Memorable Meetings of the Terrific and Terrifying kind

After sticking to roads for about three weeks I had the urge to get out, find a dirt track and see what else there is on Hokkaido.

According to my logic there had to be a track where I saw a river and a railway line on my map. I was right. Almost.

Found some dirt!

In most countries you will find service roads along railway lines. No difference here.

I was very happy, although I couldn’t step of my bike for more than 3 seconds as my legs would be covered in ants.

Enjoying the scenery I hardly noticed the track becoming a bit smaller and a bit overgrown, until about an hour later it had disappeared all together.

Track getting smaller

Rather inconvenient indeed.

The good thing was I got to cycle the track twice πŸ™‚

I had to take the main drag. I’ve been told the road I was looking at is closed.

It was to happen a few more time until I realised that ‘closed road‘ doesn’t actually mean a road is closed….

It only means the gate across the road is closed.

Gate Closed

And that might be a problem if you travel by car. Not so by bicycle.

Yeah what ever

People keep telling me horror stories about landslides and rockfalls.

β€œIt is very dangerous” β€œyou can not go there” β€œIt’s too hard”. Just a few of the lines I’ve heard lately.

But I think cycling through a busy tunnel is more dangerous. I discovered that they really love their tunnels here, even if there isn’t a mountain to go through they just build a tunnel for the hack of it.

A no tunnel tunnel

Might have something to do with the winter conditions.

But I prefer seeing trees over concrete. Even if they’re very little trees.


The main road was rather funny as all the trucks flashed lights, beeped horns and waved at me.

Happy Trucker

I am not sure if I wasn’t supposed to be cycling there or they were just all very friendly. I happily waved back and got that stretch down in no time at all.

I stopped at a small roadside restaurant Hiroshi proudly told me he was a ‘Japanese Stud‘ He used to work in a nightclub in Tokyo and has had girlfriends from 11 different nationalities. Very impressive indeed (…). Since he is the first and only Japanese ‘Stud’ I have ever met I thought I might as well take a picture. Here he is:

Hiroshi and me

I happen to go back through Shimokawa, where I just missed the chainsaw, sculpture festival. What a shame! But had a great time back at Motoko’s place anyway.

Dressed to the nines

And showed Vivian the Milky Way, Yes I can see it from here as well!

Star gazing with VivianΒ A tip if you ever decide to cycle on Hokkaido is going to the hot pools! Not only do you get a great bath, they always have a ‘chill-out room’ where people snooze, watch TV and drink tea.

Chill Out room in Onsen

Or, in my case, charge all electronics and use the free wi-fi. When its dark nobody will bat an eyelid if you pitch your tent on the car park or in the garden.

And since most onsen’s are hotels as well you can always walk in for breakfast in the morning. You might even make friends with people who chase bugs and invite you to come and see them when you’re in the area.

Nice couple!

I really like the farm buildings here in rural Hokkaido.

There’s red,

Farm Yard

And there is blue,Farm yard 2

There s old,


And there’s almost no more.

Almost no more

One evening, after being told (for the last time!) I couldn’t take the road of my choice I ended up at June’s and Toskifumi’s Dairy farm. They were just in the middle of milking the 100 cows. I had a look around.

Having an unexpected guest wasn’t a problem, quickly some meat was taken out of the freezer and with the help of two hair dryers it was defrosted and on the barbie in no time at all.

June keeps her own blog updated with happenings on the farm. You find it here.

In the morning Toski was surprised to hear I’d slept really well; ‘Last night a cow exploded”.Β That puzzled me a little untill I found out it means a calf had been born.

On my departure they gave me a little banner that hangs proudly of the back of my bicycle. β€œHolstein Cow” It says in Japanese.

This time I was determined not to have anybody tell me I can’t take the road I want.

Nothing wrong with the track

The best solution is not to ask for directions or the state of the track.

Two workman working at the start of my track were very adamant I could not possibly go the way I was heading.


They kept pointing at my map trying to get me to follow some main roads. It is very difficult to tryΒ to tell people that the town or village you are heading to is not because you actually want to get to that particular town or village (except for Shimokawa of course;-)

It is only because I see a funny little track on my map and I want to go explore. That it happens to end in that town or village is purely coincidental.

And it was lovely! Only a few bugs and my fear of coming across bears has all but disappeared in my time here. The track was totally do-able!

I found a little cabin that was unlocked and figured I could always get back there in case of emergency.

lucky it was only later I was told the flies are worse when there are bears nearby…

Nearly on the top a vehicle passed me and confirmed I was still on the right track, only to show up minutes later with a cold drink and the request to take a picture. The three forest officers pointed me in the right direction and we were all on our merry way again.

