"A Ride In The Neon Sun", by Josie Dew, I would have to say is the best reading investment I have made for many-a-year and, at just ￥300, the most economical. I love these types of books. I get an immense amount of joy reading of others exploits, especially when the topic is the great-outdoors.
Bicycle Touring is one of the best (if not the best) ways to see/experience a land/country, and Josie Dew has done plenty of touring with seven books to her credit.
"A Ride In The Neon Sun", published in 1999, is Josie's first experience of cycle-touring in Japan (she was to return 2-years later, "The Sun In My Eyes" chronicling this trip). The book could be divided into two parts - Josie's experiences, and an insight into Japan - with both being covered with her delightful sense-of-humor.
My loyalties, as to whether I was going to like this book were tested early when, on page-8, it was revealed that Josie was originally planning on touring New-Zealand but (something she is not so sure how it happened) she ended-up in Japan instead ( all was not lost, she did venture "down-under" and, as a result of her experience, published "Long Cloud Ride" in 2007).
The book reminded me of the month I spent cycle-touring around Ireland back in 1993 - alone, keeping-off the main road, following the coastline, dossing-down in cheap out-of-town hostels (as I wasn't carrying any camping gear, I couldn't camp in places as Josie did) and connecting with the locals. I also experienced the agonies, pains, inconveniences (rain, wind, heat, motorists, tunnels, cycle repairs) but, at the end of the day, I would do it all again.
Josie commenced her ride while Japan was experiencing the most severe "Tsuyu (Rainy Season)" in 50+-years and, all through this, she continued on her merry way. Then, just as she thought she had survived one weather extreme, she experienced another - the Japanese Summer. Here there are two ways to describe summer - very-hot and extremely-hot - and, when one is out experiencing the great-outdoors on bike, you need copious amounts of fluid. But, if two weather extremes weren't enough, as she traveled-through the Nansei Islands the "Typhoon Season" was about to make her life more hazardous, and unpleasant.
For the non-outdoorholic (or even the casual cyclists) there will be many questions you will be asking yourself as you leaf-through this book - Why? Are you crazy/mad? But imagine this; you have been on the road all day, you have discovered this idyllic spot to pitch your tent (location), you set-up camp and put-on-a-brew, then you take-in the scene - overlooking Cape Satamisaki with Kaimondake Volcano (Location) in the distance. Is this heaven or what!
Throughout this book Josie also gives the reader an insight into Japan and the Japanese people (after living here for 7-years, there were things explained here that I didn't realize) in Layman's Terms, that helps one appreciate the many customs associated with everyday life here. Take for instance the ritual surrounding gift-giving and gift-receiving; when receiving a gift, the recipient has to refuse it. The giver then offers it a second time where it is duly refused again. On the third time, the recipient then accepts it. But, if, after the first or second round the gift isn't re-offered, it means the giver didn't genuinely want you to have it.
One of the most comical moments in the book happened as Josie was cycling in the Ooigawa (Ooi River) area in Shizuoka Prefecture; "That night, as I threaded my way through a rainy confusion of coastal backstreets, I washed up at a hotel called Pink River". Up to this stage I had been reading in anticipation of when Josie would experience the Japanese phenomenon of the Love Hotel. ".....there was no reception, no receptionist, no people - just a dingy booth with a wall-mounted door-phone.....". " Laden down with waterlogged panniers in hand I fumbled with the key and flung open the door with my foot and stepped into a rocket" - Images of a Japanese Love Hotel.
After commencing her trip at Tokyo and cycling down the Pacific Coast to Wakayama City (she avoided Nagoya City by taking a ferry at Cape Irako (map), at the mouth if Ise Bay, to Toba (map) on the Kii Peninsula) Josie took the ferry over to Shikoku. After partly navigating the island prefecture, another ferry-ride took her to Kyushu where, after just a few days of experiencing this prefecture, she was off to the Nansei Islands and the dreaded Habu. I can't stand snakes and, reading the stories of the locals regarding these reptiles, has put me off visiting this area. Her description of her travels here though, makes me feel envious and a need to venture south, venomous reptiles and all. But sadly her stay here was to be cut short, when she received news from back home in England and, within a few short days, she was at the port of Hyuga, on the east coast of Kyushu, waiting for a ship to return her to Tokyo (she did manage to get a look-around the Kumamoto Area and Mt Aso before her departure).
My next move is to seek-out (no this is not "Star Trek") a copy of "The Sun In My Eyes" ( or any other of her books for that matter) so I can read more of her exploits in Japan.
|Josie Dew & Friend.|
This now brings me to my ulterior motive for composing this post. That is to encourage as many people as possible to get-out and experience the great outdoors. You don't have to do what the Josie's of this world do (although I'm sure you won't regret it) , all you have to do is, instead of hopping in your car, put some shoes/boots on or get on your bike and do it.