• Weekend ride-out to Karuizawa

    What started out as a last-minute daytrip with a couple of guys I met on Facebook the day before turned into a 714km weekend ride to Nagano and back!

    So I was humming and hahing about whether or not to go on a ride when I saw a post in Gaijinriders that some guys were going to go for a ride to Chichibu area. I contacted Michael (the main instigator), and agreed to meet them at 7am at Kouenji station – so a pretty early start for me as that’s about an hour away.

    [Photo Gallery]

    Day 1 – Saturday 2024-05-11

    Tokyo to Karuizawa via the 100-year-forest in Saitama. Warm and sunny.

    I met Michael, Hiroshi, Simon, and Alfonso at the station, and then we were off fighting our way out of Tokyo to the highway. Our first stop was Ashigakubo rest stop on the 299 where we met up with Satoshi. Everybody was on a different kind of bike, and we pretty much covered all the colours too! Unfortunately it was too early to get a coffee – most of the facility was closed until 10am.

    From there we headed up to the 284 from which a lovely loop into the “100-year forest” branches off. The roads up there were pretty narrow and still had quite a lot of pine needles on them, so the going was careful, but very picturesque! After the loop we stopped at Bike Bento, a motorbike-themed restaurant where I had katsu-curry rice.

    We then rode to the Dodaira Observatory with some spectacular views. Unfortunately no ice-cream up there, or, in fact, any amenities. Maybe later in the year? After chilling in the sun and chatting a bit we headed to our last stop, Arima Dam. For me that was going completely the wrong way, as I had picked a hostel in Karuizawa, but I was keen on grabbing a coffee before splitting from the group.

    But when we got to Arima Dam I realised that I’d been there before – it’s a popular biker (and car) spot, but has no amenities either! So after a final set of pictures, I headed off to my hostel which was still a couple of hours away.. and I was not going the most direct route!

    I went all the way up the 299, re-doing a few miles that we had already covered earlier in the day, to the Kanna River, where I turned onto the 462 for a short bit before heading north up the 45. The 45 was a lot of fun and connected me to the 43 via the 254. The 43 was again a lot of fun, and I got to my hostel a bit after dark, having stopped only to take pics of my bike passing the 10,000km mark.

    After checking in to Koya Backpackers with Yusuke-san (who can speak pretty good english), I got a recommendation for dinner and discovered that I was right next to the very famous Hoshino onsen. Dinner was home-made soba noodles with tempura, and I treated myself to a small side of basashi (horse sashimi), at Tamagawa Shokudo only 5 minutes down the road from the hostel. After dinner I went to onsen, and while it was nice, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Tenzan Onsen in Hakkone.

    Back at the hostel I had a couple of beers with the owner and some other guests, and then headed to bed.

    Day 2 – Sunday 2024-05-12

    Karuizawa to Tokyo via Mt Shirane. Cool, cloudy, some spotty rain.

    Not a terribly early start, as I had ordered a breakfast and the earliest was 8am. To be honest, the breakfast, while nice, was not spectacular, consisting of a couple of rice-balls, some salad, and a miso soup. There was also an option for a wester-style breakfast, but I’m not sure what that entailed. Overall my stay at Koya Backpackers was great, the host very friendly, and I can highly recommend staying here.

    My first concern was petrol, so I stopped at the first service station on my way north. It turns out I’ve been in this area before, at least once, and the 146 on which I found myself is a really nice road. Shortly after getting petrol I stopped again at a kombini to grab some lunch; my plan was to ride to Mt Shirane and climb up to the crater so I wanted something to eat up there.

    I turned off on the 241, which is a spectacular road, lots of fun, which led me to the Manza Highway. This is a toll road, and while the tarmac isn’t the best, the road is really great and there are some awesome views up there. The guy at the toll booth told me the 466 wasn’t open, which is the next road I was wanting to take, but it turned out it was open after all. What ended up being closed was the 66 just past the Yamaboku ski resort…

    Making the best of things, I had a coffee at a cute little cafe called Santa Bokujo near where the road was closed. The cafe is run by a lovely lady and we had a bit of a chat via my broken japanese and Google translate. She told me about a waterfall nearby where you can walk behind the waterfall. So after my coffee I started backtracking and stopped at Kaminari (Thunder) falls to have a quick look around. Reminded me a bit of The Valley of Adventure by Enyd Blyton, where the kids hide behind a waterfall.

    From there I looped around to the west side of the 292, which is a superbly entertaining road and I had next to no traffic on it. On the way I tried (again) to get through a disused road which I had tried last year, but from the other way. I did get a fair way into the forest up the dirt trail, but then the gravelly road turned very muddy and I decided to turn back; my tires aren’t really up for mud. Later I discovered that I had almost reached a tunnel, so I wish I had have tried to keep going just a bit further! Maybe it’s time for some more off-road focussed tires..

    The 292, apart from being extremely scenic and a great motorbiking road, also holds the claim to being the highest national road in Japan, with the top at 2172m. Of course I stopped this time around to take a couple of pictures.

    Unfortunately when I got to the Mt Shirane parking lot, everything was roped off and closed, as the lady in the coffee shop had already mentioned. It actually looked semi-abandoned, so not sure if it’s just seasonally closed, or whether it’s been closed permanently.

