26 days, ~1 400 km from Shimonoseki through Kyoto to Tokyo
(along the “Length of Japan” route, part I and part II)
Day 33, 03.30, Friday: Shimonoseki – Ozuki – Mine (40 km)
After arriving Honshu (mainland of Japan), ride from Shimonoseki 15 km along R2 to the north east. From Ozuki ride into mountain village route alongside of Chugoku High Way heading to Mine City, instead of heavy traffic R2. Unspoiled countryside will appear on your sight!!
Day 34, 03.31, Saturday: Mine – Mito – Asahi – Hagi (48 km)
Next destination is Akiyoshi Dai, which is the largest limestone “karst” tableland in Japan.
Take the prefectural road 33 to the north from Ozuki Town to Mine City then take R435 or Prefectural road 32. You should see many tourist signposts and directional road signs for Akiyoshi dai along the road because it is has many very famous sightseeing spots. So, you should not have to worry about becoming lost. Riding up to Akiyoshi dai, you will get a good sight of a wide stretch of grassland dotted with many with white rocks and limestone outcrops. This is the celebrated karst limestone area. It is in a mountainous area and is almost in the forest but only Akiyoshi dai area is the only section covered by grasslands.
Beneath this karst tableland there is limestone cave (Akiyoshi dou) which is the largest in Asia: 30m deep, 20m wide and 1 km long. You may feel as if you are in a set of a Hollywood movie.
Riding on down prefectural road 32 to the Japan Sea you will arrive at historical Hagi City. This city has been left undamaged by wars or natural disasters since 1604 when Mori Shogun developed new land for a castle following the Battle of Sekigahara. So this castle town still retains historical architecture and ancient streets.
This area is very close to the Asian mainland of Korea and China so that samurai from this town was keenly aware of what was happening around the world even during the period of national isolation of the Edo Era (1603-1868). After he saw what had happened in China, Yoshida Shouin Japan about the dangers of colonization by European powers a. Many young samurais gathered in his school to study . Those Samuraiswent on to play an important role in the Meiji Restoration, ending the Isolation and starting the process of westernization.
Day 35, 04.01, Sunday: Hagi – Tsuwano – Nichihara (65 km)
Take the prefectural road 11 and then 13 which will take you to Tsuwano Town which still contains many older historical features . This town was developed as a fortified castle town in the 13th century and was famous as “Little Kyoto”. This town is quite small so don’t ride quickly through here but get off your bike and walk around pondering about “What the Japanese have achieved and what they have lost by modernization…” North up 10km along R9 from Tsuwano you will arrive at Nichihara town.
South of Nichihara, climbing up some quite steep slopes, there is a big astronomical observatory and, nearby, the Makurase camping site (400 yen per night). This astronomical observatory was constructed in 1985 and many tourists and space enthusiasts used to visit to see the 75cm-aperture reflecting telescope. But now it is less of a novelty, so fewer people visit but that makes it better for a visit to the stars. The facility is open 12:00 to 22:00.
Day 36, 04.02, Monday: Nichihara – Tsuwano – Kakinoki – Muikaichi – Mikawa – Iwakuni (79 km)
Along the R 187, heading towards Hiroshima, there is the area which has the most aged population in Japan. The aged proportion (persons over 65 years-old ) is more than 30 % of the total population.
Kakinoki village, 13 km from Nichihara is a good example. There are two reasonable and plain Onsen houses to stay and have a closer appreciation of and communication with these aged village people. R 187 runs along a river in the forest, with fewer cars and gentle ascents. Enjoy biking in bracing, fresh air.
Passing the peak Boujiga, take R 187, then take R2 to left, you will soon arrive at Iwakuni City near Seto Inland Sea. There is a very famous bridge before entering the center of the city, near the youth hostel, its name is Kintaikyo Bridge.
This is a masterpiece of Japanese wooden architecture; and surely one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. It is composed of five connected wooden arches and its length is 193 m. Not a single nail was used in its construction and all fastenings are of wood. This structure is very special and almost unique and the bridge is visited by numbers of architects from all over the world .
This year the bridge was repaired and rebuilt using traditional materials and techniques, the first time for 50 years.
Next to the bridge there is a large park “kikka Kouen” and a good place for bush camping. Please be careful with your fire and sleep well.
