In 12 days of cycling on Honshu (interspersed with 10 days of volunteering), we covered 800km and 10km of vertical drop in total.
The regions crossed, from Kyoto to Chiba and finally Narita, simply offered us splendid landscapes at every turn and a new change of scenery in the middle of autumn. The weather (as often in Japan) was sometimes capricious but the roads remained pleasant in almost all circumstances! Just like our guests, whom we still thank warmly. Here’s our story day by day.
Day 1: Kyoto-Toyosato (80km)
Kyoto is a small paradise for cycling and tourism. Bike paths are plentiful and it is very easy to get around during the day, from Nishiki Market to philosophy path and multiple temples. G
etting out of the city is quite easy, Maps.Me gives us the opportunity to discover a first tiny road in the forest and we reach Lake Biwa. Reputed because bordered by a cycle road (200km of periphery!), we unfortunately do not enjoy much because the weather is bad. Headwind and intermittent rain, we arm with courage and we end up reaching Toyosato, its cultivated areas (rice, soy, etc.) and its haven of peace at Jacquelyn, our host Warmshowers.
Day 2: Totosato-Sakahogi (90km)
We are heading to our first mountains in Japan. On Jacquelyn’s good advice, we sinued between the woods following streams. Zen atmosphere and a little cool ness. In the afternoon, we reach Gifu and its multiple commercial areas. Not very sexy to pedal and we have to slalom between medium-sized roads not too dangerous and sidewalks shared with pedestrians. Camping, charming lying simple and free, is a nice reward.
Day 3: Sakahogi-Nakatsugawa (70km)
The night was cool and the dew takes us half an hour to find the tent. We go back to the East and our first real passes. Always lots of forests and some beautiful descents, we reach Nakatsugawa at 4pm. Wild camping spot in the municipal park and pubs to watch the Japan-Samoa rugby match. From the pasta to the stove as a feast and then a half at the bar nearby (500 euros …), a very nice evening.
Day 4: Nakatsugawa-Iijima (90km)
3 big passes on the day’s program, we tackle it quite early and the day goes smoothly. The roads are almost deserted and quite steep. Before the descents, a brake check is necessary and sometimes you have to wear a small wool. Drew, from Seattle, with his vintage road bike, catches up with us at the second pass and stays in our mini peloton until mid-aprem. A very nice meeting.
Day 5: Iijima-Suwa (80km)
On the way to Lake Suwa! The roads are not pleasant because they are too busy but you get by by sailing “on sight” on Maps.me. The weather gets worse as we approach the lake and we will end up going around it on its bike path a little in spite of us to find affordable housing. An “adult only” hotel will do the trick, a hot shower and in bed.
Day 6: Suwa-Fujimi (30km)
The exit of Suwa is a bit painful: the commercial areas follow one another and we spend a lot of time slaloming on the sidewalks because of the lack of a pleasant bike route. We still end up finding a parallel road on a balcony that takes us to Fujimi where we dive towards the river and its Michi-no-eki (rest area) adjoining. We take advantage of heated public toilets and wifi and then we set up the tent below at the front.
Day 7: Fujimi-Minami Alps (40km)
Last pedal strokes for this first week. The weather is sublime, we do rather well to “grab” pleasant roads. Around noon the Fuji appears in the distance and we begin a gentle and long descent to Kofu, witnessing the passage of the rice harvest (by machine, we are far from the artisanal methods of Laos!). M
inami-Alps here we are. Our environment for the next 15 days will be made of apple trees, cherry trees, persimons and irrigation canals lined with micro-roads ideal for the “bike-taf” HelpX that awaits us!
Day 8: Minami Alps-Fujikawaguchi (60km)
With our heads full of memories and delighted with our volunteering experience, we leave Minami Alps in the late morning until the heavy downpours of Typhoon 20 calm down. Past the Kofu basin, we begin a long climb, passing first in a few deserted villages and then in a forest path lurking with dead leaves, supposed to be closed in prevention of typhoons. The fog makes the atmosphere really special and we are relieved to finally find the pass. A few dozen kilometers of bumps and a tunnel (not very reassuring by bike but well lit) and we finally reach Lake Fujikawaguchi! Mount Fuji is well hidden behind the thick cloud ceiling…
Day 9: Fujikawaguchi-Hadone (70km)
At dawn, on the roof of our hostel, we discover the Snow-capped Fuji. It’s sublime! Until the early afternoon, this landscape will captivate our winding roads towards the second Lake Yamanaka, bordered by a very pleasant bike path.
After a good break, we set the throttle to Hadone where our American hosts Warmshowers Rich and Joan are waiting for us. The descent is really dizzying (often 15%) and we are not dissatisfied with doing so. We arrive at night and spend a great evening chatting bike, Japan, work, etc.
Day 10: Hadone-Miura (60km)
Departing 9am from Hadone, we follow a fairly convenient canal to the bay. The marine atmosphere of the Pacific Ocean is exotic after more mountainous days. Surfers are very numerous although the waves are quite rare! As we approach Miura, we choose to use the centre of the peninsula rather than the coast. It’s a bit hilly and full of tunnels that fortunately have wide sidewalks. The weather is getting worse and we are getting lost in Miura because we have not properly placed the gps coordinates of our host. Fortunately, Stephen eventually locates us and tells us the way forward. Relieved, we arrive at night and enjoy an excellent meal prepared by his partner Kyoko.
Day 11: Miura-Chiba (80km)
We will remember this 25 October for a long t
ime… It’s rainy day in Miura, and the sky doesn’t pretend. Waterspouts and gusts of wind but we have no choice: we have to reach Chiba so we don’t have to risk missing our plane the next day. We put on our k-ways, our rain pants and let’s go. After 10km, soaked to the bone, we take the ferry to cross Tokyo Bay. 40min later it’s left for 70km of non-stop shower. Sometimes the rain stops but it starts again and floods appear on the outskirts of Chiba. We take refuge years a department store and finally arrive at their destination at 6pm. Aya and her son Kai welcome us, then Yujio comes home from work. They are charming and especially experienced cyclists: South America, Central Asia, their photo books make you dream. And the meal we also share!
Day 12: Chiba-Narita (50km)
Last day, we have to close the loop. The temptation was great to put our bikes in the car trunk of Yujio towards the airport but we decide to rally the last 40 kilometers on our mounts. The road is pretty good, apart from the dangerous tunnels on the outskirts of Narita. 1pm, we have 3 hours to disassemble, pack our bicycles to check in and then board for Los Angeles!