    As it was getting on in the day, I simply plotted my way home from there, but then couldn’t help myself, and took the 406 to the 28 in order to have a very late picnic lunch at Lake Haruna. The 28, incidentally, is also a very nice road. Unfortunately by the time I got to the lake it had started to rain, so I quickly ate my sandwich under the shelter of a tree, zipped my waterproofs into my bike gear, and then headed off to the highway back to Tokyo.

    The ride back was pretty smooth, a couple of slow-downs due to traffic, but overall pretty rapid progress with a final blast around the Tokyo expressways. Even though it was all highways it was still not a bad way to round off the weekend; at least no fighting through stop-and-start traffic for hours on end as I have had to do in the past.

    What an awesome weekend!

  • DZT Does Malapascua – 2024 Edition

    Around the start of May is a Japanese phenomenon where 4 or 5 public holidays are almost back to back. Some companies close the office for the entire week, giving their employees a full week off work, hence the name Golden Week.

    DiveZone Tokyo takes advantage of this and usually organises an overseas diving holiday during this time. This year, the destination was Malapascua, a small island in the Philippines.

    Getting There

    Most of the people attending were on the same Cebu Pacific flight fairly early on Saturday morning. For me, this meant dragging my suitcases to my local train station (20 min walk) and then a couple of train swaps to get to Narita airport on time. A little bit later in the day I could have had the convenience of local buses..

    Everybody met up at the airport and then it was a 5-ish hour flight to Cebu, the capital of the Philippines. I managed to again “smuggle” my Triton rebreather onboard as a second piece of hand-luggage; theoretically only a single piece of carry-on is allowed, but there’s no way I’m checking the Triton into the hold..

    At Cebu, Ben was already waiting for us at the airport with the shuttle buses, which would take us for the 4-ish hour drive up the island to meet the ferry (actually, the boat from the dive-shop) which would then take us to Malapascua itself. The drive was “interesting”, with the drivers certainly making progress despite single-lane roads and at times quite heavy traffic. As we had a very tight schedule, Ben had thoughtfully arranged sandwiches, snacks, and drinks for the drive.

    Thanks to the rather spirited driving, we did make it to the boat before dark which was the important thing! A beautiful sunset crossing over to Malapascua put us into our holiday mood 🙂

    Settling In

    We stayed at Evolution Divers again, which is the only tech-friendly dive shop on Malapascua. As DZT had been there a few times before already we were well acquainted with the shop and the procedures, and quite a few of the staff remembered us from the last time we were there, 5 years or so ago before Covid.

    The resort is right on the beach set amongst trees and with all the amenities one needs for a week of diving and relaxing; tech-gas mixes, rinsing tanks, restaurant and bar, and plenty of outdoor spaces to just chill and soak in the atmosphere. I had a deluxe room all to myself, which was just as well as it gave me plenty of space to sort out my rebreather.

    Since our first dive was going to be very early the next morning, everybody got busy sorting out their dive gear; for some of us diving rebreathers, this was going to take a bit longer.. but we managed to get everything sorted and, after a welcome drink, headed off to bed excited about the upcoming diving!

    The Diving

    The highlight of the dive trip were the thresher sharks. These are generally a deep-water species, and despite having a large range are rarely seen in shallower waters. Malapascua is unique in that it is pretty much guaranteed to see these sharks early in the morning as they come up to the shallows after a night of hunting. They do so to get cleaned up at cleaning stations, where they have a symbiotic relationship with various types of fish which nibble parasites and debris from the sharks’ skin and even teeth! Brave fish..

    For us, this unfortunately meant setting our alarms at 4am or so every morning in order to get our dive briefings, make sure our gear is in order, and then head off to the dive site which is about half an hour or so away from Malapascua. The last time we were there, the thresher sharks were primarily found around Monad Shoal, but, due to the presence of some tiger sharks, are mainly around Kimud Shoal now which is a bit further out.

    Over the course of the week we had many opportunities to view these beautiful creatures! The last time I was there I was with the “bubble makers”, watching the sharks from afar, and being somewhat envious of Ben getting much closer with his Triton. This time around I was part of the CCR group and had some really amazing close encounters.

    Apart from the thresher sharks we had many other dives through the week, mostly on walls and reefs with the amazing diversity of undersea life which is on offer in this part of the world. Highlights included various kinds of rays, seahorses, a huge variety of corals and other sedentary organisms, tiger sharks, reef sharks, a peacock mantis shrimp (very proud to have spotted that one!), octopus, and more.

    Apart from sealife there was also a variety of caverns and swim-throughs, and, for the CCR divers, the wreck of the Mogami Maru, a converted cargo ship for use by the japanese navy during WW2, now lying in 52m of water. This wreck was discovered by the owner of Evolution Divers, Matt, who explored it and its history, and also recovered some artifacts from the wreck. Unfortunately it is starting to show signs of collapse now.

    Enjoying the Holidays

    So between the diving and the between-dive relaxation there was not much time left. Besides, Malapascua is a fairly small island with not a lot of sight-seeing available.

    We mostly had dinners at Evolution, but spend a couple of nights exploring some of the other nearby venues for a bit of a change of fare – after a few days the Evolution menu does become a little repetitive.

    One evening we had a roasted piglet beach bbq dinner. This is a local delicacy and when the option was mooted, everybody immediately jumped at the chance. The roast piglet was, unfortuntately roasted elsewhere and then brought to Evolution instead of being roasted on the beach, but it was absolutely delicious along with a couple of local side-dishes.

