Sunday, August 17, 2014

Adventures in Aichi

Or perhaps I can call this post adventures in GPS navigation in Japan.

To the East of Nagoya lies Toyota City and the prefecture of Aichi. I was not expecting too much in the way of good riding roads however yet again it was excellent.

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Once you leave Nagoya there is mountain after mountain with roads crossing most if not all in some form or another. I am getting used to being able to whisk my way out of the big city on the expressway and be in beautiful countryside about 90 minutes later no matter what direction I ride. These photos are from Chausuyama Skyline in the North East.

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I know not to ride too tired, but I have a couple of times recently and like in the past when I do I make little mistakes and have a slower reaction time which increases risk of an accident. This ride I was both tired and on an empty stomach having also broken another rule of mine to never skip a chance to get fuel or lunch early. I find when I do this the next pump, cafe or town can turn out to be a long time coming and I find myself (and bike) running on empty.

And so add to this mix the brand new Garmin GPS with latest maps trying to route me into car parks, dead end roads or onto a toll road for a 15km round trip to get to the other side rather then use one of the perfectly good underpasses, and I found myself rushing a bit and not paying attention to things and thus ended up dropping the bike when doing a u-turn.

It was just a stationary fall when the weight of the bike got the better of my balance and footing but managed to scratch the pannier and mirror and slight mark to lower part of fairing. It is such a top heavy bike this FJR, once off its balance slightly you cannot hold it. Fortunately a big strong bloke came along in a car and together we managed (just) to stand it up. Glad I was not on too isolated a road.

Well I sulked a bit over lunch but it really is not damaged simply a few scratches, but near new bike and all that. I also think I was moody because I am starting to really think I purchased the wrong bike and perhaps I should I have got another CB1100. Well I need to give it more time. Same as I need to do for other things here in Japan.

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Lovely spot in the shade sitting to have my very late lunch. Odd how pockets of the countryside have escaped the expansion of the convenience food store chains which are a easy source of meals for me given my limited language skills make dining a challenge when there is often no English menu. 

You can make out the new Garmin Zumo 660 mounted on the FJR above. Having so much difficulty with navigation here I decided to get a new GPS with latest 2014 v15 maps. I wanted to get the junction view feature and accurate highway guidance. The countryside roads can be navigated with my old Garmin 760 Nuvi using just open source street maps or the old 2009 Japan map floating around the net, however these won’t get you far on the highways.

Sadly the new Garmin still offers just very rudimentary navigation. It will route me via clogged city streets for 40km rather then a expressway that is 48km simply because the other is a shorter distance. (No I don’t have avoid tollways or shortest distance options ticked) It will route me off a tollway into heavy traffic for a few km then back onto a tollway costing double the fee because the distance is shorter by a couple of km than following the extended curve of the toll road a few km out of your way. The highway junction view feature seems to have data for only about 1 in 10 junctions and the Garmin will just display a simplistic 4 way highway intersection graphic at others with no lane guidance either despite the marketing claims.

An example is below. You arrive at the lower right corner of the below junction and the choices to get through it and continue ‘straight’ on your route are exit left at first red arrow, then exit right at next split, the red arrow in middle of photo to get to Green arrow to proceed. The wrong choice will see you at the yellow arrows locked onto other expressways for the next 10 km before you can exit and try find way back.

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At this and many intersections the Garmin simply says ‘Go Straight’ or ‘Driving on E20’ like below with none of the advertised lane assistance or junction view graphics.

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Tasked to route me across the country to the Yokosuka area I never saw once the advertised highway mode displayed despite riding on the busiest and most used highways in Japan. Initially it again refused to take the expressway, rather trying to route via city roads for 100’s of km so I reverted back to my Go-Go Navi iPhone app which immediately showed the faster route. Once on the expressways the Garmin then routed me that way but only half the distance before trying to take me on suburban streets which I ignored.

Another issue is the Garmin maps lack any road speed information. This is not something I want to display on screen however it affects the destination ETA. The ETA would appear to be just a simplistic calculation of distance remaining at an average speed of 90kph. Running the Garmin in simulation mode it will travel everywhere on the route at 90kph even city streets with 40kph limits. I find the ETA time shown to be wildly inaccurate compared to any other country I have used a GPS in and don’t understand why version 15 of a map still lacks this data.

Sorry to sound so negative but understand the Garmin 660 in Japan retails for nearly $700 yet is grossly inferior to a little app on a phone which has lane guidance with junction pictures for every highway and many secondary road junctions as well as accurate routing. It is yet again another lazy half baked effort by Garmin who are able to get away with it since nobody else makes a GPS that you can upload a route to.

Here is this rides interesting old street light photo.

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OK time to get moving again and do some more mountain roads! A little shower of rain but I road clear of it however I did not stop to take photos due to the sprinkle so I cannot show you the excellent mountain pass on route 101. So here is another from Chausuyama.

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Having looped back south towards Shinshiro I took a look at Mt Horaji parkway which was a very nice road but elusive to capture in a photo so sorry here is yet another of the FJR on said Parkway. I am leaving the ignition on to have the LED running light illuminated in the photos just to jazz it up a bit and because I want my tail light on as cars here are not used to foreign blokes pulling up just everywhere to take photos. The bikes here have a hazard light button. I have not seen this on any bike in Australia or elsewhere in Asia. Not sure why as pretty good safety feature. I am starting to remember it and turn the hazards on when pulling up on roads with more traffic. Also here when a slow car pulls over to let others pass the people flash the hazards to the person as they go past to say thanks. I just wave my hand same as I do in any country to show my appreciation. 

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Heading back to Toyota city I rode via My Hongu Skyline. Once this was another scenic/leisure drive toll road but guess not enough traffic or the lease was up and now it is handed back to government and free. I came up behind a couple of cars that looked like Toyota 86’s but were camouflaged. Turns out they were test/prototype Lexus sports cars out testing. Yes this road which runs over to Toyota city would make a pretty good testing ground. The had V8 power and soon left me behind.

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I had a lovely smooth ride back to Toyota City on route 301 then a few smaller roads which trace along besides the rivers that flow in the valleys from the mountains down towards the very large expanse of dead flat land where Nagoya is situated. Lots of abandoned houses along the way, this one below beside a small stream caught my eye. Looks a nice spot, probably could buy it for next to nothing.

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Small waterfalls are found on nearly every road that runs down from the mountains. If I stopped at every one I’d never get anywhere but this one was extra charming.

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Here is another of Japans own unique road signs. And that brings me to the end of another fine ride. 

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Here is more or less the route I took.

2 comments:

  1. Nice, empty roads. I wouldn't have expected this in a country with such a high population density.

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    1. Cities are quite congested. The expressways are like in Europe with rows of large trucks and cars all wanting to go faster. The countryside main roads then have less traffic and smaller trucks. Get off these onto the minor country roads and it really can be quiet. With the shrinking population/economy many small country towns are shuttered up and routes servicing them are very low traffic as are the mountain passes where retreat hotels and ski resorts are also abandoned. Can be a bit sad at times.

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