Day 37, 04.03, Tuesday: Iwakuni – Waki – Otake – Miyajima Island by ferry (30 km), optionally: around the Island – 20 km
Ride to the north along the seaside flat and busy road, R 2, towards a large island. This is Miyajima Island, Itsukushima jinja, a World Heritage Shrine. The shrine itself is considered to be of great value, but more than that, the shrine’s design harmonizes with the rise and fall of the tide, adding to the beauty of the structure and its compatibility with nature. Such a shrine in the sea cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Thus it is designated officially as a precious World Heritage asset. But these days the high tide level is rising (recent climate change thought to be one reason) and the sea often floods the floor level. So this is the time to visit, with your bicycle, and take a picture before flooding becomes a real problem. The boat fee from the mainland to the Miyajima Island is 270 yen including bike (one way).
Day 38, 04.04, Wednesday: rest day, visiting Miyajima and Hiroshima
From Miyajima you can see a big city Hiroshima, which has a population of 1,200,000. As everyone knows Hiroshima is the atomic bomb Ground Zero and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
Day 39, 04.05, Thursday: Miyajima – Hiroshima – Kaita – Kumano – Kurose – Yasu-ura – Akitsu – Takehara – Mihara – Onomich (100 km)
Along the seaside road, you will enjoy the contrast of small islands and peaceful sea between Chugoku and Shikoku Island. This is called Seto Inland Sea. The current is slow, the climate is gentle through the year and the resources of fish and seafood are rich. In this Inland Sea, there are hundreds of small islands. Most of tourist typically pass through these small islands and residents may not have experienced meeting non-Japanese cyclists in their home towns.
From Hiroshima, ride along the R 2 for about 10 km to east then take the prefecture road 34 to Takehara City via Kumano town (there is a pass).
Kumano is famous for its calligraphy brush industry. The brush is known as the “Kumano Brush”. This town has an 80 per cent share in Japan’s calligraphy brush production that began 160 years ago. Surrounded by forest, craftsmen produce beautiful brushes every day. In this town, you can enjoy a display of the Four Treasures of calligraphy – brush, ink, ink stone and paper – and related crafts. Sakakiyama shrine in Kumano has a stone monument featuring the calligraphy brush. They also have a festival, thanking the forefathers and their spirits in every brush. Those who use the calligraphy brush regard it as a close friend, and even a part of themselves. So a worn-out brush is sent to the shrine where a prayer is said for its eternal retirement. Along the downhill of road 34, the small islands of the Inland Sea come into view. From the seaside town Yasu-ura, take the flat road R 185 along the coastline to Takehara City.
Takehara is a historical preserved town different from others. This town has a 5 ha zone that has completely preserved 120 houses of the late Edo era along the 400 m main street. Movie crews love to use this street for Samurai-related productions.
After a brief stop in this Edo Samurai town, continue to ride 27 km along the seaside road R 185. Then take R 2 from Mihara City to Onomichi City. This city is the gateway to Shikoku Island. Entering this city, you will find many houses on the hillside on your left hand side. There are also 25 ancient temples on the hillside. Onomichi City was developed as a temple town so the paths on the hillside are so narrow they can be used only for pedestrian traffic. The paths are also confusing, like a maze. The houses and temples face south towards the Inland Sea, so this is a lovely location. It is a good idea to get off your bike and take a walk. The Sightseeing Information Center is located in front of Onomichi Station. There are several tours you can choose from, such as around the temples, a literature tour, and so on. For a finale, we recommend to climb Mt. Senko-ji on foot, not by cableway. It takes just half an hour to get to the top. From the top of mountain there is a panoramic view of the streets of Onomichi, Seto Inland Sea and Shimanami Kaido (highway of the bridges to Shikoku).
Day 40, 04.06, Friday: Onomichi – Shimanami Kaido – Imabari (80 km)
Three routes utilizing a chain of impressive bridges island-hop the Sea of Seto between Honshu and Shikoku Islands. Seto-Ohashi Bridge connects the Kagawa and Hyogo Prefectures. Akashi-Ohashi and Naruto-Ohashi Bridge connect Hyogo and Tokushima Prefecture across Awaji-Shima Island. Shimanami Kaido Bridges are the ONLY bridges which cyclists can ride across between Honshu and Shikoku (between the Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures). Others are prohibited to bicycle riders. Shimanami Kaido, which means “Islands Sea Road”, connects SEVEN islands to get to Shikoku, about 65 km. These bridges have dedicated bike paths enabling you to be separated from the motor vehicle traffic. The route might be described as “One of the world’s best short bike rides”.
