I bought a bicycle in Noheji, at the bottom of the axe-shaped Shimokita peninsula. The bike would give me freedom to explore. Public transport on Shimokita is limited , not even the donko local trains make it up to Oma, the tuna town at the top.
Two days ago I was in Cape Tappi, considered the end of the road to the north. Shimokita must be the end of the sidetrack. Isolated and notoriously impoverished, it has been called Japan`s Manchuria or Tibet. The peninsula is full of energy though, dotted with wind farms, nuclear plants – one built and one being built, a 20-year-delayed nuclear reprocessing facility, the national oil reserve and one of Japan`s biggest solar farms.
The bicycle cost 2,000yen (13quid); I bought it from Noheji`s only bicycle shop. The owner had recently died and an acquaintance was clearing out the stock. I don`t know if I got a bargain or not; he did throw in a free pump and a torch, both probably worth more than the bike which it will cost me more than 2,000yen to dispose of. The bike was a very rusty mamachari (basket-bike). With my backpack on, I felt like a sumo wrestler on a BMX.
“You can get to Yokohama by sundown,” the suddenly cheery salesman told me. Yokohama was 30km away on a straight road running up along the Mutsu Bay.
The first 15km were fantastic, racing along the axe handle, chasing the sun as it dropped down behind the Bay. But Yokohama`s white wind turbines stayed painfully distant and the last 15km rushing through encroaching darkness were painful.
The pain had reward though. The beach campsite at Yokohama looked out onto the Mutsu Bay, to the north I could see the spooky outline of Osorezan (Scary Mountain) and out across the bay to Tsugaru where I had been a couple of days previous. There was so much space and so much to see; I felt like I was in the middle of an enormous stage. I slept impatiently, waiting for dawn.