Thursday, November 7, 2013


Sept. 10 Sakalinsk to Wakkaina, Hokkaido, Japan. 50 km riding, Ferry from Korsakov to Hokkaido. 160 km average speed, around 29 km/h. Total time 6 hours.

We woke up at 5:30 in the morning and rode south to Korsakov. I had to be at the ferry for customs at 7:30 in the morning.

I had a personal escort to the ferry.
 Here is how you get on the ferry to Hokkaido. There are 2 important locations.

Heartland Ferry Office 46.621059, 142.771592
Customs and Terminal 46.619438, 142.768942

There are 2 ways to go into Japan with a motorcycle. Have a Carnet, or use the Japan Customs Form C5014.  

You will need to go to the Heartland ferry office a couple days prior to the boat leaving. We went the day before and they pushed my documents through. This is not a recommended way to do it. There are a few documents to fill out. They will need a contact address, phone number and name in Japan. Luckily I had just met a friend from Japan a few days earlier. For my Japan Itinerary, I just filled out names of cities I knew. I don't think it matters.

Documents you will need:
Drivers licence and International Drivers Permit.
Motorcycle Registration.
Russia Temp Import/Customs declaration for motorcycle.
Make sure you have your motorcycle engine # written down because its required.

One of the documents I had to fill out to get the ticket. 

All my copied documents were sent to Japan to be looked at. We got a call later that night that we could come in the morning at 8:00 and buy a ticket. The cost was about $340 for the motorcycle and me. 1 way Economy class. Once on the boat I had to pressure wash my moto. They had a pressure washer and brushes for me to use. The Japanese crew was really nice and they helped me a lot. I was glad I had washed my bike a few days earlier in Yuzhno. The ferry ride took 6 hours to get to Wakkanai. The boat was way cleaner then any of the Russian ferries I had been on. The common area was carpeted, normal Japan style. You take your shoes off and sit/lay on the floor. They have pillows to use as well as a snack/lunch.

High-tech gate. 

Had to was the dirty girl.. even though she was washed a day or 2 before.

They helped. 

No seats. You get to lay on the floor.

Free breakfast/lunch
When I got to Japan an agent from Nippon Express was waiting for me. He had copies of all my documents. He told me to find him after I went through passport control. He and a customs agent looked over my motorcycle and stamped the C5014 document. The total cost for getting in was 22,000 Yen. This is about $220. Insurance for the motorcycle was also included in this price. All in all, it was quite easy and the Japan customs agent and Nippon Express agent were very nice and helpful. This was a breeze when compared to Kazakh customs after the ferry from Baku, AZ.

Japan Customs Document C5014


I got off the ferry and went through customs. This took about 1 hour until I was done. I saw 2 European guys I met on the ferry who had done the Mongol rally. One of them was heading to a Youth Hotel so I decided that was the best way to go also. The hostel was clean and quite. We went out and found a few beers that night. If you don't know what kind of restaurant you are in, it probably isn't wise to drink. It can get very expensive very fast. Many times noodles have been 600 yen and beer has been 600 yen also. A $6 noodle soup I can handle. It is a full meal. But a $6 beer is harder to take.

Sept. 11. Rest day in Wakkanai
I woke up in the morning to rain. So I decided to have a rest/sleep day. My toe was hurting and I did not know why. I iced it all day thinking I had a sprain or something. In the evening a little Japanese woman came on a Kawasaki Ninja 1000. She had it loaded up with all of her camping stuff. Even a table. She was going to have sushi and asked me to join. The sushi was great and She kept filling my beer cup for me. It is a Japanese custom apparently. I was definitely not used to this. She did not speak much English. This was was where I really started to realize in Japan, if someone didn't speak English.. communication was going to be tough. The Japanese are super nice and even apologetic that they can't speak English. Almost makes you feel guilty but I'll take this over someone who is angry when you can't communicate in their language.

Little lady with a big bike. 

All loaded up. She even had a table.

