Japan…as Seen by an American Motorcyclist

An Oriental Tour

By Bill Montgomery, Photography by Bill Montgomery

The city was very clean the streets being washed twice a day. This very cleanliness, though, was the cause of a slight accident. Not satisfied with plain water, the city employs the use of soap as well. The street washer had just passed by when my friend and I turned a corner out onto the wet soapy street. My friend’s motor hit the slick surface and went into a waltz which left him sitting in the middle of the road twiddling his toes. To tell the truth I had a little trouble myself, so I didn’t get to see all of his act. Thanks to a safety guard the motor was okay, but the whole thing drew quite a crowd. It was one of those “Tokyo here I am” things, and Tokyo turned out to see and to wonder.

To help make things more interesting for us, the car drivers in that city seemed determined to drive as close as they could to us and then set their brakes. More than once we had scares for although there were many new cars, there were also a good many model Ts.

That night, after the surprises of the city and the scares of traffic we went to see a show that lasted two days. We stayed one hour. It may have been a swell show but it was lost on us. On top of that it was noisy and very stuffy. We found that they kept the doors locked during the show, opening them for five minutes at one hour intervals. At the end of the first hour-exit two Americans.

We found that we had to leave our motors out all night as there was no garage anywhere near us. They told us, however, to have no fear as we could leave them out a night, a week, or a year and they would still be right there because the Japanese are very honest and theft is unknown. I doubted that but my friend, Chuck, left his machine unlocked and sure enough it was there in the morning. In fact, before I left Japan I became a firm believer in the honesty of the Japanese people. Later we were many times to leave our machines parked far away from where we were staying and they never were molested.

During our entire stay in Japan we did not have one real breakfast. I think we missed breakfast and cheap oil and gas more than anything else. In the bigger cities we had meals similar to those at home, but somehow the meat and vegetables tasted different than we thought they should. And, as coffee makers the Japanese are good fishermen. It wasn’t until we got back on a boat headed for the U.S. that we found coffee which really appealed to our taste. It was necessary to buy bottled water. That was a bother and an expense. We eventually found that beer was cheaper and served the purpose nearly as well so we reverted to a beer diet.

When we went to Kobe from Tokyo-a 500 mile trip which is not as the crow flies but all around Robin Hood’s Barn -we took along a grill, two pans for heating water and for boiling uncanned food one frying pan, a coffee percolator and the necessary spoons, knives, etc. We were able to buy American canned coffee and a few vegetables so we stocked up well on these. Finding well stocked department stores with cheap but fairly well made goods, we took on other equipment. We bought two sleeping bags that I wish we had brought back with us, a toilet kit, a first aid kit, plenty of mosquito netting and two rain coats. These latter were a fine investment we found as we went further inland. The mountains held rain clouds and when it wasn’t raining there was a fine mist that was just about as wet.

By Bill Montgomery
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