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Diary of the motor race across Japan
“Japan : Russians go”
How we got ready
What Japan and Russian-Japanese relations are I hazily remembered from lessons of history. Historical names and events like port Arthur , the Russian-Japanese war of the beginning of the previous century emerged in the memory and the words from the song: “Our proud Varyag never surrenders to an enemy!” called to mind. And now a perspective to visit the land of the rising sun appears! And not only to visit, but to ride a bike across the whole country, and also to take part in the most important bike event of this faraway country in 2003. This enticing proposal was made to me by “never-to-be-forgotten” specialist on Japan Modestov Oleg. His words sounded as a pipe of birds of paradise that friends from Osaka , bikers famous all over Japan from “Black Jack” Club would send invitations for Russian lads. Russians would be the guests of honour in an unforgettable bikers get-together. And certainly Japanese bikers would offer excellent facilities for transportation across the country for their Russian friends.
By the beginning of September 9 persons expressed their wish to go to the annual meeting of Japanese bikers called among the two-wheel fellowship as Japan Harley Party or Wibes Meeting.
People who gathered for the trip differed by age and kidney. But this was quite natural. The main thing was that the common purpose united us. I cannot but list by name these brave people: Alexei Galkin (Diplomat), Zhenya Mikhailov (Djin), Sasha Shvets (Dyadya), Tolya Popov (Sverdlovsky), Edik Kalimulin (Edson), as well as the cream of the Moscow bike movement “Padonki”: Lekha Ritualshchik, Roma Debosh and Zhenya Berezovsky. By mutual consent an employee paid from budget entered the group – wonder interpreter and specialist on Japan – Oleg Modestov. I, yours truly, closed the list of this group of adventurers.
This is necessary to make a small digression from the subject of the story. The case is that Lekha Ritualshchik decided to go to Japan not flicking away dust, as the saying goes, of African roads from his shoes. For 14 days our friend, after our trip I think I am in right to call him my friend, passed more than 12000 kilometers on his “modest” BMW across Europe through North Africa. This race inspires respect also because that his wife rode the whole route behind his back and at present she is an operatic singer taking first places in international competitions.
Since any trip abroad starts with obtaining entry visas, we first went to the consular department of the Japanese Embassy. An officer of the consular department, may his bright days prolong on the earth, asked us politely to present the invitation of the receiving party, as well as documents confirming payment for hotel accommodations in Japan through all our route. Tough guys from the motor club “Black Jack” did invite us, but only through Internet, but they did not organize themselves to give us an official invitation. We knew the reason of such Japanese modesty a little later. The matter is that the receiving party must act as a financial and legal guarantor in case of any problems. Our team had an impression that these Black Jack's guys had also heard anything and not only of the Cruiser “Varyag”, but of the events in Hasana and Halhingol as well. That is why they showed purely Japanese gumption having confined themselves to the invitation through Internet. Well, difficulties only strengthened us. Besides, the world turned out to be not without good people. We found them in the travel agency bearing a proud name “Varvarka-Travel”, one of not numerous tourist operators through Japan . Problems relating to the invitation of the Japanese party and the hotel reservations on our itinerary were resolved during two days. The total failure waited for us with air tickets. It turned out that our dear Aeroflot and the Japanese JAL carried out direct nonstop flights on the route Moscow-Tokyo-Moscow. The computer informed us that Air-China? Korean Airlines and ANA also flew to Tokyo , but through Peking, Seoul and Frankfurt respectively. However the idea to be aloft longer than during direct flights did not encourage us. Our attempts to reach Tokyo by a direct flight were crowned with success. Even if we were not flying on one airplane all together, but we did not break the travel schedule across Japan itself. So, first 4 persons departed by Aeroflot on October 7 th , 5 people – on the next day – by Japanese JAL, and only the busiest Dyadya, a.k.a. Sasha Shvets, arrived through Tokyo in Hirosima on October 10 th and according to the plan welcomed us with bread and salt.
Well, go on!
The day of flight of the first group. 9 o'clock. Sheremetievo II. Diplomat phoned first and informed that he had arrived at the stated place and time, but there were no one there, and the registration for our flight had already started. At that time Djin and me were finishing to buy telescopic fishing rods which were further used by us as staffs for flags that wavered over our camp during all days of the Bike Show. By the moment of our arrival at the Airport the registration was coming to an end. Oddly enough no one was late. Every one was on the spot: interpreter, Diplomat, Djin and me.
