Taking a bicycle on a ferry is infinitely easier than flying and usually cheaper. To travel the 214 kilometers from Busan, Korea to Fukuoka, Japan over the Sea of Japan, I took the Camellia Ferry. I didn’t even need to park my bike with the cars. We both entered through the passenger line. (Hint: Do not get in the x-ray line behind a bicycle tourer! We hold up the line!) I don’t know quite what the x-ray is for, since I had a cylinder of gas and 2 knives in my bike bags and those failed to raise any sort of alarm.
A crew member told me to secure my bike with two lines since we were in for a rough crossing. He gave me two ropes, and I added a few more of my own.
Through my research, I’d learned that the ferry had a lovely bath. After checking into my dorm room, I wandered around and found the baths. I am still a little shy about all the naked. Would anyone object to the tattoos? But after the ride from my old house to Busan, I needed a bath and who knew how long it would be till my next bathing opportunity? I pulled off my clothes and got in with the old ladies and no one cared at all if I was extra hippie hairy.
The dorm room was a nice surprise, too. I’d been expecting something larger, full of snoring men and wild children. Instead I got a small room with seven other single ladies and all our snacks. We watched Frozen and had a nice night of sleep, rocked by the rough seas. It must have been high seas indeed to cause that huge boat to rock so much.
At 7:30 the next morning, I rode into Fukuoka and proceeded to get lost for hours.
In Japan, you ride on the left side of the street, which is instantly disorienting. Most cyclists stuck to the sidewalks and bicycle paths. I mostly did the same but sometimes snuck onto the smoother road surface. Everyone was extremely polite. I went into a Starbucks to stare at my phone and a paper map and attempt to puzzle out my route. The student next to me was pouring over an English text book full of obscure vocabulary. The businessman on my other side poured over five electronic devices and a ream of paperwork. I figured out my route and plunged back into traffic. In a few hours, the city gave way to a surf town.
Around sunset, I started looking for places to camp. I wanted to be away from the highway and train tracks so I followed a little gravel road down to a small harbor. There were no angry dogs so I pulled into the grass parking lot in front of a few fishing boats. A motorcycle was parked there. After a few minutes, the rider came hiking back. He had long hair and full chaps. Through some creative sign language, we worked out that he was going to camp further down the road where there was a bathroom, but it was okay if I wanted to camp in this location. He also showed me the handful of tiny shellfish he’d collected to add to his dinner.
By the time I got my tent set up, the cold had set in. I put on all my clothes and snuggled deep in my sleeping bag. Some cars pulled in while I was in my tent but no one bothered me. Around 5 am some fishermen took their boats out. Again, no one even glanced my way so I guess it’s true that wild camping in Japan is no problem at all.
The next day was a long meander. I visited a castle, which has a number of friendly castle cats that loiter about the place. The wisteria must be lovely when it’s in bloom. The cherry blossoms are already starting to bloom. I listened to true crime podcasts all day. For lunch, I found the Japan equivalent of Denny’s. It’s called Joyfull. It has unlimited refills on the coffee machine, a full picture menu, and a power point at the table so I could charge my devices.
My route headed up into the mountains that evening. My second campsite was a little closer to the road than I would have liked but the traffic died down considerably after dark. I was at a little pullout with some benches. The view was spectacular. During the night, some small animal rustled around in the bushes but did not chew any holes in anything.
Coming out of the hills the next morning, I leap frogged with three boys on road bikes. I don’t know what they were stopping to do that made them as slow as me. I went through a tunnel that was scary. I went up on the raised sidewalk but it was skinny. I was worried about scraping the wall or falling off the edge. I had to keep stopping when trucks roared by. In the next city, I found a bookshop and bought a new paper map. It’s all in Japanese so who knows if it’ll be any use but it never hurts to have a back-up. Then I found a sports shop and bought a new canister of cooking gas. My three friends made all the same stops. Eventually I left them behind at the sports shop and headed back into the mountains. Around sunset, two screws fell out of my front rack, necessitating a repair stop. By the time I’d reattached everything, it was getting dark and the roadside was a little too populated to find a private camp spot. I rejected two places as too ugly or loud. Losing patience for the search, I pulled into a funny hotel. It was more money than I wanted to spend, but I thought the deep bathtub would be worth it. Turns out, my room came with some interesting bonus features.
Like this dress.
When I saw the massager, I instantly had to text everyone I knew. I have stayed in Love Hotels before, but never one with clothes or toys. This room also had an elaborate karaoke set-up and a pneumatic tube to send messages. The proprietor used it to send me a note about the electric blanket. Pulling out the next morning, I noticed this hilarious sign. Maybe it’s lyrics to a song?After that interesting evening, it was nice to be outside in the sunshine all day. I was following the shoreline of Omura Bay and it was a gorgeous day.
Riding into Nagasaki, traffic got busier and the terrain a little hillier. I could see that Nagasaki Peace Park was on my route to my hostel so I decided to stop. It was, of course, at the top of a huge steep hill. I rode into the park and found a gigantic crowd of Chinese tourists. Lots of them wanted to take pictures with me. A few wanted to show me photos of their bicycles back home. Down the hill is the Hypocenter Park. There is a monolith where the American atomic bomb detonated 500 meters in the air on August 9, 1945, killing some 150,000 people. Now there are cherry trees and some very sweet cats.
After this sad visit, I wandered back into traffic in search of my hostel. It took awhile and I realized that when the description says, “There are some stairs,” this means you will have to carry your bike up some steep stone steps up a hillside. Nagasaki is a hilly little city.