Forest rangers

I loved all the butterflies. Absolutely stunning big black and blue ones. And lots of orange and white. They were everywhere and I much prefer them over flies…

They do have the suicidal tendency to fly into my spokes. Not good.

A super deluxe hotel with spa was my stop of choice this evening.

Flash Hotel

As I discovered before, for a small price you get rather a lot. I had my wonderful hot bath and sat in the lobby using the free wifi ’till way too late. The only option I had then was to pitch my tent in the garden and come back in early in the morning for breakfast. I was almost a proper hotel guest.

The bad thing about close roads is you never know what to expect, there might actually be a landslide or a collapsed bridge,

IMG_541no problem5

The good thing is, the road is yours and there’s no such thing as dress code πŸ™‚

My Road

On a bridge out of the closed area I met Imai Sho Ichi, the butterfly man.

He has collected over 100 different species of butterflies and agreed with me that it’s about time for a coffee.

Lunch with the butterfly man

We shared a coffee while smiling and saying things like : β€œI Like Coffee”, and β€œNice day”and he handed me some fruit and rice balls too. It was a lovely little break and on departure he handed me this note;

Nice Note

I had a very good time too.

Just in case you care, I can cycle nearly two km’s without touching the handlebars.

Not on them little tracks though. Like one I tried cycling around the backside of Lake Nukabira.

lake Nukabira

It looked like it wasn’t a huge distance and after dragging my bike and bags across two gates I slowly made my way around. Passing, and taking a picture of a big pile of bear dung on the middle of my road,

Bear Dung

wich answers the question: “Does a bear shit in the woods?” … Nope.

It wasn’t till half an hour later I saw the bear.



Instead of telling him off for shitting on my road I tried ringing my little bell like a mad woman so maybe he’d move.

And moving he did, very slowly, along my road in the same direction.

I found out when I got to the next bend in the road and saw it RIGHT THERE. (too close even to take a picture.. and that says something)

I don’t think I’ve cycled any other 10km as quickly as those 10km back to the road.

Now here’s a little video I made about my Hokkaido off-road adventures.

[vimeoΒ 70904952]

As I rode into Nukabira a car pulled over and a guy said:

β€œHey, aren’t you that Dutch girl who cycled Rebun Island a couple of weeks ago?”

This is my rough guess of what he said as it was all in Japanese.

Jun had seen me on the island and we might even have had a ‘chat’ I can’t say for sure.

But we ended up talking our English/Japanese/Dutch babble and agreed on climbing a mountain together the next day.

Mountain Tour

We had a wonderful day with very little communication. We mostly just repeated each other and then smiled;

β€œnice view”… β€œnice view”… πŸ™‚

nice view

β€œI like mountain”… β€œI like mountain” πŸ™‚ .

two people enjoying to views

It’s funny that when you try to communicate you go back to very basic english, even though it doesn’t matter. I could’ve spoken Dutch, German or French. The understanding would be the same.

Heading up

But we saw the most stunning views and the special little mountain flowers who have no idea what a fuzz they cost with lots of tours hiking up especially to see them.

Mountain Flower

A deer crossed our path and didn’t seem to care much.


I have to say my sneakers might not have been the most appropriate footwear for the hike but I managed alright and we had a well deserved coffee afterwards.


I noticed two cyclist on the road on our way to the mountain and figured that they had to be Eric & Amaya. After following their adventures for ages Β it was great to briefly meet here on Hokkaido’s highest road. Our paths are likely to cross again one day.

Amaya & Eric

After all, the world is only small πŸ™‚

Later that day I met four very funny motorbikers who call themselves the bonfire-crew. They have daughters that all went to school together and they’ve been friends ever since. They allowed me to pitch my tent in their camp as we were only a few km’s from my bear-sighting spot and I wasn’t too keen to camp alone.

They were listing to some sports on the radio. When I asked what they were listening to they told me it was Sumo-wrestling!

The Bomfire-Crew

They also reminded me of the fact it’s been 4 years since I carried a bottle of whiskey in my panniers and that it’s time to change this soon. Very soon.

I did have a wonderful sleep that night. No bear could’ve woken me up πŸ™‚

And the little climb the next day wasn’t all too difficult either.

up she goes

I took a track that lead me to the top Onsen on Hokkaido in my experience (and not only because it was free)

Hot Spring

A knock on my tent (for as far you can knock on a tent) in the morning and I find breakfast ready!


You do have to watch out. There’s some very cheeky animals out there trying to get in on the action, I noticed when a crow flew away with some of my food.Food Stealing Bird

They’re worse than the fox. So far they only took my rubbish…

Cheeky Fox

Heading back to the big smoke a 75-year old overtook me to return a minute later to give me an ice-cream.

