Saturday, April 28, 2018


In 1974 (oops, ages ago!) we were in Macedonia on the Greek border when the regime of the Greek colonels fell and the restoration of democracy in Greece started. We remember the cheers of the young exiled Greeks who  had fled military service speeding over the border back to their homes and families.
In 1990 we were in East-Berlin in Olaf and Gudrun's garden house, the year after the two Germanies reunited.
In 2015 we were in Turkey when in national elections Erdogan lost his majority in parliament. As could be foreseen he tricked democracy by not forming a new government within the term of 45 days and starting another conflict with the Kurds and thus regained majority in the next elections. (This event should not be mentioned here, as it is negative).
Now, april 2018, we are in South-Korea when the leaders of both Koreas meet and declare that they are willing to make the peace.
Next destination???? Israël????

Long distance bicycle paths

In the Netherlands there are many signed bicycle paths, local, regional and national. The so-called LF-routes (Long-Distance routes) are routes that cross the country from north to south, east to west, diagonally, along the rivers, along the zero Amsterdam Northsea level line etc.
In Europe there are the long distance Euroroutes, Vélo routes etc, In many European countries there are dedicated cycle paths to serve the long distance pedal powered traveler. And the number is increasing! Good thing!
Now South-Korea is, or may be, the first Asian country to have Long-Distance bicycle routes. Right now we are on a dedicated route along the east coast. There is also the 4-rivers cycle path, that goes from Busan to Seoul, over 650 kms, and connects to several other along the river cycle paths.
The path we are currently following is marked by blue and white signs and by white symbols and a blue line on the pavement. Sometimes it's just the road side where all the traffic is, very often there are separated path ways, sometimes even special boarded constructions. Well made!

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Why do Korean road-cyclists hide themselves behind these obscure masks? It's not their religion I suppose. It cannot be the weather, that's fine. Nice temperature, no wind, nothing. It seems that you cannot ride a road bike here without this awkward disguise.
Some say that many Koreans don't like a dark tan and that's why they cover the skin. I consider the price very high, free breathing is pretty important when delivering a physical effort like cycling.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bye Japan

We've left Japan.
The last three days in Japan we spent in Kioto and walked miles from one temple to another shrine. Impressive, beautiful and it kept us interested. It's impossible to realize and grasp how much creativity and effort has gone into all these enormous and beautiful places. It's the same everywhere in the world, in Europe we have our cathedrals and castles, communities can achieve so much, voluntarily or forced.

After our flash-visit to Kioto we returned to Fukuoka where we had left the bulk of our luggage and our transport, the bikes in the Toyoko-Inn near the enormous Hakata-station. We have become "members' of this hotel chain, which is no-nonsense, clean, very affordable and exactly what we need. In Busan we are staying in another location of this chain, now very familiar to us. Since we have spent over ten nights with them, we are getting one night free now!

The next morning we pedalled a few kilometers to Hakata international ferry terminal where we checked in for Busan, South-Korea. Tickets about €80 p.p incl. the bike for a six hour way to the other side of the East sea. Funny that, when boarding, we followed the same routing with our bikes on our hands as the other foot-passengers with their trolleys. We were given a 'shared cabin', a space where there were 12 futon beds on tatami mats. The sea was flat, the ride smooth and easy. Exactly on schedule we disembarked, no problems getting through customs and we reached our Korean Toyoko-Inn at about 19.00. 

In Busan, second largest city in S-Korea, we are riding on the right side of the street again, but the first traffic we meet is rougher than we were used to during this last month. We cannot read anything as we could not in Japan, Toyoko-Inn doesn't seem as clean and quiet, people seem to be nosier, there are homeless people in the little park in front of the hotel, we again have to find out what and how the small restaurants work. Things feel alien, normal for the fist encounter in again another country/culture.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

No litter and ever-shining cars

The Japanese are not only polite and friendly, they appear to be a very clean people. We have f.i. seen how deliberately they wash themselves before stepping into an 'onsen' (hot public bath). But they are not only clean on themselves, they are so on their environment as well. 
There are only brand-new cars in the streets it seams. But no, all the time you see people washing, rubbing and polishing their cars on parking lots. The result is shining car paint all over.
Then the most striking thing to me is that there is absolutely no litter on the streets. There's no scrap of paper, cigarette-but, empty softdrink-can or bottle whatsoever to be found. Very nice and agreeable, we have seen otherwise in other parts of the world.
Now you would expect lots of garbage bins on lamp posts, railings etc. But again no, there are none! None at all. We don't quite understand how they do it. When we buy our coffee and sandwiches etc. to take away the only place where we can dispose of the packing and empty cup is in the shop where we bought it. We do see other buyers do the same.

That's it, you will find no garbage bin ever in a Japanese street, neither will you find any litter. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Shrines, temples and kimonos

Travelling from Fukuoka to Kyoto by Shinkansen is fast and comfortable. Smoothly covering 650 kms in less than 3 hours. There's no enjoying of the scenery though, mostly the train moves between noise barriers or through tunnels. But, as the train does, time flies....and there's a lady selling coffee on board.

