Monday, June 11, 2018


Originally, I had not planed to stop at Tokyo. I thought I'd continue from Fuji further north. However, during the trip I realized that without the ability to communicate with the locals, I am getting to the point of 'seen that, done this' feeling. Shrines and temples were pretty much the same as those previously seen, the views almost the same, so Mount Fuji was a good place to end my trip. But, since I could not take my bicycle on the train, I cycled to the western outskirts of Tokyo. This was the downhill treat for the past few cycling days of uphill. So mount Fuji was not to be the last point of the trip.
After a day off, which I used for visiting Tokyo's city center (a train ride), I continued by bicycle the next day to Tokyo, found a bicycle store that gave me a carton box for my bicycle, and there was the end of my trip and visit to Japan.

Fuji San

The road to Mount Fuji, Fuji San, was marked by a big climb over the mountains.
Before arriving to the point from which I was to climb, I could see Fuji from 54km away!

The mountain is just short of 4,000 meters above sea level while the surrounding mountains are less than 2,000. So it was visible most of the way until I got close to the mountains.

All I had was 34 km to go, and I'd be there. The first 15 where a mild, yet constant, up hill cycle. The next 7km where less mild... The last 2.5 km where very steep. From an elevation of roughly 800 meters above sea level to 1,100. But on the bright side, this was a shortcut that took me off the main road to a beautiful forest path.

I reached the other side just to discover that the mountain was covered with clouds. I found a backpackers' hotel in town. Although the room was Japanese style, the other occupants were predominantly western.

This meant that for the first time on this trip, I had actual conversations with an Australian couple, a Brit and two Canadians. But most amazing was my conversation with Masa, the Japanese receptionist who had lived in Jordan for three years and cycled Israel from Mount Hermon to Eilat!! He was extremely knowledgeable on all matters Japanese. History, geography and points of interest in, but not only, Japan.

After two nights in the hostel, based on the recommendation given to me by Saba, I headed to Tokyo.

From Kyoto towards Mount Fuji

Leaving Kyoto for Mount Fuji, in my mind was the last leg of my trip.

I thought that I’d cycle for a few days, reach Fuji-San (the Japanese name of the mountain), stay a day or two and then make my way to the Tokyo airport and get a plane to Okinawa where my flight home awaits me.

All above indeed happened. But I was reminded of the joke about getting signs… The rear gears started to make strange noises. I did my best to fix them and I seemed to have managed. Then there was a thumbtack stuck i my front wheel. I have self sealing tubeless tires, so that took care of itself.
Then I heard another noise. It was the front brake pads and brake disks. This is a typical wear and tear event, especially after so many kilometres of up and down hills and mountains. I have spare brake pads but not the brake disk (rotor). Found a shop, and was good to go.
The big sign was the crack that developed on the top tube of the bicycle.

Bamboo is an amazing material. Any other frame would have to be scrapped immediately upon the discovery. Last year, I discovered a crack 7,000 km before the end the trip… So I was not worried this time.
My bicycle was not the only one to develop cracks. On the way, I ran into these guys...

After a night in a campground, I got up, started to cycle and this time the rear gears bent out of shape completely. The very nice campground manager drove me into town to the cycle shop. Gears fixed and I was on my way again….just to find yet another crack on the top tube. I will replace it when I get home.

The last 100 km or so to mount Fuji are in my next post.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A tale of two cities

I am referring to Osaka and Kyoto together, not only because of their geographical proximity, but because both are modern cities that are built around the ruins or remains of castles, shrines and temples of a long gone era.

Despite the attempts to hold on to the past, the Osaka castle, for example, restored this last time in a way that from the outside, one may think that a castle is ahead of them, but inside, a modern museum with elevators, computer screens and gift stores are to be found.

Osaka itself is a modern city. Nevertheless, a once a week market, that encapsulates and old tradition of bargaining takes place. I was lucky to be in Osaka on a weekend so I got to bargain with a local while being interviewed by a Tokyo TV network.

Later on, one of the sellers in the market recognized me and invited me to join her running group for a BBQ that evening.
This was my first social event in Japan. It turns out that hardly anyone in the group actually runs, but the do enjoy a beer and grilled meat and veggies.

The next day, I headed to Kyoto. At first, following a trail that turned out to be fit for hikes bun not for cyclists.
I did make it to Kyoto that evening. The next day I toured a bit and took advantage of the modern city's perks and fixed my bicycle and gear.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Temple or Shrine

Shikoku is famed for the pilgrimage of 88 temples.

I crossed over, by ferry, to Honshu, the main island to learn a bit more about Japan.

A temple is a Buddhists place of worship, while a Shrine is for the Shinto religion.

I learned this when asking a Shinto high priest to explain to me about the Temple. "Not temple, shrine!" He calmly explained.

I noticed that when you see statues of animals or humans, you are at a Buddhist temple. Graves of important lords or priests typically mean that you are in a shrine.
A shrine is more modest, as far as I have seen so far, than a temple.

A shrine

A temple

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