For Australian Cyclists travelling and touring OS
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I've got a couple of weeks in early October and am planning a short Japan intro tour with panniers and stuff of the southern Kansai and Shikoku Is. areas. Never been there before and two weeks is a bit short, but the more I read the more I like the sound of it. If it works out OK I'll come back for a solid look next year.
My rough plan is to fly into Osaka and work south and then by ferry from Wakayama to Tokushima and etc. Pretty vague, but that's OK.
A couple of questions for anyone who may have done a bike trip from Osaka before:
1. Does the whole trip sound like it'll work ?
2. When I've travelled before I've packed the bike and some panniers in a cardboard bike box from a shop here, and then tossed out the box when I've arrived at the destination. Then chased up a new box for the flight home from the place of departure. Is that going to work OK with Osaka ? Will I be able to find a friendly bike shop when I get back there to come home ? Some of the stuff I've read suggests getting a regular bike bag to pack the bike into for transport, but........where does the bag go when you're touring around ? I'm hoping I can just chase up another box when it's time to come home. Realistic ?
3. I'm a bit anal when it comes to navigation- like to know where I am. And I've heard that the signage, not surprisingly is in Japanese script. So I was wondering if there's some downloadable map that can be used offline in the iPhone 3, that gives enough detail for backtroad touring ? Google Maps has plenty of detail, but only seems to work when you have plenty of reception. I'm not worried about being able to make phone calls- just using the phone as a GPS with inbuilt mapping. Is that possible ?
4. If I do use the iPhone for mapping offline, will it go flat in an hour or two as it does when using Google maps ?
5. Has anyone had any experience using these portable solar usb chargers on a bike ? I've seen people with them on their backpack when bushwalking. Any reason to think it'd not work strapped somehow to a pannier ?
Yes. My approach would be to allow one full day of travel to get to almost anywhere else in Japan, and Osaka, being central, is easy to get to. If you find yourself at the bottom of Shikoku, head to the Shinkansen and get a train back to Osaka. I reckon October will be a really nice time to ride over there, especially if the leaves start turning (called Koyo).
Reasonably realistic as far as getting another box goes, but you might end up making your own out of non bike boxes. I had a Ground Effect Tardis on my last trip there, which made packing up relatively easy and anxiety free. It added about 1.5kg to my touring weight; Pros and Cons. The main thing to remember though is that uncovered bikes, particularly tyres and chains, are unwelcome on public transport, including trains. You are expected to cover the bike somehow, and if you go to the right places in Japan you'll find silnylon bags made for the purpose. They're lightweight things that fold down small, but you wouldn't want to put your bike on a plane in one. Putting your touring bike into a Tardis is usually more involved than using these bags, requiring more disassembly, so the two bags aren't really useful for the alternative purposes. I have heard of some people being allowed to occasionally travel on local route trains without disassembling the bike.
Touring Mapple is a series of books designed for motorcyle tourists in Japan. They're really handy, showing campgrounds, Rider Houses, restaurants etc. Id recommend getting the one for your region and relying solely on it.
I don't know.
Here's a good article on this stuff. I use a dynohub and Biologic Reecharge to recharge things, although recently I've shifted to a notebook, pencil and film camera.
Here's my cycle touring CV. There are two tours in Japan there, and they're approached quite differently.
Lots of good info there, and I really do appreciate you going to the trouble to reply.
I figure I might spend a few hours before I leave Osaka arranging to get another bike box when I get back.
I'm still a bit worried about the mapping thing. I've had a look at the Mapple option, and unless I'm mistaken their maps are all written in the Japanese script ? Is that right ? I can cope with the Language: at least I can sound things out ! But in their script ?.........hopeless ! Surely there's a downloadable map in readable script. There is an iPhone App map for Shikoku which I downloaded, but it was hopeless: all in script, and doesn't go down into fine detail. Only any good for finding the way on major roads etc.
