Cycling Kyushu: Day 3 / by Ryan Mundt


Day Three: Shimonoseki to Fukuoka  |  108km

I wake up at 6:30am feeling good! All my stuff is dry and no more rain in the forecast for the rest of the trip. I get out of bed and make oatmeal and a cup of coffee and watch a bit of TV. It’s a nice easy morning and I should be on the road by 8am.

Today I will enter Kyushu, an area of Japan I’ve never been before and which is always spoken of very positive. Plus after the last few days of terrible luck, I’m really expecting to be in the clear from here.

If everything happens in 3′s, the missing shoes, vomit in the bed and camping in terrible rain has taken care of that, right?

Wrong again, Bob!

I’m all packed up and ready to go by around 7:45 when I notice I stink a bit, even though I had a bath last night. So, I decide to take a quick shower before I go. What could possibly go wrong?!

I turn the water off, step out of the shower and reach for the towel on the floor from last night’s bath. I dry my left shoulder and run the towel down my left arm to my hand, when suddenly I feel a sharp sting on my hand!!!

What the f**k!? I throw towel down on the floor and see a huge centipede scurry out of the towel! Holy crap!!! I can’t believe the size of this thing, at least seven inches. My hand is friggin’ stinging like hell and I’m starting to really panic! I’ve heard these things can be poisonous.

#*@% you, Mukade!

As I hurry down to the front desk all I can think about is snake or insect bites where people only have an hour to get to a hospital to live. Maybe that’s a bit much but I was pretty damn scared!

As I mentioned before, my Japanese ability plummets when I’m angry, or in this case, panicking. Plus I don’t know the word for centipede in Japanese. It’s mukade, for the record.

At this point my hand is swelling up and red and the staff can clearly see I’m freaking out. While someone is bringing the car around I go back to the room to grab my wallet and insurance card. I open the bathroom door to see the little bastard still there!

Being as it’s 8am, traffic is pretty bad. We finally arrive at the ER and sure enough, it’s packed there as well. But the guy from the hotel is persistent with the hospital staff and gets me in pretty quick.

At this point the pain has gone away, though the redness remained. The nurse and doctor put some crazy neon-yellow liquid medicine on it and wrap it up. I’m thinking I need a shot but they insist it will be fine and give me some oral meds instead.

Christ almighty! What an ordeal this has been! Shouldn’t have taken that shower! It’s now 9:30 going on 10am and still not on the road. I get back to the hotel and the staff reimburses me for my hospital bill, then unexpectedly, they give me back the room fee! Wow! That was really nice of them. So, up till now, I haven’t paid for a hotel room…though I would rather have paid for both!

I send a few text messages to my mom and girlfriend to assure them I’m ok. I tell Yui this is the FOURTH bad thing that has happened on this trip! She tells me to stop counting. Easier said than done. But good advice, none the less.

I take the oral meds, fill up my back tire (which is pretty low) and hit the road. Now if I can just get out of this damn city!

All mended up and ready to get going…maybe.

Admittedly, I didn’t do my research on how to cross into Kyushu. I just assumed the huge bridge has a pedestrian walkway as well. So I head downtown and look for the entrance to the bridge.

As I get closer to downtown, I notice my rear tire is low again! Great, a leak! Just what I need today! Then, I get pinched between a car and the curb, scuffing my arm on the hot car and narrowly avoiding a crash.

I’m having terrible luck finding the pedestrian entrance and I have to pull over and pump up my tire again.

I cycle around and around looking for how to cross and the roads are growing larger and resembling a bowl of ramen. I see signs for Kita-Kyushu, but doubt I can use these roads. Finally I come upon the entrance to the tunnel. This can’t be right! Growing angrier by the second, I stop into some kind of an information building.

It was as if the woman knew I was coming! She met me in the parking lot and gave me instruction to the only way for cyclists to cross…a special pedestrian tunnel! Damn! It really pays to do your research!

I follow the map down to the waterfront, right beneath the bridge…a place I had zipped past about an hour ago. I pay the small recommended fee of ¥20 and I take the elevator down.

I start to walk the bike down the long concrete tunnel with blue-painter walls. Frustrated I decide to hop on the bike and SLOWLY roll (not peddle) through the tunnel. This didn’t make the locals happy at all. About three of four seniors told me to get off my bike. Granted, I should’ve walked, but I was in no mood to follow rules!

I FINALLY emerge on the other side of the bridge! KYUSHU!

Finally KYUSHU!!!

It’s now almost noon and I have plans to meet people in Fukuoka around 4pm. Luckily I had a great wind at my back through Kita-Kyushu and the first sign for Fukuoka was only a mere 77km. I was thinking it was going to be closer to 100km, so this should be a piece of piss.