Japan is formed from about 400 inhabited islands and many of the small islands are located in this inland sea. It is said that Japanese culture is based on the agrarian society, but actually Japanese culture is formed by many kinds of folk cultures, such as Ainu (native Japanese in Hokkaido), Matagi (Hunters in Tohoku), Okinawan culture, Fisher and Islanders and so on. This Sea Road is one of the best courses to experience those Fisher and Islanders cultures by bicycle in Japan. Here, there are descendant of pirates and people who lived their entire lives on board boats.
Imabari has the strange distinction of being the home of luxury towel making in Japan. In fact all major luxury hotels use Imabari towels. The city is the destination of the Shimanami Kaido route. Shikoku Island is the fourth largest island in Japan. It is famous for its 88 temple pilgrimage. While you ride around Shikoku you will meet some of the pilgrims (Ohenro-san) dressed in white. The ideal way is to walk the 88 temples, a combined distance of over 1000 km. Temple pilgrims arrive from all over Japan. Say hello “kon-nichiwa” to them and be prepared to share some of their good luck and happiness. This pilgrims first arrived in the 12th century. A famous high Buddhist monk Kukai also known as Kouboudaishi, born in the 8th century, traveled Shikoku to save the peoples’ soul. The 88 places where he had stayed became sites for temples, and pilgrims are still tracing Kouboudaishi’s route. By visiting those 88 temples, it is said you will be free from 88 painful passions and desires, and you will have also done 88 good works for the world and yourself. Although walking is the traditional way, many people visit the 88 temples on a bus tour or taxi. Of course a bicycle is ok too.
Day 41, 04.07, Saturday: Imabari – Saijo – Niihama – Iyo Mishima (85 km)
From Imabari City take seaside Prefecture Road 38 and R 196 to the east, viewing the Seto Inland Sea on your left, then take Prefecture Road 13 at Saijo City. Road 13 ends at west end of the Iyo Mishima City.
Day 42, 04.08, Sunday: Iyo Mishima – Ikeda – Kawashima – Kamiyama (80 km)
There are lots of small artificial ponds. The Sanuki Plain has the least rainfall in Japan. The ponds (actually water reservoirs) were the solution to water shortage. There are about 14,000 ponds and they identify the unique Sanuki Plain landscape. Even when it does rain, the water goes directly to the sea in the Yoshino River. Even today those living on the Sanuki Plain have difficulty reserving water for living and farming.
This distinctive climate has developed a tasty culture. This is the Sanuki Udon Noodle. The Japanese staple food is rice but this area is too dry for paddy rice growing. Instead of rice cultivation, the Sanuki people work hard to produce wheat from which they have developed a tasty noodle made from flour. Flour has its origins in Europe and was introduced into China along the Silk Road. Chinese People invented a flour noodle which migrated to Japan via Korea. In turn, the noodle also became popular in Europe. The Sanuki Area is at the east end of Noodle Road (as named by Japan Cycling Navigator) that connects the Far East, i.e. Japan, with Europe. Sanuki Noodle’s soup is made of tuna and seaweed, very tasty and also inexpensive. It may cost as little as 150 yen for a bowl of plain noodle.
Day 43, 04.09, Monday: Kamoyima – Tokushima (20 km) – Wakayama by ferry – Kainan
Day 44, 04.10, Tuesday: Wakayama/Kainan – Koya San (50/60 km, uphill at the end)
Day 45, 04.11, Wednesday: Koya-san – Hashimoto – Oyodo – Nara – Yoyo (80 km)
Day 46-47, 04.12-13, Thursday – Friday: rest days, visiting Kyoto
Day 48, 04.14, Saturday: Yoyo – Uji – Shigaraki – Igaueno – Tsu (100 km)
Day 49, 04.15, Sunday: Tsu – Matsusaka – Ise – Toba (52 km) – ferry to cross the Ise Bay (55 min) – Irago – Akabane (20 km)
The Isewan Ferry is located next to the Toba aquarium, which is famous for sea otter breeding.
Day 50, 04.16, Monday: Akabane – Irago – Kosai – Kakegawa (100 km)
Day 51, 04.17, Tuesday: Kakegawa – Shimada – Fujieda – Okabe – Shizuoka – Shimizu – Fuji river estuary (96 km)
Day 52, 04.18, Wednesday: Fuji river estuary – Kawaguchi-ko/Yamanaka Lake (77 km)
Days 53-54, 19-20,Thursday – Friday: excursion to Mount Fuji (3776 m)
Day 55, 04.21, Saturday: Yamanaka Lake – Nihonbashi – Tokyo (102 km)
Days 56-57, 04.22-23, Sunday-Monday: rest days, visiting Tokyo
Day, 58, 04.24, Tuesday: Tokyo – flight to Los Angeles (USA)