A little background: Japan is an volcanic archipelago with a combined land mass of about the size of the state of California. Almost 75% of this land is mountains, which is bad news for agriculture, but for the biker it means an endless supply of fiercely beautiful mountain roads.
This is combined with an economic prosperity that results in those roads being well-maintained, and a generally polite and friendly populace making one feel welcome wherever one ends up at the end of the ride.
Old & New
Something that you'll find mentioned in any book about Japan is the "paradox" of modern life coexisting with ancient tradition. One of the great things about riding in this country can be the direct experience of the thousands of years of history. In the countryside you sometimes find yourself riding through old towns straight out of a Kurosawa film that haven't changed significantly since before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Or you park your bike by a castle moat and climb up endless steps, sweating in your leather as the samurai sweated in their armor, to look out from the castle parapets over the modern cityscape below.
We rode our modern machines up cobbled streets in the ancient capital of Kyoto to the ryokan, or traditional inn, where we spent the night.
On a run with the local Harley Owners Group, Stinger and all 40 of his fellow bikers got their bikes blessed by a Buddhist monk.
On one level, Japan is one of the most modernized countries in the world, and the high pace of Tokyo city life can wear down the spirit, but the biker doesn't have to go far to find a connection to something deeper and more timeless.
The sense of brotherhood is something that riders around the world share, but there are some interesting differences here. Posing is possibly even more widespread here than in the states, as the Japanese put a lot of emphasis on appearances, but this does not include the negative attitude that one expects from posers in America. The rider brotherhood here is inclusive rather than exclusive in nature. "I don't wave to [insert type of bike here]" is not an issue here. Nor is "I'm a real biker, you're not." And the sheer size of the biker population means that you can find friends wherever you travel.
The volcanic nature of these islands has created onsen, or hot springs, in every corner of the country. After a long day of riding, even if you're staying in a deserted campground in the middle of nowhere, you can expect a warm, relaxing bath at the end of the day to clear off the road dust and relax the muscles.
Need I say more?
It's hard for us to say nice things about cagers, and the good things we have to say are only relative. Because there are more bikes here, cagers are at least dimly aware that there might be a bike next to them, and are therefore slightly less likely to kill you. And most cages will move out of your way to let you between lanes in traffic if you rev your engine at them (though this is almost never true of Benz or Beamers).