The places we chose to stay for the nights since we left Kyoto were of huge variety. It ranged from a big hotel room with all comfort once to camping under a bridge. But step by step.
In Kyoto we gratefully stayed two nights with the warm and welcoming warmshowers-host Ken, as already mentioned. Originally from the States, he spend most of his life abroad, many years in Malaysia and is now hopefully soon finishing up his PhD-Thesis here in Kyoto. The main reason to stay with warmshowers-hosts are the conversations and the interchange, just as we enjoyed with Ken and his neighbour Yoko while having dinner and some beer together.
Now, in anticipation of rain the day we left Kyoto and the prospect of densely populated areas over the course of the next few days, we looked for a affordable accommodation on the way and were delighted to find a great offer online: quite cheap for Japanese standards but with all the trimmings, i.e. a huge room and bed with all the gimmicks (tv, digital projector, fridge, electric kettle, …), a big bathroom with a Jacuzzi, lots of toiletries, etc., even breakfast was included. It took us a while to explore everything and we were really having a blast.
The night after we actually intended to camp. However, we were still stuck in one of the most densely populated areas of the world.
Because of the countless traffic lights and an exceptional steep little pass sticking out of the sea of concrete kept us from making sufficient progress. And instead of cycling in the dark we opted for a considerably cheap, Japanese-style hotel in Osaka. The room hardly bigger than our tent, completely filled by two mattresses, still let us have a good night. Falling back on that accommodation obviously turned out to be a good idea since even on the next day a spot for wild-camping was very hard to find. For the very same reason, another young fellow Japanese cyclists we met and shared a few kilometers with, was cycling throughout the whole night.
Although the weather didn’t improve much – but wasn’t very bad neither -, we didn’t want to spent another night indoors and were trying hard to find a suitable place for our tent for the next night. Fortunately with success: a good spot underneath a Shinkansen-bridge over a river it was. The next morning, while having breakfast, we were even entertained by a retired Japanese using the peace and (usual) seclusion underneath the bridge for a loud and committed singing-session. He practised old Samurai-songs for a up-coming contest, as he told us afterwards. Shinkansen, by the way, refers to the Japanese high-speed train network, nick-named ‘bullet-train’, connecting most major cities. Seemingly, a lot of effort was put into the Shinkansen-routes mainly by the use of many tunnels and viaducts in order to go through and over obstacles rather than around them. Thus, the lines are completely separate from conventional rail lines and have been built without railroad crossings etc. The extraordinary effort obviously pay-off: some sections are one of the world’s busiest high-speed rail line – between Tokyo and Osaka, for instance, up to thirteen trains per hour run in each direction.
Finally, we left the crowded area behind us and took the ferry from Himeji to the small island of Shodoshima – a mountainous isle and, hence, sparsely populated. Now it was dead easy again to find a spot for camping and we pitched our tent on a quite beach. Only two young golfers were endlessly practising to shot golf balls far into the sea. Golf seam to be the number of sport in Japan, followed by baseball and futsal.
After a day of cycling on little Shodoshima we took another ferry to Shikoku, one of the four largest islands that mainly make up Japan. Wild-camping, as we are used to do, now was possible again for all the following nights till Hiroshima.
One night we got company by a British girl, Jenny, doing a year of working-holidays here and currently enjoying a two to three month bike ride.
Interestingly, to leave Shikoku again for Honshu – the main island – we didn’t need to take a ferry again and followed the popular Shimanami cycling road instead – actually the only way to cycle from Shikoku to Honshu. The well sign-posted and interesting cycle path of about 70 km crosses 7 bridges that connect a set of small islands. The considerably high bridges opened up stunning views and were actually quite impressive by themselves, too. Among them are allegedly the longest cable-stayed suspension bridge (1480 m) as well as the longest three-span suspension bridge in the world (4 km).