Interview with Shinnosuke Nagase: travelling around Japan on a bicycle

edited June 28 in Rad Interviews

Shinnosuke Nagase from Japan has visited us in Budapest in 2019. As a scientist of traditional resident Japanese agricultural techniques being a travelling poet as well, he has an interesting view on life. Discovering the world outside his home town and native Prefecture he wanted to share with us, especially since this particular walkabout involves thousands of kilometers of cycling. The interview, in which he get's emotional sometimes – as much as a Japanese man will show emotions in public – is mainly about his experience living on the road during his 6 months long solo cycling trip, a real long distance adventure around all larger islands of Japan. The journey he is telling the tale of happened during his studenthood a few years back.

PART I. //

SHINNOSUKE NAGASE:
I started from the China-side of Japan. I say I have met a human chain during my journey.
It's really like a human chain. All who welcomed me! I thought I have to do camping every day, but fortunately not. It took 6 months, but for 3 months I was allowed to stay in various people's houses… with a warm blanket, every day fresh food...
BIKEINFANTRY:
You are saying you didn't had to continue your walkaobut immediately next morning? You didn't had to leave after one night from each spot, right? Sometimes you could stay for longer?
S.N.:
YesYesYes! That's why finally it took 6 months. If I stay just one night each time, I can finish the journey in 3 months, which is enough for a trip around Japan.
B.I.:
Which islands did you visit?
S.N.:
Every island! I went to all. Sometimes you use a ship.
B.I.:
What you are showing me here on your phone are all geographical points, locations, sights, where you have been?
S.N.:
Yeah. And also my family house! Each province has a family for me by now, who would welcome me again. (…) So as said, finally I realized I don't have to do camping so often!
B.I.:
But you had everything with you! How much equipment did you have and how heavy was it?
S.N.:
In the back I had two side-bags and next to the saddle there was the sleeping bag and a tent. Just only that. Some cooking stuff and clothes.
B.I.:
What sort of clothes did you carry? Since you launched in April it means it wasn't that cold in Japan. But wet maybe?
S.N.:
Wet, yes. So you should prepare a water-proof outfit. Just one set. If oyu have a long water-proof jacket or something, it's enough.
B.I.:
You were cycling in rain a lot?
S.N.:
Sometimes, yes. You should also have 4 or 5 T-shirts. 2 half-pants. And I had… how do you say… this kind of layered clothes.
B.I.:
Rain coat made of plastic.
S.N.:
I also had like a portable pocket vashing set, so I can practically wash every day if need be. Because of this I didn't had to take so many clothes with me. When I did camping I just washed what I prepared for next day to be worn. I took it in my tent, put it on a rope, next morning it was dry. Quikly it was finished, the process could be repeated over and over again.
B.I.:
Anything about you discovered about yourself?
S.N.:
For instance this journey… now I can say, it made me change. In that moment I didn't realize, but mainly my thoughts, my ideas about my life and the world shifted. When I describe this journey, there was more to it, it was a step foreward for me. Why is that? You wake up at a new place, I mean someones house or near a beautiful lakeside. Anyway, I realized I wake up at a new place almost every day, not my house! Second step: I have to part, I have to leave from this special place, someones house as said, who I have only met yesterday, and we even managed to become friends, but I have to leave. On purpose! Wake up, parting, than the hardest step like to climb up a hill! Japan is an island and there are lots of vulcanos in the mountains. Each province has mountains! At least I had to climb up a mountain, a hill or a mountain every day!
B.I.:
Where you pushing youself sometimes? When you felt you had enough and you said to yourself oyu couldn't do it anymore?
S.N.:
Yeah-yeah! (laughing) I remember, it was terrible! I'll tell you later! Well, so the third step is to climb up the mountain. It's a metaphore of solving a problem or pass and examination, such kind of things. Than forth step: I meet a new person or a new place. Explore. It's the routine of these four steps!
B.I.:
Rotation.
S.N.:
Rotation every day. Wake up at a new place, part the new place, climb up the mountain, and meet new things.
B.I.:
In this case you had to adopt to a new environment, which is nothing like your own, so you have to think, improvise and develope.
S.N.:
It made me flexible and open minded. Because every day there's a new challenge. A dialect, which is different for example. Food, which is different.
B.I.:
Which parts of the country are different for you…. regards to the language?
S.N.:
Oh yeah, okay… for example… (searching)
B.I.:
You started from?
S.N.:
Kanazawa, Ishigawa Prefecture. Then I went to the south.
B.I.:
Along the northern shores?
S.N.:
Yes. When you go south people become like Italians. More passion, fine people. They laugh a lot! If you go north in general it's more quiet, more calm people. Generally.
B.I.:
Italy. Germany. United States. It's the same.
S.N.:
Like that. I realized quikly I had to adapt to the new place also in this aspect. Every day! That's why this journey made me more adaptive to people. Flexible and open minded, as said before. Now I feel aprreciation for this journey. For everybody!
B.I.:
What was your first stop? Major city or something secluded? When you said, ok, I stay now! After Kanazawa...
S.N.:
I started in Kanazawa and went south like this… (showing) I went to Kioushu island. I departed from the main island.
B.I.:
There's a bridge. And a highway.
S.N.:
Actually no. For cars there is a bridge. For cycling there is a road under the sea.
B.I.:
An underpass tunnel.
S.N.:
There's a tunnel.
B.I.:
Not everywhere you have bicycle roads. So what's the rule to cycle along the highway or along the street?
S.N.:
You should keep restraint and pay attention! There is a road, two kind! Only for cars or you can pass with the cycle. You have to keep attention, the signiture! Otherwise the police will come! I expreienced.
B.I.:
You cannot cycle on the walking part for pedestrians, you cannot go up there.
S.N.:
Exactly. You cannot. There's a passanger road and a car road. Cyclists should not pass passanger road, so we have to go on the car road, then we are on the left side like in England. So we have to learn as much as possible to ride closer to the left.
B.I.:
I see.
S.N.:
Story goes, I'm riding the bicycle on the left side and there's a passanger road and walking people. Just on the right side there's a car…
B.I.:
Coming your direction and you are rather in the middle of the road.
S.N.:
There is no cycling road as said, it's a general thing. In Japan some place have, for example that tunnel, where many people are passing. There's a cycling road!
B.I.:
Because the people cross over working there.
S.N.:
Precisely.
B.I.:
And what was that picture you showed me earlier with the bridge and the bicycle road? We get there later I guess, just please remember.
S.N.:
That's called Shimanami Kaido. Shimanami is just a name. Kaido means like road of the Pacific. This is a sanctuary for bikers! Every bike must go there!
B.I.:
You have been to Denmark! You saw the bicycle roads there. What's the difference?
S.N.:
Basically Denmark has big streets and roads! But overall the Japanese road is narrow and tiny. And carving a lot. Not so easy. Basically you see it's very different! Denmark has enough space!
B.I.:
On top it's all flatland.
S.N.:
Correct. Japan is not. Mountains with carving roads.
B.I.:
But it's flat along the shore and get's steep as you turn inlands.
S.N.:
I can confirm that.

