mandag den 23. juli 2007

Sunday Oct. 29 - The Dead Volcano, and A Trip Back To The 1950's

I have a serious go at the breakfast buffet, because on the scale last night, I saw that being on a Japanese diet for a month, I had lost 5 kilograms since my arrival in Japan. Load up the bike, kick it over and enjoy my first day over here with nothing but heavenly roads. I stop at a truck driving company just outside of town, offering to buy the hood emblem from one of their non-registered ‘Hino’ trucks. Offer them a thousand yen, but it’s a sorry (both arms crossed), no sale. While I try to negotiate a reasonable price for the whole truck, three sports motorcycles howl past – first time since Mt. Fuji I have seen anybody ride such motorcycles the way they should be ridden. Anyway, the emblem purchase is still a no-can-do, but one of the company’s employees leads me out to a junkyard, where maybe there’s such a sign to be found. Alas, there isn’t, but I get to take with me one of the taxi roof-top signs, that I have seen so many different versions of.

A long stretch on a very nice road, and then – whoa! – in front of me there’s a wide, empty road, 20-25 kilometers long and with a lot of 60-80 kph turns. It even has the elusive broken centerline, so I can legally overtake the preciously few cars that are in the way. No way the 40 kph sign at the beginning can be taken at face value for longer than the first few k’s, so finally the Nimbus gets to breathe a bit, as much as I’ll let it with all that luggage out back, and with the built-in flex of a steel strip frame with no horisontal stiffness.

Today’s main attraction is an old volcano, Mt. Asosan, with a circumference of 128 kilometers. The crater is about 100,000 years old, and now built-up with roads and rail tracks, while one of the five minor volcanoes inside is still active. Occasionally it burps, and they have to close off certain roads if the poisonous fumes blow in the wrong direction. Today things are peaceful, though, so everybody else is out here Sunday driving too. At lunchtime I stop right next to three Ducatis and their owners, who ignore me completely during the fifteen minutes I eat my lunch. I have gotten used to this by now.

Further down the road I follow a large bunch of motorcycles that clearly are going – well - somewhere. There’s about fifty of them, modern machinery as well as some older GT750’s, and some of Kawasaki’s BSA copies. We stop at the top of a plateau overlooking the crater I just drove through, at a café style place, where evidently hundreds of motorcycles meet on Sundays. Here the Nimbus gets some attention, as we’re being photographed constantly from before I turn of the engine, until I ride off again half an hour later. There’s a nice mix of bikes here, ranging in size and exclusivity from an old 350 cc three-cylinder Kawasaki, to a large particularly vulgar Boss Hoss with a sidecar. Three ultralight aircraft hum like distant lawn movers over the place as well, being the first private planes I have seen here.

Back to the main road, and up over a national park’s cold 1,320 meter high mountain pass, climbing at a snail’s pace because of heavy car traffic. Guess 50,000 car drivers can’t be wrong; it is a beautiful road, and I see all the colours of fall on whole mountain sides. I’ll probably see a lot more of that as I head further north. At the end of today’s ride I am back in Yufuin, where the motorcycle museum I saw a few days earlier is located. I stumble in to get something – anything – warm to drink, and am being greeted by Iwashita-san, the owner. He wants to see the second Nimbus of his life before I can buy anything.

After having loaded all my gear into the rider house train wagon, I ask if anyone knows a good restaurant nearby. Sure, they say, and they already decided that I, the museum staff and some family go there together. Fine with me, this sort of kidnapping usually turns out good. We ride with the museum owner at the wheel, all of 24 kilometers and f****** 138 turns (counted them on the way back, being too petrified for this on the way out). Iwashita-san makes his living producing parts for Honda and Mazda, with some success apparently, as he has about 500 motorcycles stacked away.

We end up at ‘The Hitparade Club’, a place where people probably don’t come for the buffet, but for the music. Black & white photographs of everybody, from Scarlett o’Hara to the younger Elvis Presley adorn the walls, out compartment lies on Sunset Boulevard, the waiters have greaser hair and the colours are nicely kept in brownish nuances, that I haven’t seen since I traveled in East Germany. Only a modern license plate from Hamburg disturbs the picture a bit, but hey, it’s foreign. We barely manage to finish our food before a band, with two singing girls in old-fashioned skirts, enters the stage, and starts playing 50’s and 60’s rock’n’roll. Had John Travolta and Uma Thurman shown up on the dance floor, I’d have been only mildly surprised.

Fortunately the eight band members actually know what they’re doing. Mixed up with the slightly absurd in having ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and other classics sung with a Japanese accent or even in the local language, this is very entertaining. Just like in Tepui Bar some weeks ago the Japanese audience is also a lot more fun than a Danish equivalent could ever be on a Sunday night. The dance floor gets filled during the three sets, and as so often before, I see the old and the new Japan all mixed up: The hip-hoppers and people in kimonos and samurai hair style are out there with each other – along with a sole transvestite, and a Dane in leathers – dancing, yelling and clapping. I have a good time with these people.

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