Full retraction and direct apology to Eido Inoue


At the end of last year I published an essay written by “A Concerned Citizen” concerning cyberbullying and internet smear campaigns. The essay did not withstand the test of critique, but I did not fully delete it because I believed it might not have been 100% false and circumstantial evidence may have existed. I made a promise to do a better job vetting, and I have spent some additional time doing this. It is for this reason that I have changed my stance on leaving the post up with strike-through. I now believe that absolutely no claims exist within the original essay that any reasonable person could call verifiable or even circumstantial. Knowing this, to leave the article up would amount to cyberbullying by A Concerned Citizen against someone who has done none of the things claimed in the essay. I now believe A Concerned Citizen used debito.org for a personal vendetta. A personal vendetta with no truth attached to it does not belong in the historical record and leaving it up is not fair game, thus I will delete it now that I’ve fully confirmed that the essay has no historical worth and is not worthy of discussion. In addition to A Concerned Citizen’s false essay, I have also learned that Eido Inoue properly relinquished his original citizenship as required by the Japanese Nationality Law for naturalization. My accusation was without merit, and I apologize for accusing him without first confirming facts.

I’d like to apologize again to the readers of debito.org, and especially to Eido Inoue, whose name was libeled by A Concerned Citizen for motives I don’t wish to speculate upon. As I said that this essay is not worthy of discussion, I will not approve any further comments regarding this matter. I’m very sorry.

Another trustworthy source connected with the industry believes, short of a miracle, Fukushima reactors won’t be cooled enough in time to avoid “fission product release”


IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito

Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to JapanForeign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  I’m sorry to keep quoting sources who wish to remain anonymous, but this is another person I trust, who says:  “Prefer to remain in the background – for now. Please rest assured, my sources are VERY HIGH up in the industry in the United States and are working 24 hours a day to follow this incident due to the dramatic potential ramifications if multiple units ‘meltdown’.”  However, he wishes for this information to be known, and chose Debito.org to be his venue.  Take this letter within that context.  Arudou Debito


March 18, 2011

In light of the debate occurring over the scope of the nuclear catastrophe on Debito-san’s blog I would like to present some information.

I am not the individual that made the original post (which some have asked Debito to remove) and I agree with some of the arguments refuting that post. Those who have asked Debito to remove the post should also state their credentials as well and provide a more detailed rebuttal to each issue (I do agree with some of the refuting conclusion). My credentials are presented further below.

However I would like to deal with one specific issue, using seawater to cool the reactor and reactor cooling, as this is within my area of expertise. Essentially the only thing that matters now is reactor cooling.

I am glad Debito displayed the original post. It has been interesting for me to watch others debate and react to this issue. I am flabbergasted that the Japanese government and TEPCO still call this a Level 5 incident. I believe it will end up being a Level 6, or if meltdown occurs, Level 7.

Regarding credentials; I have over 25 years experience as a registered professional engineer and have worked in the nuclear power industry. I have performed SSFI inspections (Safety System Functional Inspections) on several power plants and have performed one post accident investigation. My roles in the assessments related to the power distribution system for the reactor cooling system.

I have been discussing this issue with several colleagues, some of whom are top level experts in the nuclear industry and one who is in a position to have access to whatever information the U.S. government has. Because TEPCO has not been at all transparent and has been hesitant to issue any specific technical information on this disaster it is difficult to say for sure what is happening. We also have reason to believe that TEPCO or the government has not been completely forthright (for whatever reason) regarding radiation levels near the plant (but that is outside of my area of expertise).

One of the individuals I have been in contact with has been very accurate in predicting the events as they are unfolding. He was wrong in one of his predictions, that the situation would have resolved itself by now (either meltdown/melt through of the reactor pressure vessel of one of the units or restoration of station power).

We believe radiation is being released in three forms:

1. Slightly radioactive steam from the initial explosions. The initial explosions were caused when TEPCO vented the reactor pressure vessel, hydrogen was released and exploded.

2. Higher levels of radiation being released from burning fuel rods, especially in Unit 4, which was being used for spent fuel storage.

3. Higher levels of radiation from compromised containment in Unit 2 (and possibly other units) due to cracking or some other type of compromising of the containment. This was confirmed last Tuesday when TEPCO and the government reported the pressure in the reactor pressure vessel was at 1 atmosphere (the normal atmospheric pressure outside). Normally these are operating much higher. The fact that these units lost pressure indicates a crack or some type of other event that caused pressure to remain at atmospheric.

At this point the radiation being released is very serious and will undoubtedly cause deaths (most likely in the long term in the form of cancer) in the areas near the reactors (admitted yesterday by the head of TEPCO).

However, the level of radiation released if there is a meltdown of one reactor pressure vessel will dwarf the levels of radiation being released now (up to 10 x 10 to the 5th power higher). This is why cooling is imperative.

Below is our assessment of the situation (this is speculative because TEPCO has not released further information, which may lead us to draw more severe or less severe conclusions). I hope the situation is less severe and they have been able to provide at least minimally cooling.

We believe the cooling situation has become dire. We think at this point, barring a miracle, they clearly are not going to be able to establish any reasonable means of core cooling for the affected units before suffering severe core damage, which means the potential for large fission product release. The wind direction will be up to Mother Nature. The spent fuel pool fire is interesting and very troublesome. There are no barriers against fission product release if the spent fuel rods are involved in the fire. We don’t know the cause of the spent pool fire and nobody’s talking either, which may lead one to draw much more interesting conclusions which are too highly speculative for me to mention.

