Ok so I definitely did not cycle the whole way (I took ferries along the way too) but I have made it from the North of Japan to the South! I have cycled around 1,800km, plus probably quite a bit more if you include the countless times I got lost… It has been an absolute unforgettable month and a half. Here’s the trip in numbers:
15 prefectures ✅
0 punctures ✅
1 broken derailleur ✅
2 dramatic falls over my handle bars ✅
14 onsens ✅
6 vending machine coffees (poor effort I know) ✅
0 bear encounters (there was a very close call though, story for another time as I have been keeping quiet about this part as to not worry the rents… ) ✅
Countless konbini stops ✅
Endless amounts of rain ✅
And so many friendly locals that helped me along the way ✅
I began my trip in the most northern prefecture, Hokkaido and a few days ago I arrived in the most southernly prefecture, Okinawa. I’m not sure if it is the fact I’m not entirely finished my journey yet (read below) or the fact I haven’t cycled much the past few days, but for some reason reaching this point doesn’t seem as monumental as I had imagined. There was no ribbon finish line, no big celebration. Maybe it is the fact that I have packed so much in and I haven’t really had time to reflect on it yet, but if anything it actually feels a bit disappointing as I just want to keep on cycling.
It is probably the fact that the destination and the amount of kilometres I’ve been racking up was never what this trip has been about. Right from the planning stage I thought it would be kind of fun if I could make it to Okinawa but I was happy to just go with it and see where it took me. Without trying to sound too cliched, it has always been about the journey and the people and places along the way. I’ve racked up a few good stories that I will probably bore you with in the future which involve bears, sleeping in a boat shed, eating and connecting with people over local cuisine, finding a gun and getting drunk with locals.
I am now on my 5th ferry of the trip heading to a remote island home to about 600 people called Tokashiki. I will be taking a well needed break from the cycling as I will be working here for about a month as a lifeguard assistant on the beach (corona situ dependent). Living on this small island for a month with very few shops and the locals not really speaking English is definitely going to give me the time I need to reflect and replenish. It is hard to plan anything right now but after this I hope to get back in the saddle and do another leg of the journey back on Honshu and Shikoku.
This is by no means the end of this blog, I will continue to write and update even if it is sporadic. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to comprehend this trip. I have experienced intense emotions from over-joyous to feeling totally lost and everything in between. But as Anthony Bourdain once said “It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.”