We will spend three days in Kyoto, this former capital of the country. Then we'll return to Fukuoka and take the ferry to South Korea, where we hope to disembark at 18.00 on April 20th.
Kyoto is famous for its places of worship. The two main religions of this country both have their biggest and most beautiful temples (Buddhism) and shrines (Shinto) here.

Today we visited two prestiguous ones and, when passing, by some smaller ones (as there are really many). We were not the only ones, crowds of Japanese joined us. They just wandered over the premises in awe, as we did, and really prayed (in the way I described in a former blog). But we were really surprised and pleased to see that many visitors were traditionally dressed. We saw hundreds of women and men in kimono. Mostly very elegant. We had the impression that most of these people were not used to wearing this traditional gear, they kept making photos and selfies and there were lots of kimono-rent-shops near the shrine. But it certainly gave a positive contribution to the atmosphere.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


Yesterday we arrived back in Fukuoka, where we started our tour three weeks ago. We rode 996 kms, and doing so we made 7630 altimeters. The latter is not surprising, as Japan is nothing more than a group of volcanic mountains rising above sea-level.
The scenery outside the cities, and especially the parts directly along the coast, were mostly beautiful and frequently even stunning.

There were good days and lesser ones. One day we got entirely wet because of the constant rain, another day we had to struggle against a gale-force head wind, that sometimes blew us from our bicycles. But most of the time the conditions were nice.
Because of Japan being so mountainous there are not many roads between the various settlements. Consequently all the traffic is concentrated on these few connecting roads. So fairly often we were amidst heavy traffic, which is not ideal for nice bicycle touring. But never dangerous or scary.
Cyclists here are supposed to use the foot path, but using the main road surface is not a problem at all and thus we mostly did. The Japanese seem to love their cars, you see everyone behind the wheel. Young and old, workers, salary men, house wives in aprons, they all move around in their cars. And they drive just as they are, very law-abiding and respectful. So we were never harrassed by annoyed drivers. On the contrary, we always got all the space we needed.

We don't consider the cities that we visited beautiful. Often really ugly. No comparison with our own continent, no historic and lively city centres, just high rise commercial buildings and lots of traffic. But places as Fukuoka, Kagoshima and Nagasaki were agreeable enough to spend some days, for their musea, Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and atmosphere.
Mentioning that we find the Japanese law-abiding and respectful does not imply that we experience them as shy or humble. No, they are extremely polite and they bow a lot, but we find them friendly, helpful, assertive and witty. They just show a great loyalty to the rules and arrangements of their society. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Nagasaki, August 9 1945, 11.02 am.

Fat man, 3.5 meters long, dropped from a B-29 bomber at an altitude of 9000 mtrs, detonated at alt. 500 mtrs.

Two layers of high-explosives round a kern of app. 1 kg of plutonium.

The hypocenter, the exact location of the detonation.

The effect

The result

Peace park

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The elderly

Japan has 126 million inhabitants. That number is deminishing. Probably there is too little immigration and Japanese women don't have enough children, less than the necessary 2,2 per woman that is needed to keep the number stable. As a consequence the number of elder people is relatively high. Not that this is a visible phenomenon in the streets, but we do see many old people. And what strikes us is that many of them are in bad physical condition. They are often very short, o-shaped legs, more or less crippled, walk difficultly with sticks or another aid and, most striking of all, many have hunchbacks, noses close to the ground. I remember seeing such handicapped elderly people at home, but that was when I was a child. It seems that in our regions we have overcome illnesses like these, or have we comfortably hidden them in our care-centers? 
And there are exceptions......

Jazz music

Do you like jazz? Come to Japan.
In most places where we sit down to eat or drink something you hear this kind of music. It's everywhere. Even in traditional places, those where you have to squat on a floor of tatami mats at a low table. Initially I was surprised, later I remembered that many modern jazz artists from the Netherlands do well and are even popular in this country. So I should have known. Even David, a saxophone player that grew up in our street, has played here.

It's the kind of jazz that you will hear on all these radio stations under the category 'Smooth jazz'. Surprising, not annoying at all.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


We have been cycling in Kyushu island for 11 days now. We covered a good 550 kms. We are not hurrying. By now we should be experienced enough to find our way handsomely in this country., where we belong to the species of the analphabetic. But that is not said yet.
Still we do not recognize the signs on the buildings. So finding a place to stop for a break is difficult. And we do not recognize these places from their outer appearance. Not that that would matter, it's all food restaurants. Just having a drink is a thing not done here, as it seems.
So where do we stop and refresh when cycling? The answer is the convenience store. These are small supermarkets that sell just the things you need. A variety of fresh coffees, all kinds of small bites hot and cold, sandwiches, ready made meals and cold drinks. All of this take away, or consume in the car, as we often see. There's always a good and clean toilet, sometimes there is a place to sit and have your sip and relax for a while. For us the places to look for for a stop.There are plenty of them, with names like Family Mart, Lawson and 7-Eleven. This last one has a slight preference, since they have ATMs that accept our bankcards.