    We also had two island trips, one to Kalanggaman Island, and one to Capitancillo Island. At Kalanggaman everybody had the opportunity to also explore the island, as well as a couple of dives on the local reef. At Capitancillo, the CCR divers unfortunately missed out on the island visit itself as our dive took up most of our intended time in the area.

    On the last day I went for a bit of a hike around the island. My aim was the lighthouse on the northern side of the island, but I very nearly walked around all of Malapascua! The beaches are mostly given over to the dive shops and resorts, and the nearly 7000 inhabitants live mainly inland. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of rubbish about once you get out of the tourist areas. For what it’s worth, the lighthouse wasn’t really worth the walk, but it was interesting to see more than the resorts nevertheless. On the way back I went past the pier and “downtown” where there were some markets and quite a large town, a part of Malapascua I hadn’t seen the last time I was there.

    Back to Toyko

    All too soon it was time to pack up our gear for the final time and head back to Tokyo. Good-byes were said to the Evolution staff and then we took the boat back to the main island. The crossing was again around sunset, a very beautiful way to end our time on Malapascua.

    As we were less people we only had two cars this time, and, without the time-pressure, the driving was a (little) bit more relaxed. We even stopped on the way at a Jollibee for dinner, which is the KFC-equivalent in the Philippines, although they have more options than just fried chicken.

    A few people had a hotel as their flight was later the next day, but most of us went straight to the airport for our 2am (!) red-eye flight back to Tokyo. I again managed to get my Triton on the plane as carry-on along with my backpack full of batteries and electronics, and, despite the very uncomfortable seat (couldn’t be reclined at all), I got a few hours of sleep before arriving at Tokyo. As it was later in the day I was able to catch buses back home instead of having to take the train.

    Overall a fantastic week away! Just wish it was 2… lol

    Media Links

  • PS5 Remote Play on Linux – Chiaki

    Chiaki – a remote-play client for PlayStation consoles.


    While playing Undertale on my PS5, I got a bit frustrated at some of the trophies. Spending hours spamming the X button didn’t really feel like fun and rewording gameplay. A brief search later led me to discover a remote-play option called Chiaki for Linux. 10 minutes later I had it up-and-running! Impressive.

    The remote-play session can be controlled by keyboard, or a PS5 controlled can be connected to the PC. In my case, it was just plug-and-play.

    I tweaked the config a bit to use 1080p instead of the default 720p resolution, and to use hardware acceleration. I also added Chiaki to Steam and configured it to open Chiaki using gamemode as otherwise the screensaver was kicking in. Unfortunately the Steam overlay and screenshot facility is not working (yet).

    Worked absolutely brilliantly on my setup – gigabit LAN and a 1080p-based Debian GNU/Linux 12 desktop PC.

    It was then also rather trivial to script spamming the X button using xdotool..


    Chiaki 2.2.0 – “Extended DualSense Support” crashes the remote play session, forcing a restart of the PS5 before remote play works again. To be fair, this feature is marked experimental.

    Remote Play of streaming content (eg, PlayStation Plus Premium classic games) shows a black screen, with the streamed content being displayed on the TV. Not sure if the official PlayStation remote play application has the same problem.


    Core Installation

    The steps were pretty simple:

    1. Install Chiaki:
      1. apt-get install chiaki
    2. Retrieve account ID (NOT your login or username)
      1. I used a python script provided by the Chiaki developers.
      2. Here’s a reddit post describing an alternative quite convoluted approach (didn’t try it)
      3. And here’s a webpage which retrieves it – by far the easiest method! (This does NOT require you enter any login credentials, but does require your account to be publicly viewable.)
    3. Enter required data
      1. Account ID
      2. Code from the console
        1. Settings -> System -> Remote Play -> Link Device
    4. ?
    5. Profit!


    • Add it to your Steam library
    • Run it using gamemode
    • Tweak configuration to use hardware acceleration and higher resolution

  • Undertale on PS5

    So I just played (and nearly completed) the cult-indy-hit Undertale on my PS5.

    Firstly, it’s an awesome little action adventure rpg thingy. If you haven’t played it, I can highly recommend it despite it’s rather old-skool looks. Quirky humour, interesting choices, and only a few hours long for a basic play-through although it has quite a lot of depth if you want to spend the time on it.

    It effectively combines puzzles and combat (via some nifty little mini-games) although exploration is quite limited. While there are some hidden areas, mostly it’s a linear story.

    My two main gripes are that there is no way to permanently speed up dialogue display and that it is very grindy to get money, which is required to get enough consumables for healing for the final fights if you’re not so good at those.

    Specifically on the PS5 port, whoever designed the trophies for this game really should go back to the drawing board; most of them are just filler and mind numbingly tedious repetition. It’s not even required to complete the game in order to Platinum it!
    Without going into spoilers, the game itself has plenty of opportunities for much better trophies which would properly reward the player. Somewhat amazed SIE approved half of these trophies!

    The game itself: 4/5
    The PS5 trophies: 2/5

  • Ride to Touratech.. and beyond


    To Touratech – and sorting the tools

    So I ordered a nice toolkit for my bike from SBV, which arrived last Monday after I got back from my ride. Excitedly unpacked and played with it, only to discover that one tool, a socket extension bar, was broken. It was impossible to retract the locking mechanism so no way to put a socket on it.

