TOKYO ROADTRIP! Rental819, Amagiso Ryokan and the Izu Skyline- KaapOOW!

An adventure of a lifetime... (ok, until next week)! Two days, one hot ass Ducati Monster 698, gung-ho attitude & experience and a road (and some off road lol). Ohh yeeeeeeaaaahh baby! Riding a motorbike around Japan was a driving force of me getting onto bikes in the first place, so this achievement has left me grinning like a little fluffy furball.

Rental 819 Hatogaya

Starting off with the best motorbike rental outlet in JAPAN- with over 100 shops, and English speaking staff, I rated them the best equipped and well suited to me as an English speaking foreigner wanting a two wheeled adventure. With super slick, new, high performance machines, competitive pricing and comprehensive insurance, lets have a big drum roll for the superstars at RENTAL819!!

My route- Day one: straight out west to Fuji and then down to the Amagiso Onsen nestled right under a corkscrew highway  Day two: down along the coast to Shimoda, up- to Mount Omuro, along the famous Izu & Hakone Skyline roads and then North and back to Tokyo + amazing stops along the way

My route- Day one: straight out west to Fuji and then down to the Amagiso Onsen nestled right under a corkscrew highway

Day two: down along the coast to Shimoda, up- to Mount Omuro, along the famous Izu & Hakone Skyline roads and then North and back to Tokyo + amazing stops along the way

HANDS DOWN SUPERB TO DEAL WITH. Special mention going out to Adrian, Yosuke & Kohsuke at Ikebukuro and the mechanic from Hatogaya who setup the GPS and Ducati :) They helped me put together a route on Garmin navigation, sort out the highway toll charges, get kitted out in spunky Dianese moto-gear, book a Ryokan and Onsen AND get a brand new 2015 Ducati Monster 698. 

I tossed up between the new Yamaha MT-09 and the new Ducati's, but settled on the Duke for a few reasons. Experience had taught me about getting into all sorts of little situations can be more cooly navigated when you are not having to fight your machine. On motorbike trips there are always adventures inside the adventure!! Gravelly side roads, multiple short notice u-turns, possible inclement weather, steep inclines and the fact that I was doing this solo, were all thoughts that helped me on my decision. Plus I was keen to try out the new Ducati's engineering.

Best place in the world to stop on a moto-afternoon tea

Best place in the world to stop on a moto-afternoon tea

Weather in April in Tokyo is a mixed bag. One day sunny and 23 deg, the next, 3 and snowing! I checked to see when the full moon was (I bet $$ on this trick and always book my snow or fishing adventures around this date as it brings clear skys and reliably settled weather) but alas it was a new moon. SO I stuck my finger in the air, waved it around a bit, missed the weekend and landed on the 23rd/ 24th.... and ca-boOOM- I was blessed with THE BEST you could get. Warm, sunny and ab-so-lutely-bloody-purrrrfect.

BONZAI!

English castle in the middle of Japan- why not?!

One loooong tunnel... long enough to stop and take a break and a photo!!

Triumph v Ducati

Miss Piggy, as I affectionately nicknamed her was one fun ride- as long as you kept moving! The Monster is nimble, light, grunty, LOUD (Oh this was SOOO FUN in quiet Japan), looks super sexy and had a never ending petrol tank. Interesting notes: down changing (esp 1st) was like slamming a hammer, no matter how sleekly you attempt and the HEAT from the engine was UNBELIEVABLE. I swear to God, I had to check multiple times my jeans hadn't burnt right off- to the point on the return trip, where I had entered this crazy 16km long, winding underground tunnel beneath Tokyo at 40 deg air temp, that I couldn't bear idling in the traffic jam so resorted to tearing up the left (never a good option) side emergency lane (under a meter wide) to get out of the damn thing. I found out later the Pannigale is even hotter?!- their slogan should be "Ducati- just keep 'em moving"...

If the bikes were girls on a night out- the Triumph would be a sleek, well groomed, sassy lady oozing sex appeal on just the right notes, where as the Ducati would be leopard print naughty fun, with a skirt just a little too short, a husky smokers voice, whisky on the rocks and the lady with the tricks at 4am. Both a bit of awesome; dynamo team- but for me TRIUMPH all the way. 

Arriving in the dark after a couple of hours of night switchback corners- which was ridiculously good, boot scraping fun to the most beautiful traditional Japanese hotel; Amagiso Ryokan. Three levels high, it snuggly wound it's way down the valley to a spectacular waterfall and hot springs. 

おはよう! Good Morning corkscrew highway!

Outdoor onsen with waterfall? YES PLEASE!

