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Planning
The details came later...

1998 spring
I buy a mountain-bike and learn to ride again after a 20 year break since my Raleigh Griffter.  Go on various day-trips exploring the mountains west of Tokyo. Much difficultly in finding anything "off-road" that doesn't involve large groups of middle-aged Japanese hikers, sickening drops and rope ladders.

1998 summer
Run into a group of mountain-bikers while, as usual, carrying my bike up the mountain. Join their group for a few weekend rides. Realise that their disciplined fitness regime and early Sunday morning starts are strangely incompatible with my late Saturday nights and binge-drinking. After a couple of permanent scars, put the bike out on the balcony and forget about it.

1999
Discover that I have a bicycle on my balcony. This summer vacation I've already decided to visit Shikoku, the large mountainous island of South Western Japan, and visit the first few temples on the "88 Temple Pilgrimage Circuit", so I decide to make use of the rusting piece of metal outside my door.  Buy a rack, tie on several 7-11 plastic carrier bags, and board a ferry for Tokushima, start of the circuit.  End up completing the entire circuit.  Up until now no ride has lasted longer than 6 hours... this lasts 3 weeks and covers 1000 painful miles of hot, tortuously steep mountain roads and abysmal signposting.  Results in a half-man-half-crab-like walk lasting a week ,and some very sore and tender parts of the anatomy.  I'm hooked.

2000
Bike has survived millennium-bug apart from the continuing propensity for cycle computer to show low speeds and short distances... Tackle the Japan Sea Coast by bike, in 35+ degree C temperatures with two layers of long-sleeved tops after the severe sunburn from the first day. Survive home-prepared meal of raw "fugu" - blowfish - with minimal hallucinogenic after-effects.

2001
Day-trips into the mountains and longer weekend trips further afield continue throughout the year, including a "Golden Week" trip around Tohoku, the North East of Japan.  A freak cold front hits after a few days, really putting my cold-weather gear to the test (Fail).  After a day of start-stopping in lay-bys to perform star-jumps to keep warm, reluctantly decide to cut the trip short and return home defeated, but with extremities intact.

2002
Have hardened up since the failure of last year.  After a much warmer Golden Week touring Kyushu hand-in-hand with the Gods of Rain, head off to Tohoku again, this time staring fate right in the eyes by starting the trip with Ozore-san, which translates as the "Mountain of Fear". No giving up this time, and despite The Night of Rats in a deserted wet campground towards the end of the tour, the abundance of beautiful mountain hot-springs and the friendliness of the local "Yakusa" add up to some precious memories.

2003
Start thinking about a longer trip, at least six months, and relishing the thought of handing in my notice. Something about Central America and the image of laughing women and children in their colourful peasant garb dancing the "tondera" to the sound of latin guitars in the cobbled village square.  Or something like that.  Money worries and other worries back home mean the planned departure date comes and goes.  Probably for the best - could never roll my "R"s anyway.
  Console myself with a couple weeks cycling Hokkaido , the main northernmost island of Japan.  Disappointed to find no locals willing to dance the tondera for me.

early 2004
Shift work and weekend work mean I start dreaming again, and also with no social life, mean I start saving money again. After flirting between the relatively rational ideas of either building a log cabin or opening a bar in Shinjuku, or building a log-cabin and turning it into a bar, it suddenly hits me - why not cycle between London and Tokyo ? 

I buy a map and draw a line between the UK and Japan.  And put it away for a rainy day.

christmas 2004
The idea just doesn't stay down.  Decide to spend a couple weeks over Christmas cycling in New Zealand to think about it.  A very cold first night in the tent (it snows) and a very noisy night a week later in a hostel (a bit of Christmas "celebrating" going on in the bunk below). 

It doesn't make sense, but I make the decision:  London to Tokyo by bicycle it is.

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