That's a great article you sent on the solar rechargers. I'm thinking the Instapark with the optional battery pack is work a go.
In regards to packing the bike: an idea I've never tried before but that a guy I know always uses is to buy a 50m (or so) roll of glad wrap and wrap the bike in that, with some kind of handles built into it. When you get where you're going, you cut it off and bin it. Sounds like a waste of plastic to me, but it also sounds convenient, and my friend swears by it.
In regards to the Mapple: Yes, you're right, it's all in Japanese (they use two syllabaries and about 2000 Chinese Kanji characters). Fortunately, a lot of the roads are numbered, and the ones that aren't you can locate by the ones that are, usually. I never had a problem with it. Actually, that's a lie. I did get a bit lost once looking for a camp on Kyushu, but it's more because the camp didn't look like a camp and wasn't signed as a camp. I actually have the 2012 Mapple covering the whole region of your trip. I'll send it to you if you send it back when you're done with it. PM me with your address if you're keen. As usual, maps make a fair bit more sense when you're actually there.
I did what your planning (way back) in 2000. I got to Kagashima before I had to turn around and come back cause I was running out of time. Today there is heaps more information around to help you plan. "Touring Mapple" is great, I still have mine. I was giving them by a Japanese tourer who had just finished his tour other wise I would of never of know about them. I was just running around with a map of Japan. Can't get to lost as there is always a town or shops just down the road.
Most times you'll find someone with basic English and if you have some basic Japanese should be able to deal with most situations. wakari masen deshita = I still don't understand Add a lost vague expression on your face will get you out of most problems JNTO have phone number you can call with an English speaker on the other to help you if you have problems, but be careful of the info they give you. They told me a ferry was leaving at 6pm when it really left at 1pm
Forget about getting onto a train without the dreaded "COVER!". All JR staff know that word in English. "COVER! COVER!". I couldn't get over to the airport at Osaka to catch my flight home as the toll road is no bikes and the train nazis were screaming "COVER!" at me each I tried to sneak onto the train. Lent up catching a taxi driver asleep in his taxi and before he woke up I had my bike stuffed into the boot.
Wild camping is easy, food is easy, drivers are cool. You will have a good time.
Dunno about boxes to come home. As I did this post 9/11 I just wrapped my bike up with tape to come home. The problems you say about a bag are true. And considering the airport/flight thing is only a small part of the trip. I found any bike shop I went into that they bent over backwards to be helpful. Quick google search turned up near the airport.
Hi Pete and Daggo,
Pete, Thanks again for your comments and offer. I've just sent you a PM about Mapple and etc.
Daggo, Thanks for all your thoughts too, and in particular for the search result regarding bike shops near the airport. Could be useful, and I'm thinking I'll make checking them out as my first priority.
Just as a matter of interest, when you said "I couldn't get over to the airport at Osaka to catch my flight home as the toll road is no bikes...." does that mean that you can't ride a bike to and from the airport ? Have to catch a bus/taxi ? My general plan is to head south east from the airport and head down towards the coast around Awase. So it might make sense to get a taxi out of the built-up area. Or is it all built up ? As you can see I really don't have much of an idea what to expect. It'll be an adventure !
Any where near a city is built up! Just hop on and ride. When I arrived at the airport I had one nights accomodation near by and the shuttle bus picked up my luggage (bike) and took me there. I spent my first night in Naruto on Shikoku to avoid any traffic problems going around Osaka. The problem was getting back over to the airport at the end of my trip. If you don't unpack your bike till you are away from the airport you'll be fine (COVER!). There is a train station right at the airport, so maybe ride the train away from the city to a more convenient start point. Also I arrived back in Osaka on a ferry which was way on the other side of the city which took me all day to cross, very stressfull and I didn't have a map! Just followed the airport signs.
On my trip I rode around the east coast of Shikoku till Sukumo, where I hopped onto a ferry to Saiki and then continued south along the coast of Kyushu.
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