No way I’ll ride to the rally with my bike all messed up, so 1½ hours are spent cleaning away the oil and the road dirt accumulated over the two weeks, while from across the street a bunch of girls in school uniform watch the gajin work. School uniforms and even kindergarten uniforms are the rule here. As is politeness: When some small kids crossed the road a few days ago in a pedestrian crossing, they stopped and bowed in all three directions at us who had stopped to let them pass.
25 kilometers and two toll bridges further out, I arrive at the island where this vintage bike rally is to be held. The roads look like those on Greek islands, except of course everything is beautifully green here, instead of burnt brown. At the harbour I spot some BMW riders put up stalls. I ride in and park, and wait to see when the other old bikes arrive. Some hours pass. The email said about 50 bikes would likely show up, though now all but 15 appear, and that’s even counting a Katana, an XS650 and a nicely tweaked 1970’s style Z900. The remaining 30-40 bikes are modern ones, mainly BMW’s. Well, [beep] that, I was going to Kyushu anyway, to see the chopper builder Chicara Nagata, and then to see a good motorcycle museum.
And the people here are really nice (two speak English), the man with the guitar and the ‘On Any Sunday’ t-shirt isn’t half bad either, and when the classic bikes have been checked out for the fifth time, I can go look at the old sports cars. A Shelby Cobra and a 1950’s Mercedes top this collection. The most interesting vehicle is a Rikuo, which basically is a copy of the Harley-Davidson WLA, but with a more modern front fork. Same vintage as me, and also a bit worse for wear. Like many others present, the owner is dressed in US Army fatigues.
My modest contribution the general entertainment is – surprise – to fire up the Nimbus a dozen times or so. Several times during the last week I have parked right next to other motorcyclists, who often ignored me completely for the first 10 or 15 minutes, before suddenly turning around to take pictures or even talk. This shyness, or whatever it is, is of course totally absent here – people fiddle around with the gearshift, brakes and electric controls, whether I stand next to the bike or not.
At some point an old motorcycle and car racer (in both cases Honda) shows up, and starts signing t-shirts, books, pictures, motorcycles and cars, and even my book about Zero Engineering’s choppers. Kunimitsu Tagahashi is his name, apparently famous beyond belief around here. He then gives a speech and gets interviewed the same evening, which of course I can’t understand a word of, but everybody else seems nicely entertained.
Later, after I’ve pitched my tent, the BMW club boys invite me for dinner at the hotel they’ve invaded some kilometers from the rally site: Sashimi – essentially a lot of different sliced raw fish, including politically incorrect whale. Finally I get to practice some of the many rules, that I’ve learned about how to behave at a Japanese dinner. I think it works out ok, maybe in part because we can’t really understand each other. Unfortunately I did not bring any business cards, which would have been a good idea here, now that everyone gives me theirs.
Back at the harbour things have evolved some, in the less sober direction. (‘Wall-eyed drunk’-san; “My…….father……kamikaze…….pilot…”. Me; “Oh rearry? How many missions did he fry?”). It is quite funny here, even with some extremely tough looking biker types now taking part in the festivities.