The country air had a distinct cabbage smell, signalling we were now in Tahara prefecture after joining the cars on the 1-hour Ise-wan ferry from Toba. Tehara was one of our last rural outposts before reaching the major landmarks of Mount Fuji and our final destination, Tokyo.
The farms of Tehara were predominantly growing cabbage, rockmelon and fields of what looked to be canola creating a sea of yellow.
Our first day was spent riding into the dark when a storm rolled over. We hid out in a 7/11, eating dinner bentos and 2-minute ramen, waiting for the rain to pass but it looked to stay for the night. After discussing if it would be safe to camp in the 7/11 car park overnight, vetoed as there was no discrete space, we decided to just risk it, and go for a dark and rainy ride to see if we could find a more appropriate camping spot out of the elements. The ride ended up only being a couple of hundred metres, what luck, as only just down the road and by the light of our bike lights, we found a pedestrian underpass. It was really short, it only went under the road, and must be for farm workers to move quickly between two sides of a large cabbage farm, cut in half by the main road.
We were stoked with our temporarily subterranean home. Our tent stayed out of the mud and dry, the only downside was the bright fluorescent lights which stayed on all night. All of our sodden gear, bags, rain jackets and trousers, the tent’s outer fly, etc, dried out in the night. Even our thermarests and sleeping bags were a little less musty.
The next morning, we set the alarm for 6 am as we didn’t want to surprise a farmer, we packed up quick and headed straight back to the same 7/11 where we had dinner – for breakfast and clean toilets. How convenient.
Apart from the easy camping, rural Japan offers some of the most unique items, that could only be affectionately described as… Japanese. We came across this odd vending machines not seen in the larger cities, containing farm fresh eggs. Same as a regular one, you put in coins and put in the code of the door you want, and it would unlock fresh eggs in dozens or half-dozens.
Capsule toy dispensers are found everywhere but old versions in rural convenience stores were filled with bizzare toy selections such as minature vermin with their garbage can of choice.
Out of the cities we also found some of the most unique cars seen on the trip. This large Cadillac limo looked to be abandoned near an old fishing town. Did a Mafia deal go wrong?
Other cars were so tiny, you wondered how they carried anything efficiently at all.
Our next campsite, Nagisaen Camping Ground was a little more conventional and the first and only time we paid for camping in Japan. Paid campsites in Japan are extremely well taken care of and are very affordable, this one at only $14AUS a night for the two of us. We’re happy to pay for camping, but since landing in Fukuoka a month ago, this was the first campsite in a month that we had found open, with staff, and even with other campers. We were too early in the camping season, which made for cold weather but welcome freebie nights. Nagisaen Camping Ground was filled with a large motorcycle group, who were also on a bike trip. They must have found our set up quite minimal, we only filled one corner of our designated square.
The roads started to get busier as we headed towards the city of Shizouka. Our cycling paths ran along side the Tokaido Shinkansen line and the Tokaido expressway which leads all the way to Tokyo, so we knew Mount Fuji was getting close. We would see heaps of Shinkansen trains flying by every 15 minutes.
In Shizouka, we thought we were still following the cycle path by the Tokai-do (No. 1) expressway, blissfully unaware that we had missed a crucial turn off until a girl on a bicycle started yelling and frantically waving us down. The way we were going, we would have cycled straight onto the expressway into 100km/hr traffic! She lead us back to the turn off we missed, showing us the entrance of the bicycle path that runs parallel with the Tomei expressway. The entrance is a tunnel leading under the expressway. You can see why we totally missed it when you have a look on Google Maps. This is the entrance. Clearly.
Our backtracking on Strava.
The bike track turned out to be awesome, completely separate and protected against the traffic, following the Tomai expressway all the way to Fuji.
Now back on the right track, hints of Mt Fuji were popping up everywhere. First it was the colourful drain covers…
And then it was the distinctly mountain-esk cute blue and snow capped witches hats…..
And then this snow-capped mountain off in the distance which looked uncannily like those witches hats…