I cross the Kyushu Strait on a tall toll bridge, and do the next 150 clicks on a toll road riding on stilts half the way, over urban areas. Then a bit of marvelous mountain riding, and a long stretch on the first not-built-up flatland I’ve seen so far. The mountains are about 3-4 kilometers away on each side, so it is not particular interesting, save for a few custom car shops along the way. A compass guides me the few times I loose my way, now that the sun is hidden behind grey skies. It is not until today I fully realize how big this country actually is, and how little of it I’ll get to see.
On less densely trafficked roads I philosophize over the fact that Japan in reality is bilingual. Sort of. Most shops, companies, all cars, gambling halls, hotels etc. have a name in Latin characters, just like most road signs are written in kanji characters as well as in English. ‘Hotel lady Love’, ‘Nuclear Emergency Response Center’ (!), ‘Batu Insect Village’ etc. Still very, very few people actually speak any usable English, or understand what I say, but they can to some extent cope with written English. By now I’ve learned to express myself in the simplest of terms.
This night I stay in a ryokan in Hikado, a town that was amongst the first to have any contact with the outside world. Trade flourished, even if the Europeans got kicked out at regular intervals, and the local Christian converts crucified, but all in all the town did well. Now it is a small cozy tourist place, with lots of restaurants that may or may not look authentic and old style, whatever that is around here. I can’t tell. The place I eat at has a large basin with live fish as a division between me and the kitchen. A narrow bridge leads across the basin, as an incentive for the cook and waiters to stay reasonably sober.