Japan by bike: My first solo overseas experience – Pt. 1

My first overseas experience was with a study tour to Vietnam with my University.  On this trip I managed to hire a scooter under the nose of the organisers and without having ridden one before decided to see how I would go in peak hour Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) traffic.  This didn’t turn out so well, infact I was dragged along by the traffic and spent 2 hours trying to navigate my way back to the hotel, which in the end was a fruitless endeavour.

I eventually had the bright idea of paying a motorcycle taxi to lead me back to the hotel.  The problem I discovered when I started to follow him was that he was insane.  He led me on a cannonball run through the city, probably spending more time on the wrong side of the road than the right side, which coincidentally wasn’t the left side as it is in Australia.  This experience coupled with my days after cruising Vietnam outside the city gave me a real love for two wheeled transport.  I bought a scooter when I returned to Melbourne and gave up cars completely.

It was obvious what I had to do for my first overseas holiday.  Rent a high powered motorbike and travel around Japan!


Weeee…I’m going on an adventure.

Landing in Japan I had compiled a a list of a few places that would do motorcycle rental.  I assumed it’d be pretty easy and didn’t contact anyone before arriving.  I quickly found out the internet isn’t so reliable and my leads were slowly falling apart.  I was getting worried that I’d just have to be a regular tourist in Japan, which to be honest wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.


Harajuku is an extremely beautiful place.

I spent the first three days roaming around, enjoying the sights and sounds of Tokyo.  All my leads were completely dry though and the only way this was going to turn into a real adventure was to go door knocking.  I had found a Motorcycle Street in Tokyo, there were shops everywhere and guys cruising around showing off their sweet customs.  They really enjoy their toys in Tokyo.

So I started at the top of the street and went into the stores one by one, asking about motorcycle rental.  No one spoke english so it was a little hard to get the point across.  I got turned away a number of times but eventually I came across someone who was only too happy to help.

He sat me in front of a computer and proceeded to show me bikes I could rent.  His first thought was that I wanted a V-Max..


Going from scooter to this probably wouldn’t have been the best idea.

The V-Max is a 1700cc monster with more power than your family sedan!  To put it into perspective the scooter I was riding at the time had 9.6 horsepower, this had  174HP or 18 times the amount!  I was after something a little more nimble and sensible, eventually I settled on the Yamaha FZ6-S.  I had done a little bit of research before arriving and this seemed to be a goer.  It had the same engine from the R6 which is more of a racing bike but combined it with a more upright position and little bit of space on the back for my luggage.  Perfect for long distance touring and having a little fun on the way.  The FZ6-S only had a paltry 76HP but it’s better when you’re alive.

All I needed to do this was an International License which I got from the local motoring authority (RACV).  The cost was around US$800 for a month with insurance being another US$400 which I would have been crazy not to take.  The guy really didn’t speak english at all but we still managed to get through the transaction with a lot of pointing and gesticulating.

The bike was available to pick-up next day, unfortunately it was raining that day.  So I needed to pick my 600cc motorbike in the wet, in one of the busiest cities in the world when I had only ridden a 250cc manual motorbike for 2 days and a 125cc scooter for a year.  I was extremely worried, I had nightmares about dropping it as they were waving goodbye.  This is what I came here to do though, no stuffing it up now!

Success!  I managed to get it home in the wet.

Success! I managed to get it home in the wet.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

I had spent about 5 days in Tokyo and figured I may as well start the journey that day.  After fiddling around with gear arrangement for a little while I was on my way.  It was about 3pm but I thought I could get out of the city relatively easily.

Tokyo goes on forever, I didn’t know about the express ways at the time and just followed roads I picked from the GPS heading north.  To make it worse it started raining heavily, I spent about 4 hours on the road and I didn’t clear congestion.  I was getting really wet and my gear was starting to fail, I also worried about water getting into my bags.  So I made an executive decision to turn into a hotel, I saw some big neon lights and made my way.

Not all was as it seemed however..

2 thoughts on “Japan by bike: My first solo overseas experience – Pt. 1

  1. Pingback: Japan by Bike Pt. 2: Rendevous with a peculiar hotel | figo's fromagio

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