Some impressions , observations and reflections on Japan — so far 

Tomorrow I will finish my meandering around Shikoku , and will be back on Honshu making a beeline for the northern tip and a ferry across to Hokkaido. Has been a roller coaster ride with so many interesting things to see along the way and people to meet . The odometer is now over 1100 kms and I am getting into the groove of settling into my work

The Japanese road builders have built close to 10,000 road tunnels for cars , and I have lost count of the number of tunnels that I have tackled. Some are worryingly long and busy. A few have pedestrian pathways but they are bumpy and dangerous to ride. The best strategy is hit them hard — run some excellent lights and go hard. The traffic is generally limited to 50 km per hour and tends to overtake with care. The cyclist is less of second class citizen than in NZ. They are a bit risky , but best to have stability that speed provides and give it heaps .Japan has some similarities to northland – at least here in the south. The land is lumpy and lush with rampant vegetation. The long ancient history means almost all arable land has been farmed or built on. It has an impressive beauty on the coastal roads with old fishing villages dotted along the entire coast. The scenery here on Shikoku has been outstanding. 

Japanese in general are very polite , anxious to help in an way possible and very generous. Tonight I am camped on a wild bit of coast with a bunch of Japanese campers who are enjoying ” Golden week ” a holiday period similar in intensity to our xmas or new year week . 

RThis very nice family are next to my tent and have gone out of their way to be hospitable , feeding me from their charcoal bbq and one young 12 year old girl ,Yura oginosako , was sat down next to me for an impromptus English lesson.

Food is excellent and shops are numerous in this part of Japan. The 7 elevens , Lawsons Stations are dotted along the roads and offer a huge selection of wholesome food . They will heat food in the microwave if you want to eat right away. They All have nice clean flash toilets inside the shop so life is fairly simple. Most of the loos have bidet functions which are great for staying wonderfully clean. With every day normally involving “sitting on ones date ” for in excess of 6 to 8 hours it’s fantastic to remain perfectly clean. 

The onsens ( Japanese Bathouse ) built around natural springs are an important part life here. People here have the highest per capita consumption of fresh water in the world . A trip to an Onsen will tell you why this is so. It involves the most thorough scrub down ever , Japanese men take this business of washing very seriously . It may be an unusual sight for a westerner — rows of naked men sitting on small stools on front of low shower faucets cleaning every inch of skin as if life depended on it. Their creation myths obviously did not include any absurd stories about eating fruit and discovering nakedness . They enjoy an uncomplicated acceptance of the body , young or old , it’s all unremarkable. I think this aspect of Japanese culture is very liberating and so much more healthy than our cultures prudishness . At day’s end I try to make it as close as possible to an Onsen , look forward to it 😊 of course after the wash one joins the others in these large roman style tiled baths – normally very hot.

Photo below is the famous Dogo Onsen in Matsayuma – goes back to the 1500’s

Just one of the 88 sacred sites that the pilgrims tick off the list. Saw this one guy doing it tough , he was on stilts — wonder what he had had done to deserve that degree of hardship – challenge 


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