Japan by Motorcycle

Day 1

July 29, 1999


A Beeline for Sendai

Tokyo to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture

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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
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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.

 

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Just The Stats

Day 1

Odometer

Time

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

Expenses

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

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Created: Feb 21, 2001
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2001

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