Japan by Motorcycle

Day 1

July 29, 1999

A Beeline for Sendai

Tokyo to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture

Go to The Day's Stats Go to Start
Go to Next Day

Starting off from Tokyo     This was the day.  The start of my solo motorcycle tour of Japan.  Like many people before me who had lived and worked in Japan, I was trying to fit in a "big trip" before leaving.  After living and working in Tokyo for five years, I had quit my job and was preparing to return to the U.S.  It was pretty much now or never.  I had been considering this trip for only a few years.  In fact, I had been riding a motorcycle for only three years.  I had only become interested in two-wheeled transportation in order to become more mobile and to avoid commuting on the packed trains.  After taking a number of day trips with my motorcycle-riding friends and talking with people like Katrina, a former coworker who had herself taken a motorcycle trip around Japan before leaving the country, I was ready to go.
    My peppy 250cc Honda Spada was loaded up with Katrina's old saddle bags and my tank bag.  The saddle bags were packed with gear -- clothes, tent, stove, rain gear, some food and water -- and the tank bag contained my maps and guidebooks.  With a kiss and a wave I set off.  The time was 10:30, later than I had hoped.  I made my way through Tokyo heading north, filling up with gas at Oji and then having lunch at McDonalds in Kawaguchi before hopping on the Tohoku expressway.  Since I had already been to most of the prefectures around Tokyo (Chiba, Saitama, Gunma and Tochigi), I figured I would try to put Tokyo behind me and made a beeline for Sendai.
    Feeling drowsy and ready for a break, I stopped at the Kanazawa-inai service area around 2PM.  I topped up my gas tank and then laid down on a bench for a short rest before continuing on.  The day had started out hot and sunny but the skies looked overcast and somewhat ominous at the Kunimi service area where I had stopped for a fill up around 4 PM.  As luck would have it, my mechanic had given me a youth hostel guide for my trip so I called ahead and reserved a spot at a youth hostel in Sendai.  Although I was somewhat prepared for camping, I didn't want to start out my trip camping in the rain.
    Sure enough, shortly after leaving Kunimi, the sky opened up and I had to stop on the side of the expressway and put on my rain gear (I should have donned the gear back at the service area).  I could see lightning strikes very close in front of me.  I felt highly exposed but I pushed on.  The lightning gave way to heavy rain which then turned into light rain fall by the time I reached Sendai.
    Sendai, located in Miyagi Prefecture, is the largest city in the northern Tohoku region of Japan.  It is a good-sized city with a population of about one million.  Before heading to the youth hostel, I headed downtown to take a look around.  The city had a nice feel to it -- clean, not too big, not too small.  I found a stationery store and picked up some diary books in the style that I liked -- something I had meant to do before embarking on my trip but just didn't get around to doing -- before backtracking and looking for the youth hostel.  It was not easy to find, Japanese addresses can be impossible to find without detailed maps of the area, but I finally managed to figure it out.  I unloaded my wet gear, registered and located my room.
    Ready for some vittles, I headed to a nearby shopping center I had seen on the way.  The place was called, aptly enough, The Mall and was a big American-style shopping center.  I was fortunate to find a big camping/outdoor goods store and got a cheap nylon sleeping bag for only 980 ($9).  All I had brought with me was an old blanket because my only sleeping bag was too big and warm for the summer weather.  I had some okonomiyaki (sort of a cross between a quiche, an omelet and a pizza) and a beer before I made my way back to the hostel.

Dochuan Youth Hostel in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Click for Large Image Click for Large Image Click for Large Image

Entrance Area

Bathing Area

Tatami Room

    The Dochuan Youth Hostel turned out to be a real find.  In fact, I noticed later that it was mentioned favorably in the Japan Lonely Planet guide.  It was an old farm house, two floors with a wooden beam construction.  Very well kept.  The rooms were standard tatami-mat rooms where one sleeps on the floor on a futon.  It was exactly like a minshuku (bed & breakfast), the only difference being that you had to share a room with strangers.  I shared my room  with two high school kids from Ibaraki Prefecture.  We exchanged a few pleasantries but didn't really converse as I had important matters in mind, a bath!  The bath was far better than average -- clean, new and made of  beautiful hinoki (Japanese cypress).  After washing up and rinsing off in traditional fashion, I settled into the tub for a soak which was divine.  I thought if all youth hostels in Japan are like this then wow!  I was joined by a young guy who engaged me in conversation long enough for me to gather that he lived in Saitama but was from Aomori.  And that he had a friend -- his former English teacher -- in Ohio.  I don't recall what he was doing in Sendai.
    After the bath, I laid out my futon and wrote in my diary before closing my eyes around midnight.  Breakfast was at 7:30 and I needed to get some Z's.


Go to Next Day

Just The Stats

Day 1



Place Weather
Start: 44435 10:35 Tokyo Sunny/Hot
Finish: 44810 19:50 Sendai (Miyagi Pref.) Rainy
Totals: 425km 9.5 hrs


Gas: 2,200 Food: 2,850
Highway Fees: 500 Youth Hostel: 3,450

Back to Top Questions or comments?
Sign the guestbook.
Created: Feb 21, 2001
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2001

To Start Page