Enjoying the Peaceful Beautifulness of Southern Japan

The photo above was taken while exploring one of our favorite temples on the west coast of Kyushu, an island situated in south-west Japan. Our experience has been more than enjoyable throughout the past three weeks and we are enjoying the entirety of Japan quite a bit. We started our journey through Japan in Fukuoka and have now almost covered 1000 km to where we are currently located, in Taketa. We have made many wonderful, exciting, and peaceful memories so far and I am excited to tell you about them.

I think that a little bit of context is needed before I share a few stories. We entered into Japan having quite minimal knowledge of what to expect. None of us have ever been here, and we had no idea what type of experience we were going to have. I have a few friends that have been to Japan before and they have told me many great things, but nonetheless I had no idea what it was going to be like.

I loved Japan from the moment I looked out the plane window as we flew into Fukuoka. The lush, diverse, beautiful forests were what caught eye first. The hills piled on top of each other and the topography quickly went from beaches to volcanoes. We flew in mid-morning and after a warm welcome by many airport employees followed by putting together our bikes, we were riding through the downtown streets of central Fukuoka.

It’s a dream to ride on Japanese roads. Especially when we’ve been riding through India and Southeast Asia for the past six months. The roads here are extremely smooth and are paved wherever we go, making it very enjoyable to be on the road. To add, the drivers here actually follow the rules of the road, which was surprisingly hard to adjust too, but after a few weeks we have adapted well. Personally, I think one of the largest differences between Indian/Southeast Asian roads and Japanese roads is that there are barely any motorcycles here. The roads in India and Southeast are dominated by motorcycles, whereas the roads in Japan are full of small compact cars. Overall, the roads here have been extremely smooth and it’s been very nice to focus on our surroundings instead of the road.

We have been camping almost every night while travelling through Kyushu and I have started to enjoy being outside almost 24/7. Before coming to Japan, my mom did a bit of research about camping in Japan and she learned that Urban Camping is easily accepted. So, on our first night in Japan we ended up camping in a city park along the coastline of Fukuoka. It was a little bit weird at first to be camping somewhere that was so open, but after camping in multiple city parks, sports fields, rest stops, and other random locations we have adjusted to Urban Camping quite well. The few places that we have actually stayed inside have been completely due to chance, but nonetheless very enjoyable.

Although we are currently finishing up our second rest day in the small touristy town of Taketa, we have been on the road for almost ten consecutive days of biking since our last rest day. The last time we gave our bodies a rest occurred simply because we were at the right place at the right time. After a long day of biking of no idea where we were going to sleep (which is actually quite typical in our current lifestyle), we ended up looking out at an island that was attached to the mainland by a tidal path. The main attraction of the island was a small hut that we had noticed while looking around for a place to camp, in which Mom had proposed for us to check it out and see if we could camp there. At first, I was quite skeptical and I thought that she was joking. Like honestly, it was an island that was attached to the mainland solely because it was low-tide, and we had no idea when the tide was going to be down again. However, due to the fact that we were entirely soaked because of constant rain for the previous two days and it looked like a potential option, Dad and Tarn decided that they would run across the rocks to the island and see what the situation was. A few hours later, we found ourselves sitting in a wonderful little wooden cabin with our equipment drying off over the porch and. It almost seemed like it was too good to be true. The cabin was pretty clean except for the few beetles, centipedes, spiders, and lizards that we so delightfully encountered while sweeping it out. We spent a rest day on our island and my Dad was able to search up what the tidal schedules were so that we were able to do a bit of shopping for lunch, dinner, and breakfast. It was quite enjoyable and it was pretty cool to camp on an island. Who would’ve known that we would’ve found ourselves in a deserted, well-kept, wooden cabin on an island in south-west Japan?!

Our route has been quite all over the place, but I have enjoyed every single day of riding and we have biked through some incredible areas. From the first day out of Fukuoka to where we are now, the lush greenery continues to amaze me. The temperature is also quite pleasant here as it normally ranges between 20 – 30 degrees Celsius. Although it has rained for a few days, it has been mostly sunny and we are now able to ride in the morning and the afternoon. (In India and Southeast Asia we only rode in the morning because it got too hot in the afternoon.) We biked directly south from Fukuoka and headed towards the islands of Amakusa on the west coast of Kyushu. In Japan, there are four main islands and Kyushu is the most south-west island. As I said before, we have biked almost 1,000 km while in Japan, adding to our overall total of just over 11,000 km (about 7,000 miles). After biking along the western coast for a bit, we cut into the mainland and headed towards another place that my Mom had previously researched, Mt. Karishima.

There are about twenty volcanoes that make up ‘Mt. Karishima’, but essentially it is an area in central Kyushu that is covered by a variety of volcanoes that range in activeness. My Mom had done a bit of research and had read a blog post where a couple had hiked around one of the multiple crater lakes of Mt. Karishima, but unfortunately that specific hike was closed due to a rather recent eruption in March. We did a bit of research in the town of Ebino, which was situated at the base of the grand cluster of volcanoes to get some more information about which hikes were open and what would be the best thing to do. After coming up with a brief plan, we happened to be sitting outside of a supermarket eating lunch when my Dad noticed that one of the volcanoes was erupting! I initially thought that he was joking, but I instinctively turned around and was surprised to see that an enormous amount of ash and smoke was arising out of the top of one of the volcanoes! We all started taking photos and I have put one of the photos I took on the photography page. We were quite lucky to be at such an ideal viewing spot at the exact time that the volcano erupted and it made our volcano experience quite memorable. The ash fortunately was blown in the opposite direction of us so we were able to bike up Mt. Karishima later that afternoon. We did a beautiful hike the following day and then continued our ride across the beltline of Kyushu.

Since then, we rode up the eastern coast before heading inland once again to where we are now. While on the coast I had the opportunity to go surfing one afternoon when we camped on a beach and I had lots of fun catching some perfectly sized waves for a few hours. I have now surfed in four different countries! (USA, India, Vietnam, and Japan!)

I am getting closer and closer to the end of the school year and have been extremely busy with the five courses that I am planning to complete by the end of June. Although I have been working on school much more, I continue to pursue my passion for photography and have taken many photos of our travels that I have featured on the photography page. Some of the photos have a little story within their description, whereas others tell a story on their own.

Here a few last points of what we are enjoying about Japan so far:

· Overall kind, peaceful, welcoming, happy and joyful essence of Japanese people

· Extremely relaxing and enjoyable Onsen’s (Japanese hot springs)

· Delicious variety of fresh sushi

· Beautiful landscapes and smooth rides

· Incredible Shinto temples

I would love to write about many more aspects of our last three weeks but it is currently 11:30 PM and we are planning to get up at 6:00 AM tomorrow morning to continue our journey toward Tokyo. Our next destination is Hiroshima, a place I have heard a lot about and am excited to travel to. We then plan to bike along Shikoku, pass by Mt. Fuji, and then meet up with my friend Takehiro, an exchange student from Odawara whom we hosted last spring for two weeks in Calgary.

It is crazy to think that we have less than three months left of our trip, but we continue to be having the time of our lives and we are enjoying every moment possible before we fly back to Vancouver on July 7th to finish the trip by biking to Calgary. Enjoy the many new photos on the food and photography page and I hope to post on the blog within the next few weeks.

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