Bikers and Brotherhood*

The last post was for all my Japanese biker friends. I apologize to any anglophone readers who weren’t able to read it, but this post is for you. (Yes, both of you!)

Last weekend was the first annual Matsumoto Camp, a new rally sponsored by Heaven & Hell MC, a biker club from Matsumoto city in Nagano Prefecture. I’ve known these guys for years, and we usually meet up a few times a year at other rallies like the Vibes Meeting, the Love & Peace Ride, the Brotherhoods Meeting, and the Hirayu Camp (which is run by SPLENDOR, the club I belong to.)

One thing I love about rallies in Japan is the moment of arrival at the campsite, when the bikers you know all yell out your name and rush up to shake your hand and welcome you. People you’ve maybe only met once before, people you look forward to seeing at every rally, people you haven’t seen in a year or more, bikers of all ages and from all over the country who rode all the way there to see each other—everyone is expressing the same feelings. There’s something we share that can’t be easily articulated—the joy that we’ve reached a place where like-minded people can gather, a place where bikers can be bikers. It’s more than just camaraderie; it’s true brotherhood.
Big Ben with Heaven & Hell

You also feel this during the last few hours heading towards the rally, as you find more and more bikers heading the same way, and you know they’re all enjoying the same roads and feeling the same anticipation.

At the campsite itself, you can wander from campfire to campfire, knowing that you’ll be welcomed with food and drink and good times.

Last week’s Matsumoto Camp was perfect in all these ways. Because it’s a first-time rally, it was small—less than 200 bikers—so the sense of family was even stronger than usual. The site was on a mountain overlooking Matsumoto city, with enough space that you could park your bike by your tent and enjoy a beer by the campfire while admiring the view. I’m already looking forward to next year.

*Language geek stuff:
It bothers me that English doesn’t have a word as evocative as “brotherhood” that isn’t gender-specific. After all, many of the bikers I feel this way about are women.
In Japanese, it’s even worse because the Western concept of brotherhood is culturally difficult to express. In Japanese culture, the heirarchy between older and younger siblings is pretty strong, so the sense of equality expressed by “brotherhood” is lost in translation.
But hell, who needs a word for it when we’re living it?

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3 thoughts on “Bikers and Brotherhood*”

  1. James, I like your club’s mission statement.
    Looks like a great group of bikers with a great philosophy. If I ever end up in Northern California I hope you don’t mind if I look you guys up. 

  2. Wow, that looks like it was an awesome little rally. I felt a similar “brotherhood” sense hanging out with the Club X4 guys (and they’re all guys, so it was a brother hood).

    As one of them said, we feel an even closer bond than usual because we all are stuck with a bike that Honda discontinued after only 7 years of production (but we love it!) 

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