Japan—40 Years Later

Japan—40 Years Later

In October 1984, I took the Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima, totally unprepared for what became a three-year adventure of living in Japan.

In October 2023, almost 39 years to the day after my first arrival, I got off the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Okayama. This time, I was much better prepared for a two-week adventure of riding in Japan.

I had come to Okayama to join the 11-day Japan Three Island Fall Colors Adventure by the motorcycle touring company MotoQuest. The route was designed to make the best of the mountain passes and coastal roads of the main island of Honshu and Japan’s two other immense islands, Kyushu and Shikoku, at a time when the whole country is ablaze with orange, yellow, and red.

The fall colors are a cultural event in Japan, as much a part of the national consciousness as cherry blossom viewing in the spring. Over the three years I’d lived in Hiroshima, I had taken the train to Sandankyo Gorge in southwestern Honshu and other notable spots to witness momiji, the blazing red maple trees.

I had also joined a MotoQuest tour of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, in 2018, so I knew what to expect.

Like-minded Friends from All Over

A motley group of riders was assembled in Okayama under the care of guides Eric Waterfall and Chie Okamoto, whose family motorcycle shop supplied the bikes we were renting.

Motorcycle & Gear

2020 Kawasaki W400

Helmet: Bell SRT-Modular
Jacket & Pants: REV’IT! Echelon GTX
Boots: REV’IT! Pioneer GTX
Gloves: REV’IT! Hydra 2 H2O

Jeff, the retired fire chief, and Kurt, the commercial realtor, had met on a motorcycle tour and had come to Japan to continue their riding friendship. Marc, the lawyer, was recovering from a life-threatening surgery that had left him determined to celebrate being alive.

Veteran two-up riders John and Mary had come from Canada for their first visit to Asia. Career diplomat turned Christian minister Seng and his business and marketing consultant wife Julie were also first-timers to Japan.

Retired plastic surgeon, John Frist, who only started riding at 65 and was now taking his 36th motorcycle tour, would be riding separately from his wife, Jillian.

The bikes were an equally motley bunch, too. Among us were touring, cruising, and sport models from BMW, Triumph, Yamaha, and Kawasaki.