Below is a technical explanation upon which we base these conclusions.

The earthquake and tsunami caused a “perfect storm” event. That is total loss of onsite power, backup generation, utility station service power, and eventually a loss of DC power due to the fact that the AC power system was not available to charge the station batteries. This is an event that has not occurred before.

We believe that initially the plant did have some limited AC and DC power available, and thus could run pumps and operate valves. However, it appears that they were still unable to keep adequate water on the core. We believe that because of this the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) pressure was allowed to increase to a point that no available pumps had adequate discharge head to overcome the high static pressure in the PRV. In this case the pumps that were pumping try to pump but no water is going into the vessel. We believe with certainty that the most important pump, the High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) pump was not and still is not available. This is a very big pump, 400 horsepower or bigger and is probably too big for the current power available. This pump is capable of dumping 6,000 gallons per minute of cooling water into the RPV.

When they were venting to atmosphere it was clear they were having problems reducing pressure by venting to the torus (which serves as a quench tank during an accident). This led us to believe that the torus was operating at saturated conditions, which means it is not possible to reduce pressure unless the steam bubble in the torus can be collapsed. Obviously they could not do this so they vented to atmosphere and the subsequent explosions occurred. The fact that these initial explosions occurred was due to the fact that hydrogen was vented from the RPV. The presence of hydrogen during the vent was almost certainly due to the fact that the fuel cladding was damaged and the process of a meltdown was in the early stages (likely started very late Friday night or early Saturday morning).

When the fuel cladding material (Zirconium) gets very hot in the presence of moisture it begins to breakdown and hydrogen is formed. The explosions at U1 and U3 were clearly very large, and thus indicative that the operators were venting large volumes of hydrogen gas (along with steam). Because of the magnitude of the explosions (especially Unit 3) this is unmistakably indication of partial melting and deformation of the fuel rod assemblies. This represents the first stage of “melt down.” The fact that the Unit 3 explosion was much, much stronger than Unit 1 indicates the melt down was continuing to get progressively worse. As this melting and deformation progress, the fuel material will eventually drop to the bottom of the RPV. This represents the next stage of meltdown in which the fuel then begins to corrode and melt through the RPV. When this phase of the accident is reached it’s time to clear out (which TEPCO has done, leaving only 50 people on site) since there remains only one of the three fission product barriers intact, the drywell containment structure. At this point we believe that fuel assembly damage has occurred for sure, the core has likely deformed and started to melt, and the process of melting through the RPV has started.

Once you melt down the RPV, you have a “meltdown”. This has not occurred yet, but is still a possible scenario. The only way to avert this is to cool the reactor.

Using seawater to cool the reactor as well as dumping water with helicopters and using water cannons are acts of desperation. Specifically the use of seawater contaminates the reactor cooling system and essentially makes all units scrap and virtually incapable of being reused (good these cannot be reused in my opinion). This is a decision not taken lightly by a utility such as TEPCO.

For your information the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued what they call a “generic letter” in 1988. In this generic letter, which I have sent to Debito-san, the NRC basically addressed this identical event (not tsunami, but total loss of grid power, station service, onsite generation, backup generation, and batteries) and recommended plants using GE Mark 1 reactors address this issue. This was 23 years ago and most or all plants in the U.S. have addressed this issue. It is obvious TEPCO did not with these units. The conclusions in the NRC letter are based on severe accident PRA analyses, which identified two critical areas for the older GE Mark 1 containments that should be improved.

• Alternate water supply to drywell spray & injection
• Better PRV depressurization capability

It is ironic that these were the 2 technical problems that were preventing the plants from reestablishing control in the initial stages of this incident. Had they been able to spray down the torus and drywell, thereby rapidly decreasing RPV and torus pressure, the low head pumps would likely have been available to cover the core. If this would have occurred, they probably would not have needed to resort to seawater injection.

Regarding the management of the situation I have my opinions but will withhold them until the final resolution is reached.

I read the article in the Daily Mail, showing Akio Komiri breaking down and finally admitting that the radiation levels are potentially lethal.




Source letter from United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued what they call a “generic letter” in 1988 (PDF, download, click below:)

Summertime: Debito.org and comment updated less often


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in JapansourstrawberriesavatarUPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito

Hi Blog.  Just to let you know, with it being summertime I’m getting outside as much and as long as possible.  Meaning the blog will be updated less often (as in, not necessarily daily) and comments may take longer to approve.  Bear with me, and enjoy your own summers if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

BLOG BIZ: Access to Debito.org may be sporadic for 24 hours starting 6PM Sat Aug 8


Hi Blog.  Just to let you know:  Due to server maintenance, access to Debito.org may be spotty for a day or two.  Please don’t comment for 24 hours starting 6PM JST today, Sat Aug 8, or until I let you know that maintenance is done.  Otherwise, your comments might get lost in the shuffle.

