TOHOKU TRIP, DAY 3+4: 280km Trip from Niigata to Joetsu

Day 3 was filled with one gigantic 280km trip all the way from Koriyama to Jouetsu. 280km may not be too impressive by car, but on a 125cc motorcycle that barely goes faster than 75, a 25kg backpack and exclusively driving on small country roads to save toll fees, this was no joke. Despite being completely sore four hours in, I completed the eight hour trip with some great insights in Japan’s landscape in the core of Honshu (the main island).

In the mountains of West Fukushima prefecture

In the mountains of West Fukushima prefecture

The little country roads were scattered with rice fields to each side, beautiful mountain views, lots of green landscape, but also many traffic lights, slow farm vehicles. I also never knew how scary and cold tunnels could be! Riding with sunglasses, a dark tunnel became twice as dark for me. And Japanese tunnels tend to have knee-deep gaps on each side to collect the rain water, so one has to be extra careful not to drift too far to the left side of the road… 🙂

Beautiful green Niigata

Beautiful green Niigata

Agano River, an essential water supply for Niigata's rice farms.

Agano River, an essential water supply for Niigata’s rice farms.

Going through each city in the country side also provided some unique impressions of urban environments that no long distance train or bus route would ever visit. To my surprise, a very frequent sight are abandoned commercial buildings next to the main country roads. Most of these are restaurants and gas stations, but there are also amusement centers and retail spaces.

One of many abandoned commercial properties in the country side. This is a Pachinko hall near Sanjo in Niigata.

One of many abandoned commercial properties in the country side. This is a Pachinko hall near Sanjo in Niigata.

One of the cities I went through in Niigata, Gosen, still looked like it was 1975. The following picture shows a shop that still uses the old Toshiba logo – the really, REALLY old one that was discontinued in 1969! It advertises colour television sets, among others.

Day 3 - 4

Rice fields in Western Niigata prefecture

Rice fields in Western Niigata prefecture 

Hotel in Joetsu - A little separate area only for sitting.

Hotel in Joetsu – A little separate area only for sitting.

When I left the hotel the day following my evening arrival in Joetsu, the city struck me as quite old fashioned. I quickly realized that it was a city that serves mainly as a harbour connection these days, with businesses focusing mostly on locals’ everyday needs. Yet, it still was good for some nice pictures.

Note how the roads have some kind of access strip in the centre – this is for easy access to pipes in case of an earthquake, I learned from the receptionist at my hotel.

Joetsu Street

Joetsu Street

Joetsu

Joetsu

On this fourth day, I had already put close to 800km on the clock.

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The next blog entry will illustrate my ferry ride and arrival on the beautiful island of Sado, North of Niigata. It’s the fifth biggest island of Japan following the four main islands and Okinawa, and it does not have an airport!

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