When you’re a pussy in heart and kidneys*

Hello, Japan! In just one hour we flew from Busan to Osaka, our final destination before heading ‘home’ to Australia. 
 

As we enjoyed our biking trip in Mongolia so much, we decided to do the same in Japan. A simple google search got us in touch with Gareth at Globalwheels, Osaka. He offered us the perfect solution. We could rent two good quality Trek bikes with panniers for a fair price and it would be possible for us to ride from Osaka to Tokyo. Once we arrived in Tokyo, Gareth would arrange two boxes and a pickup service for the bikes, perfect! And yes, it was our initial plan to drive all the way from Osaka via Kanazawa (over the Japanese Alps) to Tokyo in just three weeks. We have a talent for overestimating our own abilities, I guess.
 
Before embarking on this new adventure, we enjoyed the city of Osaka. It’s a big city with lots of nice restaurants and bars. We especially enjoyed the Dotonbori district. It’s a couple of streets filled with food stalls & neon lights. There’s also a Glico Man. As we expected a statue like Manneken Pis we didn’t find it at first, and once we did, we didn’t really understand what the fuss was about. It’s just a neon sign in between all the others… Anyway, although it rained pipe stems** from time to time, we enjoyed the city a lot! To top it all off it was Halloween night, the evening before our bike trip. We went and saw things we never imagined possible.
 
On the 1st of November we put on our biking pants and hopped on our two-wheelers. I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about leaving. Mainly because I didn’t really know what to expect about biking in Japan, after Mongolia. It was a real challenge to bike in Mongolia but there were also a lot of positive things about it. No need to worry about going to the toilet (nature is everywhere) & you just put up your tent for the night wherever you want. Japan is civilized and proper, so if you need a toilet you will have to find one. Next to that, camping isn’t legal. But then again when you read other travel blogs, they tell you that you can pitch your tent just about anywhere. As long as you’re happy to wait until it’s dark. 
Japanese people & the police are more than likely to not say anything about you wild camping in the middle of the public park… 
 
Well when it comes to stuff like that I’m a pussy in heart and kidneys*. I know it’s not legal, I also know nobody will say anything and that there is no threat or danger, but in the end, I would still rather avoid it & be a good girl :). As there are lots of written AND unwritten rules in Japan this was going to be a challenge for me.
 
Our first goal was to get to the city of Koyasan, south of Osaka, the next day. The Lonely Planet describes it as one of Japan’s most rewarding destinations. So, we thought, yes let’s go there! We needed to cover as many kilometres as possible on our first day, because we still needed to take a bus and train to get there (we still didn’t realize that it just might be a bridge to far). During the previous weeks, two Typhoons hit Japan. While biking around we could clearly see the consequences. We also had to take a detour because one of the roads we wanted to take was closed off. Again, we had to make a lot more height meters than expected on the first day (I see a pattern).
 
On google maps I saw that there was a camping ground not too far from Koyasan. Yes, I really wanted to go there & sleep somewhere where it’s legal. Upon arriving we realized that that might just be a mistake. If you think about it, it makes sense that the camping grounds would be closed after a typhoon passing just a couple of days beforehand… 
My dream of sleeping on legal grounds vanished and we had to find a spot in the woods. We were almost about to start cooking when a car stopped just below our camping spot and we saw flashlights searching the premises (it was pitch black by then). Remo wanted to ask if it was okay that we had put up our tent but as an answer he got; tento no! Just a couple of minutes later a police car stopped by… Really?! Luckily the police man was really friendly, but we had to move anyway. We think we were camping next to a temple. They moved us to the official (but closed) camping ground and charged us about 25 euros so we could pitch our tent on a stone ground. Thanks!
 
When lying in the tent that night we also realized that we would not be able to make it to Koyasan and back in time (we had already made reservations in Nara & Kyoto). So, the next day we decided to turn around (Well, hello pattern!). We were rewarded with high hills, fast downhills, beautiful nature & fresh fruit that we could just pick from the trees. We were on our way to Nara and decided to avoid official camping grounds, they would be closed anyways, so they were not worth the detour. We did find a map with camping spots and resting places from another bike packer. So, for our next camping night we decided to go for one of those rest areas not too far from Nara. When we were 5 kms from the place I could feel the next disaster coming up as we were just leaving nature and biking into civilization again. And my biggest fears became reality. Upon arriving it was getting dark and we saw that the rest place was a gas station! People were resting though, in their cars on the parking lot & not in tents! They had an information desk and we asked if the lady knew about a place that was not too far where we could pitch our tent. Oh, she said, you can just sleep here! Really friendly but we slept in the hall of the gas station that was open & right next to the public toilets. People stopped by the whole night to use them. Needless to say, that we were well rested when we got up the next day 😊!
 
After all that adventure on the first few days we truly enjoyed the history & culture in Nara and Kyoto (& especially being able to sleep in hostels and beds). Cities in Japan are just wonderful, although sometimes a bit packed with tourists we think. But on the road to and from we got to enjoy Japan’s daily life.
 
PS. When in Nara don’t leave your green tent on your bike rack! A deer might be walking around thinking it’s grass and eat the plastic (true story!)
 
 * Literal translation of “Een pussy in hart en nieren”, English equivalent: a pussy in heart and soul.
** Literal translation of “Het regent pijpestelen”, English equivalent: it’s raining cats and dogs.

2 thoughts on “When you’re a pussy in heart and kidneys*

  1. Hello guys

    Sounds completely different camping in Mongolia and camping in Japan. I am happy that everything turned out ok, some difficulties but it sounds like it was all worth it.

    You seem pro’s in camping and biking, you write that on your CV 😉

    kisses!

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