030: Hirata, Iga — Tahara

Wednesday, April 27th

I slept well behind the blue elephant and got up early to head out to the coast, and along to Toba where i’d get a ferry from the peninsula.

It’s misty to begin with, and a pretty descent through trees toward the city, followed by flat farmlands. An easy 10 or 20 miles to begin the day.

I pass through the city, it seems busy and unremarkable, I pass a few people on their commutes. On the outskirts are the car dealerships, outlet stores and large casinos which seem to be a feature of any medium sized city here.

I take some quieter roads for a while, close to fields, it’s easy to get lost in them, the streets are narrow and have hand painted signs to look out for school kids. But the population seemed elderly. I saw an old man checking his mailbox, a few neighbours exchanging quiet words.

I’m using the word ‘bleak’ more than I would have hoped or anticipated in Japan. But for some of the roads i’ve chosen to cycle down there isn’t a better description. Heading back on the main road I saw more abandoned things – shops, cafes, restaurants, cars, and boats, than I could ever hope to photograph. A Cadillac with deflated tyres, buildings with signs removed, or signs that were two-rebrands and several decades out of date. It continues like this most of the way to Toba. It’s not all bad, bleak can be beautiful too, it just seems all the old things have been left to decay alongside the new, making it feel like your travelling through the past and future at the same time.

As I got closer to Toba the surroundings took on that familiar faded seaside feel. The pinnacle of this being an old aquarium. In the car park, in front of pink and blue geometric flooring, a murky tank too small for the two huge sea lions swimming circles inside.

The coastline itself is beautiful though. I see it from the ferry, a few small islands dotted around too. It’s clouding over and the sea is bumpy. The crossing takes an hour and was expensive but necessary.

I took the coastal road as soon as I headed out of the terminal, it climbs up on the cliffs, overlooking the beach and rocky shoreline below. An overgrown cycle track, a little like Shimanami Kaito but after an apocalypse, goes through tunnels and trees and eventually winds up at the beach. Everything is deserted and slightly spooky. The beach has the gothic feel of Vik in Iceland, a cafe I wanted to go to is boarded up and chairs in the garden are being claimed by the grass.

Then it starts to rain, heavily. I’ve realised it’s actually more comfortable to stay cycling in shorts rather than trousers when it rains, at least while it’s warm. It’s almost refreshing.

It’s getting dark and I’m thinking about where to camp. I follow a few dead ends near some greenhouses but I don’t like the feeling there, there are rotting crops everywhere. I carry on and three miles later find a rest station close to the beach. The kind of place motorists stop temporarily to use the toilet and smoke a cigarette, not usually a destination in itself. It’s big and empty, the are some benches under cover, a row of vending machines, toilets, and, best of all, free wifi. It’s perfect.

I set my stuff up on one of the benches, working on a small photo project I had an idea for, and charging my stuff using a walk socket conveniently placed. There’s a couple of other guys I see, we say hello, there seems to be some unspoken understating that we’re all probably slightly up to no good.

The lights go off automatically at 9 under the covered area i’ve made my workspace. I put my tent up in a corner spot on some grass by the buildings, it’s sheltered from the wind, but not the rain.

I can pick the wifi up in my tent.


DJ Shadow – Building Steam With A Grain of Salt, The Walkmen – Donde Esta la Playa, Sun Kil Moon – Space Travel Is Boring

Map (via Strava)