Japan…as Seen by an American Motorcyclist

An Oriental Tour

By Bill Montgomery, Photography by Bill Montgomery

From there on we ran into so much rain that camping out was hardly possible. All the way along we found people very hospitable and with all of them as with the first described, tipping or paying was out of the question. We felt guilty not being able to pay for a place to put our sleeping bags; but bore up under the disappointment as well as we could.

Bathtubs or showers were unknown and we never found a lake that didn’t have swimmers in it. For a while we were kind of up a tree but finally our desire for a bath overcame our modesty and thereupon we just went in “natural.”

We hit some roads that were about six feet wide and full of ruts from ox carts which traveled them during the rains. Most of the time we rode single file. We met a surprising number of people on foot or riding horseback. The sun soon dried up traces of rain and the dust was terrible. On our third day out I had a puncture. Luckily I had material to repair it with. If I hadn’t have had we would surely have been sunk.

In each town there would be a gas pump for government officials. We were able to buy from them. There was no air or battery service. Oil was harder to get. Once we found American canned oil-at three bucks per. Someone was making a neat profit.

When we finally hit the coast again it was most welcome. We could swim every day and as the tides were not high we could camp on the beach. We ceased to worry about our motors which we parked on a highway nearly a mile away. They were always there next morning. About 100 miles from Kyoto we were agreeably surprised with paving. We made the city in five days. There was a really fine hotel there and thus we were afforded an opportunity to get all cleaned up. Then we set out to study the town. It was most appealing to us of any we were in. It is located in a large natural bowl and surrounded by beautiful green hills. While the city is very old it has many new buildings. It is in the center of the government fortifications for the southern part of the island. Of course we were unable to take pictures, or to buy any.

The stores were the best there of any we saw, especially for silks and such things. Being without packing space we were unable to make any purchases

After four days we visited Nara where the famous deer are. They are in a big park and are so used to tourists feeding them that if a handout is not forthcoming they nip you-nipping in a spot that is rather difficult to describe in writing. There are thousands of deer there, all under government protection.

At last we got back to our boat. We still had China and the Philippines ahead of us. Of course the ship was a bit of the U.S.A. and very welcome after our trip of roughing it in the heart of the Japanese island.

As we thought back over the trip a number of interesting things were recalled. Nowhere had we seen tennis courts, for instance.

The Japanese did not seem to go in for sports but instead played checkers and a game of theirs that is similar. In the big cities we were impressed by the dance halls where the latest in jazz music was to be heard. The cost was four cents per dance. The girls were all marvelous dancers, being able to go through any steps tried. One couple did a tango just like it might have been their native dance. The floors were fine.

When in the cities, with gas as high as 75 cents, it was cheaper to use rickshaws. When I turned my motor back in it had gone 501 miles running perfectly on what was no easy trip. W e enjoyed our motor tour, we had seen the “home life”-we had seen plenty.

China and the Philippines? Well, those are two other stories.

By Bill Montgomery
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