As I am almost a month into my Asia trip, I am sitting in my hotel room in Hong Kong, finally having some alone time and am beginning to reminisce about my trip thus far. On September 27, I got on an airplane and flew across the Pacific Ocean to the Land of the Rising Run. Japan seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and I’m not sure why, but it has never been on mine. When my friend, Jim, presented me the opportunity to see it by bike, I didn’t hesitate and committed as soon as I could.
EAT, RIDE, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT! Yhayyy!
Our daily routine began with an early start and funny enough, because of the minor jet lag (that I never use to get when I was once young) got me up early and ready to sleep by 10pm. I never had any trouble getting up! We would commune as a group for breakfast at 8am, pack and get our bikes ready, check out and roll out by 9-10am. We’d stop somewhere along the way for lunch, arrive at our destination mid-afternoon, check into our next hotel, where I would head straight to the onsen. Around 7pm, we would meet again for dinner which took an hour or two and then I would retire back to my room. The days must sound monotonous and drab but for a cyclist like me, it was heaven on earth. It also gave me the opportunity to “detox” from the non-stop busyness of life (although I abused my body physically by consecutive days of vigorous riding) and most importantly, my deeply-introverted self got quite the escape.
The inns we stayed in were no 5-star hotels but they were mainly traditional Japanese inns— clean, simple and cozy with delicious breakfasts and dinners, and indoor onsen. Being in the dirty and sweaty state that I was in after each ride, the barest accommodation would have been fine with me (as long as it was clean). We were also met with the legendary hospitality of the Japanese. I couldn’t have had asked for more! The 11 days I spent touring Japan by bike with very minimal belongings really taught me that you don’t need much to live on and be fulfilled.
And the FOOD.
This tour was a CYCLING + FOODIE HEAVEN! Unfortunately, I think I was the only “foodie” on the trip (it must be a ‘millennial’ thing as the rest of the group were much older) and I seemed to be the only one who was sometimes too dramatically excited when we walked into the dining room. Good thing I really have no shame when it comes to my piggy problems. We awoke each morning to a beautiful Japanese bento box breakfast prepared by our hotel and as someone who doesn’t normally eat breakfast or prior to bike rides at home, I still had to devour everything. The excuse I gave myself: “this is part of the journey!”
For lunch, we stopped at small restaurants (think mom n’ pop) along the way: ramen, udon, soba. Omigod, you have no idea how much I LOVE noodles. As delicious as breakfast, dinners and all the snacks in between were, there is nothing quite like a hearty bowl of noodles.
In the evenings after a long day of riding to our next ryokan, we were presented with a huge spread of meticulously prepared Japanese dishes while a never-ending stream of plates came from the kitchen as we devoured our way through dinner. No two meal we had were the same and I dined on some of the best dishes I’ve ever had. Every meal was overwhelmingly decadent in size yet still managed to be light and healthy at the same time. No wonder the Japanese lives for so long! I have never eaten so well in my life.
No matter how much I love riding…
…Once the realization that we are almost at our destination hit, there is only one thought consuming my mind: showering (unless I’m working out, I hate being dirty). In this situation, no matter how painful that day’s ride was, I always knew I had one thing to look forward to: the soak in a JAPANESE ONSEN! Each ryokan we stayed in contained an indoor onsen and I was the only female of the group, and sometimes, in the entire inn, so it was like having a huge, luxurious private-public bath! I don’t like enclosed spaces and cleaning bathrooms so I have become a huge fan of public baths. It really felt great to make a mess, splash water everywhere and not have to clean up!! You are required to shower before going completely naked into the hot tub as not to contaminate the water… the water is supposedly clean but I always had another quick shower after (because you never know). Let me tell you, there is nothing like peeling off your dirty cycling gear and a wondrous onsen soak after hours and hours of riding in hot/cold/wet/windy weather. The thought of it made the painful parts of the rides much less painful. I know we should say, “it’s the journey, not the destination” but sometimes, you have to admit a shower and a hot tub is not a bad thought.
Again, as much as I love riding, that could arguably be the best part of the ride. Aside from the food. Aside from the epic climbs. Aside from… wait, I guess that makes everything about this bike tour equally the best!!
Perhaps I will get to writing more about this epic bike tour later. Stay tuned…
In the mean time, please head over to the blog of our dear leader, Jim the tour organizer, for a daily account of our Japan Bike Tour.