Story on Benka Pulko's entry, March 2000

Story on Benka Pulko's entry, March 2000

by Hugo Vanneck

Benka arrived on Monday from Indonesia for the Japanese leg of her world tour. She arrived at around 1pm at my place and we (Benka, Yuko and I) set off, after a cup of tea, of course, for Yokohama where her bike, an F650, was waiting at the quayside warehouse. Yokohama is about 20 miles south east of Tokyo.

The journey down took around 2 hours on the congested National Route 1.

(It's against the law in Japan to carry a passenger on a bike on the expressways). Benka was very excited to see her 'boyfriend' waiting there (apparently, bikes are masculine gender in Slovenian) and we had to drag her away to the office to get the landing fees paid as time was pressing. The agent took Benka's 14,459 yen and told her she had to take her Carnet to the customs but to be back by 4 as the warehouse closed then. It was 3:15.

We got to the nearby customs building 5 minutes later, expecting to be in and out in 20 minutes or so only to be told by the 'faceless bureaucrat' with a stupid face that the Carnet on its own wasn't acceptable. This amazed Benka as at all the customs offices in all the countries she'd passed through the customs officers had taken 5 minutes to check the details of her carnet, stamp it and send her on her way.

"Ohhh no! Here in Japan we do the job properly. You see...look!... when the bike left Australia the customs officer there put 'SYDNEY, Australia in the place where they should have written just 'Australia'. We don't make mistakes like that! Other countries are inexcusably lax. This Carnet might not be genuine so you have to get it authenticated. These things need to be taken very seriously". A complete twerp, and the epitome of Japanese bureaucratic anal retention.

In Japan, Carnets have to be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity which is issued, free, by JAF (the Japanese Automobile Federation). For anyone's information, their head office is at:

Masonic 39 Mori Building 11F
2-4-5 Azabu-dai,

tel: 03 - 3578 4910 fax: 03 - 3578 4911

So we had another 1 and a half hours of congestion, 2 up, back to Tokyo. The next day my girlfriend Yuko went with Benka to the office where they were dealt with by Ms. Chitose Matsuura who was extremely kind and helpful.

Yesterday, armed with the JAF paperwork and Carnet we went back to Yokohama. This time, however, as I neared the entrance to the Dai 3 Keihin expressway I thought, "F.... it!" and shouted across to Yuko on her Moto Guzzi, "Let's take the expressway" and with the image of Yuko's eyebrows raised in amazement took the plunge. GOD! WAS IT EXHILARATING! The first time I'd ever gone on the expressway in Japan with a passenger.

Yokohama was reached in about 15 minutes as I hammered along doing a very illegal 120kph (the limit for bikes is 80 kph, for cars it's 100 kph). GOD it felt good! Pulling up at the toll booth the guy was very cheerful as he took my money and then said, "They (the cops) make a fuss if you carry a passenger, you know..." to which I gave him a wide grin and said, "It's okay if they don't catch you", which he evidently thought was the funniest thing he'd heard all day and set him off guffawing to himself as we headed for the port.

The Carnet check took an hour as they had the office newby do the work under supervision. We felt like telling them what we thought of this, as the supervisor explained the importance of training while apologising for the time it was taking. Jerk! Jerk! Jerk! as it neared the 4pm deadline for getting the bike. We made it just in time, however.

You should all see Benka's F650. It travelled, to say the least. While Benka checked her luggage Yuko and I attached the wind shield which had been removed for safety during the voyage. At first the bike wouldn't start so we had one of the plugs out (a PIA compared to a Boxer) to check for spark. Sparking okay so we put it back in. As Benka was busy I spent the next 10 minutes pushing the starter button at 20 second intervals until there was a hint of combustion. 4 more goes and it started up. Single cylinders sound to me like they're only firing on one cylinder which of course it is but it's odd when you're used to a twin.

Benka was thrilled to be back on the bike. I had a lesson to rush back to teach so I left Benka in Yuko's capable hands to guide her back to Tokyo while I raced ahead. They came back to my flat in Tokyo to pick up some stuff before heading out to Chiba to the east of Tokyo where Benka was meeting up with a friend before going up north for a few days.


Tokyo, Japan


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