Since we get up at 5am every day, it was only 1pm by the time we’d packed our gear and started driving to Bandai-Azuma skyline. We were set to show up with just enough sunlight for a few runs of the long, winding active volcano, but arrived to an unexpected twist. The better side of the skyline was temporarily controlled as a one way uphill because of heavy volcanic gas activity. This means the backside is one way downhill but it isn’t really steep enough, and shuttles would mean driving over an hour back up the one way uphill. There was one section in particular that looked the best. A section of the one way uphill has 6 hairpins that are nice and steep with kinks before them, buuuuut it’s a one way uphill road. Was there a way to skate it? We thought so!
We made a plan for a one-and-done raw run of the one way uphill. We weren’t sure if it would work, but we were sure as hell gonna try.
We arrived at the bottom gate before 7am, opening time. While we were waiting, Nori chatted with the man in a Porsche behind us who explained that the police don’t usually show up until 9am, so this is a popular race track. Not great news for skaters riding the wrong way! We let him up the hill first and he was gone in 3 seconds.
We had a system worked out and immediately put it in action. At the bottom of the run, just out of sight of the gate keeper, we unloaded our gear to lighten the follow car and dropped off our radio-man. On the way up we tested radio reception every 5 seconds to ensure there were no dead spots. It was good all the way. Drop in time! I’m not usually so nervous to skate, but this run felt like a military mission. If our radio man signalled “DANGER DANGER” then the follow car would honk many times, immediately stop and U-turn into a safe position. Even though we had constant radio contact confirming a clear road, I was checking the mirrors in the corners carefully. It’s a one way uphill! By a stroke of luck we’d hit a window of zero traffic on first attempt with no danger and after a quick round of high fives, packed the gear back in the car and rolled out, no one the wiser. As it turns out it wasn’t the amazing stretch of road we thought it would be, but the experience of making it happen was the real gem here.
Five minutes further up the road was the peak of the volcano. We hiked up to the crater with our warm coffees to scope the epic views. One peak over was a smouldering active volcano billowing out smoke and just below us was a beautiful piece of road porn. It still wasn’t even 8am so off we drove to continue our hunt for more epic roads.
There were lots of unmapped squiggles on route to the next spot so we detoured to check some out. Most of them were mediocre runs with wide, no-slide hairpins which soon became frustrating but just in time for a good session, we found our gem. Two of them actually, both low traffic, narrow mountain roads with lots of bends and ocaisional hairpins. We raw-runned, filmed, and shot photos until we were spent. We drove way too many one lane mountain roads to find just 2 spots, but after the hard skate session, we soon forgot.
We worked hard all day so when we drove by an onsen with an attached restaurant we were like “Yep, I’m down!” It was in the small town of Mishima on a beautiful riverbank, a great wind down spot. We had just received our ramen when a troop of 10 or so loud firefighters walked in. They had obviously just gotten off shift and immediately ordered a bunch of beers. Nori translated that they were talking about us saying “I wonder where they’re from, one of them looks Japanese!” Soon after, Kenji came and sat at our table, plopping a 2L bottle of Asahi beer on the table. He attempted some broken English before realizing that Nori was in fact actually Japanese. They chit chatted in Japanese for a minute before Kenji turned to Clayton and I and said “YOU WANTU BEER?” and insisted we come join their table. Who would refuse! The entire table of 12 went around in a circle and enthusiastically introduced themselves, standing up and performing erratic hand movements for emphasis. Between their basic English, my basic Japanese, and Nori as translator, we could communicate pretty well.
They bought us 4 or 5 rounds of beer each and stuffed us full of lamb grilled right at our table and even payed for our ramen we ordered earlier.
After one of us would finish a beer, their leader would belt out “ANOTHER ONE, OK?… OK!!!” After the meal we went downstairs for a quick shower and relaxing onsen before hopping in their van to stay the night at firefighter Wesu’s house. We dropped off the drunken firefighters one by one. When their leader hopped out, he gave us a big double shaka and a “YEEEEEAAH.” Wesu showed us into his traditional Japanese style house and we passed out like rocks. What an interesting night with a nice crew of locals.
In Pt 4 of the Rayne Skyline Tour blog, we skate a 27 hairpin one way downhill, get rolled by the cops, and explore a mountain made famous by the car drifting anime series “Initial D.” What do Japanese police think of “gaijin” driving follow car runs? Look for it soon and check out #rayneskylinetour and #japayne for more action!
Thanks for reading,