I’ve spent the last few days hiding in the wardrobe in case Lance does get on his private jet and seek me out but it looks like I’ve managed to get away with it. I emerged yesterday for an indoor training session at the tennis club at Moerenuma Park. That’s right – in this weather, our version of a group ride is to drive to a local indoor place with our bikes and indoor trainers and share the boredom. And we couldn’t even do this two weekends ago because there was so much snow that we couldn’t actually get to the tennis club at Moerenuma Park. Anyway, it’s just lovely to take the indoor trainer somewhere different.

But in just two weeks, I’ll be able to ride a bike on the real road. I have, however, completely overhauled my plans. I’m obviously not going to manage the full length of Japan in the short time available to me. I had been thinking about going from Kagoshima to Tokyo and then getting the train back from there but I can simplify my non-bicycle transport by starting and finishing my ride in Osaka. It’s still nearly a whole day of train travel each way but at least it’s just one train so there’s no chance of getting confused and missing connections. Also I can visit my friend Richard in Osaka and I won’t have to worry about how quickly or slowly I’m travelling. Lastly, my cycling friend Mr Kon has said he wouldn’t mind joining me for a few days’ riding but he also has a friend on Shikoku who he wouldn’t mind visiting (although I don’t think he’s told his wife of this idea yet).

All of this points logically toward riding a circuit of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. Even better, there’s no need for me to plan a route, because it’s already been done for me. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a clockwise circuit of Shikoku that visits 88 Buddhist temples along the way. It’s traditionally done on foot but apparently nowadays it’s more common to do it in tour buses, cars or even taxis. There’s still a hard core of people who walk it and the 1200km circuit usually takes them roughly 40 days. I’ll give myself a couple of weeks to try and get to all the 88 temples. Here’s a map I’ve nicked from a website about the pilgrimage:

The 88 temple circuit of Shikoku

As the longest bicycle tour I’ve done before this was just an overnight trip, this is almost certainly the better option and I can follow it up with a few days rest in Osaka, a trip to the Shimano museum and a bit more riding around the historic Nara area. Now to get back to work figuring out how best to pack up the bike and decide what things to take with me.

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