Thanks everyone for reading and contributing to Debito.org.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Back from lovely trip to Tokyo: Quick update for tonight


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
Hi Blog. Just a quick word this evening before midnight. It was a lovely time again in Tokyo this trip. Fri and Sat were lovely days, no rain despite forecasts. Went out on a catamaran with friend Chris, had a lovely afternoon playing petanque, a French boules game (which, after six hours or so, gives you quite a workout). We had four teams, round robin tourney, friend Monty’s wife as my partner (I signed their marriage certificate last January) and we came in second place! This after it being only my second time playing; thoroughly enjoyable.

Today’s Linguapax conference was excellent, with lots of good presentations on human trafficking on tap. SOUR STRAWBERRIES documentary was well received, felt like I was in the zone with speeches, and copious cross-pollenization of ideas with Frances, Biba, and new campadre in the US Embassy Daniel made Sunday a real joy.

I’ll be back online in earnest tomorrow. Thanks for waiting. Debito back in Sapporo

Debito’s computer is in the shop: Debito.org updated only during business hours JST this week


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

Hi Blog.  A quick post on Blog Biz this morning:

My computer is in the shop for an upgrade this week.  That means that I don’t have a computer at home, and I won’t be able to access email, skype, or Debito.org online during the evenings until probably the end of this weekend.

That said, I will be online every day of course during regular business hours JST, as I have computer access from work.  So blog updates will happen later than usual, and commenters will have to wait a little longer before I can read and approve their posts.

My apologies for that.  I’ll still be blogging daily, as usual, however.  And this morning’s offline status of Debito.org is apparently nothing to worry about.  My sysadmin says the system just “got tired”, in his expert cybermedical opinion… 🙂

Thanks to everyone as always for reading and contributing to Debito.org!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Heading to California tomorrow for a month: Blog updated less often


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  Off to the California Bay Area for a month from tomorrow on business.  Not sure what my Internet access will be like, and it’s summertime anyway, so let’s all take it easy.  My next JUST BE CAUSE column comes out in the Japan Times on Tues, August 5, anyway.  Topic:  Making the case that “Gaijin” is a racist word.

And a personal confession to make:  I’m actually not looking forward to going to The States.  It’s not just that San Francisco is pretty cold (think Kushiro cold) and grey during August.  There’s something I call the “Christmas Syndrome”, in that whenever you try to celebrate Christmas (especially when everyone around you doesn’t understand what the fuss is about), you feel all that much more pressure to be happy, and wonder why you’re so glum.  The seasonal expectation of being happy actually makes it worse.

Same thing with a trip to the US.  Yes, I was born and raised there.  But going there I feel inchoate pressure to feel some kind of link with the place, some feeling of “at home”. I don’t.  I’m afraid twenty one years in Japan (and eight years of a failed and arrogant US presidential administration) have made me unable to feel any real affinity.  So I’d much rather stay in Hokkaido and enjoy the summer, or go to some other country (Canada would be nice) than head back and be a foreigner in contemporary America.  Ah well.  As they say, it’s my made bed to sleep in.

Anyway, enjoy your summer, everyone! I’ll still be writing Debito.org, only probably not every day. Check back in from time to time! Debito in Sapporo

Golden Week Cycletrek 2008 is finished, 621 kms between Miyazaki and Kurashiki


Hi Blog.  Just another quick word to say I finished my Golden Week Cycletrek 2008, 621 kms in six days.  Cycled Kyushu Miyazaki to Nobeoka to Saiki, then ferry over to that funny little peninsula in Shikoku (all sinew and mountains, wanted to see if I could do it) to Ikata to Matsuyama to Shimanami Kaidou to Onomichi to Tomonoura to Fukuyama to Kurashiki.  All safe, save mild sunburn, scrapes, mosquito bites, and some dehydration, with the best weather I’ve ever experienced on any Cycletrek (see reports on the old ones here)–temperate temperatures and no rain the whole way.

I’ll be back to blogging in earnest by May 7, when my next JUST BE CAUSE column comes out in the Japan Times (Tues May 6 in Tokyo, May 7 elsewhere).  Thanks as always for reading.  Arudou Debito in Kurashiki

Writing you from Matsuyama–Cycletrek GW 2008 going well


Hello Blog.  Sorry to be so long in approving your comments.  I’ve been cycling from Miyazaki, via Nobeoka, and Saiki (Kyushu) averaging about 100kms per day, making landfall for the first time in Shikoku at that funny little peninsula jutting out from Ehime-ken.  Writing you from a youth hostel in Matsuyama.  Anticipate several more days over hills and dale, more when I get access to another internet connection.  Hope you’re enjoying the quasi-Golden Week more than I am (and I bet that in the heat of the day, when I see the mountains I somehow have to get over, you definitely are).  Best wishes, Arudou Debito in Matsuyama.

Quick note to readers: Book tour is going exceptionally well…


Hi Blog. Been quiet the past couple of weeks as the HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS Book Tour reaches its home stretch. Just a quick word to tell everyone it’s been a life-changing experience, with boxes of books selling out, warm receptions, and good attendances everywhere. Quite simply, I’m not used to a book selling so quickly and reviews so universally positive. I enter the home stretch today, finishing up in Kansai tomorrow and heading due West to my final venues in Okayama and Fukuoka (see next post for full tour schedule). And if you want more information about the book, the reviews, feedback from readers, and bookstores I’ve personally visited nationwide to get the book stocked, please click here.