Comments

  • edited June 28

    PART II. //

    B.I.:
    Let's continue with the island here you just showed me on the map.
    S.N.:
    Alright. So I arrived to Kyushu island. I also reached the most southern spot of this Kyushu island!
    Except Okinawa, here is the most souther place of Japan. I realized this just took 2 weeks! I can amke it from Kanazawa to the most southern place! Then I realized I should not finish my journey so quikly. I don't have to be in a hurry – I said to myself! Immediately I decided to go to Okinawa.
    I did that by ship. I stayed there for 2 weeks!
    B.I.:
    How much time does it take to reach Okinawa with the boat?
    S.N.:
    24 hours.
    B.I.:
    The boat to Okinawa?
    S.N.:
    Let me think. 12… hours! From southern place to Okinawa, yes!
    B.I.:
    You need a special ticket? To take the bicycle with you?
    S.N.:
    Oh yes, it's expensive actually!
    B.I.:
    It's like paying for another person?
    S.N.:
    Yes, another person. I had to pay the passenger cost and also for the bike. It's complicated.
    Well! There was an accident! When I arrived to Okinawa! Kumamoto Prefecture was caught in a big earthquake! It's not only common to this prefecture of course… Kyushu island was also involved in an earthquake at the time. Many people started sending me messages: „Where are you, Shin?” I said, I'm in Okinawa! So I'm safe! They replied: „You should not go back to Kyushu island!” Because the earthquake there was really heavy and also the road got destroyed! It might be dangerous, many people said to me. I stayed and made friends with a lady. She suggested me also not to go back there, but she has a friend who has a tobbacco farm, so if I want I can help with work there!
    B.I.:
    On Okinawa?
    S.N.:
    On Okinawa. Finally I decided to stay there. This island, Okinawa has a main island and many small island around. I went visiting one more island where the tobacco farm was! I was walking a lot!
    B.I.:
    What's the climate like there in the south?
    S.N.:
    It's completely different from the Japanese main island! So... hot! This is April, but it's like summer there! Maybe I won't go there in summer, it's too hot for me!
    B.I.:
    If you go in July or August?
    S.N.:
    Yeah! I recommend you March or April. So I walking around as a tobacco farmer.
    B.I.:
    Because you studied agriculture anyway!
    S.N.:
    Aha. But actually this is during the preparations as I started being interested in agriculture. At my university I was studying agroculture economics, but I had to be invited by a friend who sais this might be interesting. I gave in. It was not my big passion! But this journey gave me the chance to become interested for agrculture!
    B.I.:
    But it seems you are more interested in tradtitional farming and not the mechanized or industrial processes!
    S.N.:
    That right! And this was the beginning! This was my first time to touch agriculture by my hand, I think!
    B.I.:
    Interesting.
    S.N.:
    I spent two weeks there, got a bit of money and finally I went back to Kyushu island. Because Kyushu island needed volunteers during the recovery of architecture and environment. Also for helping the injured people. Such kind of volunteers.
    B.I.:
    Did you find this throufh Japanese websites? It is a nationwide aid, nothing for Workaway affectionsits.
    S.N.:
    It was a topic everywhere because of the earthquake. The government needed help!
    B.I.:
    This is still 2 weeks after the catastrophy struck, right?
    S.N.:
    Perfectly so. Kumamoto Prefecture official website said they need help! So I went there... to become a volunteer! It was a terrible place.
    B.I.:
    Why?
    S.N.:
    I helped at some old people's house. Many shelfes have fallen down. Much furniture was broken. We had to re-organize the important things. Rebuild the apartments.
    B.I.:
    Put everything back as it was, basically. But this is a part of the country where you have mostly traditional wooden… old houses?
    S.N.:
    Indeed.
    B.I.:
    So they break apart.
    S.N.:
    Easy to break. But there aren't horrible things happening inside. For example a strong building caught by an earthquake for the people inside with many heavy thing falling down on them! But Japanese wood-architecture different. We almost gave up to be caught in an earthquake unprepared. Many times it is happening. So we make wood-architecture and if it breaks down, it is also to rebuild! Anyway, I helped there, maybe one week…
    B.I.:
    This is the south tip of the island, or…?
    S.N.:
    Here, the middle of the Kyushu island (he points at it) in Kumamoto Prefecture! It's not as terrible as in 2011's earthquake… do you remember?
    B.I.:
    I do.
    S.N.:
    The nuclear accident also.
    B.I.:
    Fukoshima.
    S.N.:
    It's not like this! But also with consiquences. Traditional legacy has been broken.
    B.I.:
    Japanese heritage.
    S.N.:
    You are right.
    B.I.:
    Old buildings you mentioned… temples...
    S.N.:
    Castles! It was difficult. I did as much as possible.
    B.I.:
    How long were you volunteering again?
    S.N.:
    Maybe one week and a half, I think! Many people were expecting Fukoshima! I mean, amny people came to volunteer. There were too many people in the end wanting to help! But work to be done was already less!
    B.I.:
    There were more people as work?
    S.N.:
    I noticed that. Maybe I'm not needed anymore.
    B.I.:
    You moved on.
    S.N.:
    I continued my journey again! I finished Kyushu island.
    B.I.:
    It's still April? Or already a different month?
    S.N.:
    It's May, yeah! I was going this way… (showing it)
    B.I.:
    Going back to the main island of Japan.
    S.N.:
    Exactly. It's the Pacific side, there's Shikoku island! Between the main island Shikoku there's a spot very good for agriculture! Beautiful landscape! That's why there's also a bridge by now for cyclists! Of course I took my trip there!
    B.I.:
    How long did this take... from one side to the other island? Hopping from one little island to the other...
    S.N.:
    I forgot the kilometers… but maybe 50 km... or around that!
    B.I.:
    This entire part?!
    S.N.:
    Yes. From Hiroshima Prefecture to Ehime Prefecture!
    B.I.:
    Alright.
    S.N.:
    Okay. Let me explain more about this bridge.
    B.I.:
    Good.
    S.N.:
    Shimanami Kaido! On the road from Hiroshima Prefecture to Ehime Prefecture there are many small islands! And bridges! Each small island has that! We can step – step – step – step! One after another we can go to a Shikoku island from the Main island! There is a beautiful place! Government organized the cycling road! You can travel easily! No accidents. No dangers! Na, of course there many cyclists, but it's not heavy traffic. Than each small island has traditional, but different architecture! It differs from the main island as well as Shikoku island! Each island raised it's own culture mainly! We can see the diversity of culture! Also they have nice food! With time I reached Ehime Prefecture! It is on Shikoku island! This was one of my main purposes during this journey!
    B.I.:
    So you didn't know this island from before.
    S.N.:
    I didn't.
    B.I.:
    You had to go there to check it out for yourself.
    S.N.:
    I have to interrupt, but I have to say: This journey of visiting all the porvinces of Japan… this was my purpose… to go to all provinces until death! I was born as a Japanese, but I don't want to live saying I haven't been visiting my country, the prefectures! I don't want to have to say that! You see my purpose.
    B.I.:
    You want to know your country!
    S.N.:
    Yesss! Discover my country with my ”first” steps! There I was on Shikoku! Shikoku means „four countries”! So there are four prefectures! Of course I went to all prefectures. Sometimes I had to climb up a mountain and it was the hardest… moment! On this journey… I had to almost push the bicycle, because I couldn't cycle up.

