June 21, 2023
Every time I take one of these epic bicycle journeys I come home a slightly different person. Seeing different parts of the world and experiencing different cultures during a muscle powered journey that sometimes challenges my physical limits can have that effect. I learn things about others and myself that I don’t think could I could have achieved by staying within my comfort zone. This trip taught me some lessons about getting along with others and about my skills as a long distance bicycle rider. Meeting and experiencing a new culture with people that come from all parts of the world is a broadening experience as is dealing with the frictions that are inevitable when such diverse people are thrown together for a long and sometimes stressful journey. We all faced our challenges and overcame them while remaining good traveling companions and even friends. I rode with some really great people and feel privileged to have had that experience.
On this trip I learned that I could eat things that I never would have tried under other circumstances. While eating enough seaweed to foul the propeller on a battleship was not my favourite experience, it was one that I endured. Eating cold smoked herring for breakfast was an experience that I hope to avoid for the rest of my days. Outside of a few menu choices I really enjoyed the cuisines of Korea and Japan.
Some other observations:
There was little to no graffiti seen in either country. They just don’t seem to tolerate it.
While they manufacture ATVs in both countries, I never saw them zipping around and never saw any damage caused by their use. Where they can go seems to be tightly controlled.
Small is big in Japan. cars are small as are the parking spaces. They even use elevators to store the cars in some tighter spots. Houses are small by North American standards as are the hotel rooms.
The Japanese are winning the race in bathroom technology. Here I found bathroom mirrors with a section over the sink that would not fog up no matter how steamy the room. The Japanese toilet is a marvel that cleans all your naughty parts and some even dry you off afterwards. However, I did encounter a couple that I found creepy. I don’t feel I am ready for a toilet that opens its lid in eager anticipation as soon as I open the bathroom door.
Japanese people are polite, dedicated and very abiding of rules. Never have I ever received so may bows just for walking into a store or hotel. Even the workers who do traffic control on a road construction site bow to you as you pass by. Pedestrians will wait for the green light to cross an alley with no traffic of any kind in sight if there is a crossing light there and if the hotel says that check in is at 3:00pm don’t expect to check in at 2:59.
In Japan there appears to be a job for everyone. I saw no street people, bag ladies, panhandlers or vagrants of any type. I did see people picking up even the tiniest piece of litter and never so much as a cigarette butt tossed to the ground and this in cities where I never saw public trash recepticals.
In making these observations I an not advocating that we adopt the Japanese way of life but maybe we could take a lesson or two from them. I found Japan and Korea refreshing and interesting. Would I want to live in either country? My answer is a hard no. I like my freedom and independence. I like rules that have some flexibility. I want the freedom to cross the street against the light if I feel it is safe to do so. I do appreciate people who respect wild places and nature and wish some of my fellow citizens could see how their lack of respect damages these things and make ugly that which should be forever beautiful. We could be a bit more Japanese in this last respect. Finally, I am seriously thinking about buying one of those Japanese toilets but not the creepy type.
Days Riding: 29
Overall Distance: 2,738 Kilometers
Elevation Climbed: 32,609 Meters (Garmin) 43,697 Meters (Ride With GPS)
(Note: RWGPS and Garmin are known to disagree on elevation gain. There is debate over which one is most accurate. My guess is that the answer lies somewhere in between the two)