Japan

Rebels too old for a cause

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The average age of motorcyclists in Japan is 53 years old and continuing to climb as younger riders looking to obtain new licenses continues to drift. Between 2010 and 2016 the Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA) noted that large capacity motorcycle license holders (ogata – classified as 400cc+) have fallen by nearly 1,500,000. While mid-size (chugata – classified as below 400cc) have risen around 715,000. Female riders have shown a similar pattern of 178,000 fall in ogata licenses and 147,000 increase in chugata respectively. While there are still 9.175mn men and 625,000 women willing to get out on the highway with large capacity bikes, the trend is alarming. More frighteningly, new graduates aren’t lining up either. 30,000 fewer students lined up to get a mid or large size bike license between 2014 and 2016 representing a 12.3% dip. Latest report found here Motorcycles in Japan – Analogica KK

Financial planning when you’re 100 years old

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Nomura Securities popped a leaflet in the post scouting for people to attend investment seminars.  What caught my interest was a seminar for those genki 100 year olds who need to plan for the future. While Japan has the highest longevity of anywhere I wonder if these centenarians have seen more cycles, crises and financial meltdowns than the 23yo freshman sales guy at Nomura combined!

14m Japanese pensioners behind the wheel. 1.6m over 80yo

Car licenses

The Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA) has recorded 6 million extra pension aged drivers in Japan over the age of 65 in the last decade. The total is now 14.2mn. The number of 80yo+license holders has reached 1.6 million. Over the last decade the total number of licenses has not changed much but the age composition is definitely skewed to the elderly. I was waiting at the front door of the Roads & Traffic Authority the day I was able to apply for a license. It seems that Japanese kids are not as excited to get freedom on four wheels. There are 6.8mn fewer driver’s licence holders aged under 40 over the last decade.

The worry for the police is the growing incidence of traffic accidents involving elderly drivers.

Ouchijuku & Oyakuen – 2 must see places in Aizu, Fukushima

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Step back in time. Ōuchijuku was a small post station in Japan’s Edo period and is now located in the town of Shimogō, Fukushima (in Aizu area). Think of it as a Japanese version of the Cotswolds given the authentic thatched rooves. For bikers it is a fantastic set of switchbacks to get there.

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There is a stream of fresh water running down the street on both sides which local vendors put bottled drinks as a way to keep them cool.

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The street is probably around 500metres in length but you can sample all different types of food and drinks along the way.

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Anyone wanting to see interesting things in Fukushima, this is a must. Tsurugajo Castle is also worth the time especially the Oyakuen gardens nearby

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Tsurugaoka Castle in Aizu Wakamatsu is also worth the time…especially the Oyakuen gardens nearby…

…especially the Oyakuen gardens nearby.

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Little Chef Tokyo style

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This is what a highway service area looks like in Tokyo. This is Hanyu SA in Saitama. Is it any wonder some people actually do trips where the main purpose is to stop off at unique parking spots.

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Tsunami Tales Pt.4: the sea wall of Ishinomaki

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Ishinomaki Port in Miyagi Prefecture was hit hard by the March 2011 tsunami. The sea wall defenses being erected (as pictured) run the entire length of the town (15km). Not only are the sea walls running out to sea they are being built immediately behind the warehouses sitting on the harbour front. On top of this dirt mound (already at an elevated level) gigantic concrete blocks will be layered in top.

Also a lot of trees are being felled in the smaller towns to the north meaning a lot of wood is being exported.

The hotel I stayed at was full of construction workers. Hotel Route Inn in Ishinomaki is cleaning up with more or less full occupancy during the week if the breakfast hall was anything to go by. Fly-in, fly-out workers is my guess.

Ishinomaki is also the site of a Japan Air Self Defence Force which lost 16 of its F-2 fighter jets (half of those stationed there) which were damaged by the tsunami. Why on earth they weren’t scrambled beggars belief. All had to be written off as the salt corrosion meant a rebuild was too expensive.

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Tsunami Tales Pt.3: the school where all the students survived in Kesennuma

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Kesennuma was perhaps most famous for the huge tanker ship washed a kilometre inland. Now it is awash with brand new apartments but the ship has been carved up and removed. According to the locals it was full of rats. One good tale to come to Kesennuma was the junior high school which was able to get all of the students to safety. It too is being kept as is – a reminder of that fateful day.

Today the school stands like this. Cars still scattered among the buildings and in the classrooms.