  • edited June 28

    PART III. //

    B.I.:
    What type of bicycle is this?
    S.N.:
    A mountain bike! That's one of the heavier types.
    B.I.:
    How many gear you have?
    S.N.:
    24. Front and the back! Well… can I say stupid things also?
    B.I.:
    Whatever you want!
    S.N.:
    Ehime, there is a big mountain! Between Ehime Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture! A very special landscape there is! Not often oyu will find this in Japan! Just 3 places have similar sights. You are on top of the mountain, but there is no forest to see! It looks like Switzerland!
    B.I.:
    This is because of the wind? Or because grasing and using it for agriculture?
    S.N.:
    I think!
    B.I.:
    Because Scotland has this as well!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah-yeah!! Exactly like this! But normally there is nothing like that in Japan! Just 3 or a few places.
    B.I.:
    That's why you have wind-mills there!
    S.N.:
    I noticed it! I wanted to go there! That is why I climbed up that big mountain!
    B.I.:
    Which is where on the map?
    S.N.:
    Here!
    B.I.:
    You crossed the little islands and it's in the middle of the south part.
    S.N.:
    This, this! Between the prefectures I climbed up! Harder than I expected, it was!
    B.I.:
    How high is the mountain?
    S.N.:
    Maybe 2500 m… around that! I had to climb up with the bicycle! Also my water bottle got empty! Because of all the swet! Climbing, pushing the bicycle… in that moment I really liked to… I shouted! I started shouting! „What? What! What is this, what the fuck?!” Like this. Sometimes cars were passing, passengers cheering me up, saying „Just fight!”, „I wish you the best!”, „You are sexy!”, I thanked them… and cursed… fuck, fuck!, again. But I kept climbing up! And I was so thursty!!! So so thursty! Hope… fortunately there was a fountain! A natural fountain! Also there was a cup! Perfect for travellers! I didn't expect it. It's just a road. A road carved with a small forest.
    B.I.:
    A road carved into rock.
    S.N.:
    Yes. And a small forest. And a small fountain. Oh, luck! I never forget that impression!
    B.I.:
    Was this something old?
    S.N.:
    No-no-no…
    B.I.:
    Or a new thing?
    S.N.:
    I can say, it's traditional. You might say it's old. For many village people! They use that!
    B.I.:
    They come and collect water there.
    S.N.:
    Definitely. It was nice water. I never forget. And also, there is the fountain, and next to the fountain there was pornography.
    B.I.:
    How is that possible?
    S.N.:
    I don't know... (laughing)
    B.I.:
    Printed media, like paper?
    S.N.:
    Magazine!!
    B.N.:
    Magazines? Surprising.
    S.N.:
    It's like, they say: please Shin, please take a rest. You can drink, you can see pornography magazine.
    B.I.:
    You put down things and you had a few quiet moments there?
    S.N.:
    There was also cosplay, but I don't want to talk about that.
    B.I.:
    So you were finally up on the mountain!
    S.N.:
    Finally!
    B.I.:
    You took a rest!
    S.N.:
    I kept on going! I'm still only halfway at that point! It was a nice place! The sunset was also beautiful up in the mountain crown! And a pension, the suff of the pension offered me to take a hot bath! A hot spring also! I could touch human kindness there.
    B.I.:
    And still the bicycle didn't break? You didn't had to repair it?
    S.N.:
    Oh, sometimes! Punctures! Sometimes that happened! But I could repair it easily! So nothing happ… oh, just one! What is this part?
    B.I.:
    The stand for your luggage?
    S.N.:
    It was broken. I corrected it. I've found some metal parts on the road and used those. I repaired it by myself. Often it broke again. Running a 100 km, it was broken again.
    B.I.:
    It was too heavy for the bicycle?
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! Because that mountain bike is not for travelling! Also the shop-staff, who were selling me that bicycle, he said to me, this is not for a journey!
    B.I.:
    So you took it anyway!
    S.N.:
