Japan…as Seen by an American Motorcyclist

An Oriental Tour

By Bill Montgomery, Photography by Bill Montgomery

So, with our 74s loaded down we headed for Kamakura-33 miles away. That was to be the last city where tourists are promised hotel facilities. After that it was to be “come what may.” The road out of Tokyo was fine, wide, without street cars, overhead train crossings and with all the latest in gadgets and signal lights. We left at 9:00 A.M. figuring that we would be at our destination by not later than 1:00 P.M. The road went five miles and then suddenly turned into a cowpath. A car was ahead of us. The driver seemed to know where he was going, which was more than we knew, so we followed him. After some time at that pace we were encouraged by a sign which said Kamakura so we kept on. When the car which was piloting us met another there was considerable backing of one or the other until a place could be found wide enough for passing. There was a 3-foot ditch on each side which made the maneuver the more difficult, but they always managed to make it. We were glad we had motorcycles-give ‘em to me every time.

We went through tiny villages, passed huge fields of rice, saw a few factories and much of the time paralleled a rail-road. In the villages the children played in the streets and we were necessarily very cautious.

About 2:00 P.M. we went over a hill and there below us was the city we were seeking. Situated on the ocean and dotted with huge shrines, it was very attractive looking. The hotel turned out to be fair. The food was more to our taste than at Tokyo. We stayed three days visiting shrines and looking at the other sights. The citizens were very proud of their china factories which were the last word in neatness and very well equipped with machinery. They showed us through many.

Getting pictures was very difficult all over Japan. More than once when Chuck tried to take pictures of our motors he was stopped by some one of the many patrols that are everywhere. We did finally get a picture of our motors but on the same film was a shot of a battleship. When we left Japan the film was taken away from us. When we tried to get shots of a huge image of Buddha we had to shoot and run. Incidentally the picture business is odd in other ways. We were able to buy 12-exposure films for 25 cents but had to pay $2.00 to have the same developed.

We found the shrines and temples very much the same. The Shinto shrines are very bare and with no idols. The Buddhist temples have the great images of Buddha in plain sight and are very interesting. These two religions have the largest following, although there are many others in Japan.

Our next objective was Kyoto, supposedly five days and 350 miles away. After the roads we had just been over it seemed to us as though it should take a week. It was about 100 miles to Kobe. From there on the road turned out to be excellent.

Our first night out we looked for a place to camp but could not find one. A farmer took us in (no daughter) and let us have a room.

At least it was a room if a space four feet by eight feet can be termed as one. We unrolled our sleeping bags and were about to go outdoors to do some cooking when the farmer’s son came in with a huge dish of rice, tea and a kind of cake. Germs there may have been but we kicked all thought of them overboard and fell to. We were too tired to worry much about cooking. The next morning there was more tea, hot water to wash in, towels and a newspaper. The paper being printed in Japanese didn’t add much to the prospects for the day. The rest was welcome enough. Of course to the Japanese, tea is breakfast. To us there was something lacking and that we managed to supply by making some coffee and boiling two eggs which we found. We dunked tea cakes in the coffee, smacked our lips over the eggs, and gazed at the Japanese newspaper.

By Bill Montgomery
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