Toronto, ON, Canada > Kagoshima, Japan

Monday, March 7th 2016. Toronto, ON, Canada.

Über is always full of surprises. C called for one, and 10 minutes later, a brand new SUV showed up. We had asked for a big car to fit my bike bag. The driver raised up to the challenge and folded seats and made room to achieve it. Time for good byes. We made it quick, wanting on both sides to avoid tears, again.

Once on the road, the driver, a middle aged guy from middle east, told me everything about his new car, what he wanted to do with it, etc… Then he became curious then exited about my journey to come. Once at the airport’s terminal, he shook my hand and wished me good luck. A good way to start “day one”.

I had planned a lot of time at the airport to deal with the bike. Oversized luggage counters don’t seem to have proper sized scanner. Yeah, right? But I’m getting used to the exercise and partially unpacked the bag. The security agent was only worried about CO2 cartridges and didn’t even pay attention to my bright bottle with “Danger, Fuel” written on it. Fine by me.

Then the long wait at the gate. I had time to observe my fellow passengers and I got my first confirmation that, yes, I was going to Japan. There was a lot a japanese women with young children, some caucasian/japanese couples and Few of what I would qualify tourists, as far as I could tell. I got my first olfactive triggered memory when a couple open of bag of those japanese cookies smelling algae.

Boarding time. I shared the last row’s two seats with a japanese guy. I managed to say that I only speak japanese a little, he managed to say that he only speaks english a little. The mood set, I spent an uneventful flight.

Tuesday, March 8th, 5:00pm, Tokyo Haneda International Kagoshima Airport, Japan.

Twelve hours later, we landed at Tokyo, Haneda. I crossed the border and got my visa without problem and proceed to go trough the customs. The agent got curious about my saddle bag and seeing my helmet, put 1 + 1 together. As I started to open my bag, he placed a small privacy screen to shield its content to the people in line behind me. First glimpse of japanese courtesy. I then proceed to retrieve my bike which was carefully handled by an airport agent. Japan, I’m already in love.

I hopped into a bus to transfer to the domestic terminal. This check-in was an other story. Upon my arrival at the counter, the staff started to get nervous. After some running around, I was eventually told that they have no way to handle oversized luggages, so I would have to have the security check right now, at this very counter. No privacy screen this time. The security agent was curious about everything and he eventually asked me if I had any CO2 cartridges, still indifferent about the (empty) bottle of methanol. Nothing to declare, everything was in order, I repacked everything and boarded my plane to Kagoshima.

Tuesday, March 8th, 8:00pm, Kagoshima Airport, Kirishima, Japan.

An other uneventful flight that brought me to the surprisingly big airport of Kagoshima. Well, as a matter of fact, Kirishima, an hour bus ride north of Kagoshima.

That’s when the adventure started. Me and my dismantled bike had to find a place to sleep at 10pm. I had opted to camp a short distance out of the airport as I had to be back the next day to greet G. Exiting to the main hall of the airport, I quickly located the coin lockers where I would store the bag for the night before shipping it ahead to Tokyo Haneda for my return flight, in 7 weeks. So I unpacked Orange Mécanique, my bike and proceeded to put it back together with all its load. Once done, I was close to be the only one left in the airport. Then, moment of truth, I tried to put the bike bag in the locker. I tried again… and again. Well… it didn’t fit. That’s when a security agent came to me and asked me to leave. I tried to explain him my problem and he tried to help me put the bag in the locker, but still, it didn’t fit. He tried to think about something but quickly decided to ask me to leave.

Well, problem solving 101: I had a cable lock for my bike which would not be needed for the night, let’s just lock the bag outside, at the bicycle parking, just for the night.

Done.

Time for my first pedal stroke that would lead me 4km away in a isolated trail near the road, quiet enough so I could spend the night there without disturbing anybody. Surrounded by tall bamboos, I set up my sleeping system, read maybe a chapter on my kindle and felt asleep, gently rocked by the sound of the wind in the bamboos and the constant barks of distant dogs. My adventure has begun.