22 Oct nd. We are leaving Vladivostok on the Antonina Negdanova, a ferry that goes in 2 nights to Fushiki-Toyama, not so far from Niigata in Japan. It's 10 p.m., and we remain on the deck, hypnotised by the lights of Vladivostok disappearing in the night. Good bye Russia... On this boat, we are the only non-russian passengers, and most of them are here not for tourism, but for the "bizness", bringing back japanese used cars back to Russia.

After 2 days of cruise on the japan sea, and a stamp on our passports, ... we were in Japan, allowed there for 3 months. No more visa problems like in Russia, that was going to be good times ! We were only a little anxious about the formalities of import and registration for the bike, which everybody said were a bit long and complicated. But Yukiko, a young lady dressed in a pink uniform, said there would be no problems, she would do all the paperwork for us, and we would be able to leave in 2 or 3 days. Cool...!

But until then, the crew unloaded the bike, and it was stored in a big warehouse on the docks. We were pedestrians again ! We spent our first week in Japan between the port and the freight company to see how things were going, and also the beach where we were camping at night, since without the sidecar, we were stuck in this tiny port, and given the price of everything, sleeping in a hotel was no part of our plans for our stop in Japan. But as the week went by, we began to realise that it wasn't going to take 2 days... Because our bike was russian, and so was our registration. But Japan and Russia are not in such good terms, and they don't have any international agreement on vehicles. And of course, we hadn't thought of that ! And the staff of the freight company, kind and willing to help as they were, seemed a little lost in this unusual case. Despite our asking several times, they assured us that there was no way to get a temporary registration in Japan. And that we would have to go through a full importation and registration of the bike, which would certainly include controls and modifications... They told us a "Honda expert" was to come and have a look at the bike, to see what modifications would be necessary. But when this guy at last showed up, it didn't really help much :

- "a lot of modifications, a lot of money"
- "What modifications ?"
- "Many"
- "But which ones ? "
- "Uh... a handbrake ..."
- "But we already have one, look !!!!
- "You will have to reorientate the lights because here we drive on the other side of the road... A lot of time, a lot of money..."

We then began to realise that their "help" was rather slowing down the process than anything else. So, we began to take steps by ourselves. But... it was friday evening, the only long distance telephone boot was out of order, all the telephone books were written in japanese, the operator was asking for money for any phone number (which in the end weren't even the right ones !), there was not a single access to the internet to be found, the Ural importer in Japan refused to help, and the french embassy was closed for the week end. And when asking the freight company how much it might cost to ship the bike to north America, in case we couldn't solve this registration problem... They told such a high price that we simply couldn't believe it !!! That would cost us all our money, and would mean that we would have to end our trip after only 3 months. Impossible !!! It was then Friday night, and we had the whole week end to think it over before we could do anything else...

Deadfull week end ! We were feeling so dumb, stuck in this island where everything is so incredibly expensive, ... Just the only place where you should never be stuck ! We didn't want to sleep on the beach just beneath the road anymore, so we moved with our enormous backpacks. We began to walk towards the wooded hill where we would surely find a place. After 40 mn of walk, and numerous pauses because of our heavy bags, we found ourselves at the bottom of ancient stairs in a middle of what looked like a forest of bamboo. There was a spring coming out of the mouth of a bronze dragon, where the people from the village came to get fresh water in their plastic bottles, and sometimes left a few coins for the gods. When we got at the top of these stairs, we couldn't believe our eyes : we were just in the middle of a beautiful shrine, small temples all around, huge old trees. Everything was quiet and desert, except for an japanese tourist taking pictures, and an old gardener sweeping the leaves... We were stunned by the beauty and serenity of the place, and began to forget all the rest : after all, we were in Japan, and taht really looked much more like what we were awaiting from Japan ! But as we wanted to make a picture to remember that perfect moment... Bam !!! The camera fell on the hard floor and got cracked. The magic was over ! It then began to rain, and we continued on our way to find a place for our tent for the night. What we thought looked like a nice airy forest was actually nearly jungle-like, extremely dense and humid, with liana and big spiders everywhere. But eventually, we found the remainings of a concrete building overlooking the town and the port under which we installed our tent. It was now pouring rain... Welcome in Japan !

That was going to be our "base-camp" for the next two weeks. In the morning, we would hide the tent and our heavy bags under some tree in the forest. Then we would walk down to the port and make all our phone calls to try to find some solution. And every time, it was the same story, we would speak to one person, then a second, and a third one, who would eventually say "Oh ! But you mean a motorcycle with a motor... ? " Having to speak in english made the task of explaining our situation no easier. The incessant rain didn't help either. Every night, we would come back completely soaked. And even our little stove would not work, tired of too much poor russian gas : we wouldn't even have the comfort of a hot meal ... In the end, at the end of the second week, we decided to quit : the custom broker of the french embassy is on vacation in France for 2 weeks; the japanese Ural importer who finally decided to help us, told us that all the papers and controls would take between 3 weeks ans 3 months (as it did for the last bikes that he imported himself), that we would have to put together a file on the hand brake... and that the whole operation would cost us no less than three thousand US$... So we decided to forget all about it. We got the phone numbers of shipping companies through the french embassy, again. And a couple of days later, a truck came to bring the sidecar to Kobé - as we weren't allowed to drive it at all, even to get it shipped - from where it would depart to Vancouver.

And so far as we were concerned, we wouldn't stay in that place any further. A last shower in the public toilets, a check of all our bags, and we were off to the nearest failway station, where we would take a night bus a few hours later, to Tokyo. Our plane, booked that very morning, would not leave until 2 days later, but that would surely not be a problem : we would find a little place to sleep in the airport, and at least that would be an occasion to have a look at Tokyo !

Siberia Canada