It took us 10 yours to travel from Moscow to Tokyo . My desire to have my sleep out remained only a desire. Nothing brings a male company together so closely as the abundance of heating drinks. Moreover, our biker rig-out which in no way goes with severe suits of most of passengers, aroused a real interest on the part of stewardesses, as well as of a group of 6-7 Russian girls flying to Japan either to dance at any club or to carry on consummation. Girls fly in search of money, and if lucky of Japanese husbands thinking that Japanese men are better than Russian ones. It further proved that this affirmation is very disputable.
We arrived. The local time is 10 o'clock a.m. The difference from Moscow time is +5 hours, which is rather strange in itself. The latitude is quite Sakhalin's one, but the difference from the Sakhalin time makes up 9 hours. We went through passport control. It struck the eye that Japanese frontier guards wore not only white shirts but also white gloves. Niagata Airport . Disembarkation hall was of gigantic size, and there was no one besides our flight passengers. I thought: “they are probably on strike”. Nothing of the kind. The Airport consists of 4 similar terminals each of which is located on the huge floor with its parks for autobuses, taxis and other motor transport. By the way, monorail without machinist leads from a plane to the arrival terminal, which a little worried us…
We exchanged the American money for Japanese one and hired Japanese mobile telephones, as Japan has its own cellular phone standard. The hire did not proved cheap – for the lease of each telephone we paid 30000 yens /290 dollars. But the telephones lease cost cannot be compared with taxi charges from the airport to the city which cost us 300 American dollars. An alarming signal, you know, but we missed it.
Having arrived at the reserved Shindshiku New City Hotel we met Mr. Sin, the task of whom resided in providing us with motorbikes and a motor van for transportation of things, interpreter and tired motorcyclists with their no less tired iron horses. As to motorcycles he made their reservation 2 weeks before our arrival, it remained only to give him our driver's licenses. We suffered a colossal disappointment with the latter, as Russia and Japan had signed different international conventions on driver's licenses and in connection with that our Russian driving licenses were considered invalid in any circumstances. Moreover, under Japanese laws drivers shall annually pass the examination to obtain the driving license – the authorities in that efficient way increase professionalism of drivers. In general all the day long we did nothing but visited police departments, local authorities striving for the recognition of our professional skills. We even get in touch with the Russian general consul who confirmed the necessity to pass the examination to get Japanese driver's licenses. In one word they did not give us motorcycles, except for Lekha – diplomat who had a legitimate for Japanese authorities driving license obtained by him in Sri-Lanka.
By the way, bike hire business in Tokyo is very small, as by that evening already all Japanese providers in this multimillion city knew that a handful of crazy Russian bikers wanted at all hazards to get vehicles for a trip to WIBESMEETING to Hiroshima.
The other five persons arrived - Ritualshchik, Debosh, Berezovsky, Edson and Tolik Sverdlovsky. They arrived at 11 o'clock – a certain Mr. Kimura, a travel agent, met them, and having charged 800$ for transfer brought the guys to the hire service where we had been refused motorcycles the day before, and having sacrificed his reputation aided them to hire 5 bikes.
Saying unequivocally, it cost us three tariffs, namely 180$/day + pledge of 1000$/ each + return air ticket in gage.
The vehicles, it needs to do justice to them were practically new – it was sport Yamaha R1, classics Honda CB 1300 and Yamaha XJR 1300, super sport Suzuki Haybusa and sport V-twin Suzuki SV 1000S.
We could take two more motorcycles, but first – there were no choppers required for Diplomat and Nomen, second – we still hoped to take bikes in the cultural center of Japan – city of Kiito laying on the route of our escort. Again there was an agreement with the local hire service of such a possibility – we even sent copies of our driving licenses by fax.
We drove away from the hire service in the evening already when it became dark, but this notwithstanding and in spite of working traffic on R1 Street , I carried away Berezovsky on the rear wheel whereby filled all workers of bike hire service without exception with gloom… We rode by escort of 5 bikes and a motor van Nissan Caravan.
We decided to not to take a toll highway, but free of charge road 246. The itinerary of free roads from Tokyo to Hirosima was amiably given to us by the Black Jack Osaka club who waited for us in its city on the next day.
Having left the city, the two wheels went very far ahead, and the motor van caught up with them only in the roadside restaurants we they refreshed themselves, not having the possibility to eat at the wheel unlike those who bucked along in the motor van.
Having passed about 200 km we came to a conclusion that first it was impossible to go on free of charge roads as there are everywhere traffic lights and jams, since between towns there are no interruptions they seem to flow one from another forming one enormous megalopolis cramped between the ocean and the mountains; second – it was time to sleep.
