No cherries in the cherry trees

Start of the sakura season


March ’14 to Avril ’14

After a brief stop in Nagano city, I made it back to the quiet village of Ueno in the Gunma prefecture. I had left my bike there for the winter, in the great company of my japanese friends Tsune and Miho. Just enough to say hi again and remember why I had stopped there for so long before, then I hit the road again. Had to get my feet moving fast, had the feeling I could get stuck there again very easily.

The pain of the winter’s riding came in my knees while I got used to the long cycling days again. A few freezing nights in the southern part of the Kita Alps brought me to region near Nagoya, then into Kansai. The roads were a good mix of quiet mountains ones lined with amazing forest of tall pines and bamboo, as well as wide and busy valleys that are typical of Japan.

I made a quick stop in Nagoya to plan ahead a little bit. I was going into Kansai right as the cherry blossom season was coming, the time when hanami, or flower viewing, is very popular. It’s one of the most touristy time of the year there, and people go spend all day in the park, sitting under the flowering trees to drink, eat and enjoy other’s company. Quite thrilled at the idea first, I realised it was going to complicate my visit as every single cheaper accommodations were fully booked for Kyoto, the main cultural staple of the region. Fortunately, with the help of great Warmshower hosts in Shiga and then Osaka, I was able to explore the region and enjoy the blossoms myself. I even got to use the very efficient train system of Japan, something I couldn’t do with my bike.

Kyoto can be quite a temple overload, but it’s still much worth seeing. I made stop in Nara too, where very tamed deer abounds in the parks near the main temple, scavenging cookies from excited, or scared, tourists. The pretty white flowers made the very busy roads of the Kansai region a bit more tolerable, slowing me down for yet another photo opportunity.

I played cricket. Got drunk with old mans. Got a glimpse of traditional archery. Found some ‘homesick’-inducing belgian beer. Climbed the most ridiculously steep road I’ve ever seen, and then fumbled my way down on the other side, water-cooling my brakes every few minutes has their were squealing to death in all new terrible tones. I even managed to obtain my Chinese visa through all of it. Not bad.

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