I anticipate the Debito.org blog will return to its regular schedule of daily updates by April 3. And my next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column will be out April 1. Thanks to everyone as always for reading! Arudou Debito in Osaka

Debito on tour March 15 to April 1, Blog will be updated less often


UPDATE: WHERE “HANDBOOK” IS CONFIRMED SELLING (see bottom of this blog entry)

Hi Blog. Just a quick word to say that I’ll be on the road from now on, updating my blog (and approving comments) less often. Apologies. HANDBOOK Tour dates again, FYI:

Schedule follows:
March 15-23, Tokyo/Tohoku area.
Sat March 15 6PM-8PM Sendai FRANCA inaugural meeting, Sendai Fukushi Plaza Meeting Room 2 (10F), by Itsutsubashi subway station) (FIXED)
Sun March 16 5PM National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu HQ, Shinbashi, Tokyo (FIXED)
Mon March 17 Roppongi Bar Association, Century Court, Roppongi (FIXED)
Tues March 18 6:30-8:30 PM, Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tokyo BOOK BREAK (FIXED)
Weds March 19, 7PM-9PM Amnesty International Tokyo English Network (AITEN) Meeting at Ben’s Cafe, Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku (FIXED)
Fri March 21, 7PM, An evening with Debito, Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano (FIXED) See Kamesei Blog announcement here.
Sat March 22 10:30AM-Noon with Debito, Kamesei Ryokan, Nagano, Sponsored by 千曲(ちくま)市国際交流協会 (FIXED)
Sun March 23 6:30 PM Good Day Books Tokyo Ebisu (FIXED)

Sat March 15 6PM-8PM Sendai FRANCA inaugural meeting, ) (FIXED)Sun March 16 5PM (FIXED)Mon March 17 Roppongi Bar Association, (FIXED)Tues March 18 6:30-8:30 PM, (FIXED)Weds March 19, 7PM-9PM Meeting at (FIXED)Fri March 21, 7PM, An evening with Debito, (FIXED) Sat March 22 10:30AM-Noon with Debito, (FIXED)Sun March 23 6:30 PM (FIXED)March 24-April 1, Kansai/Chubu area.
Tues March 25, 7PM FRANCA Speech Osaka Shiritsu Shimin Gakushuu Center 4F (FIXED)
Thurs March 27, Speech at Shiga University (FIXED)
Fri March 28 Speech for JALT Kobe 5PM-7PM, Kobe International House (Kokusai Kaikan), Chuo-ku, Kobe (FIXED)
Sat March 29, 1PM-3PM, Speech for JALT Wakayama, Wakayama Int’l Exchange Assoc, Wakayama “Big Ai” Bldg 8F (FIXED)
Sat March 29, 6PM to 8:30PM, Speech for JALT Osaka, Osaka Ekimae Dai-2 Building’s Lifelong Learning Center 6F (FIXED)
Sun March 30, 2PM-4PM, Speech for JALT Okayama, Sankaku A Bldg 2F near Omotecho, Okayama (FIXED)
Tues April 1, 6PM-8:30PM, Speech in Fukuoka, Fukuoka General Union, Biotope NPO Office, Komori Bldg near Hakata Station (FIXED)


Book synopsis here.
See you around! Arudou Debito all over the place.

BOOKSTORES CONFIRMED SELLING “HANDBOOK” (Because Arudou Debito went there personally and asked them to stock it):

TOKYO: Good Day Books Ebisu, Tower Records Shibuya 7F, Aoyama Book Center near Roppongi Station, Aoi Bookstore near Roppongi Station, Aoyama Book Center Roppongi Hills, Tsutaya Roppongi Hills (gave me my biggest order–30 books!), Tokyo University Bookstore, Maruzen Honten Marunouchi, Yaesu Book Center 8F near Tokyo Station East Exit, Dan Books Hamamatsu-Cho, Kinokuniya Shinjuku Honten, Kinokuniya Shinjuku Minami-Ten, Junkudo Ikebukuro, Aoyama Book Center Honten Omotesando, Shibuya Book 1st, Blue Parrot Books Takadanobaba.

OSAKA: Namba Book 1st, OCAT Maruzen 5F, Sanseido Shinsaibashi Sogo Dept 12F, Kinokuniya Umeda by BIG MAN, Asahiya Books Umeda 7F.

KOBE: Foreign Buyers Club (FBC) Rokko Island

OKAYAMA: Ekimae “Happy” (formely Daiei) Dept. Store 5F Hon no Mori no Seruba

SENDAI: Maruzen, Junkudo (Loft 7F), Junkudo (I-Beans Bldg)

SAPPORO:  Sanseido (Daimaru Department Store 8F), Kinokuniya Sapporo Eki, Coach and Four Shinkawa, Coach and Four Munich Bridge, Asahiya Shoten Sapporo Eki, Atene Shoten Eki Mae Doori.

SHIN CHITOSE AIRPORT (the main Hokkaido airport): Bunkyodo 1F, Kinokuniya 2F

Tokyo’s top investment bank has just made HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS standard reading for all of its expatriate staff in or arriving in Japan, according to Ben Goodyear, head of IT there.




一日入国管理局長:宮本さん、個人識別の手続き体験−−東京入管成田支局 /千葉
11月14日12時5分配信 毎日新聞 11月14日朝刊





Debito.org “goes electric”


An administrative note for those who have noticed that Debito.org as of today has “gone electric” (a paean to the time when Bob Dylan used an electric guitar at one of his concerts, much to the consternation to the acoustic folk-music fans who thought Dylan had betrayed his roots), by instituting Google advertising on the blog.

