The Big Ride

Japan: Konichiwa Hokkaido! – Part I of II

Amazing scenery, interesting culture
Being wet and cold, alot!
Things we are loving
Japanese Supermarkets - They have indoor seating, pre-made food and free power and hot water, Japanese Beer, amazing roads, Tunnels!!

After our amazing time in South Korea we were off to our last country of the trip and our final destination, Japan. Although we were in Busan where we could have hopped onto a ferry to cross the Sea of Japan we opted to head to the Northern Island of Japan, Hokkaido. You could describe it as the road less travelled on the tourist route of Japan, Hokkaido is sparsely populated compared to the rest of the country and has a great deal of large national parks, agriculture, hot springs and is home to the origins of the Japanese beer and whiskey industries. After two budget flights, and a lot of schmoozing and negotiation with the airlines to keep our baggage costs down we flew from Busan to Osaka and Osaka to Sapporo. Arriving in Japan was a major milestone, it was hard to believe that we had come as far as we did and that we had actually made it. We had cycled 24 countries and cycled half way around the world. Shockingly there was no celebration, news crews or balloons when we exited the airport, I guess the word of our arrival hadn’t made it to the people of Japan. So we did what we always do and brought the word to the street.

We were in for a little bit of a shock when we landed in Sapporo as we seem to have hit the fast forward button on winter. It was October at this point and down in the South of South Korea we had been enjoying perfect cycling temperatures with beautiful sunny skies. Not the case in Hokkaido. With prevailing winds carrying the brisk air of Siberia to the island temperatures were below freezing and we were layering up in a hurry. Having flown further north the days were also shorter, which meant colder nights and fewer hours in the saddle. In Sapporo we were hosted by a wonderful family in Hokkaido who had cycled toured Asia together and the husband had circumnavigated the globe by bicycle over 4 years! Ken and his wife truly saved us from the cold and dark as staying in hotels was rarely an option for us over the entire trip, however in Japan it was really out of the question.


We quickly learned that we had arrived just as a cold snap had descended on Hokkaido, and the next day we were greeted by some stormy, cold weather and our first snowfall since we had left Azerbaijan 10 months earlier. Undeterred by the weather we explored Sapporo for a few days, checking out some touristy spots such as the Sapporo open air museum which had some amazing traditional Japanese buildings which form a mock village with a working street car from the 19th century. We also managed to arrange a special tour of the Sapporo beer museum which was really interesting, and had a few samples of the beer while we were at it; including one brew which you can only get at the brew factory and another which you can only get in Hokkaido. Over the first few days we grappled with being in a new country figuring out where to get cash out (most banks don’t have international ATM service, Japan Post does and they are everywhere in the country), had a chance to give the Japanese that we had been learning for the months leading up to our arrival in the country a try… we had learned very little, but it truly came in handy as few people spoke any english. We also had a chance to pick up some new and much needed cold weather gear from our new Japanese sponsor Mont-Bell. We both reviewed new rain coats and down jackets. Which we ended up living in for the duration of our trip.


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