The colorful wolf

October 28, 2010


Filed under: Cycling,Photography,Spirit of Japan,Thoughts,Travel — randy @ 21:43
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Five months ago I was here. I threw away most of my worldly possessions, sent my remaining stuff home to my parents and cycled 2000 kilometers from Tokyo until the southernmost tip of Japan, carrying with me nothing but the bare necessities. Four side bags of survival items and a backpack of electronics. No time limit, no pre-set course to take. I have never before in my life felt so free, and I’m not sure if I will ever feel that free again. I really miss that time right now.

Two friends I made on the trip, relaxing in the shade

Of course I realize that most of that freedom is just an illusion. For one thing, it’s pretty much impossible to get away from civilization in Japan. A second limitation was money and my visa status, which limited the duration of my trip, although I finished it long before either one became endangered.

A great area to walk around in

Leaving everything behind and going on a bare-necessities trip with no time limit. I’m not sure if I will ever be in a similar opportunity again, but to those of you who will: don’t hesitate! It will be the best experience of your life!

Travel the path!




July 19, 2010

Cycling Japan: more photos

Filed under: japan,Photography,Spirit of Japan — randy @ 21:05

Here’s some more photos of my cycling trip in Japan. This time I’m sharing some photos that I took on the Kii peninsula, from Mie, Wakayama and Nara prefectures.

After taking the ferry to Kii, I cycled along a big road when I suddenly spotted a youth hostel sign. I followed it onto this road and eventually had to climb a huge hill to finally reach the hostel.

I really miss the mountains. (but not the JUSCO)

This was quite a tough climb, but not too tough. It was also one of the most beautiful roads I’ve found.

Also taken at the aforementioned road.

Doing laundry at a business hotel. I had to leave again the next morning. My laundry was not dry.

Spotting a vending machine after a long period of cycling is like approaching the finish line after finishing a hillclimb.

Awkward raindrops on a poster of a politician. >_<;

Still more to come!

July 4, 2010

A recap: Spirit of Japan stage 1

Filed under: Photography,Spirit of Japan — randy @ 1:57

I’m back in Holland now for about two weeks, and I’ve been sorting the photos of my trip. While reviewing the photos I took I found that there’s really still a lot that I want to share on this blog, so I’ve decided to recap my trip here and share some new photos with you. Here’s part one, which covers the trip from Atsugi, Kanagawa until the first ferry I took, south of Nagoya.

Day 1: My last moments in the Atsugi Youth Heim

Looking back on the first part of the trip really makes me feel as if it hadn’t really started yet. All the way until Nagoya, and even most parts of the Kii peninsula, it just felt like a short trip, and I didn’t quite have the right mindset yet. The weather was cold, very cold. I camped the first night, and then climbed higher and higher while temperatures got lower and lower. It was common sense not to camp near the Fuji five lakes area, where snow fell and sakura blossomed, even though in Tokyo the sakura season was already ending.

Day 1: steep mountain roads

Day 1: searching for a place to camp

Day 1: Riverside camping in the mountains

Day 1: a closed camp site in the distance.

I reached my limits very quickly on the second day of cycling. My bicycle was too heavy, my pre-trip training had been insufficient and I was very much overweight. Not ideal conditions to climb 800 meters on a windy road in the mountains. I really, truly reached my limits that day, and I had to pause for about an hour under a tree at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, unable to motivate myself to go on. Other cyclists passed me while I was waiting, and finally I gathered the strength to go on. No walking, cycling in the lowest gear. I was tired beyond belief, and every time I heard a car approaching I prayed that it would be a small truck so I could try to ask the driver to take me to the top, because I really doubted my own strength. Eventually I reached another resting point in front of a tunnel, and some other cyclists were there waiting. I asked them if it was much farther to the highest point, as I didn’t know where I was. They told me I was already there. It was over. My trip to Mount Fuji: the worst part is complete!

Day 3: rain

Day 3: it's cold.