In the more than ten years since I created Debito.org, I have never run this blog or website for profit. Donations have always been welcome, but financial exigencies have brought me to the point where I have added a Google AdSense text button above the search engine. I have taken care to make the ad button small, text-only, and relatively unobtrusive.

My apologies for this. But I held out as long as I could, and have worked very hard to make Debito.org what it is over the years. I’d like to see some return on my investment, however small. Or even just break even somehow for the costs of running it. Thanks very much, everyone, for your support. I hope to keep this blog helpful to the non-Japanese communities in Japan.

Arudou Debito in Osaka

PS: You can also support Debito.org by buying some of our books and t-shirts, if you want…

Off to the USA for a week–blog may be updated less often


Hello Blog. I’m going back to my hometown area for a week (Upstate New York), both to see my family and to attend my 20th Cornell Reunion. So I probably won’t be able to keep up the pace of one new blog entry per day.

But I do have a long stretch (of course) on the plane, and two batteries. So I’ll probably work on my next newsletters in transit, and have them up here in due course.

Thanks for reading the Debito.org blog, as always! Arudou Debito in transit



Hello Blog. Let’s give you a report on a fascinating week, this time blogged instead of the regular html format:


By Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
May 13, 2007

This is not the first time I’ve done something like this. I’ve undertaken a number of cycletreks (see one of my favorite essays at https://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#cycletreks), the last one last summer where friend Chris and I cycled from Sapporo to Abashiri via Wakkanai and Monbetsu (total for me, 940 kms over nearly two weeks). But cycling can be addictive, so long as you can take a bicycle seat numbing your tuckus all day, since it ultimately becomes meditation with a view. And by the end of around the third day, when your body has become accustomed to exhausted early nights crashing in a tent, followed by amazingly-full raring-to-go recovery by sunrise, you get into a rhythm and a self-actualizing sense of accomplishment: You have fuel, functional legs, full tyres, and a flat surface to cycle upon. You feel as if can go anywhere, do anything. All that stands between you and your destination is time–since distance (when you go at least 100 kms a day) becomes surmountable…

Anyway, with that in mind, here’s where my legs took me this Golden Week…


Here’s a scan from my brand-new TOURING MAPPLEmapplecover001.jpg–a new map designed for those who wish to see Japan on two wheels (with tips on where to eat, stay and see for motorbikers):


The island is Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost big island containing Fukuoka as its metropolis. The route I took is traced in blue. Total distance covered: 768 kms over the course of ten days. Average speed for the duration of the trip, 13.1 kph–which sounds pretty doddering (my trip last summer averaged 16.9 kph) until you take into account the difference in terrain between Hokkaido and Kyushu…


Friend Chris (who had the original idea of cycling around Kyushu in the first place–I was originally considering starting in Kurashiki and heading down counterclockwise around Shikoku) put me up in his apartment, and we cycled the surprisingly long distance to Haneda Airport (it’s at least 20 kms from downtown Tokyo) to get our bikes loaded on a regular domestic flight (they won’t take bikes without the front wheel taken off and all the loose parts stuffed into a bike bag, of course). But once finished (JAL, although it won’t take any responsibility for any damage incurred en route, was very good about packing), it was very comfortable to fly in cycling clothes with no luggage for a change.

Once in Miyazaki, I introduced Chris to my favorite chicken nanban restaurant (he’d never had the stuff, but it’s a staple in Miyazaki Prefecture). Then we enjoyed the hospitality of friends in Kyushu (Steve and Masako van Dresser), who proteined us up for the trip, and let us use their living room floor (we had bedrolls and sleeping bags, so no worries).



I’ve been on three separate other cycletreks totaling around a month, and I must say: This was the most difficult cycling day I’ve ever had. And it just had to come on the first day, of course. Although the map indicates that the road hugs the coast (indeed it does), Miyazaki’s roads in this region start about 50 or so meters up on each cape, zooming inland and downhill to a town with a beach and a traffic light (which kills your precious momentum). Then another uphill greets your journey to the next cape rising about 50 or so meters again in elevation. In Hokkaido, at least (the site of all my other cycletreks), coastal roads stay close to sea level most of the time.

Closeup of Toi Misaki. Doesn’t this look flat to you? The coast, I mean. Heading south then west.

This daylong slingshotting up and down took an incredible amount of energy out of me (Chris less so, it seemed–as he’s more than 15 years younger than me, and with a brand new, light, state-of-the-art cycle jeering at my boneshaker of a mountain bike). Not to mention the weather was clear and lovely, but with a small enough headwind to hold me in place and toast the spots on my arms and feet I had missed coating with sunblock…

Some of the many beautiful bay views in southern Miyazaki. Pity we’re looking down upon them from such a high altitude…

Turns out Day Two was an overture of road conditions that would last the entire trip: Zoom down, climb up, repeat, repeat… Then start having thoughts about the cursed inverse proportion of Potential and Kinetic Energy, and the tyranny of the Conservation of Momentum. I hate hills–I mean absolutely *loathe* them; I am not an athlete and always look for the easiest way to get from here to there (hence I credit my cycling mileage to mere stubbornness). Alas, hills are much of what the terrain down here is. Kyushu is in desperate need of an Ice Age…

Lesson we soon learned for those who follow in our wake: If you want to get anywhere in Kyushu in decent time, without a motor, and without significant anaerobic acid buildup in your muscles, stick to the main roads. They generally have some semblance of shoulder or bike path, and remain under ten degrees in slope. Otherwise, all bets are off (there was one detour in Nichinan that involved a hastily-built road with bits–I swear–with about 25- to 30-degree slopes. Don’t think that the small-scale side roads are going to give you scenery worth the effort. Get a motorcycle if you really want to explore.

