I awoke in the Miyama Youth Hostel, in
the middle of Kyoto-fu. (Kyoto is not only the name of a
city it is also the name of a governmental region sometimes translated
as "metropolitan area" or "urban prefecture".)
This YH was an old farm house with a thatch roof -- not so common these
days. Since I had arrived after sunset the previous evening, I had
been unable to see the roof from the outside. So after having
breakfast and gathering up my gear I was able to take a look. Cool! I had just stayed the night in an
old thatch roof
house -- chalk up another new experience.
The reality of what I was facing was inescapable.
I was still miles from Kyoto with a motorcycle that was in ailing health. My rear bearings were bad and had been getting noticeably
worse all the previous evening. I had no real choice but to push
on. Around 8:30 I eased my way onto the road.
I headed towards Kyoto on Route 162 with a good 50
miles to go before my destination. Under other circumstances, this
winding, remote mountain road would have been a pleasure to ride
however I spent the entire ride on pins on needles. I tried to
find the best speed to avoid the ominous vibrations in the rear end.
As the trip progressed I could even hear metal on metal screeching
sounds. They seemed to go away at speeds around 50km/hr but I'm not
sure if that's just because I couldn't hear them then. Even if I was
able to make my destination, I wondered what kind of damage the rear end
I kept expecting an unending grinding noise that would
force me to a complete stop but somehow I made it into Kyoto and found the
Red Baron shop -- I'd picked the one listed as being open year-round -- by
11:00. I told them my story and they told me to wait fifty minutes
or so while they checked out the bike. I sat waiting for them to
give me some estimate. An hour and a half later, they came up to me
and told me it was fixed!
They'd pulled the bearings and shaft off of a used bike
and fixed mine, all for only about $70. I had resigned myself to
maybe spending the night in Kyoto, returning to Tokyo or having to pay
through the nose for the repair and rental bike fees. What a
break! As I had been to Kyoto many times in the past (and I hadn't
intended to stop there on this trip), I hightailed it out of town heading
northwest on Route 9 towards Hyogo Prefecture and the Sea of Japan.
Around 2:00PM I stopped for lunch at a restaurant
called Junk. I
found it amusing enough to take a picture though, judging from the sign,
the word was referring to the Chinese junk (boat) meaning of the
word. Japan is so full of nonsensical English that this example
pales in comparison to others you'll run across.
Late that afternoon, I stopped in a convenience store
for a Coke. There was another motorcycle parked outside with a
license plate that read "Naniwa" which I had seen quite a
bit. The owner was a young guy and seemed approachable so I asked
him where the heck Naniwa is. It turns out that it refers to the city
of Osaka and that license plates that are marked with "Osaka"
really refer to Osaka-fu, the Osaka metropolitan area.
This guy was heading towards the Hamasaka Youth Hostel
which is on the coast in Hyogo Prefecture, near the border with Tottori
Prefecture. They were having a summer barbecue and he was just
heading there for the night. He enthusiastically invited me
along. The weather was looking good and I had been planning to find
a camping area in Tottori Prefecture but the YH was in the same general
area where I had been planning to go. And I didn't want to turn down
an opportunity to socialize -- something that I hadn't really been doing
much. After a call to the YH to confirm that I could get a place to
stay and a spot at the BBQ, I followed Hori-san up Route 9.
We arrived at the youth hostel around 5:30PM.
After settling in, we had enough time to drive down to a nearby onsen (hot
spring). I followed Hori-san and a couple other bikers down the road
to the onsen. It was a nice place but near a beach campground area
and was very crowded. The kind of crowd where you have to stand
around naked waiting for a shower/spigot to open up so you could wash
up. That part wasn't pleasant but, as always, it felt wonderful to
get in the bath. Even if you're not into baths, I guarantee after
riding a motorcycle all day you'll want nothing more.
The barbecue turned out to be a real nice time with
some real nice people. They
had plenty of fresh squid and sazae (a type of shellfish) along with beef,
hot dogs, corn, etc. A very good value at ¥1,000 (~$9). There
were quite a few people there but I spent the evening with Hori-san
(age30), the Wada sisters (ages 25 and 20) and one of their friends, Seiko
(20). All were from the Kansai area and spoke the regional
dialect. Though I could follow it for the most part, I couldn't
speak it. Not without some effort anyway.
At one point we climbed on the roof for some star
watching but mostly hung out in the dining room. And after the
barbecue had wound up, we retired to a sort of library and continued
drinking and conversing until late. Seiko was enthused about America
and American life having just returned from visiting a California pen
pal. The thread of the conversation escapes me now but we talked
lots about nothing and, perhaps, a little bit about something. That
night stands out in my mind -- a fleeting time with new friends.
Friends that I may never meet again but that I'm grateful to have met.