Looking back to Shimoda

Mt Fuji ^=^

Riding in Japan is magnificent. The road charges are expensive, and I advise you carry lots of change in a handy to access pocket- because your going to need it at the toll routes. Most windy runs have mirrors on the corners, which is pretty neat. The highways are superb, well policed and there are speed cameras (that shoot from the front...  ^=^ ......)... but with your wits about you and good decision making, you can have a blast! 

I pulled on all my skills and resources, absolutely can't even put in words how much fun I had, and HIGHLY recommend you come and play RIGHT HERE.  ^=^ 

雪の天- Snow Heaven

Hokkaido: NISEKO

Mt Yōtei (the "Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido")- looking at hiking the summit of him weather permitting!

Nothing about Japan is cold. Paradoxes and parodies abound with Formality and Tradition the big brothers to the young mischievous ruckus of Kawaii Super Cute and Neon Love. 

Night boarding at Grand Hirafu- like a boss- board in board out Boom !

Night boarding at Grand Hirafu- like a boss- board in board out Boom !

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

An'nupuri

A part of my soul has come home. Japan is sublime. From the moment I boarded the flight from Auckland to Tokyo, an experience filled with juxtaposition, contradictions and an unflustered air began. NZ95 must be the well pressed trooper of the fleet- from a beige & more formal past time.  It was service with a smile, comfort with rugs and pillows and coloured by beige and chocolate brown interior highlights. As NZ slipped away, a very gentle calm descended.

Check out Flowstate by clicking above...

Writing this is hard- where the hell to start- it is all epic?! Currently I am in the most Northern island of Japan- Hokkaido, and a couple of hours south of Sapporo in Niseko. I am here for a relatively medium sized length of string (I never have plans set in stone); the next week is with an international group of adventurers for a gathering of likeminded individuals who are exploring new concepts of how creativity effects the neuroplasicity of the brain. Mindfulness and Flow are high productivity techniques that are achieved through self awareness, structured goal setting and by pushing ourselves out of the comfort zone. How activity, movement (mediation and yoga) and risk management (aka adventure sports) effect our process to hit the sweet spot of performance, how to nurture and care for ourselves after passing through this stage and ultimately, how to reach our full potential.  HARRO!

Summit Mt Niseko An’nupuri

The day I arrived I blew in with an ENORMOUS and unsuspected dump of snow- EEEeeoooW!! 

In three days I have snowboarded in day and night, three fields- An’nupuri, Grand Hirafu and Hanazono. I have hiked the summit Mt Niseko An’nupuri, trekked, meditated, Chi Gong'ed (Japanese Tai Chi), yogi'ed, noshed amazing food- geeked out on incredible packaging (which is packaged in another package, within a package- you should see the recycling regime!!), met amazing locals and people from further abroad and fallen in love with Onsen.

Onsen protocol

The Hilton Niseko Onsen

The Hilton Niseko Onsen

All the things that truly matter- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace- all of these arise from more than the thinking world
— Eckhart Tolle

A few things I have loved and of note so far:

Onsen (hot-pools) are communal group bathing pools with a custom and ceremony which I have found instantly addictive. Women and men are split and bathing is done nude, yet a graceful and considerate respect is between all participants. Relaxing and taking care of yourself at the end of the day is a beautiful reflection time without rush or distraction.

The Western world could do with dipping her toes into this concept. I enjoy observing how this arrangement facilitates a time for women to gather and relax together without self conscious and concerned with image. This custom and many other examples in Japanese culture have made me realise how very young new New Zealand’s culture really is. Which is rather intriguing really, because we have geothermal pools and history and heritage in enjoying them- but it's a very different energy and protocol. We are but the gravel starting to seal at the beginning of a road paved in time.

Green Tea.. flavoured anything. OMG. Picture says a thousand words.

Simmering subtext... it's all just under the surface bubbling away ;)

Simmering subtext... it's all just under the surface bubbling away ;)

I like being Gaijin. I like opening my eyes and ears to unfamiliar surroundings and observing other traditions to assimilate into my new surroundings. Anonymity and my curiosity are a well suited pair to my adventurous spirit which is allowing me to find, seek and explore new physical, mental and conceptual platforms.

HEATED TOILET SEATS. Nuff said- revolutionary. I need one good reason why this aint global?

The countryside is picturesque and strangely familiar as it really is like the woodblocks and ink works I have admired and studied over the years. The images of my dreams are reality and lead into my sense of familiarity. Even though I have a knowledge of Japan- I was conscious to put aside expectations and arrive without assumptions- there are surprises everywhere^=^

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive
— Howard Thurman
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