What a journey it has been! 9 months, 11 islands, 12,000 kilometers from Kyushu in the south to Hokkaido in the north. We kept you updated through our ‘Where are We’ posts but there was never enough space to do justice to all the beautiful and hospitable people we met. So I’d like to do that here.
On Tsushima Island
A one-day trip to renew our visa for South Korea turned into a weekend as a typhoon prevented us from returning the same day. Stranded without money, Jinha and Mizuki took us in for the night, introducing us to the elegant style of Japanese houses with tatami mats and low tables and their traditional bedding: quilted mattresses (called futons) that are laid on the floor.
Read More: Visa Run to Tushima Island
Meeting the Land Cruiser Community
What better introduction to a new country than being invited to an event with like-minded people? Thank you, Mr. Nakashima for the invite, and big thanks to all Land Cruiser Community members for sharing your event with us. Here we had our ‘Firsts’ of soaking in a Japanese onsen (hot spring) and drinking sake.
Read More: The Land Cruisers’ Festa
Masa (Coco Cruiser), Yasuko, and Masaya thank you for your friendship throughout our journey, and Masa in particular, for connecting us with so many of your friends. The Land Cruiser had its first fender bender, but Coco Cruiser, his friend Mr. Sakaguchi and Mr. Kenske fixed it working on Saturday until midnight. We are so grateful for the work you did!
Read More: Kyushu Island & the First Fender Bender
Along the Way
To Masa’s friend Diesuke, thank you for teaching me some Japanese over a sushi dinner. Along the road we met Yukino who took us to her home where we prepared lunch. Thank you for bringing such a spontaneous, fun moment in our journey.
In Usuki, Suematso arranged a tour for us in the miso factory of the Fundókin Company, under the enthusiastic guidance of Mr. Shinji. With 30 years of experience under his belt, he sure knew how to explain the process of fermenting soya beans into a delicious paste. We came to love it and often ate miso soup.
After we met Kayo at a Shinto Shrine we followed her home for dinner. Her husband Hiromitsu had done several long-term cycling trips throughout the world. Thank you for introducing us to eating in a Japanese restaurant and sharing your inspiring stories about lifestyles and travel!
Read More: Couchsurfing in Russia
Akihiro Nakashima went more than out of his way to get our Land Cruiser in top shape again (find his workshop here). He and his mechanics worked on it for three full weeks, replacing many parts. We are forever indebted for all the love and attention you gave to our home on wheels, which is now ready for so many new adventures!
Read More: Kyushu Island & 4Friendee Auto Workshop
But it was more than fixing the Land Cruiser. Miki shared her kitchen with me so I could feed the crowd lunch while she took care of breakfast and dinner. Over the weekends we spend time at Tomo and Masa’s homes, meeting the mechanics’ families and doing some sightseeing. It has all been such a pleasure. And Eisuke, thank you for all your translating!
Foreigners on Honshu
After 2 months on Kyushu we crossed the bridge to Japan’s biggest island, Honshu. For a while we had been in touch with a number of people who followed our journey, among whom a couple of foreigners.
Daniel and Kyoko, what a pleasure it has been and thanks for doing it all over in Shikoku. We hope our roads will cross again soon!
Andy, thank you for taking us out for dinner and sharing your stories. Dave, it was a pleasure to meet you and see your shop Japan 4×4 in Kobe. Peter, thank you for giving us a peek in the art of glass blowing, and what a joy it was meeting you and Itsuka again at the Land Cruiser Meeting East.
Read More: A Glass Blower in Japan
Will, Jennifer and the kids. We loved staying at your house (the one night growing into a full week), to have shared so many meals and Jennifer, thank you for our candid ‘women talks’. Let’s meet again at an international HASH!
Read More: Hashing in Suriname (and the World)
On that note. A big thanks to the Nagoya and Kobe HASH for having us. Two awesome runs!
The Land Cruiser’s First Aid Crews
All of a sudden we had a serious problem with the clutch. We called Masa, who called Taku, who drove 180 kilometers to get us back on the road. We drove to his workshop where he replaced the clutch and we stayed at his and Ayako’s home. What a beautiful couple. Thank you for all your help and the fun we shared with you and your sister’s family!
We kept having some problems with the brakes. Mr. Nakashima figured out what the problem was, Masa ordered the part and his friend (oh my, we forgot his name!) fixed it. Thanks! While in Kyoto we didn’t have car problems but felt privileged to camp in Mr. Fujita’s parking lot among the grandest of Turbo Land Cruisers. And he did solve our sedimenter problem!
In Tokyo we had no car issues but were hosts of Kikuchi and his family. Not only that, but Kikuchi organized a great get together in his garage for families and friends of Land Cruiser aficionados. It was such a pleasant surprise. Thank you all!
In Ibaraki, Oomori fitted the Land Cruiser with second-hand studless tires so the Land Cruiser was ready for Hokkaido’s winter.
Winter in Hokkaido
We indeed got our fair share of snow! Joshei, whom we met in Wakkanai later invited us for lunch in Sapporo, which was well deserved after this walk in the white world. Thank you for the insightful talk we had over coffee!
Read More: Wildlife in winter on Hokkaido
In Hokkaido we had a string of warm welcomes. Among them a spontaneous invitation for an Italian meal and we were literally drawn into a restaurant – “We love your car, let me buy you lunch!” – and served these meals before the couple had shaken our hands, introduced themselves and were on their way.
We loved the freshly brewed coffee at the Refined Coffee Bar prepared by Kouki Hiwatashi and Kumagai Tomoyuki. Thank you for giving us a sense of a warm home for an evening!
The World of Toyota
Thanks to the Land Cruiser community we got a tour of the Land Cruiser Factory in Nagoya and visited the excellent Toyota Automobile Museum. Thank you for making this possible, in particular Marumatsu. We are so grateful for this unique opportunity!
Read More: In Toyota City & the Automobile Museum
On our way up to and down from Hokkaido, we had a blissful stop at more Land Cruiser aficionados. Thank you Takihiro, Mito and Mitsuyosha for your hospitality and the time we shared!
The Land Cruiser Community Meets Once More
Luckily we could include a second Land Cruiser Meeting, this time at the foot of Mount Fuji. With more than 200 Land Cruisers we shared a weekend of admiring each other vehicles, drinking, laughing, taking the vehicles for a spin. What a perfect organization. Thanks for having us!
Read More: The Land Cruiser 40 Meeting East
Last but not least, just before left Japan we met Kochan and Mika. Kochan spent hours phoning with bureaucrats after we learned that our ferry back to Japan was out of order, which would result in us overstaying. He managed to get our visa extension organized as well as tickets for the ferry. Thank you for all your help, sharing your home with us, the conversations we had, and time with your beautiful friends. It was a blast!
Read More: The Joy of Overlanding with Kids
On the Road, Everywhere and in Between
On the different islands, people came for a chat when they saw us parked somewhere. Some brought coffee, others gave us produce. Many of these meetings brought a smile to our faces and made our day. Thank you all for making us feel so welcome in your country!
To Whom We Didn’t Meet
We had expected an additional two months on our visa but they were denied. Sorry to all the people who reached out through social media or otherwise. We would have loved to meet you. One day we’ll be back!