mandag den 23. juli 2007

Monday Oct. 23 - The Iwashita Collection & The 'Rider House'

Todays weather is nicely dry, so I do not have to take up Keji’s or Chicara Nagata’s offers of hanging around at their workshops until the rains clear. After breakfast with Keji, and several Nimbus posings with his customers, he leads me out of Saga. I’m going east, my aim being to visit The Iwashita Collection, which reputedly is one of Japan’s larger motorcycle museums. The initial 1½ hours go through the same unpleasant landscape as we rode through yesterday, but suddenly it snaps into the type of mountain roads that I already have become spoiled rotten with. The trucks are few and far between, so the resultant diesel smoke have only managed to turn my hair a slightly lighter shade of grey (“He was ugly, and he knew it”), when I reach my destination another 1½ hours further east.

Having seen so many car- motorcycle- and airplane museums that I have, I’ve become a bit jaded. Most of it is the same as already seen in other museums or collections, so it takes something special to really catch my attention. Fortunately The Iwashita Collection has it: On the second floor I find a lot of motorcycles I have never seen before, much less knew about. Small wonder, because tiny Denmark has had about 60 brands, and few people in Denmark – even motorcyclists – would be hard pressed to remember more than Elleham and Nimbus, which were the two major ones. I take lots and lots of pictures of various design details, of special technical solutions and in particular of the two three-wheelers, that configuration long having had my extra attention. There’s also a rather pitiful looking Nimbus present, hidden away under a staircase.

On top of it (though technically speaking below it) museum owner Iwashita-san has filled up the whole ground floor with an eclectic collection of just about everything: Japanese film posters, old toys, Beatles single covers with Japanese kanji characters, old telephones, the body of an American F-86 Sabre fighter jet (!), a small shrine-like area with Steve McQueen stuff, jukeboxes, Princess Diana dolls and the local gods may know what else. Local cab drivers use the museum’s classy café as their hangout, and seem to really appreciate the ‘Seeberg’ jukebox with all the 1950-1970 rock’n’roll songs.

As far as the two-wheelers upstairs are concerned, a large V4 Ducati prototype from the 1960’s is by far the most interesting. The bike was the brain-child of the American Ducati importer, and the prototype development partially financed by him. At the time most American police forces specified that only motorcycles with V-type engines and 5x16” tyres were to be acquired, giving Harley-Davidson a virtual monopoly, as The Indian Motocycle Company no longer produced that kind of bikes.

The relatively simple engine on this behemoth was built by using four separate cylinders, each with their own carburetor and ignition system, all connected to a common crankshaft and case. The first version had a 100 bhp, which of course tore the tyres available at the time to shreds, so it was lowered to 80 bhp – still way too much – and eventually to a mere 60 bhp. Sadly only this one example was built, along with another engine, and for mysterious reasons it happened to end up here on the other side of the world.

I want some information about the museum’s Nimbus, but the owner only is here on the weekends, the girl at the entrance tells. She thinks it is kind of cool that I show up here on a Nimbus bobber, and shows me pictures of it on a website belonging to someone, who also attended the rally a few days earlier. Then she proceeds to take her own pictures of it, and poses on the bike while I do the trick. Unfortunately she knows of no museums specifically for three-wheelers, but mentions that there is a small car museum further down the road, that probably has a few. Sold to the gent with the light grey diesel-hair!

The town of Yufuin is an old health resort, and part of it so 800% tourist-trapped that this by itself is almost amusing. The car museum in this Tourist Hell is small, though ok for the entrance fee, and has the promised dozen or so three-wheelers standing about, in various shapes and conditions. Like The Iwashita Collection many of the vehicles here are not top-notch restorations. Then I buy my postcards and ride back up to the first museum again. The girl here told that the old train wagon next to the museum entrance is a ‘rider house’, where traveling motorcyclists can stay for free. There are two beds, blankets, sleeping bags, a microwave oven, radio, air conditioning and a sink. It is almost too good to be true. The rider house concept is widely used on the northern island of Hokkaido, and is slowly finding its way down here too.

The other museum employee shows up, makes sure I’m comfortable in the train wagon, and draws a detailed map of where in the tourist town I can locate a cheap ‘onsen’ – this being is a hot bath with water from the volcanic interior of Japan. A few taps on the laptop, and I head downtown, where for a very modest 100 yen I get my introduction to this extremely Japanese thing. At an onsen you shower and wash thoroughly, before climbing into the large common bath with 42 centigrade hot water. No doubt I will want to track down more onsens, as I ride along.

Back in the wagon I eat my tray of sushi with two ball-point pens, as I forgot to ask for chopsticks at the store. It’s only a question of being motivated enough. Before going to sleep I want to follow local customs and have a small present ready for my hosts. So I sit there until two in the morning cutting and folding some arche-typical Danish Christmas tree decorations. There was a physical limit to how much special Danish chocolate I could schlep around, so I had to figure out other Danish alternatives.

1 kommentar:

friscobiker sagde ...

I have noticed another wheelie guy in the first pic. You trick the pictures :) hahahaha