We cycled past sunset, just made it across the border from Miyazaki Prefecture into Kagoshima Prefecture, and spent the evening in a resort onsen hotel, with baths and nap-inducing reclining chairs. Until we were booted out into the night…



If you really get cartoony about it, Kyushu is shaped vaguely like a upturned cupped hand reaching south to scoop up the islands leading to Okinawa. Our plans were to cross the pinky and head north to Kagoshima City, with its perpetually erupting volcano in the crook of the pinky and ring fingers called Sakurajima. That, however, was not to be.

This being Golden Week, the time when Japan has the most potentially consecutive holidays all year, all the hotels were booked in the onsen areas of port town Shibushi. No worries–tent and sleeping bag were bungee-corded to the back of my cycle, as per plan. What was not according to plan was Chris’s announcement as we were pulling up to Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture’s second city:

“Just got word through my keitai. Family emergency. I’ve got to return to Tokyo immediately.”

Oh hell. So be it. I saw Chris off at the Kanoya bus station (he made plane reservations from Kagoshima to Tokyo in minutes on his cellphone), and I went on alone.

That was better. Nobody to worry about falling behind or keeping up with, or taking responsibility for best-laid plans gone agly. I wound up taking the wrong road, found my way back to the coast, and cycled along the lovely seaside towards Sata (mainland Japan’s southernmost tip–but too hilly for my liking), embarked on a ferry across the bay to Ibusuki (famous for its hot beach sands–get buried up to your neck and experience one of the most relaxing situations ever), and found myself in a campsite overlooking an island connected to the mainland only at low tide.

Exhausted, but made it aboard the ferry to Ibusuki with less than ten minutes to spare…

I was too tired to do much but just pitch my tent, unzip my sleeping bag, and fall asleep shortly after sunset. Again, it takes a couple of days for the body to get into the rhythm…



Again, cycling alone was advantageous because I lost two hours taking the wrong road up a caldera to see Lake Ikeda. To quote Led Zeppelin, nobody’s fault but mine. It wasn’t cycling after a while–it was just pushing the bike up the switchbacks, but that in itself was a nice break from pedaling (i.e. it uses different muscles) and the road was shaded. Interesting also was that occasionally people would actually stop their cars, get out, and talk to me about where I was from and where I was going (the baggage of dealing with a White face speaking Japanese took less time than average to get over, it seemed). And once over the rim of the crater, I was rewarded with a lake view backgrounded by Kaimon-Dake, the Mt. Fuji of Kagoshima Prefecture with its near-perfect cone.

The view of Kaimon-Dake from Ikeda-ko. That’s not the ocean. That’s a lake. Lake elevation 60 meters, I’m at about 100 meters along the caldera rim.

However, I found I wasn’t making good time–it was nearly lunchtime and I hadn’t covered much more than 20 kms, so off I went along the reasonably flat coast to the southernmost city on the ring finger peninsula–Makurazaki.

Famous for its bonito (katsuo), Makurazaki is an industrial seaport town with its coast barred by a wall of cement tetrapots–as if it once got hit by a tidal wave and wasn’t going to get fooled again. Entering the city was no more pleasant–it reeked of smoke and looked run-down and Dickensian. Was glad to head inland on the main road as far north as I could reach that day: Kaseda, or after consolidation with nearby towns, Minami Satsuma City.

I found myself in a marvelous campsite (on a site that apparently had military connections during the war; war memorials to the Tokkoutai (“Kamikaze” pilots) are scattered throughout Satsuma) on coastal Kaseda, being put up in a tent within a tent that could stand a typhoon (we did in fact get zapped by a storm that night, which during my cycle coma I hardly noticed). It was the site of the national sandcastle festival, opening that night, so I got a free fireworks display thrown in. One of the nicest evenings of the trek.

A tent within a tent at Fukiage Hama. Built like a brick shithouse. Could even stow the bike out of the weather within the first layer of canvas…



The storm had blown itself out, and I was able to take a cycle path following Fukiage Hama, a 40-km beach famous as a nest for sea turtles.
A leisurely cycle along rice paddies, windbreak trees, and odd valleys filled with freshwater crabs clacking their way into nooks and crannies (redolent of that scene battling bugs in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG) made me glad I was not miniature. Sunburn had gone a painless burgundy (thanks to evening baths in cold water–a mizu buro was always available in every bathhouse I visited nightly), and once the cyclepath ended 30 kms later, I found myself playing chicken every now and again with trucks on shoulderless roads, wondering if I should take a side road–and realizing I had better not.