    Yes, but… I did well! Luggage stand was broken often, but I repaired it each time. I got away with that! Let's keep going! Shikoku island has a tradtion, it is comforting for the traveller. It is the Shikoku island culture! Because there are many temples. In Europe many people go church, it's this kind of journey!
    B.I.:
    Like pilgrimage!
    S.N.:
    Pilgrimage, yes. There it is! Many people bring offerings. If they see a traveller, they give him something!
    B.I.:
    Food… water?
    S.N.:
    Food, water, sometimes money. Because if you give something, it is also a...
    B.I.:
    Blessing!
    S.N.:
    Helping a traveller is blessing for them also visiting this part!
    B.I.:
    This is common only here, in this part of Japan?
    S.N.:
    I think it is! Mainly. I didn't feel any stress here. Many people comfort me and encouraged me! Just a nice island!
    B.I.:
    You did tell them obviously, hello I'm coming from this, already going around...
    S.N.:
    Sometimes. But other times without saying anything, everybody could figure it out themsleves:
    Oh, look, there is a traveller! He must come from far away! Not from here… so. Very open minded to travellers!
    B.I.:
    But this is a tradition from many centuries ago, I guess.
    S.N.:
    Aha-aha, yes-yes-yes! With deep roots! I finished Shukoka island and took a ferry from Kagawa Prefecture to Okayama Prefecture! So I went back to the main island! I kept on going on the Pacific side though! I went to Osaka...
    B.I.:
    Anything about the cities? You have been to bigger cities?
    S.N.:
    Also… but I just passed them. I didn't wanna stay!
    B.I.:
    So you didn't go into the city, just around on the edge of the city? How to imagine this? How did you work it out?
    S.N.:
    Oh, in Osaka I went in the middle of the city!
    B.I.:
    Downtown and then out again!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! There was my friend I visited also.
    B.I.:
    So you stayed there?
    S.N.:
    Just for one night. (…) And also I met one girl here! We fell in love with each other. Actually I stayed for a very long time in Osaka after I met her. Not on purpose! We cannot controll ourselves… maybe a journey pushes our luck! You get more passioned about everything! So.. ah… how do you say, giogolo?
    B.I.:
    You might.
    S.N.:
    Yeah, I was a giogolo! For such kind of woman in Osaka! Every day drinking. Chatting. Do something. It was...
    B.I.:
    Next girl?
    S.N.:
    Yeah. But it was… finally she cheat me, I don't say everything, but she cheated me...
    B.I.:
    So you didn't change girl after girl!
    S.N.:
    Just one girl.
    B.I.:
    I see.
    S.N.:
    Big argument happened. Than finally I leave from Osaka. I give back… I came back by myself.
    I can start travel again, I said! It was a terrible memory, but a precious memory. Anyway, I went to Wakayama Prefecture, but it's really difficult to go around that island, so I went back to Osaka again without meeting that girl. Than I passed that mountainside...
    B.I.:
    What's the name here? What's that part?
    S.N.:
    It's Shiga Prefecture. It has the biggest lake in all of Japan! There's a beaver-lake! This lake is also famous for cycling! There is a competion to go around. There are also cycling roads! Rare place in Japan! I go there, than Nagoja! I went to my house!
    B.I.:
    I don't know that city! What shall I know about it?
    S.N.:
    Okay, this is the 5th biggest city! Number one is Tokyo, second Osaka, than Fukuoka, you know… and than Nagoja, than Sapphoro in Hokkaido! These are the five main cities! One of these is Nagoja! It's very close to my home house! There is Nakatsugawa in Gifu Prefecture. I just went to say hello to family.
    B.I.:
    This is where the special sign is on the map?
    S.N.:
    Yes, this is my house! But across it means 200 kms! So it took 2 days!
    B.I.:
    You had to go up again from the city!
    S.N.:
    Yes, and it wasn't also a smoothery climb-up, it wasn't climb and go down. It was hard! I took a break in my home and I started a gain. Like this, Sizuoka Prefecture! Yamanashi Prefecture! Finally I went to Tokyo!!

