Bikers ride from Tokyo to Yokohama

Bikers ride from Tokyo to Yokohama

Three cool guys, bikers, like musketeers of varied talents and abilities, had met for the first time in the countryside north of Tokyo in Japan. It was the first face-to-face of two business partners and their Instagram friend Nero, the self-appointed nickname of a Harley pinstriper and video creator. Nero was looking forward to it, but like most Japanese, his English writing is much better than his English speaking. So he invited a local friend, me, an expat from Los Angeles, California, living in Japan for over 15 years, to help with the conversations. The chance was intriguing, the meet turned out to be full of good vibes and positive energy, and after a nice brunch at a café and custom Harley store, our day was almost through, as Mike and Marco (Last Breyt) had to return to Tokyo. I wished them well, hoping to stay in good contact, inspired by the spirit of everyone involved.

The morning meet.

The next day a big bikers cruise was planned, but I passed, as I was exhausted from menial tasks and schedules back home. But Nero, being the great beacon of positivity, not only invited me to join with my recently built Harley Evo, but didn’t even seem to perceive my doubts about making it. He just told me the morning meeting place locally and ended with, “See you there.” Don’t you just love it when a friend knows how to drag you out for some fun?

We met at the highway rest-stop / meeting place on a crisp, clear, but freezing Sunday morning, just two bikes, and headed to the heart of Tokyo. It’s quite a wild feeling, riding with these new biker friends of mine. Their passion for motorcycles is glaringly apparent, with almost every part of their bikes customized in such personal and varied ways. And their knowledge is equally impressive. I’ve ridden bikes my whole adult life, but only recently dove into the custom Harley world after putting in a year of sweat and tears at a famous local Harley builder.

“It was enough for me to know the ins and outs of these monstrous street machines. The custom culture was real to the bone. Riding bikes is dangerous enough. Saddling up on an ancient-designed primitive beast and proudly making it yours and only yours is quite another thing altogether.”
So here I was, rattling on my own dream creation, closely following a friend transformed into his superhero version of black leather and silver flames, both of us barreling like bullets from the quiet green countryside into the overwhelming spaghetti-patterned metropolis to meet friends old and new.

Magic the gathering.

Once we reached Tokyo, Nero and I met up with Marco and Mike at the bike rental shop. Only Mike could cruise because he had a ready international license, but lucky Marco: he could ride Nero’s bike as a passenger, and soak in all the view! What a perfect weather day it turned out. The whole week was rainy and dreary, and it’s like the heavens opened up. Blue skies, dry streets, fresh new air, and the anticipation of an exciting group ride. I’ve been in Japan so long, that I often overlook the fascinating and quirky things about Japan. The funny drinks in the vending machines. The kindness of almost everyone you meet. The cleanliness of every sidewalk. Chatting with Marco and Mike was such a pleasure, and being their interpreter was easy and quite fun. They had so many questions, and it was like giving a guided tour of Disneyland. Everything is worth being wide-eyed tourists.
And the bikes started appearing. Nero’s biker buddies rode up, their Harley’s customized beyond imagination. It’s a lot to take in. And what cool guys so far. Marco, the Italian that seemed to make everything look cooler and more fashionable. And Mike, the soft and intelligent spoken giant of the group. Another rider had a helmet so vintage and minimal, he looked like a street-fighting anime character with oversized body and small head. All three of us could laugh forever at how different everything was around us. A random new Lamborghini zooming by. Loud as hell giant scooters echoing throughout the tall buildings everywhere.
Once we got all ready to ride, off we went, a group of five now, to meet more bikes at a park. Once there, we found a side road lined with even more custom chariots, everybody standing around and waiting for more arrivals. The park was packed with citizens enjoying the clear day, but we were focused in amazement at all the Harleys. And the riders, and their gear, their fashion. The various helmets. No one was matching like a notorious biker gang. Everyone seemed to represent a different school of thought. We saw 50’s-style leather jackets, skater-style shoes. One girl rider had a giant fuzzy purse. And the bikes were stanced like powerful rockets, or raised like a chair tilted back. Plus adding stickers and small labels to the bikes and frames seem to be all the rage. So many details, so little time.
The open roads awaited like the open cloudless skies. But open roads in Tokyo are like winding pipes in a Super Mario game. First we’re in downtown flat-roads, intersection after intersection. Then we’re on two-lane highways that are bridges and tunnels at the same time. The caravan must have been over 14 bikes! All roaring through the cement maze. Plus, at least four of the riders were deft photographers, carefully choosing the safest times to whip out their cameras and take endless photos of hair-raising moments of the other bikers as they passed slowly by. What a thrill! Many hand waves, many poses, many a peace sign were thrown in the flowing high-speed air.

