109d1229 0e7e 4970 a962 b2914184da0dIn Hagi lives Hideyuki, a tough rugby player. He has a friend who cycled through the whole of Japan and during his trip frequently gets invited by complete strangers to stay for the night. Hideyuki was so impressed that he decided that if he would encounter travelers by bicycle, he would invite them in his house. And so it happens that after attending a rugby match in Fukuoka he found two cyclists just a couple of kilometers south of Hagi as his first grateful guest....

Hideyuki spoke a little English and called his wife Rie. A joyful Rie thought it was a great idea of her husband and let us know that we would be very welcome. “Please come to the tourist information center of Hagi where I work and we’ll talk some more”.
At the tourist information center we were warmly welcomed. Not just by Rie, but also by her colleagues.
My name caused some tongue twisting - as usual whenever I set foot in another country - but as Remy wrote our names in katakana, one of the three main scriptures in Japan, it all became clearer: ヘア. The first symbol is ‘he’, the second is ‘a’, but the way Japanese pronounce it, you get Gea with a very softly hissing ‘h’. Remy (レミ) was easy (I really heard Lemy...).

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Hideyuki and Rie were great hosts! They live in a house that can be called ‘large’ to Japanese standards and had a wonderful evening with them. Hideyuki prepared a delicious meal from which we forgot the name, but remember the meaning: ‘roof tile noodles’. Originally it was warmed up on a hot roof tile, but these days a tabletop frying pan does the job too (see photo). The next morning we said goodbye to this lovely hospitable people.

Some time ago a friend asked me: what is it that you like about Japan? At that time I didn’t really know the answer to that question. Nature, culture, friendly people... it sounded like a standard answer that can apply to any country, but that was all I could think of at that moment.
I asked Remy en he gave an answer that - in my view- didn’t make much sense: “in Japan everything is clear. And with the Japanese you know what’s coming.”
I was quite surprised and would argue the opposite. It’s never clear in Japan and with the Japanese you never know what’s coming while I’m in a permanent state of surprise and amazement. My eyebrows reach ever higher heights and I keep picking up my jaw from the floor.
And still... somewhere Remy might have a point. Or does he? Well, in any case we hope to find an answer to that one alluring question. We’ll come back to you on that one...

Whatever it is, we're happy to be in Japan once more! Tuesday morning we arrived with the ferry in the city Fukuoka. It was teeming with life because it was rush hour and it is always busy. What would normally be a nightmare for us, seemed a paradise now. With a big smile on our face and our heads in the clouds, we cycled - no, glided - through the crowd. Taking in the typical and familiar Japanese sounds and smells. We were back in the country we both love very much!

By now we’re five days in Japan. A couple of big cities were unavoidable, but also cycled over a wonderful cycle path along the north coast of Kyushu and over the planes of Akiyoshidai that made us think of Scotland (including the clouds, but hot and damp). We visited the largest limestone cave in Japan in Akiyoshidai and visited the wonderful Samurai city Hagi. We’ve seen snakes, monkeys and tortoises, pitched our tent near Ikea and found a new storm brewing into a typhoon. Yes, another one! This one is called Mitag, but we’ll probably escape this one, or not....

The previous typhoon made us hide in a hotel which had a profound influence on me: I created a Facebook account! Really. I got unsettled messages, but not to worry, I thought it all through. Really....

Sayonara, and till next time!

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