Diaries co-founder Anabela Valente pictured in Shinjuku, Tokyo, next to the duo's motorbike with Luxembourg plates. All photos: Diariesof
Jorge and Anabela Valente, co-founders of “Diariesof”, set out with a mission three years ago: to reach Japan from Portugal, on motorbike and a budget. The two succeeded and on Tuesday shared their Japan highlights to fête the 11th issue of their bookazine.
The Valentes spent around two months travelling throughout Japan. They entered the country via the port of Sakaiminato, having taken the ferry with their motorbike from South Korea (which they had, in turn, reached by ferry from Vladivostok, Russia).
Over a sushi and sake tasting at the Rotondes on Tuesday evening, the pair captivated the packed room with their impressions of everything from the neon lights and skyscrapers of Tokyo to more rustic areas, like the Japanese Alps on Honshu, where they saw macaques bathing in hot springs, to early morning hikes which afforded them sweeping vistas over the “sea of clouds” and the villages with traditional, preserved farmhouses which reminded them of Switzerland.
The Japanese deep respect for one other--but especially for nature-- made an impression on the pair too. They visited some of the onsen, or hot springs, found in over 25,000 spots in Japan.
“Listening to one's own body, soul and spirituality is an important concept in Japan,” Anabela said. “For that, they immerse in nature as often as possible, be it while dipping in hot water sources amongst nature or when having natural therapies, such as forest bathing. Believe it or not, we have been hugging trees since we visited Japan, and we somehow feel the energy.”
Jorge Valente making a new friend along the way
They also recounted their experience trekking along a portion of the old Nakasendo trail, a mountain road joining Kyoto and Tokyo, traversed by pilgrims and samurai across the centuries. The area still provides a sense of yesterday in that some of the towns keep everything traditional--including not having overhead electric cables--and along the walk, bells are posted so walkers can ring them to keep the bears away.
A bigger goal in mind
Jorge and Anabela are well-seasoned travellers who say they enjoy getting to know the locals and learning from them. The two began intensely travelling on motorbike during a 6-month sabbatical in Latin America in 2013. Upon return, they realised they still wanted to be on the road and, by 2014, “Diariesof” was launched. Since then, the two have travelled over 75,000km on motorbike and the bookazine is in its 11th edition.
“From the financial point of view, we found out that travelling with a motorbike, a tent and an oven is actually one of the most affordable ways to travel, so with the sales of the magazine and other smaller projects, we do manage to make our trip sustainable,” Anabela said.
Anabela pictured in front of gasshō-zukuri farmhouses in the Japanese Alps
The Portugal to Japan leg is actually the first in a number of journeys the pair hopes to make. “Our ‘hidden’ plan was actually go around the world with our motorbike,” Anabela said. Upon finishing the Portugal-Japan leg, “There was a sense of achievement, because we confirmed we could handle and enjoyed the challenges of long-haul travelling.”
It’s that kind of high energy and desire to inspire others that will help drive the next leg of the journey…
Before leaving Japan, the Valentes shipped their motorbike to their next destination: Cambodia. In a week, they’ll head to Phnom Penh to begin another adventure in the region, a trip which will also take them through Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. They plan on returning to the grand duchy by May, but the next “Diariesof” countryfocus is still to be determined. “We’ll see which one will touch us the most.”