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From Aomori to Akita

Memories of accusing gas stand attendants faded quickly from our minds as our days filled with the postcard images of a sparkling blue sea lapping at the foot of a ruggedly dramatic rocky coastline. Our moods often seemed tied to the scenery that surrounded us, with our happiest days emerging when walking with the rolling swells of the Japan Sea. Having chosen the road less traveled, all of the towns that we were now passing through were the kind that seemed more fitting of a Japan hundreds of years ago. Wooden paneled homes, weathered by the strong winter winds lined our way, each hosting their own organized rows of trellaced bean, tomato, or corn plants. The supermarket that so many of us take for granted in our everyday lives, seemed an unimaginable luxury for such people whose existence depended so much on their daily toil. The more these sights filled our days, the more we began to question our own reliance on the packaged breads and bottled drinks that we had been subsisting on. Everything about growing your own food for your own needs seemed to make so much more sense – until that is you come back down from the clouds with a thud to your own reality, which for us were these infernal stilts.

Our weekly routine, now firmly established, involved quite a lot of tuning and repairing certain parts of our bamboo legs. If it wasn’t the wire that held our footrests to the stilts that needed replacing, then it was the rubber tires that we used to cover the feet. Of the two, it was the latter that was now causing our headaches. The rubber we used came courtesy of the old tires from the shopping bicycles that abound here. Having used up all our supplies except for two cut to size pieces, the time had come to go on a search for a bicycle store willing to donate any of their throwaways for our cause. Once we have successfully assured the shop owner of our intentions and the doors open, the feeling that overcomes us is certainly akin to that of a kid in a candy store. It was this overwhelming assortment of free rubber that was to be the cause of our current predicament. We opted for a fancy red set of mountain bike slicks, our theory being that if cheap rubber tires lasted us 80kms, then fancy expensive looking rubber mountain biking tires would last us twice as long. They certainly looked good on the end of our stilts. But looks are not everything as we were about to find out.

As Aomori’s coast weaved its way ever closer toward Akita’s coast, we began to find that our progress was slowing with each day. The cause, our new red tires. Where the others had lasted us the best part of a week, we now found that we were changing these new treads almost as often as we had to eat. While not a particularly difficult task, done over and over again it was one that began to take the shine off each day. To add to our new dilemma, we also found that our new red slicks, had been very appropriately named! After two months of walking on every type of road imaginable, we were now becoming experts on what was a good and what was a bad road. Yes there is a big difference. The best were a rarity, found only in those towns with a bit of money and a local government willing to spend that money on its town. They were the ones made of the recycled rubber from car tires and made walking a pleasure. Our first experience, which has been our only experience, saw us spend a good 5 minutes just balancing from foot to foot in order to enjoy the sensation of this soft surface. The sight of us looking more like dancing ostriches than normal people must have brought a smile to more faces than just our own. On the other end of the scale, the worst were those that were covered with a thin layer of moss, barely visible from our perches, but with the potential to make us fall far from grace. It was on this kind of danger that we were now walking, with the added bonus of doing so on our slicks! The steps that took us between Aomori prefecture and Akita were slow and required all our concentration. As such, it was no surprise that when we reached Akita, we were both drained and in need of a good rest, not to mention some more tires for our stilts.

Crossing into Akita

posted by Mick and Miki Tan @ 4:49 PM,


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