Man, where to begin. Today has been a classic. I made up for my laziness of the past couple of days and cycled 120 kilometers today, doing an average of 18.3 kph, although that's been pulled down because of the few uphill slopes. I was driving 25-26 kph on the straights today, something of which I was very proud of until I met another heavy cyclist who outraced me by far, but more on that later.
Today has been a day of pathfinding. When I woke up at 6AM in the youth hostel (which, although awesome by day, can be creepy as hell by night) it was still raining heavily. I packed my bicycle for riding in the rain and wore a full rain suit. Since my plan for today consisted entirely of "go south-west", I pointed my compass in the right direction and went off. 30 minutes later I took off the rain suit again because I was headed into the sunlight! A blue sky for the whole day! I consulted my road guide twice during the day, but it turns out it wasn't really necessary. Cycling towards the southwest provided great results, and I had a lot of choice on which roads to take. There were some tight roads where there was only one path, but mostly it was a countryside area with several different main roads (and later in the day a dedicated cycling path called the Pacific Ocean Cycling Road). Except for one or two hills the roads were flat, meaning I did those 120k's all by myself! Honest progress ^_^
About an hour from the hostel I came across an interesting sight: a river, shinkansen tracks, and mount Fuji in the background. Exactly like the place near Atsugi, but this time from the other side of mount Fuji! It made for some nice photos. At this time I was already in the strawberry area: strawberry fields everywhere! For the whole morning I rode the strawberry road, which even smelled strongly of sweet strawberries. Just about at the end of the strawberry road I reached Hattori Hanzo's ninja jinja, which turned out to be a bit of a deception. It wasn't on the ground floor: I had to climb about 20 stairs to get there, and when I got there I found it was way too touristy. So I went down again and had lunch instead. The nice old lady was very nice to me and give me a taiyaki to eat on the way. I seem to be good at making friends with old ladies, yet I haven't encountered a lot of hot Japanese schoolgirls. Hmm...
Next up was an awesome stretch of road right along the oceanside. It continued for very long. So long in fact that I started to wonder where I was going. I then noticed a sign that said 'Nagoya 200km'. In a previous post I said that Japan is pretty small, but I have to admit that I underestimated the distances a bit. I distinctly remember a stretch of this road several kilometers long where I first encountered about 5 or 6 unicyclists, and after that about 7 or 8 people who wore distinctly funny glasses and/or hats. Strange.
I'll post a picture of this later, but I found something weird along the way: vending machines that sell eggs! Just as I passed the place a guy was refilling them. I looked once, looked twice, already passed it and turned around to take a photo. I talked to the egg-refill-guy a bit, and he tried to make me believe that they put live chickens in the machines. I pretended to believe him and laughed out loud as I cycled onwards.
Cycling and cycling, during the day the weather improved and my pace increased from 20kph to 26kph. Then I found the Pacific Ocean cycling road and followed it for a while, but the road kind of sucked. Way too bumpy for my luggage. I spotted another heavily packed (well, packed) cyclist ahead of me and increased my speed a bit to catch up. It turned out to be a nice guy who was cycling towards Nagoya and had already booked a hostel about 12 kilometers ahead. Although I had already found a great camping spot near the beach, I decided to tag along and try my luck in finding a camping spot a bit further up ahead. When I first met other-bicycle-guy he was going way slower than me so I assumed he wouldn't go so fast. I'm pretty sure now that he was waiting for me to catch up to have a chat. As we went along he kept going faster and faster and I had trouble keeping up, although I managed, barely. That is, until the final hillclimb to get the hostel...
I considered staying at the hostel, but I figured that I really should just go with the flow and try my luck in finding a camping place. After getting a hostel membership, which this hostel owner did allow me to (unlike the previous hostel owner), I went back a bit and asked an old lady for a nearby place to camp. She was very kind, and they pointed me to a nearby park... right in front of the youth hostel! It's brilliant too, it has toilets, grass, and is out of sight of pretty much everything. Maybe I'll meet other-bicycle-guy again tomorrow, I look forward to telling him where I slept.
At this point I was already quite content, and I started cycling towards a convenience store to get dinner. On the way I decided that I could push my luck a little farther, and I asked a nearby person if there was a restaurant nearby. So it was, and I just finished an awesome sashimi (raw fish) meal, and I'm enjoying a nice cool beer right now. It's weird because I don't usually enjoy beer so much, but this one tastes absolutely gorgeous.
I'm tired right now so I'll post photos later. Tomorrow I will start cycling the 120 kilometers to the ferry at Nagoya, which will take me to Mie-ken. After that I'll go all the way around Mie-ken, the other-ken-which-i-can't-remember-the-name-of and then reach Wakayama. From there I'll somehow discover a nice road that takes me via Nara to Kyoto. That's the plan! :D