In Akune, I found a hotel in my Touring Mapple which had a room, and to my surprise the price listed in the book (a little over 6000 yen including two meals) not only was inapplicable (due to Golden Week), but also the 7500 yen holiday price they quoted me instead wouldn’t even include meals. I called the manager, showed him his Mapple listing, and said I would accept the holiday price (GW premiums were understandable) but wanted meals included. He obliged, and I made up the difference with the cheapest meal on the menu with a side order and a beer. The manager said he would be in touch with the Mapple publishers with a correction…



This would be the most ambitious day on the road, as I would be covering a good distance with some difficult terrain, crossing two islands. Akune to Nagashima Island was fairly pat, with a swift current and a whirlpool under the bridge across, and some lovely terraced paddies covering too much topography. But otherwise the only thing of note was a shed storing a right-wing sound truck (so this is where they keep them…). Ironically parked in front was a jet-black Mercedes, with the circular logo clumsily removed (it’s not Japanese, after all). I reached the ferry between Nagashima and Amakusa islands before lunchtime, and celebrated the half-hour ferry break with a well-deserved nap.

This finally got me out of Kagoshima Prefecture, a place I found (particularly the ring finger and Nagashima) to be sullen and in parts impoverished. Kumamoto Prefecture, starting with Amakusa, seemed much richer, both in culture (there is a long, deep, Christian history with some towns, such as Sakitsu, built around a church!) and in income (receiving port Ushifuka was rich and full of public works). People seemed friendlier and more receptive to tourists (many of the signs were in Korean), and my stop by a roadside stand serving champon (again, recommended by the Mapple) got me a decent bowl of noodles served by a hospitable waiter overlooking the rising tides of the bay.

Champon with a view

But as I aimed my bicycle at Reihoku (a city at the top of the island, which I translated as Zero North until I realized the kanji for “nought” was different), I realized that what the champon restaurateur warned me was true–the roads would get steeper and narrower, down to nearly one lane even on a national road.
A lovely view. Much appreciated if you didn’t have to cycle up and down several of these per day…

Over the course of this trip I felt every kilometer, doddering slowly enough to see monkeys, ferrets, gigantic poisonous centipedes, and all manner of wildlife. But once past the mountain bottlenecks, I had an 11-km home stretch along the coastal plain, racing the sun to the horizon in hopes of reaching Zero North before the winds picked up, and the temperatures dropped again for the night.

The sunset over Reihoku, arriving just in time…

I made it, only to find the Mapple-recommended seaside campsite was primitive, and the administrator (a nearby ryokan) would not sell me a meal or let me into their baths (“Guests Only”, they said). The closest bath was more than 4 kms away, it was already dark and windy, so I resigned myself to a sweaty night in the sleeping bag–my first ever in Japan.

In a foul mood, I biked down to the harbor looking for a meal and found a friendly hole-in-the-wall restaurant, whose patrons soon made conversation as I was their only customer. They were most interested to hear my complaints about the ryokan (“If they are the kanrinin, shouldn’t they be providing some at least some kind of bath? It’s not like they have to buy advance provisions for a meal.”), and promised to pass them up the ladder in this small town. Then they offered to drive me the 4 kms to the nearest bath and retrieve me an hour later. I gratefully accepted, and found myself with the local working-class folk fresh out of work at the town’s biggest industry–the enormous garbage incineration plant, whose twenty-storey smokestack dominates the city skyline. One of the gentlemen in the locker rooms, in charge of plant publicity and used to dealing with NJ visitors, befriended me, listened to my Ryokan Complaint, and also promised to pass it up the ladder. He then showered me with osenbei rice cookies (hey, this is Japan), rubber gloves (clueless why), and information about the town and the plant that he rushed out and got on his own recognizance while I was soaking. I was then dropped back off near my bike, where I cycled in the full moon back to my campsite feeling like I had had yet another one of my little Japan adventures…



I caught the first ferry of the day (8:30 am) across the bay and left Central Kyushu for North. Maybe I’ve mentioned that I hated hills. Well–Nagasaki is nothing but, and getting there after an hour’s ferry ride meant surmounting an 8-km hill between Mogi and the city center. Done in surprisingly short time (when it’s the only hill of the day), I soon rolled into the pizza parlor of Chris Tierney, purchaser of my Japanese Only T-Shirt.
A professional pizza pie thrower (he’s appeared on Japanese TV, taking second place in a national competition, and his dough is the best part of his lovely little pizzas), I ate four of them at CHRIS’ PIZZA during my stay.

Here’s one of them, long since digested…

He also introduced me to several friends, and we not only had a nice walk around the beautiful city of Nagasaki, but also evening beers around his campfire site next to his house on the very top of the hill (which he amazingly walks two and fro every day to get to work).
The view from Chris’s guestroom window in Nagasaki. Note hills.
This was the best night of the trek, and you can read about it a little more (with a photo) on one of the guest’s blogs (http://true-bitch.blogspot.com/2007/05/crusader-on-bicycle.html).



This day should have been total crap, since it was raining constantly (and would without much letup the rest of my trek). But I waited until lunchtime for some abatement, realized after a pizza it was now or never, and bid farewell to Chris (not before a photo–you can see me in my bright-yellow raingear above).

