A Biker’s Delight

By Sergio Lombardi

I recently mentioned a business (and tourism) trip I made which kept me away from blogging for a short while. To make up for my absence, I wanted to give you all a short overview of my adventures.

It was a trip to Takamatsu City on Shikoku Island, so it was a perfect length for a drive. I had never been to Shikoku before and was determined to do it right. So I put on my leathers and hopped on my “Monster.” With all of my city driving, my plugs were getting fouled and the Monster was dying to get back on the road, and I with it.

My family has a long history with Ducatis. When I was a kid, my grand pop used to take me for rides every Saturday morning. He had a 250 Scrambler that he used to call “The Duke,” and what a duke it was. Ducati doesn’t make small bikes anymore, but, boy, I loved that bike. It was a one-lunger and didn’t have quite the acceleration as dual cylinder bikes but that bike was no Vespa (sorry, Dominique). It was low rpm and had a lot of torque. You could feel every additional rpm building in the core, and the sound of the exhaust pipe was so mellow – I can never forget that beautiful sound as Pop would open her up. Ah, that was when bikes were bikes.

Pop’s bike was hand-made in the sixties, and it had class for its period. The cylinder casing would put today’s bikes to shame – I remember thinking it almost looked like bulging muscles of steel, as if the engine was flexing. And that V-shaped seat was so cool. There was nothing else like it in those days, nor nowadays, either. The seat was really meant for one rider – after all, it was a scrambler. I was a skinny kid (still am), though, and Pops and I had no problem sharing the seat.

This is not Pop’s bike but the following clip will give you the general idea.

Getting back to my road trip, the Monster makes for an excellent road bike. Unlike Harleys, the V-shaped cylinders are set at a 90-degree angle. Ducati says that is the best angle to avoid vibration and it makes for a comfortable ride.

The ride from Kanto to Kansai went as well as could be expected – the country driving was a nice change of pace from city driving. But the most exciting part of the trip for me was crossing the Akashi Ohashi, bridge, which connects the main Island of Honshu with Awaji Island. It was simply breathtaking, with huge suspension cables on each side of me and the waters beyond. It is a tad scary on a motorcycle as it is quite windy and the bridge is high above the sea, but my, was it beautiful!

The trip across Awaji was noting to get excited about but I was surprised at how large the island was. Then I came to another bridge, the bridge between Awaji and Shikoku. It is called the Naruto Ohashi and while it was no match for the previous one, it is nevertheless an exciting and worthwhile bridge to cross. The magnificence of bridges really only becomes evident when you’re on a motorcycle, not when you’re in a car, detached from it all.

Once across, it was less than an hour’s drive to Takamatsu. I was most impressed with Takamatsu. The city is well laid out and driving is fun and easy. The downtown area is beautiful, much more than what I was expecting. This is no country town. There were many tall and modern buildings and it had the same cosmopolitan ambience as a much larger city. If you ever make this trip, I must recommend staying at the Rihga Hotel. It’s a pleasant place that’s fairly priced, as well as being a convenient distance from whatever sites you’d want to see.

Everyone has told me to try the udon in Takamatsu, which is the name for some wonderful thick wheat noodles, for those new to Japan. While I will never concede first place to any pasta but the pastasciutta of Italy, I must admit, udon is quickly securing second place for itself. My favorite is tempura udon – not only was I impressed with the udon, the tempura was by far the best I have ever tasted. Perhaps it has to do with Takamatsu being a port town. The shrimp was very fresh, and caught, I imagine, either that morning or the night before.

Fortunately, my business trip allowed me enough time to make a one-day excursion to Shodoshima, an island in the Inland Sea of Japan. I had to take a ferry to get there, but was fortunately able to bring the Monster with me. It was great fun driving around Shodoshima – there are so many spectacular views! As it is mountainous, I had many chances to see coastal areas as well as spy many other islands in the distance. If you happen to visit, be sure to see the cinema classic, Twenty-four Eyes. The film was shot on the island, and there is a museum out of the movie set. The movie runs there all day long, so you ought to be able to catch it no matter when you arrive during the daytime. This classic piece is useful in understanding the history of the island.

I could go on and on about Shodoshima but I really must get back to work. I think an appropriate ending would be a bit of advice: if you ever visit this island, try the olive ice cream. It is fantastic. I know you’re rolling your eyes and thinking that this is my Italian side coming out, but I must urge you to try it. It’s easily worth the 300 yen – and at least you can tell your friends you tried olive ice cream.

Ciao,
Sergio

P.S. While this is a site that specializes in website and blog reviews, I shall refrain from calling this a review. But if I were reviewing, I would definitely give my thumbs up to Akashi Ohashi, Takamatsu and Shodoshima. And, of course, olive ice cream.

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~ by Japan Blog Review on September 3, 2010.

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