  • edited June 28

    PART III. //

    B.I.:
    What type of bicycle is this?
    S.N.:
    A mountain bike! That's one of the heavier types.
    B.I.:
    How many gear you have?
    S.N.:
    24. Front and the back! Well… can I say stupid things also?
    B.I.:
    Whatever you want!
    S.N.:
    Ehime, there is a big mountain! Between Ehime Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture! A very special landscape there is! Not often oyu will find this in Japan! Just 3 places have similar sights. You are on top of the mountain, but there is no forest to see! It looks like Switzerland!
    B.I.:
    This is because of the wind? Or because grasing and using it for agriculture?
    S.N.:
    I think!
    B.I.:
    Because Scotland has this as well!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah-yeah!! Exactly like this! But normally there is nothing like that in Japan! Just 3 or a few places.
    B.I.:
    That's why you have wind-mills there!
    S.N.:
    I noticed it! I wanted to go there! That is why I climbed up that big mountain!
    B.I.:
    Which is where on the map?
    S.N.:
    Here!
    B.I.:
    You crossed the little islands and it's in the middle of the south part.
    S.N.:
    This, this! Between the prefectures I climbed up! Harder than I expected, it was!
    B.I.:
    How high is the mountain?
    S.N.:
    Maybe 2500 m… around that! I had to climb up with the bicycle! Also my water bottle got empty! Because of all the swet! Climbing, pushing the bicycle… in that moment I really liked to… I shouted! I started shouting! „What? What! What is this, what the fuck?!” Like this. Sometimes cars were passing, passengers cheering me up, saying „Just fight!”, „I wish you the best!”, „You are sexy!”, I thanked them… and cursed… fuck, fuck!, again. But I kept climbing up! And I was so thursty!!! So so thursty! Hope… fortunately there was a fountain! A natural fountain! Also there was a cup! Perfect for travellers! I didn't expect it. It's just a road. A road carved with a small forest.
    B.I.:
    A road carved into rock.
    S.N.:
    Yes. And a small forest. And a small fountain. Oh, luck! I never forget that impression!
    B.I.:
    Was this something old?
    S.N.:
    No-no-no…
    B.I.:
    Or a new thing?
    S.N.:
    I can say, it's traditional. You might say it's old. For many village people! They use that!
    B.I.:
    They come and collect water there.
    S.N.:
    Definitely. It was nice water. I never forget. And also, there is the fountain, and next to the fountain there was pornography.
    B.I.:
    How is that possible?
    S.N.:
    I don't know... (laughing)
    B.I.:
    Printed media, like paper?
    S.N.:
    Magazine!!
    B.N.:
    Magazines? Surprising.
    S.N.:
    It's like, they say: please Shin, please take a rest. You can drink, you can see pornography magazine.
    B.I.:
    You put down things and you had a few quiet moments there?
    S.N.:
    There was also cosplay, but I don't want to talk about that.
    B.I.:
    So you were finally up on the mountain!
    S.N.:
    Finally!
    B.I.:
    You took a rest!
    S.N.:
    I kept on going! I'm still only halfway at that point! It was a nice place! The sunset was also beautiful up in the mountain crown! And a pension, the suff of the pension offered me to take a hot bath! A hot spring also! I could touch human kindness there.
    B.I.:
    And still the bicycle didn't break? You didn't had to repair it?
    S.N.:
    Oh, sometimes! Punctures! Sometimes that happened! But I could repair it easily! So nothing happ… oh, just one! What is this part?
    B.I.:
    The stand for your luggage?
    S.N.:
    It was broken. I corrected it. I've found some metal parts on the road and used those. I repaired it by myself. Often it broke again. Running a 100 km, it was broken again.
    B.I.:
    It was too heavy for the bicycle?
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! Because that mountain bike is not for travelling! Also the shop-staff, who were selling me that bicycle, he said to me, this is not for a journey!
    B.I.:
    So you took it anyway!
    S.N.:
    Yes, but… I did well! Luggage stand was broken often, but I repaired it each time. I got away with that! Let's keep going! Shikoku island has a tradtion, it is comforting for the traveller. It is the Shikoku island culture! Because there are many temples. In Europe many people go church, it's this kind of journey!
    B.I.:
    Like pilgrimage!
    S.N.:
    Pilgrimage, yes. There it is! Many people bring offerings. If they see a traveller, they give him something!
    B.I.:
    Food… water?
    S.N.:
    Food, water, sometimes money. Because if you give something, it is also a...
    B.I.:
    Blessing!
    S.N.:
    Helping a traveller is blessing for them also visiting this part!
    B.I.:
    This is common only here, in this part of Japan?
    S.N.:
    I think it is! Mainly. I didn't feel any stress here. Many people comfort me and encouraged me! Just a nice island!
    B.I.:
    You did tell them obviously, hello I'm coming from this, already going around...
    S.N.:
    Sometimes. But other times without saying anything, everybody could figure it out themsleves:
    Oh, look, there is a traveller! He must come from far away! Not from here… so. Very open minded to travellers!
    B.I.:
    But this is a tradition from many centuries ago, I guess.
    S.N.:
    Aha-aha, yes-yes-yes! With deep roots! I finished Shukoka island and took a ferry from Kagawa Prefecture to Okayama Prefecture! So I went back to the main island! I kept on going on the Pacific side though! I went to Osaka...
    B.I.:
    Anything about the cities? You have been to bigger cities?
    S.N.:
    Also… but I just passed them. I didn't wanna stay!
    B.I.:
    So you didn't go into the city, just around on the edge of the city? How to imagine this? How did you work it out?
    S.N.:
    Oh, in Osaka I went in the middle of the city!
    B.I.:
    Downtown and then out again!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! There was my friend I visited also.
    B.I.:
    So you stayed there?
    S.N.:
    Just for one night. (…) And also I met one girl here! We fell in love with each other. Actually I stayed for a very long time in Osaka after I met her. Not on purpose! We cannot controll ourselves… maybe a journey pushes our luck! You get more passioned about everything! So.. ah… how do you say, giogolo?
    B.I.:
    You might.
    S.N.:
    Yeah, I was a giogolo! For such kind of woman in Osaka! Every day drinking. Chatting. Do something. It was...
    B.I.:
    Next girl?
    S.N.:
    Yeah. But it was… finally she cheat me, I don't say everything, but she cheated me...
    B.I.:
    So you didn't change girl after girl!
    S.N.:
    Just one girl.
    B.I.:
    I see.
    S.N.:
    Big argument happened. Than finally I leave from Osaka. I give back… I came back by myself.
    I can start travel again, I said! It was a terrible memory, but a precious memory. Anyway, I went to Wakayama Prefecture, but it's really difficult to go around that island, so I went back to Osaka again without meeting that girl. Than I passed that mountainside...
    B.I.:
    What's the name here? What's that part?
    S.N.:
    It's Shiga Prefecture. It has the biggest lake in all of Japan! There's a beaver-lake! This lake is also famous for cycling! There is a competion to go around. There are also cycling roads! Rare place in Japan! I go there, than Nagoja! I went to my house!
    B.I.:
    I don't know that city! What shall I know about it?
    S.N.:
    Okay, this is the 5th biggest city! Number one is Tokyo, second Osaka, than Fukuoka, you know… and than Nagoja, than Sapporo in Hokkaido! These are the five main cities! One of these is Nagoja! It's very close to my home house! There is Nakatsugawa in Gifu Prefecture. I just went to say hello to family.
    B.I.:
    This is where the special sign is on the map?
    S.N.:
    Yes, this is my house! But across it means 200 kms! So it took 2 days!
    B.I.:
    You had to go up again from the city!
    S.N.:
    Yes, and it wasn't also a smoothery climb-up, it wasn't climb and go down. It was hard! I took a break in my home and I started a gain. Like this, Sizuoka Prefecture! Yamanashi Prefecture! Finally I went to Tokyo!!

