25-May-2011 Cycling story in Japan from Salva (Spanish around the world cyclist 2006-2014)
About Japan... there has not been a single day without I said 'Japan is great' and in the same day 'Japan is terrible'.
I think it is a unique country and very strong culture but too much money and too much worries about to get more money. I do not see japanese people enjoying life. There is no relax ever, too much social pressure and very tight behavier.
I liked mountains and small villages, specially those around Shimonita valleys in Gumma prefecture, very quiet, not 7eleven, no traffic and beautiful traditional houses. Also beautiful temples with good atmosphere, wabi sabi. But cities are full of material things, colours and no room for one more tree or one more shop.
To cycle in Japan is very easy, no worries at all. Everywhere there is a public toilet with toilet paper, water, and food. I camped without problems in parks, rivers, museums, shrines... there is always a public place in every town. So it means that neither there is feeling of adventure or challenge. But to cook is a problem if somebody sees you heating the stove, they think you are making fire and they call police. They said I am a criminal! But I was angry because instead of coming to ask me, they call police.
Food in supermarkets is not that expensive. Always there are offers and I lived under 10$ always, maybe 6-8$ a day.
To have a bath is more difficult, specially in cold days. To find a river without anybody looking around can be difficult, but also possible. Sometimes I bath in a river but not very hidden and it was ok. Many villages in mountains have free onsen and sometimes I paid for cheap onsen about 300-400 yen, to relax. I love onsen culture, this is really great.
Weather is a problem since winter is very long and it rains too much. I spent many days without moving, just raining and raining, sometimes snowing. And everyday, after 9-10 am, the wind starts and it is usually very strong. Not many good sunny days in Japan for me.
Spring time was spectacular, with Sakura. But not only Sakura, this is just the beginning of many different flowers blosooming. It is spectacular how many different flowers and beautiful trees are in Japan. And many rivers and forests. I think Japan mountains are very nice for cycling, very beautiful.
People sometimes is very kind and generous. Very often they greeted me, tell me gambate kudasai, and also give me coffee or some rice triangles, or drinks or chocolates. Sometimes money too.
But most of the time they ignored me, I felt very lonely in Japan. Nobody wants to speak or spend a while talking. They go on their own and are not interested in sharing life with an stranger, not interested in meeting different style of life. Many days I did not speak with anybody and I felt sad.
Sometimes they can be very hard heart, and when it was raining, my tent was wet, I asked in temples if I could sleep outside, under the roof outside, and they said 'no' while the rain was pouring on me. I felt very sad for them. So I learnt to not ask and I waited for night and went inside a temple area, looked for a roof and slept there. If they see me, they do not say anything because they maybe do not want to confront an unusual situation, maybe arguing, so they expect I will leave in the morning and that is.
But japanese people have very good manners, very polite and they love beauty, small things, I like these things too. They always try to help me when I asked, but after that there is nothing else, they do not want to have a new friend and they leave.
So, maybe Japan is not a place for open spaces neither adventure, but it is a excellent country for a holiday cycling. The safest country in the world, clean, with facilities every km, and kind people.
If you want different things... like feelings, emotions, friendship, maybe Japan is not the best country.
I would like that majority japanese people were like minority japanese. Japanese people have a kind nature and if they travel abroad they develop feelings and relaxed behavieur, they want to share, to talk, and they are not worried about tight rules.
Also I learnt many good japanese things, like sense of honor and responsability, and effort to do things very perfect, beautiful. And the way that they make a family of the working collegues, but all these things and more, I learnt working and living with my friends, not cycling. This experience has been very good. I like self control japanese very much, very useful for life. Also I like that they care for everyone wishes and priorities.