Sept. 12 Wakkanai to near Abashiri, 289 km
I rode along the coast to the northern most point in Japan. I rode through little fishing village after little fishing village. So many boats, nets and packing plants. Quite impressive. I was getting used to driving on the left side of the road but it still felt weird. At my first Japanese petrol station, I didn't know which pump was which. After a couple minutes trying to discuss with the attendant I said "I just want regular gasoline..... not diesel".. "HI! Regular!" The man said as he pointed at the middle pump. Note to self. Just say "regular" when you pull up to the pump. They don't use numbers for octane. That had been my normal way of deciphering which fuel was petrol/benzine/gasoline. Look for the octane numbers. I left the station and started accelerating around a large sweeping left turn.. "Holly shit.. that truck is in my lane.. Oh fook I'm in his lane.. I'm in Japan!" I swerved back into the left lane to avoid being a splat on the front of a huge Mitsubishi seafood truck. A few seconds later I stopped and pulled out my sharpie. A large black arrow pointing left on the top of my fairing was added. Its amazing how quick you can forget but that little arrow will remind you in the bottom of your vision. My toe was feeling ok during the day but later in the evening it really started to hurt. I still had about 30 km before another hostel in my GPS when it was starting to get dark. Just then I rode past a place with many bikes parked outside. It turned out to be a Japan biker stay/hostel place. Very cool. About 35 to 40$ a night gets you dinner and breakfast.

Lots of people out on bikes. 

I thought this little guy was pretty cool. 

Seafood is huge here. 
I would stay at the biker hostel for the next few days trying to nurse my toe back to health. A guy at the biker hostel had a very bad infection on his lower leg from road rash making most of his leg red. I told him he better get to a hospital ASAP. At this point, I thought I might have an infection in my toe so I went to the hospital also. The Japanese healthcare system was amazing. Even though I didn't speak Japanese, it was very quick and easy. And cheap. About $160 for blood work, xray and medication. I didn't even use my insurance because it didn't reach the deductible. When the doctor was telling me what was wrong he said "you have goat attack". I thought he was trying to ask me if I got bit by a goat. I said no.. I have not been bit by any animals. He wrote down "gout attack" on paper. Ohh I have gout. Not sure what this is but google will know. Later I learned it is caused by to much uric acid in the blood. It seems my Russian diet high in canned fish, red meat and beer had taken its toll on my body. Couple this with getting way to dehydrated leaving Yuzhno and on the ferry to Hokkaido. It set it off. For the next 4 days I drank lots of water and fruit juices. I stayed away from red meat, shellfish, fish and beer. All the things I wanted to eat in Japan. The medicine did horrible things to my insides so I was happy I was not riding. While I was waiting for the toe to get better, I experienced my first Typhoon in Japan. I now know why this island is so green.

Where its red.. that's where it hurts.

My bunk for a few days. 

Other moto riders

Easy rider?

Maybe I need to trade?

Sept. 18. Near Abashiri to Shiretoko Peninsula, 237 km
After the 3rd day of taking meds, I woke up to a bright sunny day and a toe that was not swollen or hurting. It was time to move on. I was told there were some nice roads near the volcanic lakes near by and Shiretoko Peninsula was beautiful also. I headed toward the lakes and winding roads. In Japan, if any land that is flat enough to be farmed is. Right up to the cities. For the first hour or so I rode inland. At first it was flat, then rolling hills, then some nice twisty roads up the mountains. There are not many places that don't have roads. I tried to go on some gravel but I learned very quickly about gates in Japan. Just because 1 side is open, it doesn't mean you will be able to get through the other side. It was starting to rain when I got to the hostel near and it would rain all night.

 Lake Kussharo 

 Lake Mashū

There was some smoke coming from the mountain where there are no trees. Hard to see in this picture. 

Be careful! part of the railing is missing!

 Lake Mashū from another angle. 

The Toyota Noah. A van? really? At least its 4wd. 

The hostel had a good map so I snapped some pictures. 
Sept. 19. Shiretoko Peninsula to Sōunkyō 347 km
It was a brisk but sunny morning as I rode up over the pass. There were a few people out on bikes and quite a few tourists up a the top. They would jump out of their car, hurry to the over look.. snap a quick picture, then run back to their warm cars. It was funny. They all seemed so cold. It was a little windy, and I had my vents closed, but I didn't think it was that cold. It was like when my family would go to Florida when I was a child. At 55 F, Floridians wear winter jackets when the Horak family is walking the beach in shorts and t-shits. My dad would take every chance he got to tell people "It's -20 back home so this is a heatwave for us!" I guess its all relative. I rode along the cost then through some boring farm fields but toward evening I found some gravel roads that were listed in the "Touring Mapple". This is the best map book for Japan. It outlines all the best roads and has lots of info for hot springs and such. It would be amazing if there was an English version. Armed with my GPS map and the Touring Mapple, I have done ok. It got dark and I hadn't gotten where I wanted to yet. For some reason the high beam on my bike was not working. Its an HID and it has been giving me problems off and on since I got the bike. It would flash like its trying to heat up but after 2 or 3 seconds go dark. A few days later I would switch out the HID bulb and ballast for a 55w PIAA bulb. It works good for "flashing" cars because it doesn't take 15 seconds to heat up but I can't see any light over my 35w HID low beam. I have plans in the works to make my High beam 4x 10w LEDs. Probably a Baja Design Squadron. The hostel had no openings. I asked them how much it costs during the winter, but they said they were not open. The ski resort there is supposed to be one of the best in Japan. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a place to rent. I thought worst case scenario, I could book a hostel room for a month or 2. But the darn place isn't even open in the winter. The Hotel was around $50.