    Interestingly the Japanese vendor is Touratech, and they only have a single showroom in the entire country – which coincidentally happens to be in the town where I met Wilson last Saturday and is a jumping-off point to some nice rides.

    Even though the weather was a bit meh I decided to ride there and have a chat to the guys, instead of trying to fix things via email (nihongo o tabemasen..) and sending stuff back and forth for a month.. Since the shop only opened at 10, I left around 9am, which put me in heavy traffic on the motorways leading out of Tokyo. Was totally not expecting that! It ended up taking me over 2 hours to get there instead of the estimated 1.

    The guys at Touratech were very friendly and helpful and can even speak some english – certainly a lot better than my japanese! After some explanation and showing, they quickly replaced the faulty extension. Did not have as much luck trying to figure out the different contents between the Japanese and the European version of the tool kits..

    After browsing the shop a bit I sat down and planned out the rest of the day – figuring I wanted to hear north and up to get out of the lowlands heat. Nagano direction seemed nice, so I planned some nice twisty roads up.

    Towards Nagano

    Hitting 5000km..

    The ride to Nagano was a mixture of awesome and humdrum. At first I took a wrong turn out of the Touratech shop (well, partially because of heavy traffic and a yellow line), and went the long way around the lake to get on the highway. Then just highway for half an hour or so until I peeled off onto the 140, which was pretty meh for quite a while – traffic and suburbs.

    Once I turned off the 140 and onto the 37 things started to improve, and certainly by the time I got onto the 71 it was quite an acceptable ride, especially once I got past some cars. The 46 was a pretty good stretch, and I was getting very close to my bike hitting 5000km as I got back into towns.. oh no!

    But luck was with me – at Akihata I turned off onto the 192, another great little windy road and soon my odometer ticked over to 5000km just as I was leaving the village. I find a picturesque spot with a big stone marker amongst the trees for a commemorative photo.

    The 192 turned out to be mostly a single-track back-country road, slow but rather picturesque and a great change of pace, leading through some dense forrests and eventually back down into a valley. There I hopped onto the E18 highway for a 10 minutes or so to bypass a city, turning off again at Yokokawa, I started up the 18.

    The 18 and 292.. oh my!

    Oh my, what a fantastic little road the 18 is!! I managed to get past one or two cars early on and from there I had a clear run up the mountain! After one corner I had a youngish fox just sitting in the middle of the road. No idea what it was doing there – it’s not as if I was the only vehicle passing by (there were quite a few cars coming the other way), but I guess it didn’t mind playing chicken! This was definitely one of the better roads of the day – over 200 corners in only a few miles!

    The 18 ends up in a town as a major road, but it’s not long to the start of the 146 – nominally a road with some decent stretches, except I caught up to a black crown sedan.. no idea if the cops patrol this far out in unmarked cars, but I played it safe until it eventually, after many miles, turned off. But there wasn’t long left until the road hit suburbs again. I was quite glad to finally turn off onto the 292 at Kusatsu.

    The 292. Epic! That’s the only word – even with the rain and the mist this is an awesome road with potential for great views leading up and around Mt. Shirane, one of the highest volcanoes in Japan and active as recently as 2018 (which I didn’t know until I read up about it). Unfortunately it was very misty and it was starting to get late so I didn’t stop – but this is DEFINITELY somewhere to come back to with more time! At the top, over 2100m, it got nicely chilly with only around 16C..

    Dinner and bed – Seki’s House

    After dropping back down from the peaks I went through Shiga Kogen ski area, and soon found my hostel, “Seki’s House”. The owner wasn’t home, but left me a note as to which room was mine and that they were in a bar. So after freshening up a bit I headed to the bar where it turned out Seki wasn’t having a beer, but was actually working! I had a pizza and salad for dinner with a couple of well-deserved beers, then Seki-san unlocked an onsen for locals for me where I could relax for a bit in the piping hot water.

    Completely knackered, it didn’t take me long to fall asleep – so much for writing up some trip notes!


    Sunday started off with quite heavy rain, so after waking up early I turned around and napped a bit more. I then had a leisurely breakfast which Seki-san cooked – inari-sushi and a Nagano specialty, sanzokuyaki (which, to be honest, was just a slightly different take to kareage, although it was very delicious being freshly made). Eventually it was time to get going.. the rain had let off and there were even some blue spots amongst the clouds!

    Green lanes..?

    I didn’t have much of a plan, just picked out some curvy roads towards Nozawaonsen. Seki-san waved me good-bye and flicked some sparks off a “good luck rock”.

    After filling up with petrol, my first road took me up a quiet road, the 342, which I saw was already going to be potentially a problem further on with the telltale moss in the middle and a fair bit of uncleared debris despite it being marked as a major road on my GPS.. and sure enough, after a couple of miles, it turned into a proper green lane. As in, the tarmac disappeared under a carpet of grass and was soon just grass-on-gravel. No wonder there was a barrier to stop cars!

    But, it didn’t seem too bad.. and there were some car tracks leading into it which didn’t look too old. After some debating and walking a little way along it I decided to give it a shot – the detour was quite significant! And after all, that’s what this bike is made for! So I gingerly set off down the grassy gravelly track and immediately wasn’t very happy. The gravel was not very firm and the bike moved about quite a lot – probably not helped by the full tank of fuel. Initially it was wide enough for two lanes with a guard-rail but soon the track narrowed to a single lane with no guard rail and an appreciable drop. Combined with the squirrelly nature of the front tyre on the gravel underneath, I decided to turn around at the first opportunity, which came not long after at the first of a series of switchbacks.