In the morning satisfied and rested we went to Osaka - the trading center of Japan . We took the highway and drove at the speed of 150 km/hour at the speed limitation of 110 km/hour on the road more resembling an endless bridge as we went constantly underground.
On the way we bathed the boots in the Pacific Ocean and when we arrived to Kiito, we were greatly disappointed. A policeman to whom we came with a hire service representative after our long persuasions declared something like this: I don't know whether you can hire a motorcycle having this driving license, but you unambiguously may not drive with these papers!
In Osaka we stayed at perhaps the toughest 36-storey hotel named Nankai Swiss Otel and met the leader of Black Jack called Ito who suggested that we should get out to Hirosima at 6.00 a .m. next day.
Naturally we did not leave at 6 o'clock in the morning, as after the Osaka night sightseeing it was unreal to get up so early. In view of this BLACK JACK was a little set aside, and we had our sleep out and set out at noontime. We rode out from Osaka for a little more than three hours, the city was so flooded with all kinds of multilevel interchanges that even the presence of the interpreter did not save the situation. Every hundred meters we thoroughly asked local people and they willingly gave their views as to how they would have gone to Hirosima, these opinions being frequently quite opposite. As immigrants from Russia later explained to us Japanese people have a national singularity: they will never say “no” or “I don't know” – they have their own opinions on any matter.
Having get the highway we went in the Hirosima's direction, from time to time turned off to the parking lots. Parking lots represented huge parks divided into sectors – area for trucks, motor cars, bikes (obligatory under carport) and motor transport belonging to disabled persons (in general under the same carport). Besides a parking lot itself there is without fail under the same roof a restaurant, supermarket, gas filling station and gigantic WC for about 50 “parking stalls” for each sex.
On one of such parking lots we got into a rap with one of numerous bikers group who told us that WIBESMEETING to which we were going was held not at all in Hirosima, but in the town named Miosi situated 60 kilometers north of the notorious city. In connection with this we had to promptly get in touch with Bike Group that was already in Hirosima and vainly sought for the central park and with the Dyadya who arrived by air in Hirosima and was rerouted to Miosi where he went by taxi.
I cannot refrain from saying about long-distance trucks – they were practically all tuned. For example, such a wonder goes in front of us – the “back” is all hung from top to bottom with stop-signals, and the “front” is nickel-plated with a shiny collision bumper protruding by 1,5 m ; and if he pushes on the accelerator foot pedal your eardrums will be agreeably surprised at the frequency of direct exhaust of this specimen.
Having arrived in Miosi we joined the biker brigade, Dyadya and the motor van, changed into Russian hockey shirts, adorned ourselves with flags and in such a fancy rig-out appeared on the Bike Show, aka JAPAN HARLEY PARTY, aka WIBESMEETING.
Some words about the show itself – it is an annual All-Japanese meeting of HD motorcycle fans. It is held every year at a new place, wandering through vast expenses of Japan . This year it was held in Miosi in the territory of the central park where there were about 15000 bikes and 30000 visitors. When entering the territory we were all given tickets for 2000 yens (about 20 dollars) and put on red plastic bracelets on this occasion which were further used as a permit for entry. By the way, when we had entered the territory and had taken off helmets we heard a burst of “Wow” from show security guards who seemed to be sick for European faces. They accompanied us to the motorcycle parking (car parks and motorcycle parks were separated), and then led us to the camping area amiably reserved for us by our Osaka friends who had certainly arrived earlier.
It was already dark when we set up camp of four impressive tents, and having taken practically all remaining stock of “Russky standart” and gorilka (Ukrainian vodka) we set out to the “enemy's camp”, namely to the tent of General – local bike guru. About 30 people, including our BLACK JACK friends were sitting under the above tent.
Enjoying the Russian heredity and the genetic inability of Japanese people to digest alcohol we coped with this handful of courageous samurais rather quickly.
The contact was effected both in broken English and through the interpreter. In the course of easy conversation the Japanese quite correctly cried the words “Ale-ale-ale-Russia – ahead!” as at that time at the other end of the earth the Russian national team won the Georgian one in football. When listening to Russian rock and pop groups it turned out that the modern Japanese practically all knew three Russian words “nas ne dogonyat!” (“they won't catch us up!”) from the musical creation of the same name of the well-known group “Tatu” that from to time successfully was on tour through the land of the rising sun. One of the most interesting phenomena of that night was that the Japanese as one man at 22.00 sharp got out from tents and stood in a queue before street washstands and together brushed teeth after which together went to bed.
