Thursday, April 28th
Strong winds made for a slow and tough start today. I barely reached 9mph for the whole morning as I pushed against a headwind away from the coast and toward the countryside. Not many photos. The scenery had become familiar – flat farmland and repetitive city. I feel like I moan about the conditions i’m cycling in a lot, or the landscape I’m cycling through, but I think it is genuinely difficult to attain optimum conditions for cycling – good weather, quiet roads, interesting scenery – it’s not often i’ve found all three for long stretches in Japan, but you only need to get a a tiny bit to make up for it.
The rest station i’d camped in had served me well (Akabane Loco Station is it’s name, should anyone be passing through) and I left at around 7.30. It had rained a lot in the night but brightened up later in the morning. The coast must have been popular with surfers as a number of surf-shack type places were nearby (“No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem!”) but it was the wrong time of year. You wouldn’t last long without a shirt. The sea looked violent and I could see the white waves break against the lighthouse in the port and the palm trees bend in the wind.
I see two dead frogs on the road. There are big and dark coloured, and catch the corner of your eye the same way a rat on the underground would, even though they are not moving. They must have got stranded in the rain last night.
Out of the city, I headed for Lake Hamana. I took a cycle path part way around the edge of it, past a couple of sets of picnickers, it was quiet and green, not an inspiring day but a big improvement on the morning’s cycling.
I ended up in a smart neighbourhood of nice looking summer houses which feels like Beverly Hills in it’s neatness and wealth. Probably an idyllic spot when the weather heats up. Next I came to a town which seemed to be famous for oranges, there were lots sold at the roadside and a toilet housed in one which looked like something out of a Richard Scarry book. I can now tick ‘urinate inside a giant orange’ off my bucket list.
I managed to mostly avoid large roads for the rest of day, taking the routes 362, 40, and 81, which passed through small towns and rural villages mostly. Some kids in their matching bags and hats walking home from school together, more roadside orange sellers, the smell of timber. One town had two separate shops selling clocks, which seemed ironic given time seemed to have stood charmingly still in the place for years.
I stopped at a supermarket for some snacks for dinner (rice and tempura) then pushed on. 20 miles later I stopped again. I felt slightly sick and rooted to the ground in the carpark i’m sitting on. I’d done 60 miles but it felt like 80. The coffee and chocolate weren’t helping me like they usually do. I was becoming a bit confused about why and what I was doing which can happen to a weary mind at the end of a hard day.
I carried on still, the weather was worsening, some light rain, but not as bad as the forecast had made out, hopefully it stays that way. I felt better. The squeak of my brakes in the rain echoes around the trees surrounding the quiet road I was on as I stopped to take a photo. I could hear frogs and the rain fall.
I decided to call it a day an hour or so earlier than I would have. I passed by a well-kept park by a bridge which just had a certain calmness about it which I felt I needed. I’ve been reluctant to stop much before nightfall in Japan, knowing that it’s best to put my tent up late anyway, plus i’m not cooking my own food now, and an extra hour is about 10 more miles. But tonight I felt I needed to just sit in that park and do nothing.
I have four days to get to Tokyo now. Which should be enough, and without the need to rush. I’ll make it quite close to Mt Fuji tomorrow, spend some time around the lakes the day after, and break the approach into Tokyo over two days. That’s my plan. The weather forecast looks good, there is a row of yellow circles on my phone screen, and I feel optimism taking hold again.