From Russia to Japan
110 days travelling and 20,000 km
After 110 days travelling together, sharing 20,000 km in the saddle of adventure, we part ways. Matteo heads home passing through Moscow, while I continue east.
Today, in this part of Russia, the temperature is -3 degrees! What do I do? I decide to build two handguards out of detergent bottles and fight the cold head-on! I ride all day through snow and ice, with a tight grip on the handlebars whilst clenching my teeth. Whoever doesn’t know what winter is, truly learns about it first-hand while travelling through Siberia. Fortunately, after the coldest spot in Mogocha, snow and ice finally disappear and in a few days, I reach Vladivostock, in the far east of Russia!
This is the Russian city with the largest port facing the Pacific Ocean and its name translates as “Dominatrix of the East”. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly not far from it: before me is the Sea of Japan!! There are two enormous bridges crossing the Zolotoj Rog Bay and the Easter Bosphorus Strait, one being over 3km in length. I take a stroll there, walking past squares, monuments and through the city streets….Obviously, I buy some oil for the motorcycle, as even if the Trans-Siberian ends here, my trip continues.
Whilst there is more land to the east, my journey goes on. I load the motorcycle and take the ferry all the way to the land of the Rising Sun!
I arrive in Japan and spend the day taking care of practicalities. In the evening, I can finally mount my motorcycle and cut through all the alleyways around the port with a surreal sunset as a backdrop. I follow the road, but I can’t turn down the call for adventure and I end up take lots of detours to explore what tempts me. I don’t want to miss a thing, so I end up getting lost just wandering around. I’m in Japan, on the other side of the World, and I still can’t quite believe it!
This is not the Japan of popular imagery, a metropolis consisting of super-technological skyscrapers, six lane motor-ways and huge shopping malls. Villages and the volcanic mountains are the true soul of Japan.
Tottori, Satoyama, Matsumoto, Nakano…. The regions of Kyoto, Nagano, Akita and Aomori all the way to the most northerly point of the largest of the Japanese islands. And then down to Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, where just before the ex-nuclear station, I take a turn inland passing the no-go zone to return to the West Coast.
At Nozawa Onsen, a city within the region of Nagano, there’s lots of space for animals and nature.
Here wonderful snowfall greets me! I discover there is a park, half-pipe and plenty of places to “free ride”: how can I resist? I want to have fun, enjoy the snow and relax. This is a much needed stop where I can rest my mind for a while and reorganise my ideas.After some time for reflection, I get back to exploring the North of the country, passing through small villages with populations of no more than 3,000 inhabitants. I then head towards the capital, where the population density is extreme: over 13 million people. Tokyo is absolutely fantastic! Its beauty by day and by night is evident: at night, the place is incredible with thousands of flashing neon lights and bright colours.
The desire to live it all keeps me awake and besides, I can always drop into a capsule hotel if I feel like a nap. The things which surprise me the most are the kindness and the respect people have for rules. I find this everywhere I go, which gives me a sense of security. Good manners are not only found in temples and sanctuaries, but also in the streets and on the underground. In Tokyo, you are surrounded by high technology but around any corner, may just find a natural park with a hundred year old temple at its centre.
Despite being a frenetic metropolis, if you wander off the main routes you can experience some magical timeless moments. I definitely don’t want to miss the famous crossing at Shibuya, one of the 23 districts within the capital: here you will also find the statue of the dog Hachiko, faithful like my old Kawa! During my 10 days in Tokyo I see as much as I can. Then it’s time for Osaka where I find there’s a more relaxed way of life, people are more open, more inclined to have fun and definitely more inclined to speak with a gaijin (stranger). And, the cherry on top, is that this is the capital of good Japanese food!
In Kyoto, city of the thousand temples, I discover and am fascinated by the old Japanese culture and Zen religion, the tea ceremony with Geishas and Samurai history. I have seen so much whilst spending 2 months in Japan, but now it’s time to say goodbye…… or as the locals say sayonara!
Now that I am officially part of the 6% who ride motorcycles all year round, it’s time to leave the saddle, take off the helmet and hang up my motorcycle keys. I park my motorcycle at Nozawa Onsen. Together we have travelled 30,000 km through 18 countries overcoming bureaucratic barriers, economic issues, climatic discomfort and all kinds of little inconveniences along the way.
This trip has been the realisation of a dream, it has allowed me to grow as a person and has taught me a great deal. I’ve realised that if you have an idea, a desire, a passion, even if you think it would be too crazy or too difficult to make it a reality, you only need to follow it… and you will surely find yourself heading in the right direction.