YOU wa nani shi ni Nippon e?

September 2, 2016

Setting out from Mori was difficult – not because of any inclement weather or mechanical problems, but because we were just so fond of the place. As we broke down camp in Oniushi Park behind the michi-no-eki, we realized that we had spent nearly 24 hours in the park without ever leaving the grounds. We did our laundry using dry sacks and bar soap and constructed a makeshift drying line to air the clean clothes out. NB: The ability to construct a line with a simple taut-line hitch knot has saved me in a number of situations since I started camping, so if you’re reading this blog post and are looking for things to take away for your own travel preparations, here it is: learn the taut-line hitch knot if you plan on camping out. It’ll make a shelter setup or a drying line for clothes in a snap.

Learn the taut-line hitch knot if you plan on camping out.

Due to the humidity, we couldn’t just set out and go at the break of dawn as we expected. Our drying chamois shorts still needed the sun to dry out and we were having a really nice morning breaking camp. When we did finally get away, it was into headwinds that slowed our progress, so we really weren’t sure what kind of distance we would be covering.

When we did arrive at our next michi-no-eki stop for rehydration and a wifi check-in, we were greeted with warmth from just about everyone we met. The town here is Shikabe, and it sits on the ocean on an auxiliary road that runs parallel to the main 278 road that got us here from Mori. The station is attached to a natural hot spring geyser (kanketsusen) and you can view its geothermal outbursts every 15 minutes (while the valves are open during business hours). Tanaka-san, one of the employees working there and son of the local sushi chef, went out of his way to help us find the best onsen and route through town. We were happy to manage on our own but the warmth he showed us won’t be forgotten! Thanks Tanaka-san!

After a wicked soak at our 6th onsen in 7 days, we ran into one of Tanaka-san’s colleagues at the michi-no-eki (she had already heard all about our trip) who explained that we’d be a rather perfect fit for a Japanese show called “YOU wa nani shi ni Nippon e?”, which translates into “What are YOU doing in Japan?” She explained the premise of the show in that wonderful neutral territory between English and Japanese that bridges so many of the cultural gaps we’ve encountered. It’s apparently really popular and they stop foreigners on the street to ask them what brings them to Japan. I think we’d have quite a story.

She explained the premise of the show in that wonderful neutral territory between English and Japanese that bridges so many of the cultural gaps we’ve encountered.

While we didn’t make it to Tanaka-san’s sushi restaurant tonight, his colleague (who never did tell us her name) rode her bicycle back across town to hand us a gift of tomatoes and melons as a welcoming present from the hearts of the people of Shikabe and Japan. Needless to say, this little town lives in our hearts already.

Author: Christian

Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of


  1. Comment by Kelvin

    Kelvin Reply September 4, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Wishing you a wonderful and successful trip! I hope to cycle Japan as well some day. Could you share why your chosen route is North to South? Thank you!

    • Comment by Christian

      Christian Reply September 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Hey Kelvin,
      Mostly because we want to chase the autumnal weather given our timing. We were available for this trip after the Canadian summer and didn’t want to be heading through typhoons in the south to be arriving in winter in the north. Since we are moving into the Southern Hemisphere in late October, our goal is to avoid winter for a full year!

      Thanks for your comment. Feel free to ask questions as we go!

  2. Comment by Peter Erik Fuchs

    Peter Erik Fuchs Reply September 22, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Where are you now? Today was Autumn Equinox, but our Tokyo university – Rikkyo or St. Paul’s as the missionary founders named it 141 years ago – had classes today. I teach 200 undergraduates just entering the tourism faculty this term. If you might be in and around Tokyo are on Sept. 29 (my classes are on Thursdays) or the following week or two, I would gladly invite you to campus to meet our students, and perhaps give a 30-40 min. talk on your travels. We can find a place for you to stay, a meal or two, and a modest “osenbetsu” Japanese-style “parting gift.” Let me know (my wife Sumie and I are also active cyclists, doing some 20 triathlons between us, but also group riders with – where we could perhaps also get you a speaking gig on our first Wed. of the month beer/chat/nachos evening. Peter

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