And it was essentially a total crap day. All I could do was dodge car splashes and keep listening to NPR on my iPod, and wonder just how much distance I could cover this day (since I had lost half of it due to a sleep-in in a real bed and a nice breakfast courtesy of Chris’s wife). Chris noted that he’d covered the distance between Nagasaki and the local airport in Ohmura in ten minutes on the expressway. But he’s totaled three cars, so he’s not much of a measure of sane speeds. Even still, I didn’t get through the damn place (the city itself is about 6 kms long) until nearly 4PM, and had the sinking feeling that I would be sleeping rough in the rain in my tent, something I always prefer to avoid.

But I had better luck this time. When I eventually turned inland and finished climbing a 5-km hill (not very steep, but punishingly long) at about 5 kph, I realized that the outskirts of onsen town Yorokobino had some Love Hotels. Problem is, they weren’t offering their overnights unless you stayed in the hotel from after 10 PM, and by now it was only 6 PM. Nevertheless, I pulled into the shabbiest one around (they would probably be more hungry for my business and less likely to be full), and talked the laughing matron of the establishment into taking me in. “Don’t tell our manager, but I’ll comp you two hours. Pay me one Rest Rate and then the Stay Rate and I’ll throw in your meal.” Deal. Total cost: 7600 yen. Given the size of the bed and the bath (big enough for two, natch), plus free TV (I could only stay awake for about an hour of it–devoted to the weather channel, not porno), and curry rice and cup noodle brought to my door. I felt snug and safe as I heard the rain pick up for the evening…



As I said, the rain just kept on coming down, so I slogged it through to the flatlands of Saga (there isn’t much but rurality in the whole prefecture), turned north towards Dazaifu, and realized that despite covering more kilometers than any other day (more than 120), thanks to the lack of topography I was in downtown Fukuoka long before sunset.

Arrival at Fukuoka Airport, trusty hoss as relieved as I…

My host, union activist Chris Flynn, took me into his brand new house, had me fed, and regaled me with stories of labor disputes won and lost. Since I had cut my trip a day short due to the weather, I spent the next and final day cycling around Fukuoka City proper, thinking I might see some of the man-made islands around the harbor. But when drizzle graduated up to downpour with chilly wind thrown in, I gave up and spent the day in a harborside onsen (ironically called Yunohana–the very name of the Otaru onsen which we sued successfully for racial discrimination) warming my bones. Another evening with Chris and family providing wine and SPIDERMAN on the TV later, I was cycling to the airport (probably the most convenient one in Japan–only two kms from the main train station, Hakata) the next morning to pack up my bike and head home, dressed only in short sleeves and shorts (I had thrown away my long-unwashed other clothes), to a Hokkaido about two months behind weatherwise.


I generally like to end my travelogues (see previous ones at https://www.debito.org/residentspage.html#OTHERESSAYS) with some insights into life, the universe, and everything. Doubt if I can this time, really. This report is one I have to toss off in one part because I have a lot of other essays, papers, and speeches baying to be finished.

But one lesson I think I have learned is that when it comes to the unpredictability of a journey like this (where there are so many variables, be it exhaustion, road conditions, fickle fancy of roadside attractions, and most of all the weather), it’s best (for me, anyway) to travel solo unless you really can relate to a partner. For alone, if something goes wrong, there are no fingers to point elsewhere, nobody to curse or blame but the fates, and no guilt for possible bad advice. And if people cycle at different rates, you either slow somebody down or feel like you’re being held back, which is a fun damper. I can’t imagine how others do these treks in groups.

I don’t feel alone in this. I saw other bikers on the trail (not many; about five), and three of them were not at all friendly. They kept themselves to themselves, and were not interested in sharing stories or discovering origins when they had to make a certain amount of distance before nightfall. Or maybe they just didn’t want me to break their meditation or stride. Suited me fine. The interesting thing was that the unfriendly ones looked older than me. Maybe that’s the future.

During one of my refuelling… er… eating breaks outside a konbini… Almost there. Don’t I look social?

Already looking forward to the next cycletrek (Hokkaido again, this summer),
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
May 13, 2007

Back in Sapporo, banned from Nagasaki pizza parlor!


Hi Blog. Just a quick word to say I got back to Sapporo safely yesterday (landing from a Fukuoka flight and making my Business English class with five minutes to spare!). Am trying to get caught up on all my emails and other news from a very eventful two weeks on the road, and will hopefully have a quick report on the 768-km Kyushu Cycletrek written fairly soon.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures of me being banned from Chris’ Pizza in Nagasaki!

Well, okay, he (Chris Tierney) is not really banning me. He’s just another satisfied customer of the JAPANESE ONLY T-SHIRTS available on debito.org. And he’ll be selling them at his parlor in Nagasaki as well if anyone’s interested…

More later! Debito back in Sapporo

Quick post from Nagasaki during Kyushu Cycletrek 2007


Hi Blog.  Writing from friend Chris Tierney*s (of restaurant CHRIS*S PIZZA fame) home in Nagasaki (this during Day 7 of my most recent cycletrek) to let you know that all is going well.  Have gone Miyazaki to Kanoya to Ibusuki to Akune to Nagashima to Amakusa and Nagasaki on my mountain bike.  Next stops probably Sasebo and Maebara before hitting Fukuoka and home again.  Done 548 kms so far, probably a couple hundred left to go.  Had wonderful weather the whole time, but as of this morning my luck has broken and rain is forecast for the remainder of the trip–not sure what to do now except just keep pedalling. That*s all I have time for now.  Will write again after returning to Sapporo at the end of the week.  Debito in Nagasaki.