Day 3: low clouds over the lake

Things got worse from there. I took a break the next day because it was raining: I left my luggage at the youth hostel I was staying at and cycled around lake Kawaguchi without my luggage, in the rain. I felt bored and anxious to go on, so I set my mind on departing the next day. The next day it snowed.

Day 4: snow

I wasn’t prepared at all for this kind of weather. I expected it to be sunny and 20C, maybe a bit cold at night but not too bad. It was bad. Temperatures were near the freezing point and a nasty cold wind made me feel terrible as I cycled down 1000 meters back to sea level while it was snowing. I’ll never forget the moment that I woke up at the youth hostel and first walked outside to find my bicycle covered in snow.

Day 4: beautiful snowy trees

Day 4: an empty road near Aokigahara forest

(B, if you’re reading this, this is the same road we walked on in the middle of the night, two summers ago)

Day 4: a snowy lake

Day 5: Mount Fuji appears again

From there on things got a bit easier. The weather cleared up, the roads got flatter and I made excellent progress on the seaside road to Nagoya. This was the first time that I felt comfortable enough to try out some roads at random while following my compass, and I kept on traveling like that ever since. It was also the time that I faced my first misconception: in my mind I had thought that cycling to Nagoya would take about a day. It took three days. And the weather was still colder than I expected.

Day 5: Blue skies are back

Day 5: Ocean roads

Day 5: at a temple on a hill

Making good speed on the ocean roads I quite enjoyed the scenery on day 5. Day 6 was dreadfully cold and gray and I’d rather forget all about it. Day 7 smelled very nice. Here’s a video I took on day 5.

Day 5: All the way south of Fuji, ready to turn West

Day 6: supervising my bicycle at Hamamatsu

Day 6: off the beaten path

Day 6: on a sandy road

Day 6: camp site

I ventured onto a side road looking for a place to buy some food, which I found at a conbini. Then I decided to follow the side road to search for a camp site. Eventually the road changed from asphalt to rocks, and then sand, and it became impossible to continue cycling. I walked about a kilometer in the sand with my bike until I found a suitable camp site. Fortunately for me there I found a proper road nearby the next day and didn’t suffer much. Here’s a video I took while waiting for the sun to set.

Day 7: the road to Kii

Day 7: first ferry crossing!

I cycled on and on along the seaside until I ran out of land, and then I took the ferry to the Kii peninsula. That’s all the photos I’ve sorted so far, so more later!

June 17, 2010


Filed under: Photography,Spirit of Japan,Uncategorized — randy @ 12:25

All wrapped up

Holland won from Denmark! I watched the match in a sports bar in Atsugi with some friends. After that we also watched Japan vs Cameroon, which was incredible. Quite a good atmosphere. When the match finished it was about 1AM, and I went to fetch my bicycle and went to the bus stop. It took me a bit more than half an hour to take apart my bicycle and put it inside the bag. I managed to fit everything inside including 3 out of 4 sidebags. The bus would arrive at 5:10AM so I sat down next to my luggage and took a rest.

I woke up at around 4AM when an old man from the bus company arrived to prepare for the arrival. He wished me a pleasant morning, and then told me to go home because I could not bring my bicycle bag into the bus. New regulations, apparently. Rather than choosing to deal with this setback rationally, I decided to fall asleep again. 30 minutes later I woke up again, and the guy told me that there might be a small chance that I could ride the bus after all. Another 10 minutes later a second guy arrived and told me it’s no problem as there’s plenty of luggage space. The first guy tried to convince the second guy to make me pay for a second seat because my luggage was normally not allowed on the bus, but the second guy told him to shut up and stop being an asshole (well, in my mind this is what happened. In reality the second guy was a bit more polite)

And on we go! On the bus, then waiting at the airport, checking in my luggage and paying for overweightness, then an 11-hour flight and suddenly I’m back in Flatland. I mean, Holland. I miss mountains already. I took a taxi from the airport to my friend’s place in Amsterdam. All this time the reality that I was back in the country where I was born, without a way back to Japan, did not quite sink in.

The next day I woke up, my friend went to work, and I put my bicycle back together.



