Far out… I have blinked and the Japan leg of the DNWCT is over. Without a doubt it was the most chilled out leg of the tour so far, both due to the location (If you can’t relax in Niseko its time for medication) and the host with the most, the laid back Hawk. If he could be a hotel, I am guessing he would be the Datai, except with more style, and in Europe.
I really loved Japan and will definitely have to head back to experience more of it (Tokyo needs to be another trip). I suspect I wouldn’t have gone unless Fort Hawk was fully operational, so thanks again chief for being the bitch on the scene in Niseko. Embarrassingly I had a good mate that lived in Niseko for 3 or so years previously and I never made it across to visit, makes you realise what you can miss out on!
Good news, I FINALLY managed to get charged some excess baggage! As luck would have it, it was the last leg of the planned trips that I got hit and not for being over weight (like my climbing issues), but for being over dimensions, WTF… Of course, I argued the point, as I had a strong case given there was no charge on the way over with ANA. They pushed back… I pushed back… Eventually it occurred to them and then to me that I was going to miss the flight. So, I caved, they bowed and then we had to team up to run Japanese style to the plane, with a waving sign. It was so tight the Evo even got to come down the Airbridge with me, blurred due to running and sweating:
So… Back in Singapore… If you want to give yourself a complete mindf*ck, then might I recommend waking up in Zen like Niseko, travelling all day and then deciding to head to the Great World City shopping/drone centre to get some dinner. The contrast is like being punched in the face by Evander Holyfield while Mr Tyson bites off your ears.
As I tried to navigate the crowds (on National day no less, happy birthday SG), and then decide on what cereal to buy, I did have a flash back to the ‘Hurtlocker‘ (no, not riding around Lake Toya behind the Hawk), where Jeremy Renner also struggles to adapt back:
Sure, I wasn’t coming home from Iraq, but that’s what I looked like last night, except I had drones pushing their trolleys into me as I stood mouth agape with my brain just wanting to be back climbing Nimi Onsen… No matter how much you’re suffering, its ALWAYS better to be on a mountain than in the cereal row of a supermarket.
Right, massive digression over, lets pour a G&T and reflect on Japan…
1. A few stats
a BIG week this one… Best example? The Evo is feeling flogged out, and when I took it in for the service we found the chain was totally fooked and in need of replacement. Wasn’t all caused by Japan obviously, but these numbers tell a good story:
- 7 days of riding
- 8,525m of climbing
- 21 hours 9 mins on the bike
Yikes… No wonder I felt like I had cement in my legs on the last day! I am unsure how the iHawk packed in some runs and swims in around this stuff, so much kudos for doing so!
2. Some tips and thoughts
We will probably need to pour a large dose of Balsamic Sea Salt all over my tips and advice, as I am hardly an expert on Japan given I spent a week there on one Island, but some Nomadic musings none the less:
- Its hot – Seems obvious, but check the weather as it was a lot hotter riding in Japan than I had expected, not to mention the sun was a lot harsher, my tan lines are epic now, but so was the sunburn to get there
- Best to ride with someone in the know – I mean this as much for navigation, which felt harder than Europe (mainly signposting), but also to make sure you are in the know with where are the best places to go. Obvious really, but the way some of the roads are laid out, I suspect I would have missed some of the best climbing routes without the Hawk in the know
- Language is not to bad – Sure, I made a poor effort to speak the lingo and thanked everyone profusely instead of casually, but I was surprised at how easy it was to communicate, both in terms of English usage and also the patience employed when its clear that no one speaks the same language. Pointing at other peoples food and saying HAI also useful
- The roads – Smooth, quiet and awesome. I suspect this isn’t like the rest of Japan (Indeed Hokkaido is the least populated Island), but Niseko is a treat when it comes to road riding
- One of the things I loved about Niseko was it had that ski town feel to it, but without being over the top or too overdeveloped like some of those towns are. It was also a cool blend of that sort of culture and a rural life style
- If you fly into Tokyo, make sure that your connecting domestic flight is from the same airport, I almost got caught out when booking my flights by that little trick
- Food was awesome, both in terms of variety and freshness… The Hawk basically led a culinary tour of Niseko for me, picking out all sorts of gems. If you like to stuff your face with good kit, then you won’t be disappointed here. Coffee is also a thumbs up
- If you’re a cyclist or a team, seriously book a training camp here… You can pretty much do everything and in absolute peace as well
- The small towel at the Onsen is not for washing your balls (assuming you have some), so don’t make that mistake. Its also not a face cloth. Easy mistake/s to make.
3. Some awards
The whole week was an award winner, but a few that stand out like a Panther walking through an Asian foodcourt:
- The best Japanese restaurant phone booking award – Clearly a hands down winner in the Hawk here. It was awesome to watch… First the written prep, then the whispered rehearsal and then finally the big moment that gave me the most comedic joy: He started out strong with a bellowing “KONICHIWA” before tailing off into a child like mumble, with occasional punches of HAI! thrown in. It did the trick though, we got the table. The fact that we got the restaurant half an hour late and it was empty shouldn’t detract from this masterful display
- Best climb award – Logic should almost give this one to Hanazono given we rode it twice and raced it, so its a strong contender. But, I think we need to give the nod to Nimi Onsen. Its combo of variety, beauty and mystic giving it the edge
- Biggest loser award – Only one man in the running here… The Hawk has transformed himself into a coiled steel whippet crossed with a terminator. Last time I saw him he had a little bit of a ‘Care Bear’ set up going on, but that has been slayed and what has emerged from the chrysalis of doom is epic
- Total shit loss award – Could be awarded to me for my collapse on the final days ride, but to be fair even that effort doesn’t match up to Ray Parker going nuts on it in the main street of Otaru, vaguely matched by the shit loss by the Hawk whilst on brain detail to clean it up
- Best photo award – Split winner here… My vote is for the first one for obvious vain Rapha reasons, but the Hawk is a massive fan of #2:
- Best podium award – Thank fuck he didn’t win a tire or some shit bike computer, to stand on top of the podium and lift some local beer (not to be confused with bear) made the day:
And, here’s how it rolled back at Hawk HQ to celebrate (1.5 each):
- Best Press conference – This picture sums it up, note excellent commitment from the JCF Press officer:
So, that’s Japan… Done and dusted on the tour. I am at a loss to outline ‘what next’, but at this stage I am mainly concerned with the Crit race tomorrow here in Singapore and hoping my legs will bounce back! To prolong the Japanese goodness I saw the movie ‘Wolverine’ this afternoon, shot all in Japan… its a 6 out of 10 perhaps?
And finally… Stoked to get a delivery today all the way from Santa Cruz. Yes, I only have 17 T shirts (enough to qualify for an OCD), but as you can imagine, I just HAD to have this one for obvious reasons (and not just because I own the bike):
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