Parking of the gods.

The main objective of our recently formed cast was to reach the most famous spot for custom vehicles in Japan, the Daikoku PA (Parking Area), which is simply one of many highway rest-stops for weary drivers to take a break, or buy coffee and snacks at a convenience store. What makes this stop so famous is that it was built in recent years on a man-made islet in the Yokohama bay, along a very popular route taken by street racers in Tokyo. So, it’s always poppin. Always packed with fixed-up cars of all types. But a rest stop is a rest stop, and our motorcycles fit just perfectly near the front of the plaza filled with drink machines and paths to the spotless toilets.
“The feeling once we reached this parking heaven was beyond imagination. No other thing to see, but cool cars coming, cool cars going, and cool cars shining under the clear blue sky above, a giant circular window of blue created by the surrounding ramps like an open air sports arena. For gear-heads, this was Mecca in Japan.”
Even the name Daikoku comes from one of the many gods of luck and wealth. Our group was having a blast just getting to know each other and each other’s bikes. Mike and Marco were introduced to a wonderful game of rock, scissors, paper, to determine what lucky individual must buy coffee for the whole group! And the lucky winner/loser wasss… Mike! I don’t know myself how to improve in that game, but I’m sure systems have been developed by Japanese school kids throughout the years. It’s called Janken in Japanese, and it’s used by almost all ages, to make group choices and decisions of all types. After hilarious conversations and fascinating bike-talk, off we went, to all have a nice meal together in the trendy Yokohama downtown bay area.

Fox jumps over river, relaxes, tail wet.

After arriving in the Yokohama Bay downtown area and enjoying a well deserved meal, the group had a chance to really bond and take in all that we saw. It was such a perfect afternoon, and the clear sky was dominated by a few amazing architectural buildings. We took many more photos of our bikes. Marco again was in his natural element, as Last Breyt everyone wanted a cool photo with him on a motorcycle. It was also a chance to really appreciate the works of art that these Harleys were. Custom painted frames, chromed engines, hand-fabricated fairings and such. Unique one-of-kind bikes ridden by riders that were equally proud of their own uniqueness. I’m sure custom-bike culture is like this the world over, but it’s especially enjoyable in the land of Japan, where most citizens are not as flashy or open about their passions.

When it was getting close to dark, everyone eventually said their farewells, especially to Mike and Marco, the guests of honor. I’d say it was more than a mission accomplished. We knew that it was a special day, and without much effort, turned out like a dream. But every dream can have a few twists and turns, and our story didn’t end without some slight drama. In my dreamy eyes, as we parted from the sidewalks turned parking lot, I could faintly remember Mike mentioning that he parked his rental bike a ways away, and to not leave without him. Instead in the chaos of exhaust notes and glowing red tail-lights, half of the group went their own way home, and half went to return Mike’s rental bike… without Mike! It was only after a few signals that I and a few other riders noticed that we were one rider shy of a correct number of bikes!
Damn! As the unofficial translator, I felt so bad. We lost Mike in the spaghetti! We pulled over and reached him by phone, luckily, but I wouldn’t even know how to explain where we were or how we got there. Tokyo is such a twisting snake pit of roads and bridges, with endless nameless buildings. It’s virtually impossible to describe your current location. Road names are also out of the question, it seems. Finally, Mike hooks back up with the group (yay smartphone map apps!), and off we go.
Only to lose Mike again, this time because of the confusion of which highway split to take! What an exhausting predicament it must have been for Mike. Finally though, we made it to the rental shop, returned the bike, and made our final farewells. It was quite an adventure, and we had to pay a little extra in tears and sweat towards the end. Nero and I returned to the northern countryside like bats out of hell again, frozen solid from the winter winds that recaptured the night. I’d say we flew to the heavens that day, in the skies of Zeus. And high-tailed it out from the belly of the beast that night, safe from the depths of Hades.
Play Video about Bikers ride from Tokyo to Yokohama video

Written by Rob Palazuelos

Photos by

You might also like