Japan by Motorcycle

Day 16

August 13, 1999

Red Baron

Kyoto Region and Hyogo Prefecture

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    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 Miyama Youth Hosteltranslated 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 would sustain.
    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 JunkCafe "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.  Interesting.
    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.  Hori-sanThey 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.

Barbecue Night at the Hamasaka Youth Hostel

Hamasaka YH barbecue

Hamasaka YH Barbecue

Seiko & the Wada sisters




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Just The Stats

Day 16



Place Weather
Start: 48880 8:30 Miyama, Kyoto Pref. Sunny/Hot
Finish: 49150 17:30 Hamasaka, Hyogo Pref. Clear/Warm
Totals: 270km 9 hrs


Gas: 900 Food: 3,700
Bike Repairs: 7,660 Youth Hostel: 2,800
Onsen: 300  

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

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