    I made it back to tarmac without any mishaps, but by this stage I was quite hot and bothered! Ok, the bike can definitely do this, I can’t. Certainly not on my own and without further training.

    I then proceeded to take the long way around the mountains, which was mostly rather dreary suburbs and villages with lots of slow cars in front and little to no chance to pass them. Eventually I reached the other end of the 342 and, curious, went up it to see what this end looks like. Not so long in, it turns into an unpaved single-track forest path. This looks a lot more rideable than the other side, but as I’m already late in my schedule I decide against seeing how far up I can get it. But definitely something to come back to someday!

    The 66, which I had been following, finally left the suburbs behind and became a great road back up into the mountains nearly hitting 2000m elevation again! It meets up with the 292, but unfortunately I was not heading back towards Mt Shirane, so I duplicated a short section of the road from last evening and then peeled off towards Nozowaonsen.

    The 502 to Nozowaonsen

    Peeling off the 292 onto the 471, this was a pretty fun little run, but it pretty much finishes at “Edelweiss Resort”, turning into the 502 which does not allow heavy traffic on it. I missed the turn onto the 502 and did a quick loop over some gravel roads instead of doing a U-Turn; no worries this time as it was compacted gravel roads and very much in use.

    Back on track, the 502 is a great little road. Mostly it’s a forest road, often single-track, with quite poor visibility in the many many corners due to lots of plant growth. I was lucky though as there was pretty much no traffic and it really was very pretty with very vibrant plant growth everywhere. The going was pretty slow but very nice.

    Sections of the 502 open up a little bit, especially on the downhill run past some ski slopes, and offer some great views. But better watch out – there’s bears about! No, literally! A youngish-looking black bear ran across the road in front of my bike, I had to hoik on the brakes quick-smart there! Although I was more worried about a momma-bear coming out of the woods.. so I didn’t hang around long. Times like these I need a camera on the bike!

    Crash! before lunch..

    Eventually reaching the valley of the Chikuma River and a bigger road, I stopped to look for lunch. I found a soba restaurant a few miles away, and, instead of the main road, decided to take another smaller road. This was, as it turned out, not such a good idea.. firstly it was concrete, not tarmac, secondly it was single-track, and thirdly there was no guard-rail and quite a steep drop into the valley. Picturesque, yes, but definitely not a relaxing ride.

    And then, in one corner, there was a wash of mud on the road, which I misjudged and before I knew it, I was sliding down the road. This is only the second time I’ve dropped a bike while actually riding.. at least this time it was totally obvious why. Covered in mud, I quickly picked the bike up – well, at least I get to pracise that! and, apart from being a bit muddy, it looked perfectly fine. The crash bars did their job and the little plastic protecters protected even them from any scratches. In retrospect, I should have taken a few pictures…

    Stopping again not long after, I stripped off my muddy riding pants and put on my jeans – I didn’t want to look totally unfit to enter a restaurant!

    Without further mishaps I made it to the rather out-of-the-way soba restaurant, and more bad luck – they had just sold their last portion! Guess I should’ve stuck to the main road for once.. well, they told me about another soba place one more town over.

    I made it to Tomazawa, the next soba restaurant, before they sold out and had a delicious soba noodle lunch.

    Back to Tokyo – via Nikko

    From where I had ended up it was about 240km or so back to Tokyo.. but that was just one boring long blast all the way down the highway, and would get me back into a set of expressways which I knew would be heavily trafficked by the time I got there.

    So I decided to take a detour via Nikko..

    An hour or so on the highway, and then off I was up the 120. This is a really nice curvey road, often two lanes heading up the mountains with a single lane down, so getting past cars was a breeze. Once at the top the road does narrow a bit but is still quite open compared to the narrow roads I’ve mostly been riding.

    I’d been here quite a few times already, so didn’t feel the need to stop at the waterfalls again, but I did make an impromptu coffee stop at Lake Chuuzenji after seeing a cafe with a parking spot. In fact, it turns out there’s two next to each other, and I ended up going to Adonis as I noticed it had outdoor seating. A nice coffee and slice of cheesecake while taking in the sight of the lake certainly hit the spot!

    After the lake is the ridiculous section of switchbacks on the down-hill run of the 120. But it’s been rebuilt to be one-way only, which does allow a bike some wiggle-room to get past the interminable columns of cars.. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever come the other way UP the 120… might have to try that one day.

    From there it wasn’t long until the start of the highway back to Tokyo.. nothing much more to say. I sat on cruise control at 120kmh for quite a lot of it until the he traffic got heavier as I got closer to Tokyo. Despite it getting slower there was no traffic jam and all up a smooth, if boring, ride back.



    (Click on a picture to go to the album..)

    Visiting the Touratech shop in Japan
    The rather picturesque spot where my Bumblebee reached the 5000km milestone.
    Seki-san's House - my hostel accommodation in Nagano.
    The weekend route. 843km or so.. and more than half on little windy backroads. Not too shabby :)

  • WordPress and Piwigo? Yes please!

