Ryujin Otsurihasi Bridge with Shigeru-san
 
Editing video takes so long… last month I enjoyed my first ride (but hopefully not last) in Japan. My friend and former colleague Shigeru-san was so kind as to offer playing tour guide for me on my recent business trip to Mito, Japan. It’s about 2 hours northeast of Tokyo. I rented a bike from a national network he recommended: Rental819. They required I arrive and be traveling with a native Japanese speaker, which was fortunate because I’m basically illiterate there. The bike I chose was a Harley Davidson Street 750, made in India. Why? Well, Shigeru rides a Kawasaki W800, and it seemed the HD would be well-matched. The bike worked fine, but the seat was painfully uncomfortable, and there was nothing inspiring about the rest of the bike. I like the irony of riding an Indian-made Harley in Japan. Lesson learned. Japan has tiered licensing, and bikes rate in classes P1 – P5. Scooters are P1, and literbikes are P5, so the P4 class HD was slightly less expensive than full-size bikes I’m used to. For reference, the other bike at Mito (again, way outside Tokyo with limited selection) was a Honda CB400. I’m sure I would have been happy on the CB because I’ve really loved all my Hondas and 400cc is more than enough for the riding we did. Here’s the route Shigeru-san graciously planned for us:
 
 
Day 1, Sunday, was very hot and humid. We encountered a ton of traffic as we neared the shogun temple at Nikko Toshogu, and had to stop along the way to rehydrate and cool down. After our convenience store stop, Shigeru-san had difficulty restarting his air-cooled W800. This delayed us a little, and we ended up splitting lanes along the curb (see video) to avoid an overheating encore before lunch and the temple. This was a holiday weekend in Japan, explaining availability of a Sunday-Monday ride. After a relaxing and worthwhile visit to the temple, we headed straight to the night’s lodging at a traditional onsen-style hotel, Pension Lakes Nikko. The hotel called Shigeru-san while we were at the temple to tell him we needed to arrive soon to avoid missing dinner. Enough said! The ride there was short, mercifully cooler than the morning, and included the Irohazaka winding road. Switchbacks were a great way to finish the riding day.
 
 
We returned down the switchbacks carefully. It was a beautiful ride even in the rain. This area is popular with sportbikers but traffic was far lighter on Monday. After a mid-morning coffee break and excellent roadside ramen stop, we spent a couple hours at the Honda Museum in Motegi. I could have spent all day. We didn’t even visit the race track but could hear high-performance motors screaming in the distance through the wooded hills and curves. My rental HD was due back in the evening, so we needed to move on to the second stop, Ryujin Otsurihasi suspension bridge. This is not a vehicle bridge, but famous among hikers and bungee-jumpers for scenic views. We did not jump : ) but were content to watch several other daredevils. Here’s the video of the trip, 13 1/2 minutes in total.
 
When I go back, I’d like to ride Hokkaido. Shigeru-san has a trip planned there next spring, and I’ve heard it’s motorcycle paradise. The northern island does experience winter though- so if you go- I’ve heard the month of May is about the best. Finally, the weekend after my business trip there, I had a grand sendoff from the rest of my former training colleagues there: Nitanai-san and Horii-san joined us for lunch at the Haneda airport. See you next time, my friends!