As full time adventurers we’ve learnt the importance of changing up the typical travel format. It’s easy to get tired of touring cities and so we try to challenge ourselves with new experiences. Word of warning, a story in this post ends with Andres hitting on a guy while they were both naked at the hot springs!
Our travel change was to buy a tent, sleeping bags and rent bicycles to explore Japan’s wild north for 8 days.
With our tent in the background
We covered 350km around the Shiretoko Penninsula: home to brown bears, salmon, cows, stunningly beautiful sunsets and hundreds of ‘Onsen’; natural hot springs where everyone bathes together, no clothes.
Red circle is the area we cycled around Japan
This onsen was Unisex so it was allowed to enter with clothes. However, men above 70 didn’t seem to care much for clothes here!
Magical farm lands
Crystal clear waters
Famous Hokkaido wildflowers
Amazing sunsets every night!
Typical day on the bike: No alarm needed, the sun rises at 4:30am! Pack up tent, load up the bike and ride to the closest “Conbini”(convenience store).
Conbinis are infamous all over Japan… stocked with fresh sushi, breads and snacks they are a budget travelers’ dream. For the next week, 7/11 became our second home. Andres is now officially addicted to their mayo-loaded egg sandwiches… and their toilets which feature heated seats, temperature regulated bidets and a virtual flushing sound to give you a nice sense of privacy!
For one week we repeated this cycle of bike ride -> hot spring -> camp and loved every second of it, even with our butts feeling sore. Each day averaged about 50km, and it was an incredible way to experience this slice of Japan!
A Salmon Treat:
On this bike trip, I think I saw Andres experience one of the happiest and saddest moments of his life. Andres’ favorite food in the world is salmon sashimi. So we couldn’t believe our eyes when suddenly we were riding past the Salmon Museum of Japan! Of course we stopped to check it out and treat ourselves at the famous restaurant that specializes in salmon!
In the moments waiting for them to bring out our plates of sashimi Andres’ eyes were glowing in anticipation. The waitress puts down our plates with a smile on her face and we dive in. Suddenly I look up at Andres holding between his chopsticks what looks to be a brick of Salmon: “Its frozen”.
We complained, the servers bowed 1000 times in apology and returned our money but more importantly, we felt cheated out of our first real taste of fresh seafood in Japan. Later on we of course gave sashimi another chance and it was beyond delicious.
Pre-frozen taste smiles
A man touring all of Japan on his bike!
You never forget your first Onsen:
For those of you worried about our bathing habits, don’t fret! Every night after setting up camp we got to take a bath in the famous Japanese Hot Springs called Onsen; an amazing cultural experience. With everyone bathing in the same pool, naked, there are no differences between people. You cannot tell a CEO from a Janitor, which is sadly something atypical in our world, and something really special about this judgement-free experience.
Before coming to Japan, Andres studied Japanese for a couple weeks, and always eager to practice, he started a conversation with the guy sitting next to him in the Onsen, but when the guy told Andres his name:”Kawai”, Andres confused it with the Japanese word for “Cute” and wanting to show off his Japanese skills he excitedly said out loud “Cute!”. The guy understood a little bit of english, and was very weirded out by having a strange naked guy sitting next to him, telling him that his name was cute! Suz, listening from the women’s side of the Onsen was cracking up at the awkward situation.
First real meal after too many days of convenience store food
We finished these 8 days with stronger legs, speaking a few more words of Japanese, and stories to keep us smiling for years to come.
- We used this amazing blog from Rob to plan our cycling trip. He has every detail about camp sites, food, and elevation on here so if you would like to plan a self-guided trip like ours make sure to check this out! http://www.14degrees.org/