We have landed in a world of concrete and asphalt that is characteristic of the (southern) central part of Honshu Island, roughly speaking between Hiroshima and Tokio.
Despite two days of mild snow storms, our world is still not covered in a beautiful layer of white. Hopefully that will change soon as we are making our way to Hokkaido. This is northernmost of Japan’s four major islands, known for its heavy quantities of snow. The goal is to be there around Feb 6-12 for a well-known ice sculpture festival in Sapporo, the capital of the island.
Winter tires & visa extensions
The critic will argue, “With those tires?”
The answer, “No, not with these.”
Thanks to Masa, our friend in Kyushu who imports/exports new and second-hand Land-Cruiser-parts (Coco Cruiser, find him here) we have second-hand studless tires waiting for us east of Tokio. This should take us safely across snow-covered roads.
But fast drivers we will never be, covering hundreds of kilometers in a day. While we skipped the Island of Shikoku for now and we will (hopefully) go there this summer, there are too many interesting places along the way to not stop every once in awhile.
Among there are Hiroshima with the A-bomb museum and the ground zero, and the island of Miyajima with the famous ‘floating’ torii (temple gate).
Apart from winter tires, we had another important issue to take care of: extending our visa. While often granted, an extension is not a matter of course and you have to argue why you need/want one. Our enthusiasm for Japan and our slow travel (2+ months in Kyushu alone) was enough to give us the much-wanted stickers pasted in our passports!
After three wonderful weeks with the Nakashima family near Kagoshima (read about it here), we were on our own again. We met fewer people. With winter temperatures hovering around 5 degrees Celsius, people rush from their car to a shop and back, and don’t take as much time to walk up to the Land Cruiser for a chat.
To be just the two of us is something we deeply appreciate after a long period with constant interaction with others. We are forever searching for this balance: meeting and staying with people vs. enjoying just our own companionship. But now, a couple of weeks down the road, we were starting to get a bit lonely again. As we were nearing Kobe and Osaka, we decided to take up two of the invitations waiting for us there.
Near Kobe we stayed at Dave and Keko’s place, who run a business producing, importing and exporting 4×4 accessories (find them here). With the Land Cruiser being in the workshop, closed off from the nasty cold, Coen took up the opportunity to insulate the water-pipe under the car, which runs between the water tank and the pump.
Closer to Osaka live Daniel and Kyoko. A nice hot-pot meal evolved into a late night of drinking beer and sharing stories about comfort zones, living your life to the fullest, going on (micro) adventures (find some good examples here), and growing old(er). Thanks for opening that bottle of champagne and toasting to eternal youth, Daniel!
A broken clutch
As we were turtle-pacing along the highway, finding our way through humongous cities and industrial areas, life was good and relaxed. Until, all of a sudden, the clutch no longer worked. Coen quickly turned into a parking lot, put on his overall and the search began. In a 5-degree-Celsius, drizzling rain he worked until it was dark and was chattering teeth from the cold.
We owe thanks to many people:
- Thank you all on our Facebook page (find it here) for chiming in with your suggestions.
- Rocco, thanks for being our emergency phone help-desk once again. (He was our mechanic in the Netherlands who help to get the Land Cruiser ready for Landcruising Adventure (find him here)).
- Another grateful thanks to Mr. Nakashima and Masa for your chats and messages and getting us in touch with Taku.
- Taku, whom we were going to meet next, got up extremely early to drive 180 kilometers to meet us this morning at 8am. A Land Cruiser aficionado as well, he searched, probed, and tried, but couldn’t solve the problem right away. He did find out we could still shift when half-depressing the clutch pedal, which enabled us to drive to his workshop.
Yesterday they took the transmission down and, lo and behold, they found a piece that had simply snapped off. Taku has a second-hand set lying around and it will be installed tomorrow.
If all goes well we’ll soon be back on the road. Hokkaido here we come!