Breakfast, brunch and lunch was at a michi no eki, road station. Road stations reflect their surroundings, usually being staffed by locals and selling local produce. Both locals and visitors use the road stations, a sign they are doing something right.
Yokohama`s Michi no Eki had many memorable flavours. At the entrance, the tables were piled up with rapeseed and garlic products – including Magic Black, a chocolate scented with black garlic. Ice cream flavours include sea cucumber, hiba tree, rapeseed, scallop and funori (glue plant).
I ate a pack of firm, green rapeseed-flavoured doughnuts, a scallop burger and a carton of tokoroten, a translucent, flavourless noodle made from tengusa seaweed dressed with vinegar, mustard and sesame seed.
Pedalling along the narrow road north on a basket bike was harder and hotter work than I anticipated; I stopped for a break at a roadside shrine just outside Yokohama.
The ancient shrine building was setback from the busy road, the path went through a damp carpet of moss with a cryptomeria plantation on one side and virgin, mixed forest on the other. A couple of years ago a shaman summoned to the shrine saw hundreds of school-age dragons flying between the trees; inside the shrine she saw tiny dragons crawling on the floor. The forest is a graduate school for dragons, the shrine priest told me half-jokingly.
The shaman cannot marry, the priest said, or she will lose all her powers. But, he added, using shamanic power increases sexual desire so the shamans must have boyfriends.
I met the shrine priest in the car park. A tall and slender man in spotless white robes, he looked a little holy and distant, not quite a part of this world. Then he got down on his hands and knees and started to fix my bike: “You`re really planning to go all the way to Oma on this?!”
After oiling the chain and adjusting the brakes, he made a spiritual donation, a sticker of a grey dragon marked with the sacred words: Safety Driving. I treasure it. He also gave me a small bell on a key ring, “Ring it when you`re feeling hot and tired or stressed, it will cool and calm you down.”
Later that day, after putting up my tent on a beach and having a bath at the local onsen, my mobile phone rang. It was the priest calling to check if I was ok: “Be careful tomorrow. And leave early, there are no towns at all where you`re heading. And drop in at the shrine on the way back, you can stay the night.”