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- Posts: 1663
- Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:46 am
- Location: Southeast Tasmania
The camping sites are great, toilets are generally very clean and good quality and on the whole either cheap ($12aud or less) or free. Campgrounds don’t have showers so make sure an onsen is nearby if you like having a wash, we really enjoyed the onsen part of the culture. A significant proportion of the campers are motorcycle tourists and these chaps (generally male, but not all) are friendly and interested in where you’re from and where you’re going. No matter who or how many people were in the camp sites, in general it is dead quiet by 8:30-9pm.
Camping sites were fairly busy in places until the 11th August, but there was no issue finding a site. 11th August appears to be a public holiday in Japan for national mountain day and the week containing it seems to be the week everyone has off work. We had no idea until it happened and unfortunately were headed to popular places in Lake’s Shikotsu and Toya, the campsites were so packed we could only squeeze in behind a toilet at one site and on the road verge at another, I’d suggest avoiding this week if you can.
The Japanese drivers are the most polite and courteous drivers we’ve experienced anywhere, France is great, but Japanese traffic is slower and drivers even more patient. In over 1000km of cycling we only had 1 memorable negative interaction and that was in a tunnel involving a logging truck (ironically given we come from Tasmania). A big thumbs up for Hokkaido here. WRT tunnels, there are lots and they’re not pleasant places to be, have a look at the prevalence of tunnels on routes you plan to ride before departing. Some have a wide footpath to ride on, many don’t, also check out the elevation of the tunnel entry and exit, some have several % of gradient and riding uphill in a 3km long tunnel isn’t great.
There are an incredible number of insects in Hokkaido during the summer, on the whole this was brilliant with swarms of butterflies and dragonflies, but beware the horse flies, mosquitoes and chiggers (or they may have been something chigger like). A couple campsites were rather unpleasant of an evening with the sheer quantity, diversity and speed of insects attaching to us that wanted to suck our blood. It resulted in numerous large itchy welts with puss oozing out for days.
Encountering a bear during riding is not a theoretical possibility, but from our experience and the people we spoke to it appears more a likelihood. Everyone seems quite blasé about them but there are lots of warning signs out and people commonly wear bear bells. Buy a bear bell and take care when riding.
As mentioned earlier in the thread, convenience stores are nearly everywhere and open all hours, and there’s often a vending machine for drinks where there’s not. It’s typically a very easy place to buy food in small quantities, as long as you’re not after fresh fruit and vege’s (other than bananas). We felt pretty guilty as we consumed more plastic in 1 month than we’d typically use in 2 years, although as water is safe to drink from taps didn’t need to buy bottled water anywhere. We found we were often standing in the carpark outside a convenience store eating during the day as there weren’t too many parks or places to sit, the Japanese often sit in their cars in the carpark to eat. A number of times we tried to go to a restaurant in a small town of an evening and they were full, convenience store meal instead.
Don’t go to Hokkaido if you want to see interesting towns or heritage buildings, there didn’t appear to be too much in the way of interesting architecture anywhere, the towns and cities are not ‘pretty’ by any means, cars also tend to define the way towns and cities are laid out. It is a place to go to for landscapes (rural and wild), wildlife, interesting geological features (volcanos, lakes, etc), food (Japanese food is quite diverse and great), polite (and friendly) people, a different and interesting culture with all sorts of quirky things the Japanese do differently. Or just to ride in general.
Would we cycle there again? Yes most definitely, but there are so many places in the world to visit and explore.
- Posts: 681
- Joined: Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:57 am
Yeah the bugs can be savage. Sounds like you may have run into what we were calling cookie cutters, like invisible flying leeches, only way you know you are bitten is when you look down and see the blood streaming from what looks like a leech bite. We were prepared, took Bushmans repellent and stocked up on Mosquito coils at Daiso, you can get a half size coil holder and coils there for 108 yen. The BBQ also helped, chuck a few sticks on to make some smoke.
The West coast south of Shakotan was pretty good, lots of sea cliff and stuff, and also lots of tunnels, one 80km day we spent more than 10% of the distance underground! I don't mind them that much now.
If you want some good info on touring in Japan, check out the Japan Cycling Navigator Facebook page. I've put up some posts there about tunnel survival tips, finding food away from convenience stores and such like.
But I think we've pretty well done Hokkaido now. And the middle bit from Kyoto upwards. At some stage I wouldn't mind checking out southern Japan, but I reckon we'll do a few other places first.
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