Last post I had just arrived in Sendai from Hokkaido on an overnight ferry ride. That was Sunday, Sept. 2. On Sept. 6, as you are probably aware, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake hit southern Hokkaido, just a few kilometers away from where I had cycled a few days earlier. The quake triggered dozens of landslides that buried houses and killed about 40 people. Tragic. Here is a recent article.
Some photos of the damage.
A street in Sapporo.
Just prior to leaving Hokkaido there was a massive typhoon on Honshu, the main island of Japan. Typhoon Jebi was the biggest one to hit Japan in 25 years. I could not have timed it better: I was in Hokkaido when the typhoon hit Honshu and in Honshu when the earthquake hit Hokkaido, all within about a week.
Here’s a few pics from the typhoon.
Waves crashing against a seawall.
This ship was torn from its moorings and crashed into a bridge.
Wind blew this truck on its side on a bridge. That must have been terrifying for the driver.
It’s been a rough summer for Japan. In June and July successive heavy downpours in southwestern Japan resulted in widespread, devastating floods and mudflows. Then this summer saw extreme heat, well over 100 deg F, which caused several deaths. Then the worst typhoon in 25 years, now an earthquake, all in the space of about four months. Let’s pray things calm down for them.
Back in Sendai I saw this marker which indicates the height of the tsunami that struck there in 2011. It’s a major urban center and you can see how high the water got. I can’t imagine the damage. Six feet of water in a major urban center. Around this road were businesses, houses, restaurants, car dealerships, offices, gas stations, convenience stores…all must have been damaged or destroyed.
I saw several of these elevated structures which people can climb up to escape a tsunami.
They are still building and reinforcing levees.
I visited an elementary school in the nearby town of Arahama which was inundated by the tsunami. They have turned it into a museum and reminder to always be vigilant and prepared. The photo below shows the height of the water. It rose to a about a foot above the second floor, which must be at least 15 feet. Pretty amazing.
Here is an incredible photo of the kids and teachers on the roof of the school during the tsunami. Fortunately, all were eventually rescued. Yes, that water is at least 15 feet deep. The whole town of Arahama was inundated with many hundreds killed.
OK, enough about death and destruction, let’s move on to something lighter.
Well, more is better I guess.
A small Shinto shrine in a nice peaceful park.
A farmer tending to his crops.
This is Pradeep from Nepal. He has lived in Japan for 14 years and runs a curry shop in Yamagata. I had dinner there one night and as he speaks English we could have a good conversation. He was so nice I have decided to visit Nepal when I head over to that part of the world. The curry was great.
A view of a valley from the hills.
On the way to Niigata I crossed over some mountains. More tunnels, bridges and hills.
A giant torii in Yamagata. A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.
The shinto shrine.
One thing you see a lot of in Japan are rest areas called michi no eki. They have restrooms, vending machines, and often gift shops and food stalls. You can even camp there. This one had some strange looking fish on sticks and several kinds of yakitori, skewered chicken pieces.
These women stopped and gave me a rice ball filled with meat and some gooey dessert stuff. So Nice!
If I haven’t mentioned it before, Japanese toilets are unique. They have jets of water that clean you down there after you’ve done your business. You can even adjust the temperature and water pressure. The seats are often heated too. This one also has a button for “flushing sound” in the lower right hand corner. Don’t ask me.
On the road to Niigata, fish hanging outside someone’s house.
Typical ryokan or Japanese inn that I stayed at in the town of Shibata. Not much furniture. A small table, a chair with no legs, a tea set, a fan. A futon to sleep on was added later.
Posing in my yukata, a traditional Japanese robe.
The ryokan owner escorted me to an excellent sushi restaurant. This bowl of sushi and a beer cost about $20.
The next day he rode around Shibata with me for a bit and showed me some sights. He took this photo of me in front of the Shibata castle.
I am currently in Niigata, waiting out yet another rainy day. I also found out the spare saddle that my sister sent was held up in customs in Tokyo. It has been there for 10 days. The post office guy said there were delays due to the earthquake in Hokkaido but that doesn’t make sense. The package arrived there several days before the earthquake. So now I will probably have to go to Tokyo, the only place in Japan that might have a replacement Brooks B17 saddle. Oh well. Nothing to be done.
Well I can eat, and have been doing so. I found a great ramen place. A big bowl of noodles, pork, veggies and broth:
Here’s the chef. He was amused at my extremely lame Japanese.
I’ve got to try this place. But I’m a little scared.
If you have concluded based on this blog that Japan’s culture is unique, you are correct. If you want to learn a bit more about what NOT to do in Japan, check out the following video some guy made. He discusses 12 things you should never do in Japan.
Finally, I set a new bike tour distance record. I surpassed my 2007-2009 trip of 22,097 km (13,730 miles) and am currently at 22,809 km (14,173 miles). I have not yet passed the time record though. My last trip was 645 days and I am currently at 526 days. I should beat that while in Australia in the next couple months. This reflects the fact that I have been riding more days so far and spending less time exploring my surroundings. I hope to change that soon though. Instead of riding 6-7 days a week I want to only ride 4-5 days a week. The main reason I haven’t so far is simply economic. Hotels in the US and Japan are expensive so I have avoided staying in one place too long. In Mexico I was kind of in a hurry so I did not explore much either. But in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos I plan on taking more rest days and seeing the sights. I’m looking forward to it.
Here is my current location in Niigata.