Amazingly, not a single part broke during the flight. I managed to put my bicycle back together in pretty much the state it was when I left Japan. Even better, because I waited until Holland to mount the new bicycle stand you can see under the rear sidebag.

When I was back in Japan I seriously considered the idea of cycling back home, but once back in Holland the idea just seems absurd. This is not a country of adventure, or at least it isn’t to me. I just want to get home, so I took the train. Fortunately Amsterdam is not so big, and I was able to zigzag my way towards the central station without too much trouble. Cycling in Holland was a big adjustment for me, as I had to cycle on the right side of the road instead of the left side. Amsterdam’s bicycle culture was interesting too: my bicycle usually stands out a lot, but in Amsterdam my bike was one of the least extravagant ones. It was also comforting to be able to park anywhere without having to worry about the police taking away your bicycle, like they do in city areas in Japan.

On the train

Sitting in the train the reality of it all finally set in. I had cycled over 3000km’s from Tokyo to Kyushu, over mountains, in the rain, in the snow even. It was an incredible trip, and I finally felt the feeling of victory. I’m coming home again, after four years of Japan. Although I am unable to go back to Japan, the country I learned to love so much, for now, but I feel confident that I will return there sooner or later. In fact, the idea of returning there might prove an excellent motivation for me. Right now I’m back in Holland, and I’m a different person than I was four years ago. I’m very happy about that.

Getting off at the final destination, Groningen, I had about 15 kilometers left until I would really reach the last destination on my trip. It was a good ride. There were no hills. Of course.


So close now..

The lake

I took a break at the lake near my home, the Zuidlaardermeer. I organized my things and prepared to surprise my parents at their home. They expected me to come home near the end of June, and they probably expect me to give them a call when I arrive at the airport. I don’t think they expected me to just show up on my bicycle.

Back in smurf village

The sky is incredibly blue here. I have never seen this particular color of blue in Japan. It’s intense.


I arrived home, parked my bicycle in front of the house, looked around, and didn’t see anybody. I walked around the back, completely didn’t see my mother sitting in a corner of the backyard, working in the garden. When I turned around and walked back I finally noticed her, and I very much enjoyed the surprised look on her face as she realized I was back home ^_^.

My father would come home from work later, and I parked my bicycle at the front of the house so he would notice it when he arrived. Again, things didn’t go quite exactly as planned.. He arrived, parked his car, and came in from the back entrance! He never noticed me until he saw me sitting on the couch. Oh well, a minor failure, but the surprise in general was a great success! I’m back home now. The trip is over.

So what happens next? Good question. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with my life, but it’s not something that I can just write down here in a couple of lines. The bottom line is, I have a goal, or a direction, that I want to work towards, but I haven’t really chosen how I will do that. I’m planning to spend the next weeks deciding my course, which will affect what my life will look like after I leave this safe place again. Besides that, I have plenty of things related to Japan still left to take care of, so I definitely won’t be bored.

And what will happen to this blog? Ever since I went to Japan five years ago I’ve been blogging – about daily life, Japan, cycling, photography, technology and my thoughts. This probably won’t change. The topics might be a little different from now on, but the core theme is always the same: whatever is happening in my life, I will write it down here. A life blog. This post is published live again, no time lag. I’m up to date, and will continue to rant about my life. 😀

Until next time!


Filed under: japan,Spirit of Japan — randy @ 8:57

I have a little secret to admit: I’ve been deceiving you all for the past few days. In truth, the blogposts I have been making for the past few days have been scheduled in advance to cover up for my surprise return to Holland! 😀

Now this might be a little bit messy: at the moment that I am typing this blogpost it’s 06/15, 8AM. I’m at Narita airport, waiting to check in my overweight bicycle. I have no idea if my oversized luggage will cause trouble or if everything will go smoothly, but by the time this is published (06/17 21:00) I should be back in Holland. I’m planning to surprise my parents my suddenly showing up in front of their doorstep with my bicycle, two weeks earlier than they expect me. On the 18th I will report on the results of the surprise. From then on things’ll be back to normal, and I will be back in Holland, never again to return to the lifestyle I experienced in Japan for the past 4 years… T_T