Judging by my map, I knew today was going to be pretty much all urban to semi-urban riding. I stop a few times to fill the tire back up. Not too bad, but I realize I’m going to have to really fix it when I arrive.

I’m making pretty good time and getting into a zone. About 2pm I stop for lunch for kaiten sushi. This happens to be one of those high-tech ones with your own personal touch panel to order. This system, whilst highly efficient, can be very intimidating to a layman. They have my favorite, lightly seared salmon with mayo on top. I order a couple and a few minutes later they come rolling out on a little set of tracks. I pick it up and hit the green button for the tiny cart to return to the kitchen. It’s places like these that make it into the “wacky” Japan stories, but I love it!

I was in such a hurry this morning that I forgot to put sunscreen on. So I lather up. And with a full belly, I carry on down Route 3 about 45km from Fukuoka.

Tonight I will be staying with a guy named Nick, who is a friend of my coworker (also named Nick). He was gracious enough to host me. He has a friend, Doug, that has an empty house that I can stay in.

I’m also planning to meet a girl that is from my hometown in Iowa. I didn’t know her back then but she has been living in Japan about as long as I have. It’s strange how Amanda and I hooked up on Facebook. Occasionally I check my local hometown newspaper online. This particular time, shortly after the earthquake, there was an article about a North Scott graduate’s experience living in Japan and dealing with the quake. “Wow! There’s another one of us living in Japan?! Cool!” So I looked her up on Facebook.

She originally lived in Fukuoka, but just four days prior to the big one she moved to Ibaraki, which is between Tokyo and the epicenter. What luck, huh? We were never able to meet up in Tokyo and she later moved back to Fukuoka as the aftershocks persisted.

So, the one day I have plans to meet people, I’m off to a late and unlucky start. I eventually have to message Nick and tell him that our plan to meet at 4pm would have to be around 5:15.

About 25km out of Fukuoka the wind really starts to help me. Keeping my average speed up, I fly into the city and start to look for Ohori Park, where we are to meet.

Downtown Fukuoka looks great! It’s more crowded than Hiroshima, but in a good way. Cool streets with stores and restaurants and lots of character.

It’s not easy (or safe) to ride and read Google maps at the same time. After a wrong turn, I finally make it to Ohori Park. I’m told to look for the Starbucks on the pond. I pull up, park the bike and find Nick sitting at a table outside with a great view of the pond.

We chat for a while before he has to leave for 20 minutes to run an errand. Seems like a really nice guy. I grab a post-ride coffee and sandwich and take a load off. It feels GREAT to be in Fukuoka after such a terrible start. Plus my knees are hurting and my skin is a little sun and wind burnt.

Everyone I’ve ever talked to about Fukuoka has nothing but good things to say about it. And judging from the ride in and this park, I can see why. I wish Tokyo had parks like this! There’s a lot of people walking, jogging and riding bikes around the pond. Kind of reminds me of Central Park in a way. Certainly nothing like Yoyogi Park.

Nick comes back and we head over to the house I will be staying at, which is very close to the park. It’s an old house with decades of character. With a little TLC it could actually be a nice place to live…drafty, I’m sure…but nice.

My home for the evening

Nick goes off again and I hop in the shower. After a while the renter of the house arrives. Doug is Canadian and a long time resident of the area as well. We chat for a bit about my trip. He is an avid outdoorsman and recommends some places to go tomorrow. Very helpful to get a locals advice, just wish I had more time here to explore all the places.

Nick returns and we head off to the Tenjin district for dinner and drinks at the Black Sheep pub with Amanda. We cycle back through the park and pop out the other side in Tenjin. Cool area, lots of bars and restaurants but still lots of green.

The three of us grab a seat on the patio and order up some beers. Guinness for me! It’s great to chat to someone from my hometown. Hope we didn’t bore Nick. I can’t imagine a small town on the banks of the Fuck-if-I-Know River is very interesting to anyone else.

We order up some pizza and fish and chips and a few more rounds. It’s perfect weather, not too hot and not too cold. Amanda eventually has to go home. Not everyone is on vacation after all. Nick and I go to another bar down the street to meet one of his friends.

We unlock the bikes only to find that my tire is completely flat. That sucks! But I knew it was coming and that I would have to change it in the morning.

The next bar was nothing special and we just had one beer. Plus his friend wasn’t very chatty at all. Being that it’s about 11pm and I got another full day of cycling tomorrow, I’m ready to go.

I attempt to put air in my tire but it’s not taking any. So we have to walk back to the house. It’s not so far, only about 20 minutes.

I roll out the futon and pillow and am asleep in seconds. It turned out to be a pretty good day from noon onwards. I’m confident this will be a turning point in the trip.