    So I just discovered the PiwigoPress plugin for WordPress.
    While it’s obsolete and the widget no longer works, the “short code” feature still does. Unfortunately it’s not very well documented, but it is possible to add pictures to an article which link back to not only the picture, but also the album which that picture is part of.

    Trawling through the source code, it seems the following is possible:

    [PiwigoPress id=<pic> lnktype=albumpicture url='http://gallery.lemmurg.com/']
    idPiwigo picture id(s)eg.
    id=1 – picture id 1
    id=1-5 – all pictures with ids 1 through 5
    id=1,3,4 – pictures with ids 1, 3, and 4
    lnktypepicture (default, link to picture only)
    album (?)
    albumpicture (link to picture with album)
    eg lnktype=albumpicture
    urlURL of the Piwigo siteeg: url=http://gallery.lemmurg.com
    sizeSize of the picture. Possible values:
    sq – square
    th – thumbnail
    xs – extra small
    sm – small
    me – medium
    la – large (default)
    xl – extra large
    xx – extra-extra large

    eg: size=sm
    nameAdds image name
    0 – no (default)
    1 – yes
    auto – ?
    eg: name=1
    descAdds image description.
    0 – no (default)
    1 – yes
    eg: desc=1
    lnktypepicture – link to picture only (default)
    albumpicture – link to picture with album
    album – ?
    example: lnktype=albumpicture
    opntypeWhether to open in the current tab or a new one.
    _blank – open in new tab (default)
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  • Motorbike weekend with Wilson


    Tokyo to Kawaguchiko via Route 56.

    Taking a half-day Friday, a friend of mine and I planned a quick trip to the Fuji Lakes area as he needed to be back on Saturday evening.

    We left Tokyo separately and met up at a restaurant in Sagamiko as it’s quite picturesque near a lake, at the end of the highway, and the start of the more scenic roads leading west. I left the highway a little bit earlier to take in a short twisty section and, of course, immediately took a wrong turn after a rather convoluted exit ramp and had to backtrack through a long tunnel. And then, of course, got stuck behind a car during the twisty bit.

    After lunch we headed off towards Yamanakako taking a small road to Route 56 which we then followed all the way to the lake. On the way we had a quick fuel-stop in Doshi but otherwise just enjoyed the ride. I wanted to check out Nijinomotsu bridge, so from Yamanako we headed up a small road. After a mile or so it got covered in debris and small rocks, and Wilson didn’t want to go on with his street bike, so he turned around to find somewhere to wait for me.

    I kept going and after another corner, the road turned into a dirt/rock track. Unfazed I started up it, but after two hairpins and the incline getting ever steeper I decided that this was probably not a good idea.. and anyway, after glancing down at my GPS I realised I wasn’t even on the road anymore! Doh! So turning back and finding the right road, I headed up it. No debris and tarmac. However, after a couple of miles, it was blocked off, presumably due to a landslide or something. Bugger!

    After messaging Wilson that I was on my way back and texting him the location of a parking lot to meet up, I turned around. When I got to the parking lot I had a message from Wilson that he was waiting at a McDonald’s a few miles away. Battling the rush-hour traffic, I eventually got there and enjoyed a chocolate shake for my efforts, yum!

    From there it wasn’t far to our final destination, a hotel in Kawaguchiko, which we found after an accidental detour over the bridge. Following check-in we wandered off to find dinner and ended up in a chinese restaurant. Well, that was a bit different! The crispy-duck pancakes came with four pre-cut pieces of duck and a tiny bit of hoi-sin sauce, and the sweet-and-sour pork was what seemed to be soy sauce.. Finally back at the hotel we enjoyed a nice hot sentan (unfortunately no onsen) before rolling into our futons for a deep sleep.


    Kawaguchiko to Utsubuna for lunch; around the Fuji lakes, scenic forest roads, and some fast curvy stretches.

    We got up around 7am, geared up, dropped the key into the check-out basket, and headed off. First stop was a service station on the other side of the lake for Wilson to feed his hungry steed, while I wandered across to a 7-11 to feed myself. Wilson’s not a big breakfast person, but I do like my cup of coffee in the mornings!

    From there we followed the road around the lake, then looped around Lake Saiko, Lake Shouji, and Lake Motosu before heading along Route 300, a fantastic curvy stretch. Nearly at Fuji River we peeled off onto the 413 which is a small road leading through forests. There was a bit of debris on the road, so we took it nice and slow until we got to the top where there was a nice look-out. We stopped for a couple of pictures, and a guy arrived from the other direction on a Postie Bike. He said his other bike was a GS, and also mentioned that there was more debris on the road from the direction he had come from.

    We continued on and it was actually not as bad as what we had already done, but when we got to an intersection Wilson said he’d had enough of the tiny road and wanted to get back on something more decent. Unfortunately the road leading back to the main road, while starting off nice and wide and clean, quickly turned very narrow, very bumpy, and very mossy, so slowly, slowly.. nevertheless we made it back without mishap and then proceeded to follow Route 9 beside Fuji River.

    We stopped in Utsubuna for lunch in a small restaurant beside the road. Although we had both initially wanted Tempura we opted for soba bowls instead, and they were very delicious. After lunch Wilson and I split up – Wilson was wanting to head back to Tokyo, and I was wanting to check out a small road leading to Tenshi Lake.