At six o'clock a.m. sharp the picture with tooth-brushes repeated with the striking accuracy, only the people did not go to bed, but awoke looking surprisingly at the Russians who were just going to turn in. By the dinner a neutral zone of about 50 meters in diameter formed around our camp –we evidently had disturbed a little the neighbors' sleep. At first a European-like women of about 35 years old approached us and speaking pure Russian asked us whether we were Russians by chance pointing out at the Russian flag waving over the camp. So her name was Tatyana, soon the all four women natives of the USSR residing at Miosi gathered near the tricoloured flag, two of them had been Muscovites, had married Japanese men and had been residing in Japan for 9 years. And the other two were from Donetsk , Ukraine , also married to Japanese men, but had been living in Japan for 2 years only; at that the husband of one of them was an yakudza, so one step to the right, one step to the left was punished by sipoko (hara-kiri) for her. A rater laughable incident has recently taken place with one of them. All inhabitants of Miosi know that 4 Russian women reside in their town numbering 42 thousands people, and one day Tatyana went on the street, some car backed her against a house, an aboriginal jumped out of the car and asked her menacingly when Russians would return the Kuriles to Japan . But generally the Japanese are very amiable people, for example, they are very surprised at our being from Russia , and even sometimes offer food. After all if they usually see a European-like face, then it is either an American or an Australian. There are very few Russians especially in the central and southern parts of Japan . As the general consul told us later, the Russian diaspora in Japan numbers only 4 thousands people, and even then mainly women married to Japanese men.
Today is Monday, but this day is a holiday for the Japanese. Frankly speaking I don't remember why. Today is the day of the Bike Show closure and before departure we take farewell of our new friends – American Lary Blick and Japanese Ito, Masa and many others. Canadians and Brazilians have been discovered at the Bike Show, besides Americans and Australians.
It is worth emphasizing on what bikers rode: 99% of motor vehicles with the nameplate HD, but the most surprising was that from 15000 Harleys I did not see one similar to another, that was indeed a concourse of tuning fans.
Near dinner time we went to the mountains to a thermal spring or, simply speaking, a bathhouse. There were a lot of people. The bathhouse was full with the Japanese young and old. I remembered the eyes of a boy of 6-7 years old who had probably seen a white man, and then naked one, for the first time. The bathhouse represented a large stone premise with five swimming pools capable to contain 8-10 persons with different water temperature, separate bath rooms and a steam room with the temperature of 40 ° C. In one of these pools an yakudza tattooed as … an yakudza was lying (although at the entry a plate hung warning that drunken and tattooed persons were not admitted) in proud solitude – his compatriots apparently did not dare bother him, if you can see how quickly he jumped out from the pool when heated Edson jumped into the “sacrosanct” pool.
The way back to Tokyo on the north highway proved to be shorter by 200km. The road ran over the mountains, below there were private houses in the national style, high bamboo woods, rice and tea plantations. It was raining heavily on the way to Tokyo , and our raincoats got wet somehow even below the waist. I rode on a SV 1000S, was photographed at night, it was something like a red flash through the sky, only five minutes after that my eyes recovered. The SV picked up the speed of 197 km/hour, then the overspeed limiter turned on. It is rather interesting how V-twin works, you bend the throttle and a bike starts picking up the speed without jerks smoothly and powerfully. The motorcycle is very predictable and easy in operation.
20 minutes after the gasoline ran out a patrol car with flashers approached me and surrounded the place with all kinds of blinking triangles, and that was at 2 o'clock at night!
After we had stayed overnight in the health resort Odovaro, we arrived in Tokyo . We visited the Nipponese underground, the famous Tokyo television tower, took part in grade 4 earthquake (someone in the underground, someone on the 35 th floor of the trade center where the light was cut off and cupboards fell), sat at a restaurant with the general consul, saw what consummation is at the “Romanov” Club, where during 1 hour we drank a bottle of beer each with our countrywomen and paid 800$ (and, of course, karaoke with the song “Million of Red Roses” with hieroglyph subtitles – that is tough!!!)
In one word towards morning we were put in a Japanese prison where we paid a penalty of 1500$ to be released from it.
We flew away. That will do!
P.S. Well, I nearly forgot when returning the leased mobile telephones we had to pay 700-800 dollars for each one –we would better throw them out …. and the trip itself cost to each of us mush more than the planned 2000 apierce…
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