Nice sunny morning

Typical Japanese moto packing. Stack it up high on the back. 

You are here.

You can travel on anything in Japan.

Looks fun

Nice to have Topo maps again. 

Safe place for her to sleep. 

Sept. 20. Sōunkyō to Sapporo. 224 km
I didn't do much sight seeing on the way to Sapporo. I just had to get there. That morning I had to roll start the bike. The original battery had finally given up. So the rest of the day I rode with a disconnected headlight so I wouldn't tax the battery to hard. I got into Sapporo in the evening and I stopped at a shop called "Riverside motors". They quoted me about $200 for Michelin Sirac tires, mount and balance. This was a great deal but the rear was a 4.60 x 18 and Katriana wears a 140/80/18. I stayed at a hostel who had a garage for motos. It was $30 for a bed in a 5 person dorm. Both nights I stayed, all the beds were taken.

That's how you would get to the ski slops

Construction in Japan. 6 flagmen for 3 men working. 

Running the canyon. 

Must be fast?

Sept. 21. Sapporo
The KTM dealer in Sapporo didn't have any of the parts I needed. They didn't even have a battery that would fit my bike or tires. I found a battery at a large moto shop but they didn't have tires. So after striking out at a few shops, I decided to go back to the shop with the Siracs. While they were changing my tires, I went across the street to a 7/11 to get some things. 7/11 has turned into my embassy of sorts. Most Japan banks have ATMs that won't take foreign cards. 7/11 ATM always takes my card and has English as an option on the machine. JP (Japan Post) also have ATM that accept foreign cards, but they are about 50/50 chance that they won't have an English menu on the ATM machine. You can also get edamame and halfway decent coffee. I love some edamame. It seems everywhere you go, you can find some cool custom moto shops. Japan custom bikes have a great "stuck in the 70's" feel to them. You won't see any huge fat tire blinged out choppers here. You will see sweet old customs made from recycled parts that are rusted and ratty. They ride them to the ground and rebuild them again. The way it should be. As the saying goes "Chrome don't get ya home"

The guys who we got new shoes from

New shoe

Cool custom shop

At the Hostel

Sept 22 Sapporo to Hakodate
I planned a route that would take me past the Mount Yōtei and on some great twisties. I rode past a few ski resorts that looked like they would be great in the winter. Combined with the fact that there are hot springs every 1/2 mile or so. Niseko wouldn't be a bad place to winter. Might be to many people since it is so close to Sapporo. I had a quick lunch at a ramen shop that an old dude owned. Raman shops are awesome. Its not the "top ramen" you survived on in college. For about $5 you get a huge bole of noodle soup with pork and some vegetables in it. I am always full after. In the afternoon I burned some kms along the coast. I got into Hakodate as the sun was setting and found a $45 hotel room. A Korean guy and Japanese lady owned the hotel. They were drinking with another Korean guy and they invited me to have a drink and some curry with them. Well, as things go, 1 turned into we finished the bottle of Suntory whiskey. I had to be on a 8:00 ferry to Honshu (the main island) so I set the alarm for 6 AM and hit the hay.

Mount Yōtei

Mount Komaga-take from the north

Komaga-take from the south

Japan hotel room.


  1. After BAM road all these clean streets looks a bit boring :) I hope that predictability of Japanese civilization will not kill the taste of real journey.

  2. Whooo Japan.........
    I'll wait you in Indonesia!

  3. Ah Japan, you always expect it to be predictable, but it always ends up surprising you in the weirdest of ways...