    Utsubuna to Shirakaba Lake via dirt roads, Shizuoka, and the fantastic 152; long dash to the hotel at night.

    The road to Tenshi Lake, rather predictably by now, got narrower, covered in debris, and eventually turned into a rocky track leading deeper into the forest. Less daunted, I kept going and it was quite a nice ride, I even saw a deer grazing beside the road. Eventually the track turned less rocky and more gravelly, but developed a centre grassy hump which was a bit tricky to negotiate at times. Still, I made it through without mishap and had a good time of it!

    From there I had wanted to ride Route 152 further west, but to get there required riding through quite a bit of town and major roads, which were full of cars and people. I miss the quiet countryside already! After slogging my way through Shizuoka I turned off on Route 362 which was much nicer. I also wanted to take Route 32, but this turned out to be closed a few miles in, so I had to backtrack. Still, 362 was mostly ok for traffic and most cars let me past.

    I eventually reached 152 and, after passing the detour in Isuka due to a landslide I had managed to get past all the cars and could really enjoy the road leading up the Funagira Dam Lake. This was a well-paved road with great sweeping corners, fantastic to ride. Eventually though, as seems to always be the case here, the road turned into a single-lane narrow road through the forest. My aim was to get over the Bungui-toge Pass, but this was thwarted…

    After reaching the Hodono Castle Ruins (which I actually didn’t see as I didn’t realise I was there at the time – I was running a bit behind schedule to reach my hotel for the night at this stage…) I ended up taking a wrong turn through a long tunnel.. which I then had to backtrack. The 152 was closed here, but there was a smaller road which should detour around and meet up again with the 152 later. Except, after a few miles, yep, you guessed it, it was also closed!

    Checking for alternatives I realised there really was nothing.. and by now I was _really_ behind schedule. I had originally wanted to get a place somewhere in this area, but they were all booked out, and I accidentally ended up booking something near Nagano, which was still a couple of hours away.. so I just told the GPS to route me to the hotel, fastest route, and gave up on going over the Pass. Funny story: the new route took me through the tunnel I had taken a “wrong turn” through an hour earlier…

    Here followed a mad dash to the hotel. I should have spent a bit more time trying to plan the route instead of trusting the GPS as, instead of routing me over highways, it took me via Route 152 and other quite small roads. During daytime this would probably have been really nice and picturesque, but as it was getting dark, the highway would have been a lot more comfortable. Still, I got to try out the auxiliary lights on the bike after dark and damn, are they impressive! I was still able to make quite good progress even on small twisty roads through the forest. I’m really glad I reprogrammed them to be dimmer before setting off as otherwise they would have been blinding to oncoming traffic even on low-beam.

    I eventually reached my destination, the “Petit Hotel Kurumi No Milk” without mishap, despite having to stop to let a few deer cross the road on the very last stretch. As it was already nearly 9pm by now there was no point trying to head out to find dinner as the closest places would be a 15 minute ride away or so. Unfortunately I lucked out again and the place had neither an onsen nor a sentan – and after my epic ride (over 500km, mostly over small roads) I was a bit beat. So I folded myself into the ofuro and soaked before collapsing in bed. Still, it’s a nice enough place and, as it turned out, was on the Venus Line, which is one of the best roads in Japan for motorcycling!


    “Petit Hotel Kurumi no Milk” to Tokyo; via the last bit of the Venus Line, various other small roads; 2 caves, and a rather horrid last stretch back to Tokyo..

    I left quite early again as the hotel didn’t have breakfast – I really need to start booking through Jalan again as the places it has usually have breakfast options! A very nice trundle along the last bit of the Venus line followed, in very comfortable 18C at this altitude. After various great mountain roads I stopped for breakfast at a kombini – not my favourite, but it was too early for anywhere else to be open, and I needed coffee!

    I was mostly just moseying back towards Tokyo, but realised that I was well and truly too early as I had originally expected to be starting at least 100km further back and was wanting to check out the “Median Tectonic Line Museum” in Oshika this morning. In retrospect I could have had a great blast up the Venus Line and had breakfast at the top.. oh well.

    Instead I did a sudden U-Turn when I saw a sign for Fujido Cave and headed up the side-road to that. I already got a sneaking suspicion on my way up the access road, which was confirmed when I reached the top – I had already been here! Well, no point going in the cave again, so I traipsed across the Ueno Suspension Bridge in search of ice-cream. Unfortunately it was still too early for that, so I traipsed back and got an ice-cream out of the Cave shop freezer instead. The view was nicer on this side anyway.

    From here I did a big loop through a small forest road just for fun, and then tagged another cave as my next destination. The ride to Hashidate Limestone Cave was mostly along Route 299 and overall great, although the last bit through Ogano was a bit painful with traffic. FWIW, Hashidate Cave isn’t worth it as a specific destination.. it’s quite small and there’s barely any indication of stalactites or stalagmites. It’s also a bit of a scramble to go through, so only recommended if you’re reasonably fit and flexible. It does seem to be quite a popular tourist destination though with a big eatery and other touristy stuff. The only hint is to drive up to it instead of parking at the top carpark.

    I tried to keep going up the road past the cave to get to Arima Dam, but, yep, it was closed maybe 10 miles later.. so back I went and had to take quite a long detour to get there, some of it through busy towns. I made it eventually and discovered it’s a hot-spot for bikers! Lots of bikes parked up on the dam wall with people lounging about.

