Bikers talk a lot about why we love to ride, but the many different reasons we started riding in the first place can be fun to talk about as well. Bikers, like superheroes, all have their own origin stories, so here is the story of how a couple of mild-mannered Japan Studies geeks became the world famous (allowing for a wide interpretation of the words “world” and “famous”) Gaijin Bikers in Japan.
The Stinger and I had both felt drawn to Exotic JapanTM from a young age. We majored in the ever lucrative field of Japan Studies in college, and then came here to seek our fortunes shortly after graduation. But, as happens with many who travel to distant lands in search of adventure, excitement, and really wild things, eventually the daily grind of work, familiarity, and the stress of high-paced Tokyo life took quite a bit of the adventure out of the experience.
A few years later we took the shinkansen down to the Kansai region for a week of sightseeing and partying, hanging out with people speaking a very different dialect in the distinctive cultures of Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Kobe. That was when the epiphany came.
We didn’t come to Japan to become experts on Tokyo; We came to Japan because we wanted to know Japan, and this wasn’t going to happen by taking train trips every once in a while. The only affordable solution was motorcycles. (Let’s ignore for the moment that we eventually ended up buying more expensive bikes than we could reasonably afford.)
We got our licenses and bought our bikes not knowing what was in store for us. But as Stinger said about the moment he first sat on his bike, the feeling of liberation was overwhelming. Suddenly we had the freedom to go anywhere, anytime. We could go places most foreigners never go, and see Japan and its people in ways that were never available to us before.
We took every three-day weekend and extended vacation we could get and crisscrossed this country, getting to know Japan more deeply and fully than before, and we became addicted to the romance of the road and the thrill of the wind in our faces. And it is there, out on the road, that we discovered the Japanese biker culture that keeps us (relatively) sane. The bikers we’ve met in our travels are the best friends anyone could hope to have, and life is never dull.
To any foreigners out there feeling burnt-out with your Japan experience: Get a bike now and learn what it means to be truly alive. There is a deeper and more beautiful Japan out there than you know.
More than a decade has passed since that fateful day when we started our engines for the first time. Our lives have changed forever, and the adventure is far from over.
The Gaijin Bikers ride on…