Having solved the transportation problem, our next challenge was accommodations. Most hotels or bed and breakfasts in Japan charge around US$60 PER person. This doesn't fit my budget, so I am always stuck without a place to stay. My hiking club often sleeps in train stations when we arrive somewhere late at night. It turns out this is a relatively common practice. There is even a book that tells where one can stay without being bothered by police, late trains, or bugs. So Matt and I spent the first night on the bench in a small station.
There are many campgrounds along the roads and in the forests of the countryside. However, our budget was about US$200 for eight days, so even these didn't fit our needs. We found it much easier just to choose our own campsite at a roadside parking lot for weary drivers, a soccer field at the middle school, or simply the local park. Most nights we arrived just before dusk and got up at dawn (okay, we slept in a little), so we didn't seem to bother anyone. A couple times we asked for advice and people recommend us to stay at these sort of places.
We met a lot of great people on the trip. Foreigners almost always get the special treatment in Japan. Sometimes this is not a good thing, but we enjoyed it quite a bit on our trip. Perhaps we just looked like a pair of really tired cyclists, but we got many smiles and talked to many people along the way.
Many of the very small towns are full of old people whose relatives never come to visit them. We especially enjoyed going to small stores in these towns and buying a bowl of instant noodles. We would then ask them if we could get some hot water for the noodles or some cold water for drinking. One time we got some free melon to go with it. Everyone was really great.
One bookstore owner in Hokkaido talked to us for over an hour. His wife came looking for him after he was supposed to have closed the store. She joined in the conversation too and bought us a couple of Cokes. They told about how their nephews were studying in Tokyo and visiting L.A. and China. They taught us a few words of the local dialect and generally showed us a good time. Little do they know that we just stopped there to check the ferry times in a magazine.
Food and Water
There are more convenient stores in Tokyo than there are in the whole state of Illinois. I told Matt that we should have no trouble finding food because one is never far from a 7-Eleven. Generally that is true, but we often ended up at small stores in the middle of nowhere. We lived almost entirely on instant fried noodles and ramen. We bought lots of bread for snacks and breakfast.
We found that most newer houses in Japan have a water spigot right out front. We were sure to fill up before we headed out of any towns. Not once did we have any trouble for lack of water. Sometimes people would fill our bottles for us. One store worker came out and offered us ice as we were filling up (unfortunately it was raining and we were freezing).