After a year of planning, I finally could experience a long-awaited adventure by combining two aspects of my previous trips for a weekend motorcycle ride on the Central Japan roads. Right after I picked up the motorbike at the Rental 819 shop, I knew it was gonna be the first of many times.
In the early stages of planning the trip, I came across the services from Rental 819. It all started by sending an email to them, with few questions about riding a motorbike in Japan. They answered all my questions and even added extra information that I didn’t know I needed. For instance, ithey asked if I had a Japanese friend to assist me at the rental shop, to go through the details of the rental contract. In case that is not possible or you can’t speak Japanese, they have a list of a few shops with English speaking staff to make your rental go smoothly. Before coming to Japan, the most important thing you need to do is to get the International Driver’s License, which you have to apply for in your home country. At Rental 819, they know that every country has special requirements for International Driver’s License, and they have a page on their website only dedicated to the subject. To know if you’re eligible for an International Driver’s License, simply check their website.
Once I got my International Driver’s License, I sent the notice to Rental 819 and proceeded to choose my motorbike. They have a vast selection of makes and models, depending on the shop you will pick up the rental motorbike, but my special interest was to ride a Harley Davidson. In case you’re willing to rent a GPS, or an ETC card to go through expressway tollbooths, the rental shop may be in a different location, as not all the rental shops have this services. I chose not to use the ETC card and filled my pocket with ¥100 coins to pay the tolls. Also, I was using Google Maps with my smartphone to get directions and prepare the route, so I didn’t need the GPS. All these options are available when doing the reservation online. A difference when renting a motorbike is that the rider needs more equipment, like helmet, gloves and jackets. Most of the equipment can be rented, and will be available in the Rental 819 shop on the rental day.
About my ride experience, I have to say that driving in Japan is a slow experience. The top speed on the expressway is 100Km/h, and only at some points if driving in the passing lane. The average speed on most of the secondary roads is 50Km/h, and be patient until you’re out of Tokyo prefecture to enjoy some rider’s solitude on the road. On the first day, I went to Hakone to visit Lake Ashi and ride through the mountain pass, to get a handle on riding in Japan and get used to the motorbike. After lunch in Hakone, I decided to improvise and went to Odawara Castle, only half an hour from the lake, for the chance to enjoy a bit more of mountain road before going home. At Odawara Castle, I had a bit of confusion while searching for a parking spot, as I had in Hakone. There aren’t any signs near tourist spots for motorbikes, and couldn’t even get into a normal car parking lot. When I tried to enter, a kind old man in charge of the parking lot told me that the space for motorbikes was in the tourist bus parking lot. I was the only rider in the area, and the whole staff at the parking came to talk with the gaijin rider, out of curiosity. I spared some time with them, as one part of the experience is to get along with locals. They offered me a lot of advice for the road, gave me a map of the area with lots of notes on how to go back to Kawasaki, and even stopped the traffic when I was leaving the place. All because I spend some time with them talking. Its because of details like this that I think, it's much better to take time talking with locals, wandering and getting lost, than follow a tight schedule. It pays off in experience and knowledge.
On the second day I went all the way to the top of the Izu Skyline Road, to ride the whole track to Mount Omuro. This road was the highlight of the trip. The scenery on a clear sunny day was astonishing, the road was in a perfect condition, and there are some spots to stop and enjoy the views. Riding on the mountain roads and going back to Tokyo along the coastline was the experience I was looking for on a first ride in Japan. Now I can’t wait to go even further and explore Japan as a rider.