Sumoto Castle

Pre-Sakura

Almost the end of March and it’s still a little cold at dusk. Thirty minutes before sundown on a windless day with my hands starting to freeze I powered up the drone and engaged (don’t you love that word 🙂 ) the camera mode.

When I first purchase the drone I envisioned myself videoing the Japanese countryside with its acclaimed, for the price the 4K camera, now all I want to shoot is still photos with it… Oh! how I get things wrong.

Dusk over Sumoto City
Sumoto Castle

Sumoto Castle

The Drone

Introducing the Anafi drone from the French company parrot. She’s compact and has a great camera, but lacks obstacle avoidance sensors… do I need those? Only time will tell.

As a proficient drone pilot with two hours of flight time under my belt 🙂 I felt it was time for a challenge because we all love a challenge, don’t we…

The Castle

Sumoto castle has been a favourite of mine since moving here all those many years ago. My Showa era apartment, with its Japanese style toilet Washiki Benjo 和式便所, cold water only bathroom and head-banging brain cell losing door frames was and still is located at the base of Mt.Mikuma the mountain, which is really a hill 🙂

After work on many occasion, I would make my way up the gruelling when drunk path to view the city light nights below, alas the view from the castle was mediocre, trees had taken root and were obscuring the city view…boo…

Fast forward twenty years. The city must have scored a ton of cash from somewhere, They had decided to clean up the castle. A new public toilet was built, and trees on the East side were cut down to make sweet as picnic area. Trees on the North side were also mowed down, thus exposing the amazing once hidden stone foundations.

Droning at the present time is allowed around the castle, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (国土地理院) has an online map to show you restricted places to drone. Any area not in red is fine as long as you follow the Japanese drone rules and laws.

Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (国土地理院)

Why aren’t I?

Droning and taking time lapses of the castle, Hell even just more photos? It’s only a stone’s throw away. Funny how we fail to see what is in front of us.

Dusk and the Castle

Floored

And it two years is all it took to get the floor started; winter is the only time I can work on the apiaries maintenance. I still need to add a door and make some of the spaces smaller so the ferrets and monkeys can’t get in. Bugs I can live with, ferret poo I can not.

New Motorcycle…

After riding my Honda PCX150 into the ground, I finally needed a new two-wheeled companion for the new year.

About six months ago I made a list of possible motorbikes/scooters which fit the way I ride and ended up with five bikes on that list, I’m not a sports bike person, so hardcore petrol heads are going to cringe a bit.

  • Honda NC750S
  • Honda Forza 250
  • Honda Super cub 125
  • Honda PCX 150
  • Yamaha X-MAX 250
motorbike choice

I hummed and hawed for the good part of those months and broke my touring needs up into a few groups.

Storage space

The Super Cub and the NC750S failed here. My criteria, enough space for clothes for two days, onsen kit, summer sleeping bag and bivy sack.

  • Honda NC750S -1
  • Honda Forza 250 +1
  • Honda Super cub 125 -1
  • Honda PCX 150 +1
  • Yamaha X-MAX +1

Tank Capacity

Simply 350km per fill up, because I mainly spend Sundays travelling around the Island of Shikoku with many a gasoline station close on that day of fun.

The X-MAX, NC750 and Forza all easily hit 400km. The cub and the PCX come around in at 300km.

  • Honda NC750S +1
  • Honda Forza 250 +1
  • Honda Super cub 125 -1
  • Honda PCX 150 -1
  • Yamaha X-MAX +1

Mobile Phone Mountable Handlebars

Yeah, seriously… only the PCX and the NC750S can do this, the X-MAX requires an optional part. Not sure what Honda’s R&D was thinking when they designed the Forza cockpit.

  • Honda NC750S +1
  • Honda Forza 250 -1
  • Honda Super cub 125 -1
  • Honda PCX 150 +1
  • Yamaha X-MAX +1
mounted iphone.jpg

Highway Rideable

Japan requires an engine capacity of 126cc to ride on the highways, and since I live on Awaji Island, to leave the island, I need a motorcycle legally capable of using those highways. Granted if I wanted to go north, Awaji island does have a ferry service for bikes with an engine capacity of 125cc and under, but this then ties me to boat schedules which is something I want to avoid when getting off and on the island.

  • Honda NC750S +2
  • Honda Forza 250 +1
  • Honda Super cub 125 -1
  • Honda PCX 150 +0
  • Yamaha X-MAX +1

The PCX150 can ride the highways; it’s just not good at doing it.

Fuel Economy 30km/l

Judging from real-world user blogs, the Yamaha X-MAX rides in at 32km/l (72mpg) compared to my old PCX150 38km/l (90mpg). The Forza is apparently around the same as the X-MAX and the NC750S chimes in around 30km/l (70mpg). The Super cubs’ mileage is off the charts, doubling any of the above.

  • Honda NC750S -1
  • Honda Forza 250 +1
  • Honda Super cub 125 +2
  • Honda PCX 150 +2
  • Yamaha X-MAX +1

Conclusion

  1. Yamaha X-MAX 5
  2. Honda PCX 150 3
  3. Honda Forza 250 3
  4. Honda NC750S 2
  5. Honda Super cub 125 -2

Japan’s Ultimate Touring Bike

Weekends usually involve beekeeping, which eats my weekends and leaving me with just scraps to tour on, thus, for now, sits the Honda Super Cub on the bench as a touring bike which is sad because even though it scored the lowest marks on my check-sheet, this, in my opinion, is the ultimate tourer for Japan.