  • edited June 28

    PART IV. //

    B.I.:
    Massive city!
    S.N.:
    Big big city! But many people were interested about my journey! I could spend a very good time in here!
    B.I.:
    You were telling them?
    S.N.:
    I did. But Tokyo is not so important part of the journey! I started going to the north! There's a very beautiful landscape! How it put this… it is very difficult to find pure nature in Japan, actually! Many coinstruction sites! Or roads, and other infrastructure!
    B.I.:
    But you have many Natural Parks! But they are smaller, perhaps?
    S.N.:
    Yes, but this northern part of the main island is still pure nature!
    B.I.:
    This is where the Ainu used to live, right?
    S.N.:
    Yes! Oh, sorry, no!
    B.I.:
    Is it further north?
    S.N.:
    Ainu is Hokkaido! Some Ainu although came to these places… anyway it's a beautiful place! Of course, there are mountains so it's hard for cycling!! I really recommend every cyclist, you should go to the northern main places!
    B.I.:
    What's the climate like here?
    S.N.:
    Colder. But I went maybe July or August, so best conditions… beginning of summer! But cool. Comfortable! Go there! I aslo passed Fukuoka Prefecture, but I couldn't go to the earthquake location yet! So I didn't see anything about that earthquake! There's a dali… Dali?
    B.I.:
    The painter?
    S.N.:
    Yes, there is a Dali Museum here. Also beautiful! Near the museum you will find a huge lake! Also stunning! I cannout count up for all recommendations. But here in the north as said you will find preserved natural landscapes and sights! You must go there!
    B.I.:
    Just tell us what you found attractive.
    S.N.:
    I went up! From here Aomori Prefecture I took a ship. I was going to Hokkaido! It is very big! Bigger as I expected! I wanted to go around, so I kept no travelling!
    B.I.:
    Just around or also visit the middle of the island?
    S.N.:
    Actually, go around.
    B.I.:
    No bicycle road?
    S.N.:
    No bicycle road, but it is almost like Denmark! The road is generally wide! We don't have to take care so much and also drivers are most conscious about cyclists here! It's not dangerous. Even if there is no cycling road! Well, you must take a lamp! You must! There are a few mountains, but the landscape is, as we discussed before, similar to Denmark or Scotland.
    B.I.:
    Highlands of Japan.
    S.N.:
    So beautiful! I still kept running 100 km a day on my bike. But it really depends on wind conditions around here! That's why I mentioned those countries, Denmark and Scotland! If wind comes from behind, that day it is easy to move to the next location! But against… all day against!
    Coming in front?
    B.I.:
    So you didn't always do a 100kms? Not every day.
    S.N.:
    Not every day!
    B.I.:
    Sometimes more?
    S.N.:
    Sometimes more. Maximum 140!
    B.I.:
    In which part of Japan was that where you could the 140 k?
    S.N.:
    Maybe here! It's the Russian side. The coast to Russia. There's really good wind condition! On the right side is the sea, a hozk, we call it a Hotsk! Hotsk Sea! (Sea of Okhotsk - editor) Left side there are beautiful mountains! I was really excited to keep going… finally I ran 140 kilometers in one day. Also wind came form behind! So nice!
    B.I.:
    What is here?
    S.N.:
    This is a fisher place! Mostly shells! Big shell.
    B.I.:
    This is where special women are diving and fishing the pearls?
    S.N.:
    Different area… It is here!
    B.I.:
    We will get to that later!
    S.N.:
    Here I was always camping! But camping in this case means I didn't use my tent! I slept in the bus stop!
    B.I.:
    Bus stop?
    S.N.:
    The bus stop! There was a roof!
    B.I.:
    Isn't this forbidden?
    S.N.:
    Yeah! Forbidden. Forbidden? Forbidden. Forbidden?
    B.I.:
    The police will come and tell you to get out?
    S.N.:
    No, nothing like this happened.
    B.I.:
    And not even the passangers complained?
    S.N.:
    No passangers. Sometimes what comes is a bear. It is scary. The bear.
    B.I.:
    Smelling you.
    S.N.:
    Ok, I have to say this! Only on Hokkaido there are bears, which are dangerous! In other places the bear is there, but is calm. Friendly bear. If you don't do stupid things… bear never attacks us! But beware Hokkaido! You should keep attention! They eat humans sometimes. Once they eat humans, they come back again.
    B.I.:
    What a surprise.
    S.N.:
    So during night time I was really scared. In the end I didn't do camp, just the tent, easy. Just across the bus stop! In the bus stop there was a big house...
    B.I.:
    You can close these buildings?
    S.N.:
    Yeah, and they are warm! Because it is Hokkaido! Northern place!
    B.I.:
    You discovered that by camping nearby.
    S.N.:
    Almost I made it a habit to sleep in the bus stop!
    B.I.:
    But there is heating inside the hut? Or just because of the weather and the season?
    S.N.:
    Yeah! Yeah! Great moment after riding 100 kilometers. Almost every each town along the road had it's on hot spring! I could simply take a bath! I also washed everything! Once I was done, there usually was a convenient store, so I bought myself some beer. After all that I made it back to the bus stop to sleep later that night! Drink, eat, smoke. When I was finished, I went out and saw a magical star dust!
    B.I.:
    The sky.
    S.N.:
    Yes, stars! Different skyes! And sometimes mountains! And the sea!
    B.I.:
    I wanted to ask you: This trip was before university and after highschool during a gap-year?
    S.N.:
    Oh, yeah! I went to university, after 2 years I stopped for 1 year.
    B.I.:
    This is when you undertook the journey.
    S.N.:
    Yes.
    B.I.:
    You skipped an entire year.
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! Next year I restart my education!
    B.I.:
    This island you just talked about, was that part of any plans you had for the journey?
    S.N.:
    Yes.
    B.I.:
    Here you also went with the ferry?
    S.N.:
    Yes. This is the best place to see the sunset in Japan!
    B.I.:
    But this is not where you were crying?
    S.N.:
    ah! That one! That one!
    B.I.:
    Here.
    S.N.:
    I was crying! (silence for 10-15 seconds)
    B.I.:
    There you go.
    S.N.:
    On this island I have met a couple and they let me stay at theirs!
    B.I.:
    This is a normal thing? So you're saying it is possible?
    S.N.:
    Actually no. I am a really really lucky guy!
    B.I.:
    This is not normal in Japan?
    S.N.:
    You shouldn't try this everywhere.
    B.I.:
    They are more distant…?
    S.N.:
    I was so lucky! This day, when I saw the sunset I was in a hurry! Because I was already after discobvering a smaller island and promised the couple to have dinner with them! I would have been late, so I was in a hurry! But suddenly there was this sunset and it was so beautiful, I left my bicycle and rushed to the coast! The best place to see a sunset! I was crying! I thought, I don't want to see any cars or any human architecture! I don't want to hear someone's voice! In that moment I really really wanted to be alone!
    B.I.:
    Did you apologize for being late to dinner?
    S.N.:
    ah, yes (laughing)
    B.I.:
    You showed them the pictures?
    S.N.:
    Yeees! They forgave me.
    B.I.:
    Lucky indeed.