    From here there was really nothing else except back to Tokyo. I tried to take a smaller road for a bit but, again, closed, so again, backtracking.. the main road leading down into Hanno got busier and busier, and, coming out of the mountains and onto the Kanto plain, the temperature soared to 30C+. I was getting quite hot in my gear, and the neverending lines of cars did not help. After various attempts to reroute myself off the busy main roads I eventually got onto the highway back to Tokyo.

    Unlike the south, there were no major hold-ups and apart from not taking an exit when I should have (the GPS and road signs disagreed with each other; the GPS turned out to be correct..) it was a mostly reasonable ride back. Still, I was more than happy to finally get home and have a shower!

    What a fantastic weekend 🙂 Looking forward to the next ride.. although I definitely need to invest in some summer riding clothes!


    (Click on a picture to go to the album..)

  • Sorting the UK

    One of the side-effects of quitting Sony and starting a new job at Woven Planet was that I had to return to the UK to sort out my remaining items there. Mostly it was stuff that I did not want to take to Japan and was placed in storage, as well as my Yamaha WildStar motorcycle.

    Picking up the bike

    One of the first things I did after arriving in the UK and getting my accommodation sorted was to call Alan from Southern Car Storage and arrange a date and time to pick up my motorbike. The day dawned grey and I caught a series of busses and trains down to the south-coast of England where Alan picked me up from the New Milton train station in his car.

    We proceeded to the storage sheds and I was finally reunited with my bike. Alan kindly lent me some spare gear and soon I was pootling off in the sunshine and fantastic environs of the New Forest.

    Unfortunately the sunshine did not last long, and soon I was in a, typically for Britain rather chilly, downpour, yet that barely dampened my spirits as I made my way back towards London. After many a wrong turn and some green-laning (I had forgotten to take my GPS back with me and did not have a mount for a phone on the bike) I eventually made it to Robin’s place for a catch-up and a pub-dinner before heading back to my accommodation.

    Sorting Stuff

    After getting accommodation I booked a storage unit at Shurgard Alperton, right next to the Ace Cafe. A week later I arranged a man-with-a-van and picked up my items from the corporate storage place. Wow! What a pile of crap!

    For the next week or so I spent several hours every day at the storage facility going through boxes, sorting out items, repacking, and enjoying breakfast and/or lunch at the Ace Cafe. Less definitely is more! What a waste of time and money..

    I did manage to sell the motorcycle shed fairly quickly, but most of the rest of the items I had to more or less give away. Some to charity, some via freecycle, and some to my old motorcycle group, the VSOC. From the 2 full industrial storage crates I ended up with barely 5 medium moving boxes of items left to ship to Australia.


    A couple of weeks into my trip I headed to Germany for a few days to visit relatives and back-celebrate my 50th birthday.

    Packing up the bike and trailer I headed down grey old England to Folkestone to board the EuroShuttle across the Channel. Following my usual fuel-up-and-brekky on the other side at the first petrol station, I then rode to Aachen and spent my first night at my mate Jurgen’s place where we enjoyed a dinner of fresh asparagus and potatoes.

    The next day I headed to my cousin Rebekka’s near Bonn, where I would more or less base myself for my time in Germany. It was a rather hectic time, but overall fantastic as I managed to catch up with almost everybody.

    On Saturday we enjoyed a big family BBQ to re-celebrate my 50th birthday where nearly everybody turned up, and apart from a few small showers, the weather turned out to be much better than expected. I then toured around the family spending personal time with various uncles as well as a very enjoyable afternoon with my godmother Christa.

    As is usual for the Werle-clan, there was quite a lot of walking involved..

    Amongst other things, highlights were a lovely walk through Bad Godesberg and a small (ish) hike along the Rhine with Christa, a great afternoon/evening in Cologne with my cousin Stephan and uncle Uli where we saw a U-Boat being shipped up the Rhine to a museum, and a walk around a “Baggersee” with my uncle Siggi.

    Dropping off the bike

    My final act before heading back to Japan was to drop off my motorbike with the shipping company. This involved riding it to their warehouse and leaving it with minimal fuel – I was sweating quite a bit by the end as I didn’t find the warehouse right away, and I was already over 200miles on the clock! When I did finally get it there I reckon there was only about a liter left, if that!

    After riding the bike into the warehouse, I disconnected the battery and mileage converter plug, all ready for shipping to Australia. I was promised some pictures of it getting crated up, then left it in the good hands of John Mason’s depot and caught the bus back to London for my final couple of days.

  • Adventures with gitolite

    It’s always fun when you only use a technology occasionally.

    Adding a couple of new public keys to my gitolite repository, I had trouble accessing my repos. It turns out that gitolite actually does something quite clever when you name the public keys, allowing users to specify either plain usernames, or an email address.

    My naming format was:

    • <name>@<tag>.pub -> <name>
    • eg, micha@foo.pub -> micha

    What I didn’t realise was that if the <tag> contained periods (dots), then instead, the following happens:

    • <name>@<tag_part1>.<tag_part2>.pub -> <name>@<tag_part1>.<tag_part2>
    • eg. micha@foo.bar.pub -> micha@foo.bar

    Much gnashing of teeth and ripping of hair later, I can finally access my repositories from my new machine.

    NB: Repository URL is ssh://git@git.<server>.com/<repo path>.git