Day 33-36 – Crossing the metaphorical finish line

As expected, our ride from Morioka to Ichinoseki turned out to be a wet and miserable one. The night before we covered up our bikes with our bike bags to protect them from the rain and since it was still raining in the morning we had to fold them up while they were still wet and pack them away before starting the ride. By this point we’d done a few rides that started out wet and cold but being so close to the end of our trip and having biked so much already, it was really hard to get motivated for it.

All of our navigation has been done using our phones and various apps. To help with this we made sure to get waterproof bags on our top tubes which would hold our phones and let us use them during rides. Unfortunately, at least with mine, it would fog up fairly easily in heavy rain. In addition the second pair of gloves I was using to keep my fingers warm (as my normal ones are finger-less) wouldn’t work with a touchscreen, so I had to remove them any time I needed to scroll on the map, which was a lot, especially when we kept being led down gravel or dirt roads. Suffice to say the first 10-15km of that day were a frustrating, miserable time as we had to navigate a city in the cold rain, stopping every couple of blocks to double check the map through a foggy piece of plastic.

Ultimately though we made it to Ichinoseki in a decent time for the conditions (about 4 hours, 45 minutes), checked into our hotel, cleaned ourselves up, and grabbed some food from the local grocery store. As with most of our hotel options thus far we only had one bed (since we didn’t feel like springing for a larger, more expensive room) so I opted to sleep on the hard floor in my sleeping bag, which was fine by me, as I was quite tired from the day’s ride (and a couple beers from the grocery store helped as well).

The next day was our ride to Sendai. Our original plan was to detour 20km or so East to Ishinomaki where we were going to go to Tashirojima, aka the cat island. Because we were so tired from the previous day, and because of the timing requirements to actually make it to the cat island (we would have had to leave early in order to get there before the noon ferry so we wouldn’t be stuck on the island overnight) we opted to simply skip it. With visions of Tokyo in our heads, we set off for Sendai.

View on the ride to Sendai.

Found at a bakery on the ride, a fish-shaped cream-filled pastry.

The ride to Sendai was a little long (~93km) but the weather was much, much nicer than the previous days so it was a lot more tolerable. It got a bit windy for about 10km in the middle of the ride but it subsided as we made our way closer to Sendai. Also it turns out Sendai is a pretty hilly little city so we had a few big climbs near the end but nothing that we couldn’t handle. Just as we did the night before, we settled in, cleaned up, and grabbed some grocery store food.

Fukushima was our next destination after Sendai, and it was a bit shorter than the previous days’ trips, clocking in around 82km. For the record, we weren’t heading to the Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Power Plant, but rather the city named Fukushima, located around 70km away. Both are located in Fukushima prefecture, but the city is far enough outside the radiation/evacuation zone that it’s perfectly safe (well, maybe aside from some radioactive boars).

The ride had a bit of a big climb in the middle, but it wasn’t so bad as it also marked our last long ride day before we would get to Tokyo. Our original plan included two stops in between Fukushima and Tokyo, but a few things made us speed things up a bit and take a train for a large chunk: 1) we didn’t want to camp out in the small towns between Fukushima and Tokyo, 2) our sheer lack of will, as we’d been biking so long and just wanted to rest and explore Tokyo, and most importantly 3) the day after we were now scheduled to arrive in Fukushima was the day of Mikkeller Tokyo’s grand opening. Mikkeller is a Danish microbrewery which doesn’t have their own brewing facilities, but rather collaborates with other microbreweries and uses their facilities to brew their beer. They’re one of our favourite breweries and their beer is hard to come by at home so we jumped at the opportunity to be at their grand opening (and it didn’t hurt that they were also going to be giving away 429 free beers for the event).

Mountains along the route to Fukushima.

More mountains.

Our hotel was right next to the train station.

We hopped on the train from Fukushima to Ōmiya Station, about 35km outside of Tokyo, assembled our bikes, and rode into town. Since we couldn’t check into our AirBnB yet, we were going to try and drop off our bags and bikes at Shibuya station but with the sheer amount of people (Shibuya station is the fourth busiest train station in the world, averaging 2.4 million people per day) and lack of available storage lockers, we quickly abandoned that idea and just rode with them to the bar. The bar was a great time, and the beers were fantastic, if not a bit pricey. We didn’t really mind though, were just happy to have some good, high quality beers again after drinking oh so many watery Asahi and Sapporo variants on the road.  We also met a couple of American guys who were working in the country. They were really nice and after we were done trying out the Mikkeller beers, we all went to another bar nearby which served beers from Portland.

Neon sign outside of Mikkeller Tokyo.

Waiting in line to get inside.

Free beers!

Enjoying some fantastic beers with Mikkel Bjergsø (co-founder of Mikkeller) in the background.

The party spilling out into the street. Public drinking is totally legal in Japan.

I got a free t-shirt while waiting in line.

On the way to another bar, we saw riot police gearing up for something. Turns out there was a nationalist protest nearby.

Once we were finished we headed over to our AirBnb, only to find that it wasn’t there. The host hadn’t put the right address, and we discovered that the listing was completely gone from AirBnB. We spent a solid hour trying to get in contact with the host and AirBnB themselves to no avail. We started looking at hotel rooms in the city, which were going to cost us about $250 for the evening. As a bit of a last-minute hail mary we messaged the host of the AirBnB where we were staying the next day asking if we would be able to come and stay a night early, and he responded almost right away saying that his place was available for the evening.

We biked about 12km across town to get to his place where he greeted us and quickly showed us around his place. It wasn’t totally ready for us (understandable given the short notice) and it turns out we were actually his first guests. He was busy when we got there so we ducked out and grabbed some food. Shortly after we returned and got settled in he showed up again and did a more thorough job introducing himself and showing us things around the house. He turned out being one of the nicest hosts we had stayed with thus far, and his house was large and fairly modern compared to everything we’d experienced so far so we were pretty happy to be staying with him for a week.

We were really happy to be in Tokyo because it meant that we had crossed the metaphorical finish line. We were a bit early and we still needed to grab our suitcases from our first host’s home back in Fujisawa, but we’d made it around the country in one piece. Not everything went according to plan, but I never totally expected them to. Overall, I’m still satisfied with what we accomplished, and at the same time, I’m happy it’s pretty much over and we can truly enjoy the rest of our time in Tokyo now however we please.

My arm/hand tan after a month of riding.

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