When I left Mt. Fuji on Sunday, there were mixed feelings running through my heart: I thoroughly enjoyed Lake Yamanaka and the time there. I rested and got my batteries charged for the next leg. I was apprehensive of my last destination in Japan: Yamaha Factory, the place where my bike was born! I was in contact with Kenji Takizawa San (Sir) for a while, but I had no idea what he had planned for my visit.
The day was humid again and as I woke up I somehow pinched a nerve in my spine and I could hardly walk. It was a painful packing experience and the climbing on the bike was accompanied by shrills of pain. I rode very slowly, taking in every landscape of this fantastic country, because I knew soon I will leave Japan and I felt very sad. This place enchanted me with its culture, places and people and I didn’t want it to end.
39.000 km from Swakopmund, Namibia, 23 countries and a lot of sweat, cold, dust and rain, I reached Yamaha Factory in Iwata Japan, thus bringing my bike back to her birthplace. It was a day to remember: Mr. Kenji Takizawa arranged in advance for my welcome, starting with a surreal Oguni Shrine ceremony where the monks had special welcome and well wishes for my expedition and my project. The atmosphere at the Temple was magical: I was asked to wait in a beautiful room with sliding rice paper doors, I was served hot tea by a lady dressed in an amazing kimono and the music and movements during the ceremony were incredible. The sound of the Japanese drum was accompanied by soft, gentle flute music. I couldn’t believe that it was me who was experiencing this!
Then a fantastic Kobe beef dinner, Japanese style (drinks and all) and then we headed to Kenji San’ home, where I spend the night in a true Japanese place. His family (Saori, Kenji’s wife, Yudai and Tomo, their two sons), embraced me as one of their own and I felt extremely welcomed there. This brought me closer to understand the Japanese culture and it only opened my appetite for more.
In the morning I arrived at the Communications Plaza at Yamaha where dozens of employees were waiting for me with flowers and gifts. After a photo session and a short introduction of my itinerary and project, I visited the Showroom (where I felt like on a Star Trek film) and then the tour of 2 factories, where I saw the assembly line where my bike was born in October 2010. The factory is spotless, the technology mind blowing and the cleanliness, discipline and organization unreal. Robots were moving everywhere, carrying parts and spares to the appropriate places, and I saw bikes coming out of the boxes in pieces and few minutes later, completed at the other end of the line, where they were sent for packing. I could read the stickers where these bikers were sent: Peru, Dubai, Durban, US, Canada, etc. The logistics behind all this are immense, and yet, everything was working perfectly.
What shocked me the most was the unassuming attitude of the Yamaha executives... even though this is a work of genius, they were acting as normal as the everyday guy, as if this is the norm here and no one feels special. I beg to differ... I have been in many places in my life, but I have never experienced the level of professionalism and perfection I have seen here.
I want to specially thank my friends and my dealers from Swakopmund: Jan Soderlund, Anja Soderlund and Mario Prinsloo, who, not only for being my fantastic Yamaha people in Namibia, but who became close friends. I want to thank Yamaha South Africa for connecting me with Yamaha Japan and last but not least, Mr. Kenji Takizawa San, Mr. Ueguchi San and Mr. Fuji San, who have treated me royally while in Japan and are currently helping me with contacts in Colombia and Chile with the Yamaha People there.
I have always loved the Yamaha products and I am in love with the Super Tenere. The clock on the bike shows 67.000 km, done through some of the worst terrain on the planet and I changed no parts, I had no broken pieces, and I still ride on my original brakes.
I know very well that there are good bikes out there, but I stand by my Yamaha, because the durability and quality of this machine saved my life in many instances and took more than half of this planet.
My bike now is packed in a crate and shipped out to Vancouver where a new adventure awaits. The shipping process is such an involved process, that without the help of Kenji San and Ueguchi San, I would have been buried in paperwork that I didn’t understand and I would have probably never see my bike leave this place. It was their dedication again that saw me complete this process.
My last night in Japan was spent with the Takizawa’s again and a friend’s family watching a spectacular 2 hour fireworks show, the biggest in Japan, while sitting in a beautiful Traditional Japanese home, eating Ramen noodles and sipping tea. Everything in Japan is deeply rooted in my heart and it will never go away. I am in awe of this nation which managed to stand on top of everything else and to find a balance between modern and ancient, between stress and peace and to produce things that help the lives of the entire world, from machines to music and everything in between.
I am now spending the last few hours before the flight writing this blog and eating my last spectacular meal here: a French Creperie (if you can believe that) run by a young Japanese family in the little village of Makinohara, who spent some time in Paris and opened this shop here. The crepes they make are not only authentic, but incredibly tasty, fresh and full of imagination. You will see some photos below.
I am closing this post with great admiration in my heart for the Japanese people and for my new friends in Japan... Thank you everyone at Yamaha for your warm welcome and your friendship, thank you Takizawa family for your hospitality and kindness, none of which will ever be forgotten.
I am watching the remainder of Typhoon Halong sweeping the beach with high winds and powerful rain, and I know that on the other side of this ocean lies Canada, my country, where my family is and I have new challenges ahead. I look back to my experience here and I take a bow to my favorite country in the world.
On the way to Iwata