Japan

Day 32-35: Typhoon hideout / City life

After the rain dumped on us at Lake Towada we have exactly one day of good weather to enjoy before another typhoon will hit Japan. We could have known (we did) because it is typhoon season after all, but it sure seems like there are more typhoons than usual this year. In any case, we keep an eye on the weather forecast and typhoon predictions, which range from ‘just bad weather’ to ‘a fucking shitshow’ depending on which source we check. The one day of nice weather takes us from Lake Towada to Kita-Akita, on the way we stop at a ¥100 store to buy covers for our bike in case we want to take them on the train tomorrow, for when the shitshow predictions are true.

Playground

When we stop riding for the day we try to find a dry place to pitch our tent because the first rainfall is expected during the night. At least that’s one thing all weather forecasts agree on: it will rain a lot. We succeed and pitch right underneath a giant playground setup with ladders, ropes, multiple slides and some kind of bouncy hammock thing which has just enough space underneath for our tent. Definitely the most fun campspot so far, as proven by Antonio who immediately climbs up to explore, followed by an “aaaaaahhhh!” and lots of crashing sounds a minute later. Kiddie playgrounds, very dangerous.

Escape from the rain

The forecasts were right; even though our pitch is relatively dry we wake up to the sound of rain hammering down on the playground. We eat our cereal in the tent in silence, both checking more weather forecasts to help us decide on a plan. It is not looking good: today there will be a lot of rain, tomorrow a lot of wind, both in quantities that make it a major pain in the ass and/or dangerous to ride in. And as cozy as this playground is, it’s not exactly a great place to wait out a typhoon.

Although we just had a restday we decide that it is better to take a 90-minute train to Akita and find a place to stay there. Luckily we are only 15 minutes from the train station, so pack up, ride there, and then start the process of disassembling and wrapping up our bikes. Here is the deal with taking your bike on a train in Japan: it is both super easy and super annoying at the same time. Easy because it is free and you can take your bike on any train. Annoying because you have to transport it in a special bag (“Rinko”) which requires to to take both wheels off so you have to carry the thing. And of course you have to do this before you set foot in the station at all, because god forbid your (wet/muddy) bike will leave any trace. Minor detail: we do not have rinko bags, only flimsy plastic motorcycle covers, which means we are not following The Rules and are therefore entirely depending on the goodwill of the station guard to let us in, or not.

This is the plan: we pack our bikes in the flimsy bags, only removing the front wheel (but…The Rules!) Carry them and all our other luggage into the train station. Antonio will speak to the station guard using his best Japanese, while I put on my best polite smile-slash-desperate-because-of-the-incoming-typhoon face to back him up. With a grumble the guard glances at our bikes, nods, and points us towards the ticket machine. Nailed it!

Not exactly as it should, but good enough. At least this time.

Of course we have no idea how trains work here so we just drag everything in the car that stops in front of us. Of course this is the wrong one, but a very friendly conductor points us to the next carriage where there is a space for our bikes. Yay! An hour and a half later we arrive in Akita, where the real fun begins. Because we can’t possibly carry the bike plus all the luggage in one go, it takes us a good 20 minutes to make it from the platform up the escalator through the hall through the mall down the stairs to the street where, finally, we can reverse the whole process and unpack and re-assemble the bikes. But now we are in a real city! And it does not rain!

The rest of the day we spend riding around town, browsing shopping malls and supermarkets and buying more snacks than we can eat or carry. We also ship a package home with some souvenirs. For dinner we settle down in an all-you-can-eat-and-drink restaurant and eat so much that on the way back we can ride only very slowly, every bump in the road reminding us about the impossible amount of food in our stomachs.

We spend the night in another internet café, windowless, so we have no idea what is happening outside with this typhoon. In the morning though, when we go outside, we see people going about their daily business like nothing is going on, and sure, it is a bit windy but nothing compared to, let’s say, a windy Dutch autumn day. We would be riding along the coast though, along a busy road, which seems like a not so great plan with 50km/hr winds, and besides, I booked a hotel in town already last night so might as well, right?

Our second day off is spend doing more shopping, eating, walking around town and relaxing in the hotel. City life! We almost feel like normal tourists! Clean, dressed in normal clothes going about town doing normal touristy things and sleeping in normal places, which is nice for a change. But two days in a row is more than enough. The road calls again.

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