The plan was to leave Tuesday night, drive a couple hundred kilometers, stay in Nagaoka, then head inland to Mt. Bandai. It was a 3 1/2 day trip. It was also raining Tuesday night. I didn't feel like riding in cold rain for 5 hours on the expressway.
Plan B was to stay at home and watch the entire run of Prison Break on the projection TV in my guest house. There might have been copious amounts of alcohol involved in Plan B.
But then on Wednesday afternoon the weather looked a little better. So I headed out for a short trip to Okutama.
Hopped on the Chuo expressway and got the fuck out of Tokyo. A thousand yen in tolls later I was in the mountains. Okutama is where the city ends and the mountains begin. The train stops, and only those with a alternative transportation can continue. On a weekday it's practically a ghost town. All alone on a sweeping riverside road, I saw a sign for a primitive village.
The Japanese version of Smokey the Bear I guess. Please don't burn down the oldy style housing.
A couple mountains later, and the weather couldn't be better. Fluffy clouds, the air about 18 degrees Celcius. The CB1000 purred nicely as I did a lap of Lake Okutama. At one point, I saw what looked like a bridge floating on the lake.
Just some random floating bridge across the lake. No purpose that I could discern.
After crossing the lake and saying Konichiwa to a group of kids out on a field trip, I was hungry. Wish there was some ramen around. 2 minutes later...
Nonkiya. This place was recommended in my motorcycle touring book for their 手作りラーメン, hand made noodles. These countryside shops are great. There were a couple signed tiles from famous people who ate there. At one point, 2 little girls came running in. "Grandma Grandma!". They gave the old woman who just brought me my noodles a 4 leaf clover, then ran off to the other room to watch Anpanman cartoons.
I just happened to be on Ome Kaido, which runs all the way to Shuinjuku in Tokyo. So I followed the crowded road all the way home, sucking diesel fumes and racing other motorcycles along the way.
My route for the day was:
Chuo expressway -> Uenohara Exit -> 33 North -> 18 Northeast -> 411 West
Hakone and Fuji Ride
Ok, this one is a bit longer.
The weather was amazing on Friday. I was up early and on the road by 9am.
First step, take the expressway the fuck out of Tokyo!
2nd step... oh shit a Ferrari!
Nothing but motorcycles and Ferraris on the skyline roads of Hakone that day.
Hakone is a popular resort town. It's got a big lake. It's got hot springs. It's famous for some sort of sweet red bean pastry. But I wasn't interested in any of that this time. I took only a few photos, which you can see on my last post.
Zipping along the mountain ridge, Mt. Fuji was beckoning me. So on I went. Something buddhist looking was looming in the distance.
Some sort of temple. But there was no information in English. Here's the weird part. There were hella Chinese people there. In the parking lot, I was the only passenger vehicle. Everything else was our buses. And everyone was staring at me like I didn't belong.
But the temple grounds were gorgeous.
The walkway to the main temple was lined with Lion Dog statues from many countries.
At this one, some guy said to me, "Look... big penis!" Sure enough, there was a giant member on this guy. Thanks random Chinese dude!
Very little information on the English speaking world wide web, but this is the Gotemba Peace Park. Japanese wiki page here.
I was heading towards Fuji, when I saw a site that is dear to my heart.
The Kirin Distillery!
This is where they make the special "Fujisan Roku" whiskey. This is a great whiskey once you've had your fill of that Suntory whiskey that was featured in "Lost in Translation."
I joined a random tour bus and had a tour of the place. Actually, it was pretty standard. The highlight was at the end... free tasting! Everyone grabbed a rocks glass and hit the hard stuff. As much as you want! For free! Maybe I was supposed to pay, but by sneaking in with a tour bus of grumpy old men I was in like Flynn.
Oh... right... drinking and driving is bad. Actually, there is no tolerance in Japan. 0.01 limit I think. I might have been over just from sniffing the air. The security guard laughed when I told him I'd be back.
Mt. Fuji blocked mostly by clouds, I saw I sign I knew. Fuji 5th station.
Twisty roads are much more fun going uphill. Going downhill I always feel like I'm gonna loose control and go off the side of the road. Going up and it's like a battle against gravity, with the bike winning every time.
Here's the big guy from halfway up. That's the first snow of the season on top.
Japan stretched out like an endless sea before me.
My route for the day was:
Tomei expressway (550 yen) -> Atsugi to Odawara toll road (600 yen) -> Hakone turnpike (500 yen) -> 75 around the lake -> Hakone skyline (300 yen) -> 401 North -> 138 with a sidetrack up and down the 150 on Fuji -> 413 Northeast -> Route 20