seems concerned about their impact on nature and takes serious steps to preserve it.  It is a beautiful thing when a whole nation cares for the future.
The next morning I entered Tokyo, knowing very well the mega size of this city and its traffic.  Even though everyone drives in an orderly fashion, it still took me 7 hours to get in and get out of Tokyo (of course, I blame Garmin for this, the poor thing had no clue about one way streets or how to find the way out to the South).  The heat was unbearable, I had to take my jacket off and my goggles and I got fried by the sun.  However, Tokyo impressed me deeply and when I arrived in Shibuya crossing my heart nearly stopped; 4 million people cross this street every single day!  The sea of people is indescribable: from all directions, masses of people go about their business as if this is very natural to them.  I parked the bike next to a Metro entrance and watched the flow of people for about an hour.  A homeless man came and sat next to me for the whole time and we chatted away while having coffee.  He was a very nice young man, speaking excellent English.  I am not sure what misfortune hit him to become homeless, but I appreciated his companionship.
After the mayhem of getting out of Tokyo I finally managed to find the road towards Mt. Fuji.  I wanted to spend few days here, to explore the 5 lakes around the mountain and rest.  I was feeling very weak from my hard riding in the heat and my body was exhausted.
Once I hit the countryside, the temperature went down, especially that now I was climbing towards Mt. Fuji.  The Yamanakako lake (where I am camping at the moment) is at 1000 m altitude and Mt. Fuji stands at an impressive 3776 m.  People told me that this time of the year it is rare to see the top, due to clouds and humidity, but I was lucky a couple of mornings when I got some good photos around 5:00 am. 
Mt. Fuji’s lakes are impeccable: clean, scenic and perfectly placed at the foot of the mountain, as if someone planted them there for a special reason.  The Japanese love visiting them and many are camping here in the summer. 
As I pulled in the Misagi campground there was no one at the reception and a very nice man that was camping told me I can set up anywhere and in the morning I can pay for the camp.  He also helped me with his own WIFI device so I can talk to Carmen that night.  In the morning we had coffee and got to know him and his companions a little better.  I have had so many experiences by now with the generosity and hospitality of the Japanese people that I cannot even count them; people give me food and drinks all the time, they offer help in any way they can and I found no place so far where I wasn’t welcomed or treated royally.  I am sure that everyone has different experiences while touring other countries, but I am fortunate enough to be spoiled here in Japan. 
I spent the next 5 days fishing in the lake, swimming, tanning and just taking in the fantastic sights.  I am in love with this country and its incredible people!  When I see virtually the entire population going for jogs in the morning at 5:00 am, or thousands of children playing tennis by the lake on their many tennis courts, when I see how much is spent on safety and on facilities to help their children develop full lives, I am convinced that this country has a great vision and passion for the future.
My last night at Mt. Fuji treated me to a spectacle of Japanese culture and Japanese nature: there was the Festival of Fireworks in the village, with thousands of people and I was the only foreigner.  People greeted me respectfully, served me food and drinks (yet again) and I felt very fortunate to be a part of a true Japanese festival.  While the evening was drawing close, I noticed a strange mist on the lake, rolling in waves from the mountains.  It felt like out of a horror movie... Soon after that major lightning and thundering began to shake the mountains.  Meanwhile, for one and a half hours the fireworks lighted the sky, mixing with the lightning from above and with the sounds of the thunder.  It was so mystical I felt I was not on this planet anymore!  I sat in my tent, listening and watching this show of splendor from man and nature and wondered how did I end up here, lucky enough to spend some time in this amazing country.
Soon, my experience in Japan is drawing to an end, and it is so far, the only country I wish I’d stay longer... However, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a great relationship with this country for many years to come. 
Next is Yamaha factory in Shizuoka and shipping the bike to Canada.  New adventures await and soon I will have only the 2 Americas to complete my circumnavigation of the globe.
Photos below will tell you the story much better than I can.

Spectacular scenery from Sakata to Tokyo

 Entering Tokyo

 Shibuya Crossing

 My homeless friend in Tokyo

 The future swimming Olympians of Japan
 One of the many temples in Tokyo
 Guess how I got this photo?...
 It was an oil tanker, so clean, you can shave in the steel of the trailer
 Tomoya, my biker friend whom I met in Yamanakako and helped me find a campground
 Three other young guys who showed me to the camp (good looking boys)
 View from my camp on the lake

 Mt. Fuji at 5 in the morning

 Amazing forests by the lake

 another spotless morning

 Mt. Fuji Flower park, a place where you want to spend the whole day

 The Japanese family I met while fishing; dressed in white, they looked more like surgeons than fishermen

 At the Festival of Fireworks

 Mist approaching in the evening

 I got some photos of the lightning (remember, it was pitch dark outside, I had to put the camera on Bulb and open the lens for 20 seconds to get these images)

 Mt. Fuji after the storm at 6 am, incredible how the same mountain has different aspects