  • edited June 28

    PART V. //

    S.N.:
    That moment out there was precious again, I felt a connection with nature! Just nature! In front of me! It's difficult to find. Once you if go to the mountains you can see human architecture instantaneosly, electric powerplants, and so on, everywhere in Japan! I would recommend to go outside the cities in Japan! (he is taking a longer break to search his thoughts)
    I kept on going. I went around Hokkaido!
    B.I.:
    Nothing special here on the coast to the south?
    S.N.:
    There are special places, but… hm...
    B.I.:
    There are cities there?
    S.N.:
    It is Sapporo. It is one of the five biggest settlements!
    B.I.:
    You went up the mountain here as well?
    S.N.:
    no-no.
    B.I.:
    Different story?
    S.N.:
    I just went along the coast this time! There was a typhoon! I should stay one week in Sapphoro in my friend's house, I realized! I needed a break, I was becoming really punk! Do you know this feeling, every day so feel more and more melancholic? Also my friend has this mental... illness…?
    B.I.:
    Disorder.
    S.N.:
    So we are…
    B.I.:
    Sitting and not talking.
    S.N.:
    Yesyesyes! Oh… it was disturbing! And also I was still arguing with my girlfriend during those days. I was also melancholic.
    B.I.:
    Which girlfriend is this?
    S.N.:
    The ex-girlfriend!
    B.I.:
    From before Osaka!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah… I never forget that melancholic days.
    B.I.:
    What came next?
    S.N.:
    From Sapporo to Hakodate! The landscape is fascinating, but it goes up and down.
    B.I.:
    Many villages or not so much?
    S.N.:
    Many villages! But it all looks like new!
    B.I.:
    And it's along a national park here?!
    S.N.:
    Indeed. Here you will find a lake as well. This lake has an island. I slept there once.
    B.I.:
    What about the people?
    S.N.:
    Hokkaido people are very kind. Very friendly to others! I said before, the northern people are more calm and quiet. Except Hokkaido, I think! Hokkaido is very welcoming!
    B.I.:
    You would never cycle at night!? So when it got dark you put down your things, stopped where you were and prepared to take a rest?
    S.N.:
    Most of the time.
    B.I.:
    No cycling at night?
    S.N.:
    Sometimes I had to move more, further!
    B.I.:
    To have the 100 kilometers per day?
    S.N.:
    Yes. No-no-no! For example I've found a good spot to camp, but I had to realize, it is quiet the opposite. So I had to move on and ride a bit more to find a suitable spot. 3 or 5 kilometers, not much more… I needed a proper sleeping place. In Hokkaido my lamp suddenly fell apart. It broke. I couldn't see anything in the dark! I still had to go on a bit to find a camp though! And there was a beautiful moon coming up and all the stars, so actually I could see pretty well due to that! I could see through the dark night! I remember. I was looking at the moon! Seeing the road made me comfortable.
    B.I.:
    Not much car traffic?
    S.N.:
    Not so much. Bit scary, because of the bears… but anyway… I went on, just looking... taking care not to accidentally fall down a hole! Sometimes a storm came when I was alread sleeping. Additionally in that moment I had contront myself that I didn't set up the tent properly! Water was coming into where I was.
    B.I.:
    Into the tent. And that's what woke you up, being wet?
    S.N.:
    It was bad.
    B.I.:
    But than you put the tent next day to ry I hope. Because I had the experience with people I took camping and they folded the tent in a wet state.
    S.N.:
    I know. It was maybe AM 3! I was looking for a small roof, but I kept myself awake, waiting till sunrise with all my wet clothes! So if you make a tent, you should make it properly!
    B.I.:
    Where from here?
    S.N.:
    From here I went back to the main island again. This was the climax of my journey! Every day for instance I have met other travellers woh were also on the road discovering Japan on a bicycle!
    B.I.:
    But this people are more like tourists? Travelling short distances for fun?
    S.N.:
    Like me. It's a journey! That's why. Meeting them was the climax! I'm getting to finish it, but I met a new person who just started this journey! Every day somebody like this coressed my path!
    B.I.:
    All in all you have met lots of cyclists you are saying!
    S.N.:
    Oh, yeah! Every day! From that moment on, returning from the north. Before that not so much!
    B.I.:
    Which nationalities?
    S.N.:
    Ah, Japan! Japanese.
    B.I.:
    Mostly?
    S.N.:
    Everybody was Japanese!
    B.I.:
    I see.
    S.N.:
    My feelings started changing. The excitement and the fear… became more like being lonely. All developed into lonelyness.
    B.I.:
    Already you are travelling for… how long? Three or four months?
    S.N.:
    This is five months already! Five months and a half!
    B.I.:
    This is a lot!
    S.N.:
    In that moment there is a conflict!!! Why are you finishing your journey!? You want to do more!
    B.I.:
    It becomes addictive!
    S.N.:
    Yeah-yeah! Ans also the other side sais... something like… Now you can go discover another world! Because after this I was planning to go to Nepal and Sri Lanka! It was my first time going to a foreign country!
    B.I.:
    Without a bicycle?!
    S.N.:
    Without any bicycles! There was a conflict!
    B.I.:
    What have you learned from these thoughts?
    S.N.:
    I realized, the conflict makes a human stronger! I am happy to have felt that big conflict within me thanks to this journey!
    B.I.:
    What is this spot, where the marking is?
    S.N.:
    Akita Prefecture! I'm not sure, but I think there are the fisher women you mentioned!
    B.I.:
    Yes, the shell hunters.
    S.N.:
    I think. I haven't met those people, but they exist! And there is good food in Nosan, the main island location!
    B.I.:
    This is the China side again!
    S.N.:
    I got back there in the end, that's right!
    B.I.:
    (...)
    S.N.:
    What else. Here again I have met a new person, who let me stay for one night. Most of the people were solo, the husband passed away or the wife divorced in the past… such kind of person would let you stay.
    B.I.:
    People feeling lonely themselves?
    S.N.:
    I think so!
    B.I.:
    Or wanting to help besides?
    S.N.:
    Maybe both.
    BN
    Is there a high chance of divorce in Japan nowadays? Lots of people break-up?
    S.N.:
    Nowadays, I think… yes!
    B.I.:
    Even the religious?
    S.N.:
    Also my parents divorced!
    B.I.:
    Next stop?
    S.N.:
    I got to Ishikawa Prefecture! I started feeling more of the weekness and loneliness. Also happyness to finish this journey!
    B.I.:
    What are you showing me know on the map?
    S.N.:
    Niigata Prefecture! This part I just passed. Many of my friends come form this Prefecture by the way! So as a tourist I wanted to see! How is city life there?
    B.I.:
    But nobody was there at the time, p****eople you knew from before, right?
    S.N.:
    Nobody. But one of the other farmer would give me some vegetables.
    B.I.:
    And you were not working on any other farm besides the tobacco fields?
    S.N.:
    Ah no! There were quiet a few! I was helping out! Apple, potatoes, and lattice! And cow farming!
    B.I.:
    Cow?
    S.N.:
    Hmhm! But cow farming is after this journey! I went back to Hokkaido! There I helped with a the cows! I used that money to go to Nepal and Sri Lanka! So just few cases in which I was checking out Japanese agricultural hotspots for myself.