Ride Slower, See More

My Touring Bike

The Yamaha X-MAX checked all the boxes, and after riding her for two months, I must say. I am most pleased with the choice I have made.

Ride on…..

Akashi-kakyo bridge tour

At almost 4km long, surviving a 7.2 magnitude earthquake before the competition the Akashi Bridge is currently the longest suspension bridge in the world.

This tour runs between April and November, the trip is 2 hours long, Twenty minutes of those up top and costs 3000 yen for adults and 1500 yen for children. There are some conditions so please check their website.

Location and Information

You need to book in advancd and since the tour is weather reliant remember to have a backup plan.

Hebo Matsuri – The Edible Wasp Festival

Black hornet festival

Smoking the hornets to sleep

Japan’s most dangerous festival 

YOUは何しに日本へ?

Landlocked Gifu prefecture is well known for insect delicacies from soy sauce boiled locusts to the more evil hornet larvae.

Held every year on Culture day (文化の日 Bunka no Hi) the 3rd of November in the small mountain city of Ena this festival attracts over 100 hornet-keepers who bring their boxed hornet nests to be weighed and sold to the public. On TV it’s plugged as Japan’s Most Dangerous Festival(日本一危険祭り Nihon Ichi Kiken Matsuri),  The chances of getting stung are fairly high (as I did) , But in reality it’s not that dangerous unless you are allergic to bees.

The festival starts at 10:00 and runs for around three hours. Festival food like venison and wild boar sausages, sticky rice goheibo mochi on a flat stick and dipped in an adult black hornet sauce are available if you get hungry and can endure the forty minute wait.

sticky rice goheibo mochi

If you are a beekeeper or have no problem with little flying insects buzzing around your head, I highly recommend this festival. Just remember to bring your beekeeper’s suit if you want to go in the hornet tent. If you have asthma or hate smoke, don’t even think about the tent, the smoke bombs used are rather obnoxious.

Campgrounds and a hot spring (Onsen) are located nearby if you want to rough it. The Onsen was 600 yen and a refreshing break from the buzzing black hornets.

The night before I decided to stay on the outskirts of Toyota city at a reasonably priced hotel and take a sixty-minute drive to the festival in the morning.

Festival Information

  • Festival name: Hebo Matsuri ヘボ祭り
  • Date: November 3rd (Culture Day)
  • Location: 3146 Kushihara, Ena-shi, Gifu-ken 509-7831

Gear used

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • DJI Osmo 2
  • Nikon D5000 with 50mm

Good Bye PCX150

Over Looking Sumoto city

Five years, 67,000km and my first scooter and all I can say is Thank you. I rode you into the ground, I mistreated you and punished you severely, and you kept on giving.

But honestly, The PCX is a great machine. I had almost no issues with her, and the ones I did have were user made… like crashing into a ditch and crapping out on ice… And more than once I might add.

I travelled the island of Shikoku and many places in Kansai. Although I feel this scooter is to small for travelling long distances with someone who has little free time on their hands like me. Those times where I did have ample time for long rides I found the PCX comfortable and easy to park are tourist spots because of the small footprint.

Crashing into ditches is expensive and scary

Travelling with the big boys

Friends hives, Un-friendly have

Last year my friend’s beehives were ravaged by hornets, so whenever I have the chance I like to check on them for him during hornet season.

Now, This year’s weather has been pretty much disastrous (lucky us) for the hornets on Awaji Island, torrential rain in spring to hinder the nest building followed by a couple of huge typhoons in late summer which drove the final nail into the coffin for the underground dwelling species. As for the hornets who build up high and dry, well…. Even that practice was no match against the tree uprooting wind and the bucket loads of endless rain

  1. The Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) is called ōsuzumebachi 大雀蜂 which is literally “great sparrow bee”.
  2. The Japanese yellow hornet (Vespa simillima xanthoptera) kiiro suzumebacho (キイロスズメバチ) the English translation is the same as the Japanese name.

Equipment used

Hard

  1. iPhone 7 Plus
  2. Quad lock case
  3. iMac (Retina 5K, 27 inch late 2015)

Soft

  1. Adobe Premiere Pro
  2. Keynote

Kicked Out!

Last year around April the owner of the land my Ayuya apiary lives on decided to kick me off her land. What sucks sorry disappoints me the most is the time I lost developing the apiary, money aside I probably lost close to 1,000 hours of work over three years and only got to harvest one hive.

In 2016 I was lucky enough to overwinter six hives which were due to be harvested the early summer of 2017, But because I was kicked out I needed to move them to a new apiary. Sadly three of the hives did not take to the new area, and two were stolen, yes stolen – seriously! – from the new location.

Just before getting kicked off!

CLEANING UP! What a BITCH! The job of cleaning up that is, not the land owner 🙂

Man I am lucky to have a fellow beekeeper friend who has a excavator.

🙁

All complete!

  • Loss of money around JPY400,000 (USD 3,600)
  • Loss of time 1,000 hours
  • Loss of hives 5!
  • Lesson learnt – PRICELESS