Our first night of our bike tour on the Izu Peninsula, was restless as the winds threatened to blow our tent into the bay. We made the change to a Japanese ryokan hotel with onsen (hot spring) on our second night. Leaving the tent on the bike was a great idea. We slept on Tatami mats, wore Yukatta, and soaked in our own personal onsen in the cool ocean air breeze.
A short hike, albeit straight uphill, out the Ryokan’s front door led to a rocky beach sunset. The giant sea-stack that stood between us and the burning sunset has gone through a ten thousand-year renovation. The sea-stack has a gaping hole in its center that extends down to the water, leaving a sunset themed Viewmaster in its wake. The final exale of the day’s light, funneled through the massive rock and kaleidoscoped off the blue water, left a lasting mark on my emotional center.
The next morning after our geothermic bath, we rolled up our futons, and gobbled up some miso soup before making an early get away.
Before we could even hit the main road out of town, we were blinded by an imposing Fuji-san. I don’t know if anyone could ever normalize the sight of Fuji over the bay, and I wonder about the productivity of the locals residing in sight of this overwhelming beauty. Fuji would seem to be out of reach from our position so far south on the peninsula, but he stands tall lifting his snow capped dome into the heavens.
Our early-bird start was rewarded with an immediate and steep climb away from the coast. Our route had us leaving the main road (Although I hesitate to call any road with such little traffic such as this “the main road,”), and taking a left up a road that wound up being too steep to ride (photo omitted for over-active imagination purposes). I admit we contemplated changing our route and continuing down the coast, but the lure of the mountains was too strong. After pushing our bikes up the first 200 meters of the climb, the slope relented enough for us to pedal once again as we entered a pine forest and dotted with quaint mountain homes of inland Izu.
Lets get to the good part, eh? The descent was steep and seemed to never end. Luckily, for our brake pads, it relented somewhat into a slopping valley that carried our momentum for what seemed like miles. The valley road was sprinkled with a handful of farms and went along the banks of a spring-fed stream. I gave the Japanese version of howdy to the two youngsters sitting on the side of the road, which seems like a universal countryside thing to do.
As luck would have it, my next breath came through my nose, and the unmistakable perfume of bread sliding out of a hot oven slapped me across my face, and reminded my tummy that the furnace burning within always has room for fuel. Especially when on a long ride. Allow me to clarify that this is a sparsely populated valley without any shops and this evidence pointed toward a grim reality; these leavened loaves living in my nose were perhaps just a good idea without a happy ending. Nevertheless, I investigated with a man further down the road. Using all the Japanese I could muster, I asked him about the mysterious bread. At first he confirmed my doubts, but my persistence, fact-checking, and citing my underdeveloped olfactory bulb, he remembered that the lady down the road bakes her bread at home and brings it to market. We thanked him, and were quickly on our way.
The two boys from earlier were now on the front porch of their home studying Kanji. Their mother Hiroe, was surprised and delighted at our arrival. She was pulling out a tray of hot bread as we inquired about the our recently solved mystery.
Her English was good enough and our Japanese was bad enough to make friends while the next batch took their turn in the van-mounted traveling bakery. Her husband, San-chan, gave us a tour of the garden out back where they grow half the wheat they use. The other half comes from Hokkaido.
Hiroe, San-chan, and their two boys moved from the “standing room only” lifestyle of Tokyo to a simple cottage under the shadow of these coastal mountains 8 years ago. As luck would have it, they frequented a live house/ bar in Kunitachi, called Kakekome, where I have spent a few quality nights of sleep! It’s a small world.
As the last round rose, James and I made a pot of tea to share with our gracious hosts, much to their delight. We bought what seemed to be a wasteful amount of the warm bread, biscuts, rolls, and buns, but it wouldn’t last even 50 kilometers before being scarfed down by our hungry heroes! Chocolate banana, date walnut, and some buttery vegan (I’m aware!) rosemary rolls were shared much like how a male lion shares first bites with the hard working lionesses. Unfortunately, bakeries like that aren’t on every corner. We thanked them graciously, and hit the road.
Our next stop, on a day of many, was a farmer’s market that had a luxurious and piping hot foot bath. Arizono-san joined us, and continued making the magic that makes Japan so special.