  • edited June 30

    PART VI. //

    B.I.:
    What was the end of your journely like?
    S.N.:
    Final night I reached Kanazawa. I met an old person. He was hitchhiking. Travelling across Japan only by hitchhiking. He looked like a gypsy! The smell was wild! Also his eyes had no shine! No sparkles!
    B.I.:
    This is just one person?
    S.N.:
    Just one. I want to say things about this person, because he was like a symbol of journeying itself for me! Well...
    B.I.:
    If you don't stop the journey you will look like this fellow in 20 years. I'm sure you had this on your mind!
    S.N.:
    Oh yes! I tempted not to talk to him! But he noticed me and crossed the road immediately! At firts he said „I didn't eat anything in 3 days, so please, if you have food, please give it to me!” With undertone eyes. I had no passion to leave him behind! I never forget that feeling, but it is really hard to explain! This final night I was so excited: NOW I FINISH THIS JOURNEY! Six months have passed! This journey, including physical and mental passion and there was a forth-step! Wake up, leave, solve the problem, meet new people! This is the dynamic flow of life! BUT SUDDENLY the guy came confronting me!
    B.I.:
    Your ritual or your routine got compromised!
    S.N.:
    As you say. In that moment I was really… in a physical and in a spiritial way I was already very excited to leave behind my previous life! Suddenly that guy came...
    B.I.:
    To bring you back to Earth!
    S.N.:
    Nothing he can give me, there is no exchange, but he wants my food. I felt heartake in that moment!
    B.I.:
    Leave me alone?
    S.N.:
    Not exactly...
    B.I.:
    Guess, because you got used to the survival game. To solve it all on your own.
    S.N.:
    No, I felt ambivalent! Who he is who doesn't have the passion to change? That final day hurt.
    B.I.:
    He lsot his freedom although he is travelling all the time? Is this what disturbed you?
    S.N.:
    Oh... yeah-yeah-yeah! About freedom! In that moment where he confronted me I was completely in the middle of freedom! He travelling, he looks like freedom, but he surrendered to something. For me so it seemed!
    B.I.:
    How did you tell him „I have to go”?
    S.N.:
    I gave some candy.
    B.I.:
    And then he went.
    S.N.:
    Yeah!! Just only that! It hurt.
    B.I.:
    The sacrifice?
    S.N.:
    It was like that.
    B.I.:
    You were almost back home, but?
    S.N.:
    Almost.
    B.I.:
    Show me the map please. From a bit further off you got back to the city.
    S.N.:
    Directly. A friend was waiting for me. We hugged. And it was finished! I didn't cry in that moment! But a few days later I looked back on my journey and a little bit I was. Crying.
    B.I.:
    How many pictures did you take?
    S.N.:
    I can't count!
    B.I.:
    Like hundreds or you took a lot more?
    S.N.:
    More than 2000, I think!
    B.I.:
    But in 6 months! Sometimes people do this at a festival in a few days!
    S.N.:
    I agree. After the arrival and getting rlaxed I started writing a letter to every person I have met during the journey, and as you can see, this Google maps has stored their localtions. There were many people who gave me comfort and the necessary encouragement and they let me stay for one night or two nights!
    B.I.:
    Basically you have told them you have completed the journey!
    S.N.:
    I started writing the letters to them.
    B.I.:
    Handwritten?
    S.N.:
    Yes, with hands! For everybody!
    B.I.:
    So already during the trip you asked for every each new friend's address.
    S.N.:
    In each house I asked for the address!
    B.I.:
    And they were not afraid that you are somebody bad.
    S.N.:
    no.
    B.I.:
    Because of your vibration meeting these people's friendlyness?
    S.N.:
    Hopefully. I have met many greatful people and they changed a lot about me! It's not that one guy without passion! He was the symbol of loneliness. The other side compared to those who helped me over the span of these 6 months! Mostly I have met greatful people! This was the master class of my life so far! I want to be like him! I want to be like her. To be like that couple! This is what I felt.
    B.I.:
    And you think you attracted each other with these positive people? So if you are travelling and you need help, the right people will show up? You belive in this,
    S.N.:
    Improving each other! Mainly I improved thanks to them. That time around I was 20 years old! Many people not only encouraged me, but gave me something special! So this is my bicycle journey!
    B.I.:
    Thank you!
    S.N.:
    I'm not into bicycles so much, they are material things, but I love riding them. I prefer a bicycle. Not too slow, as when walking. Not too fast, as when you are driving a car! We can feel the atmosphere of nature. I can say „Prana”. It's from Indian philosophy. We can feel with our body, the physical things along the road more if we cycle.
    B.I.:
    Because you are not encaged or conserved by the shell of the car.
    S.N.:
    We can feel. That's it.

    Recorded in Budapest (December, 2019)
    Typed in and edited by BikeInfantry (June, 2020)

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