Old Man Ice Cream

I met up again with Hiroaki, studying hard to become a marine biologist.


But still had time to join me for a well deserved sapporo in Sapporo.

Sapporo!Mia and Hanna from Denmark just spent a month discovering Hokkaido by bike, shame I never ran into them earlier.

Mia & HannaI had a wonderful welcome party at the Miyamura household.


I met Mieko and Himashi about a month ago while camping at a dam. They told me if I ever get back to Sapporo don’t hesitate to call in.

You only have to tell me once.


The party could have had something to do with the summer festival at the hospital across the road.

In the house she keeps an altar for her deceased dad. Every morning she prays and put a few things he liked to enjoy there. Like sake, beer, cigarettes and rice.


She took me to the big temple to pray for a safe journey.

Some others were just starting a journey of Β their own….
newly weds
back to top

81 thoughts on “Memorable Meetings of the Terrific and Terrifying kind

  1. Wow, amazing ride to see such a wonderful sight of Hokkaido! And a most well written journal about it too. Really awesome photos of the places that you have passed by. Maybe one day I could take a tour in Hokkaido with a bike too rather than the usual commercial tours groups. I have never been to Japan even I live in South East Asia. Hope one day you do come by malaysia… Have you been here?

    Anyway awesome post and looking forward to read more of your adventures

  2. En alweer prachtige foto’s en een goed verhaal! Steeds weer genieten van alle avonturen.


    pap & mam

  3. He Mirjam, super leuk! Ik kijk altijd graag naar je foto’s en geniet van je verhalen. Wij stappen ook weer op de fiets. Samen met ons zoontje Ben πŸ™‚ Misschien ontmoeten we elkaar wel ergens in AziΓ«. Veel plezier! Petra

  4. So enjoyed following your journey through this part of Japan. I visited my Son & his Girl friend who were teaching English there for three years and always regretted not going out country to meet the people of the land and see their countryside……the City was a crazy mass of people who all had somewhere to be. Lindd: Oamaru South Island New Zealand

  5. Your adventure sounds amazing! Beautiful photography skill too! I need to start exploring more, and see all the wonderful sights of the world and experience different cultures. You have inspired me to travel πŸ™‚

  6. Awesome, just the way I like it: explore interesting roads, see who you meet, take pictures of everything. I used to strip down my truck of gardening tools in the early fall, load it with camping equipment, grab a stack of state atlases, and just head in a general direction through the Rocky Mountains. Each morning, I decided that day what I wanted to do. Freakin’ fantastic. I, too, met some gorgeous bears, deer, and men. πŸ˜‰ More women should try it.

  7. Hokkaido looks mesmerizing and so much fun – your narrative and experience adds that zing to it. Loved reading it and the photographs are lovely. Thank you for sharing this, congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  8. Stellar post. Your pictures are beautiful (I especially love the one of the little girl dancing) and I really enjoyed the video as well. It sounds like an incredible adventure.

  9. Such a fantastic post! I have been to Hokkaido in the winter time (so serene and beautiful), but I must admit I am envious of the great time you have had out there this summer. I will have to give it try one day. Cheers!

  10. What a fantastic story to tell, and so nicely articulated, with such great photos! Look forward to reading more from you.

  11. Pretty! How long hve you been traveling this way? To me it seems very hard to do haha. I would like to do it as well one day but I’m afraid I’d need to practise riding for longer than a few hours, as well as cycling on mountains!

  12. Wow! Really beautiful trip. We are very lucky you’ve shared these things to us… Looking forward to more of your new beautiful trip. Keep us posted. thanks. Hhhhmm.. Looks like it’s good to visit Japan.

  13. Hoi Mirjam,
    Wat leuk om je vandaag ontmoet en gesproken te hebben in Nikko. Nu ik de prachtige foto’s bij je verhalen kan bekijken, bevestigd dat des te meer mijn meoning: wat stoer dat je dit allemaal doet. Respect! Ik wens je nog een fantastische en veilige reis toe. Dat je fiets je ook verder nog op de meest mooie stukjes aarde mag brengen. Groetjes, Anja (met Mark en Wolfgang)

  14. Very Cool article, I decide to translate it into my mother language (chinese) and enjoy it again, I’m also a cycling fanatic and I primarily play road Bike.

  15. What a delight to find your blog. I am not able to cycle as much as you but you are an inspiration. My upcoming trips are Hawaii, New York, Thailand and Vietnam. I need to find one or more people to cycle the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Dec 2016.

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