Friday, April 29th
Almost the end of April, and almost at Tokyo. The first mention of it on a road sign came this morning, ’Tokyo 199km’. The time and distance seems to have passed quickly, and in a different way to how it did when I started cycling in S.Korea, which now feels like it was just preparation for Japan, as i’m sure Japan is preparation for something else, and so on.
My camp spot in Haranoya worked out well, a quiet and rain free night, a sunny morning. The fish decorations around the park flapped a little in the morning breeze.
I quickly made it to Kakegawa, the next town along. The road passed alongside the train track and a couple of early morning bullet trains flew by, presumably on the way up to Tokyo. A climb followed, past multiple fields of what I think are some kind of tea, but I need to add that to the list of things to look up. The plant grows like a dense hedge, the kind you could make a maze out of. From above they form a pleasing flowing shape which would be worthy of a desktop wallpaper.
There was a great view over Shimada from the top. In the distance you could see the more mountainous terrain that would follow. I descended quickly through the city, and out the other side over a bridge, briefly chatting to a nice Japanese guy who was cycling some kind of circuit of the area. There were more bike shops than any of the other towns i’d passed through in the last few days, and more cyclists out and about to match.
Out of Shimada signposts led to a cycle track which followed the Route 1 highway, then a river all the way out to the coast. On my way up I bumped into a guy heading the opposite direction, Dennis, from Germany. It was good to have a conversation, my first in a while, he was heading down to Osaka and we swapped some tips on the roads ahead for each of us. He had made it there from Tokyo in just two and half days, which reassured me I wouldn’t need to rush.
We parted ways, I kept following the river. It separated from the main road and became an idyllic little track away from the business of the road. People were out walking dogs and oranges were sold on small shelves at the side of the track with an honesty box. I bought 4 oranges for 100 yen.
The track began to enter the city of Shizuoka. As I was cycling an unpaved section I found a shy tortoise blocking my path. It seemed stuck, and I was worried it would get hit by another cyclist as is was right in the middle of the track, but I decided it was best not to touch it a it seemed scared. I went back to my bike, a little bit ahead, then saw an old guy come along and start kicking it. After he’d gone I went back and found that he’d flipped it over and it was struggling to turn over. Hopefully someone can do the same to him.
The track carried around to the sea and signs appeared with a map on ‘Pacific Coast Bicycle Route’. I stopped at a section close to the beach. The sand was black, lots of driftwood – some quite large bits of tree, and the tessellating concrete blocks i’d seen elsewhere along the coast. Again I thought of Iceland.
I’d spoken very broken English with a guy on a bike a few minutes before, I noticed he’d turned back and now approached me on the beach. He handed me a business card, and said something about Tokyo, and mimed a camera taking a photo. Perhaps he wants me to send him photos once I get to Tokyo. I will try and translate the card.
I stopped at a cafe called ‘This Is Cafe’ as it began to rain. I ordered a green tea latte which arrived with a cats face in the milk on top which delayed me drinking it slightly.
I carried along the Pacific Coast Route. After the rain the sea seemed to have taken on a different colour. Unwittingly i’d cycled down the Miho Peninsula – a scenic piece of land sticking out at the edge of Shizuoka City, rather than cutting the corner off as originally planned.
A long stretch of seashore opened up, lined with pine tree forest. In the background, Mt Fuji. I wanted to stop and camp there, but it was only 3 or 4, so I carried on another 5 miles around the coast. Then I had second thoughts. I decided to go back. I had enough time to take it easier.
On the way I tried to buy food, my lowest moment was having my card declined at McDonalds, I just needed to eat something, anything. I tried four ATM’s which all refused my card. Eventually one in 7/11 worked. I bought some snacks and headed back to the peninsula, specifically Miho no Matsubara, the location of the legend of Hagoromo (thanks Wikipedia).
There was something special about the place. It had the same ‘end of the line’ feeling as Montauk in Long Island, another favourite place i’ve been. Perhaps it was the lighthouse. I walked along the shore a little and cycled the sea front. I decided to camp on the beach – a romantic but not very practical idea i’d wanted to fulfil. It was windy and had to weight the tent down with large rocks inside. It started raining too, but when it eased I could hear the sea. I hoped for a good view of the mountain in the morning.