|We have been on the lookout for a free camp for a while when there is a large sign saying campsite. We pull in not wanting to look a gift horse in a mouth, the price is 1600 yen about £15 so comparable with a pricier European campsite. We are alloted a pitch close to a toilet/ washing up complex and the place looks empty but nice. The Japanese do camp but only really in July and August it seems, several people we have spoken to about camping over the last few days have expressed concern that we will be too cold. It is a comfortable 20 degrees and we are toasty warm at night just in our lighter sleeping bags. The campsite is right on the seafront with pitches arranged in a long line just beyond a quiet road which runs along the seafront. We like it here and the weather is nice so we decide to stay another night, that night we have a paddle in the sea and walk along the seafront. At the far end of the campsite we discover we are not alone there are 2 more tents right at the far end. Next day we ask the campsite owner who is very friendly and helpful if there is a supermarket nearby, within a blink he produces a pre printed map with directions to somewhere called Plant4. We set off and pass a couple of small supermarkets confused as to why he didnt direct us to them, a few km later it all becomes clear we spot a sign and turn into the car park. Plant4 is absolutely huge, a bit like a French hypermarket but even more so, I feel the strong gravitational pull of the tools/hardware section and Karen after tagging along for a bit and getting bored eventually gives up and goes in search of something more girly. This store is incredible they have everything and its very difficult to not go mad as I have not been able to get anything in Asia and stocks of everything are running low. Karen returns some time later and rifles through my pile of stuff and rejects several things on grounds of cost, I have to justify everything I have bought and eventually we reach a compromise. The problem is that Japan is the first country in Asia to be stocked to Western standards and I can get stuff here that I haven’t seen in months but it is all really expensive so I have to limit it to the bare minimum. I am not talking about really exotic things either stuff like gaffa tape, cable ties, locking wire, fuses and nuts and bolts, the things that enable me to patch things up on the road. We go food shopping afterwards which is in the other side, the choice is equally massive and mind boggling. Japanese food is amazing and the choice of food and quality is incredible but again very expensive. We see fruit and vegetables we have never seen before and sauces and dried goods that are a mystery to us as its all obviously in Japanese. We find lots of useful fresh veg, some packet meals for emergencies along with lots of good ingredients and some fresh fish for dinner that evening Karen has palputations at the checkout but we do have a lot for our money compared with buying from small convenience stores. We then cram it all in the panniers which we deliberately emptied before we left and head back to the site. That night we enjoy a meal of grilled fish, sweet potato, seaweed and pak choi which is delicious. After washing up etc we take a longer walk along the seafront, beyond the campsite is a Tsunami evacuation point a concrete structure with ramps and streps up to it. Japan gets some wild weather, Tsunami’s (tidal waves) are not common but when they come they are devastating. Japan is more prepared than just about anyone and everywhere along the coast there are emergency refuges and tannoy systems connected to sophisticated early warning systems to alert people.
Japan also gets Typhoons and Earthquakes and Arthur showed me pictures on the way over of a boat full of Japanese cars on its side in a harbour the result of a typhoon.
The next day we have bacon and egg for breakfast for the first time in months which is delicious, later I work on the bike whilst Karen works out financial stuff, being perpetually by the sea the bike is looking a bit grotty and needs some tlc. Every bit of steel where the paint or powdercoat is chipped or rubbed goes rusty instantly with the sea air and I spend the day cleaning this up and giving everything a lick of paint and a liberal dose of silicone spray to protect it. I also manage to fix the sender unit on our electronic km speed, one of the wires broke off flush but I am able to carefully cut open the plastic case and reattach the wire inside. I also fix the power lead for Karens heated clothing.
Karen has heart failure when she finally realises how much we have spent in our first two weeks in Japan, we will be free camping a lot I think and having noodles for lunch rather than buying from convenience stores. Prices here are higher than Europe and its a shock to the system after Mongolia and Russia which are fairly cheap countries to travel in. We stay one more night at the campsite but prepare to leave tommorrow.
We are not away early as I am still finishing a couple of things off on the bike. Packing everything up also seems to take an age as we have a mountain of food to try and find places for, the theory being that we will try to bulk buy enough to last a few days as big supermarkets are so much cheaper than small stores. Eventually we get moving at about midday a shockingly late start but there was so much to do this morning. We carry on up the coast road, initially its busy stop start traffic but just as it starts to get more rural we spot a massive concrete Buddha. Intrigued we pull in to take pictures the place is closed but you don’t need to go in to see it its that huge. The road is getting more and more scenic by the minute and going through one of the many tunnels we are greeted with a spectacular and very photogenic cove.
The road hugs the edge of the beach and out to sea there are several high rock formations, there is just enough soil and vegitation on the tops of these to support a few stunted but determined pine trees. They look like bonsai in fact the whole scene looks very Japanese like a landscape in minature proportions. We take loads of photographs, the bottom of one of the rock pillars has a hole in it worn through by the relentless smashing of the waves making the whole scene even more picturesque. We move on and follow the coast road which is now a bucking swirling rollercoaster of a ride that disapears into dark tunnels and then re-emerges into the bright sunshine of a cliff edge before once more disapearing into darkness. Eventually the road turns inland and we ride through a reasonably big town by now we are starting to lose the light and are on the look out for somewhere to camp. We have pushed our luck a little tonight as the sunset was beautiful normally we would have started looking earlier as trying to find a free camp in the dark is extremely difficult. We stop for fuel and enquire about campsites. We are given a map and head off to try and find it. By the time we reach the right area it is really dark, we are definitely on the right road and fairly close as its close to an airport which we see signs for but we go up and down several times to no avail. Eventually we give up and go to investigate a park at the end of one of the tunnels we have been through. Its dark and deserted but we can see lights at the end that are obviously the airport so we stay fairly near the entrance but out of sight. We have just got the tent up and are about to cook dinner when two cars pull into the car park. Cursing our luck we stand still as statues in the dark waiting to see what will happen next. Japan is a very safe place to camp but we are aware that we are probably not supposed to be camping here, we always try to be as invisible as possible when free camping anyway. The occupant of one car gets out and gets in the other car still oblivious to the fact that we are only 50 metres away in the darkness. We can’t see what they are doing but after about 15 minutes goes by we decide they are up to no good anyway so we carry on regardless and start cooking dinner but in the lee of the bike. Eventually they part company and we have the place to ourselves again, I don’t think they ever did realise we were there. We are just tucking into dinner when we see a car with blue flashing lights driving alongside on a built up edge of the park. We dowse the headtorches and again are holding our breath to see what will happen next.
Its then we realise that its driving down the runway which goes over the road hence the tunnel. The police car carries on past and we relax again, we thought this was a small airfield but a 737 landing about 10 minutes later (and barely 100metres away)confirmed this was not the case. We fall into an exhausted sleep knowing that we have to out of here really early.