Note: I did a poor job of covering up my tracks, and if you had checked my tweets, the weather report in Japan or the EXIF data on the photos I posted then you probably would have found something odd 😉

Update, two hours later: I managed to stuff all of my luggage except my backpack and one sidebag into the bicycle bag, which weighed between 26 and 30 kg o_0. They made me take the air out of the tires and had me pay 9300 yen because of the overweightness. Ouch, but acceptable. Ironically, if I had gone to Holland two months ago without the bicycle, the total weight would have been more. I’ve lost over 10kg. IMO if you’re going to charge for weight, you might as well charge for body weight as well. Yes, I say that knowing that I would not benefit from such a deal. But it’s just more logical than having to pay for overweight luggage. At least they can weigh the passengers and then decide on a price-per-kilogram for the overweight luggage afterwards, based on the total weight of the passengers. That way would make much more sense to me…

Bye bye Japan. I will miss you a lot.

June 16, 2010

On the move again!

Filed under: Cycling,Spirit of Japan — randy @ 11:19

Yesterday I went drinking (again) with my ex-co-workers. Hanging out with them is a lot of fun, and it’s very easy to get back in the rhythm of relaxing during the day and drinking in the evening and night. The situation is worsened by the world cup football because I am going to great lengths to find places to watch Holland’s matches. As such I am kind of making myself stay near populated areas, so that there’s always a bar or sports pub around where I can watch the match.

My bicycle is back! I picked it up from the bicycle shop today, where it’s been since yesterday. I’ve decided to pay up and let the shop give the gears and the brakes a serious overhaul. It took about a week for the parts to arrive, but yesterday they could finally start working on my bike. When I arrived in the afternoon bikeshopguy was putting the finishing touch to the handlebar, covering it with nice soft gum tape. Pretty much everything gear-related has been replaces, except for the sprockets and chain, which were replaced two months ago before I left. The brakes have been fixed as well. I’ve got two brake levers for the front brakes, and two brake levers for the rear brakes, two levers close to the center and two levers at the front, in ‘race’ position. The race-position levers stopped functioning properly a long time ago and lost their strength completely. Now, with new brake wires installed, the brake levers are at equal strength again. Total cost: 20.000+ yen. For all the money that I spent on maintenance on this bicycle, I could easily have bought another (probably better) bicycle. I considered that during the trip: abandoning or selling my bicycle and then buying another one back in Holland, or not buying another touring bicycle again. At the time I thought that this would be my last touring trip, but after sitting still for a while I find that I can’t quite abandon my precious bicycle yet. 😀

New tape, new gear lever

This gear lever actually displays which gear I'm in.

Now that my bicycle’s been upgraded I’m ready to go again, and my stay in Atsugi is pretty much finished. I’m heading north towards Tokyo, a sad sad place to be for a camping cyclist. But if I want to go further north then I have to pass Tokyo somehow, so I might as well do it now, in a straight line (more or less). I got a new map-book of the Tokyo area so I’m pretty sure I won’t get lost. So far I’ve gotten by pretty well just by using my compass and the road signs, so the maps are just a bonus. A slightly heavy bonus.

New derailleur

More derailleurery

It feels like a new bicycle! Gears actually shift properly, and I don’t have to coax the lever to select the right gear anymore, nor do I need to change gears three times to change up one gear. Everything is smooth and perfect. I am very happy. Also, the new tape on the handlebars feels mushy mushy and makes me smile every time I touch it.

My bicycle is now hyperdrive-equipped

The rainy season is approaching (as you can see from the photos), which is worrying me a bit. It rained a little bit today, but it was nothing serious. The weather’s been great the past few weeks, and it doesn’t seem like the weather’ll turn (too) sour any time soon. Well, if the situation gets too dire I can always spend a couple of days in the same place and wait for the rain to pass. Back to the simple life!

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