Busan/South-Korea – Tokyo/Japan

Japan is different, as everybody knows. I am curious. I Just arrived in Japan, in the town of Shimonoseki. An elderly man starts a conversation and when he left, I hold his business card in my hand. A cliché-like welcome, as if it was planned ahead. After the long boat-passage from Busan, at first something to eat and then some e-mails – a price shock after months in Africa, India, Nepal and China, but also not too unexpected. I realize quickly, that you, as your own chef and outdoor sleeper also can get along here in Japan quite well.
On the road again – left side traffic. Almost everywhere there are cycle routes. But they are often so narrow, that I can´t use them. Between cycle route and street a fence, is it crossing a street, you have to use bridges or tunnels. The ramps have artificial obstacles and often are so steep, that it´s hard to go up. So I keep on riding on the street, sometimes even, when it´s prohibited for cyclists and not even once I heard an angry hooter. Everybody drive very carefully and respectfully, that I start to have a bad feeling when I cross a “yellow” light on an empty crossing.
I have a rest on a parking lot. All over the country seems to be covered with vending machines. Here I count 24 of these automata in a row, each of them offering a variety of 10-40 drinks. In a super market you find electronic price tags, like in future supermarket visions, and in the refrigerated shelfs there are small flat screens with speakers, suggesting, what to buy. The clinical clean restroom of the super market presents a toilet with heated seat, 15 buttons and 8 control lamps. Japan is so tidy – and Japan is save. Senior citizens guide every morning the stream of uniformed students on their way to school. Even the smallest construction site, or an obstacle like an open manhole, is surrounded by Seniors in safety vests, along with amounts of signs, reflective material, wink elements and modern light technology.
What belongs to the image of Japan like the Fast-food chains to the USA are the amusement halls for Slot and Paschinko, a kind of vertical Flipper. Under a clever avoidance of conflict with existing laws, it is gambling for money. All over there are these casinos with illuminated advertisings, reminding me now and then of Las Vegas.
As so often, the most impressive is the contrasts – mostly the contrasts between tradition and modern spirit. A high-tech country on the one hand and a strong traditional culture on the other – the coexistence seems to work very well, as far as my first impressions reach. As an example: An optional custom is it, to bring your kids to a Shrine for a kind of initiation ritual, 3 times, at different ages. They are wearing beautiful Kimonos, the traditional dress. 3 years old are the youngest, who still have difficulties to walk with the traditional two string sandals, used along with Tabi (special socks with a separated big toe) The woman of the proud parents and grand parents also wear Kimonos, but are additionally equipped with digital camera or camcorder. A wonderful and amusing ceremony to watch.
The places I was planning to visit in advance were Hiroshima and its monuments of the atomic bomb tragedy, the Himeji castle, Osaka, with its somehow disappointing bicycle museum (initiator is one of the most important companies worldwide for bikes and bike parts) and the cities of Nara and Kyoto. Both former capitals with many important Temples, Shrines, Pagodas and Palaces.
In Nara I celebrate my 2nd birthday on this tour and right on that day it´s raining – my only rainy day in Japan. No rain, but heavy clouds on another day, the day when I pass the Fuji-yama vulcano – highest mountain of the country and because of its regular cone shape supposedly one of the most beautiful ones of the world. But I see nothing, at least not this day, where I am so close.
I arrive in Tokyo. The most impressive sight for me there is the overview from the 45. floor of a high-rise, about 250m above the city. High-rise buildings and urban spaces up to the horizon. Before I leave Japan, I visit friends of Maik – Takami, Seiki, Koutarou and Ai. It is always nice to know somebody familiar, a place to rest, plus that it provides the chance for a closer insight into daily life in Japan. Thank you very much for your hospitality! For sure it would have been even more special, when Maik would be still with me.
My time in Japan is over. Unfortunately. This country is surely worth to stay longer and to be understood and appreciated even more.
20.11. Airport Tokyo-Narita. I finished the first long stage. A more than 23.000 km long Bicycle tour is over. More than a year I was on the road. Not too bad. I am enjoying the feeling, are proud of what lays behind me. Memories of the first days of this tour in October 2006, when for the first time the reality of that dream and the dimensions of that challenge impressed me, especially in terms of time…
The flight back is everything else but easy. With much of a delay I land at midnight in Berlin Tegel – not completely surprised only with my hand luggage. Even in an airplane, a long journey. Part of the welcome-back-committee had to leave earlier because of the delay.
Without question, even though my motivation for this tour was positive up to the last day, I am very happy to be home again! I am looking forward to be with my family and friends again, with the daily comfort of the daily life here in Berlin, to have a short break from the daily urge to move on.
On Sunday, March 9, Denise and I want to board an airplane with destination Costa Rica, from where we want to continue this tour together in South America.


translated by Maik

pictures to this article: Busan/Südkorea – Tokio/Japan : Fotos

8. Februar 2008 - Tom & Maik | english texts | Kommentare :: comments :: comentarios | Inhalt drucken

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