Gokayama – Takayama – Nakatsugawa

Friday evening after work I hitched a ride with a friend and his wife to Gokayama (五箇山), a world heritage site, high in the mountains in Toyama prefecture (富山県), about 3 hours north of Nagoya.  Arriving around 11pm we all chose to sleep at one of the Michi-no-eki (道の駅) that you can find everywhere throughout Japan. They slept in their car while I slept in my tent. Pitching a tent at a Michi-no-eki is frowned upon so I had to find a quiet secluded spot and pack up as soon as it got light the next morning.

After a good but cold night’s sleep I awoke at 5am, packed up and headed out for a long day of riding. The plan was to ride from Gokayama to Yatsuo (八尾) and then on to Takayama (高山市) in Gifu prefecture (岐阜県) and sleep rough somewhere on the outskirts of the city. I’d purposely left the tent and a few other bits of gear in my friends car as I planned to use only a bivy bag for the next two days.

The ride to Takayama was straightforward with some beautiful views and plenty of snow still lingering after winter. The ride was so good in fact that I arrived in Takayama well ahead of schedule and decided to push on to Kiso (木祖村) in Nagano prefecture (長野県). The new plan was to sleep somewhere high in the hills and catch the dawn light to hopefully take some nice photographs.

At around 8pm and 200kms of riding I found a sheltered bus stop in Kiso and decided to sleep there for the night. If you find yourself riding in the parts of Japan that have a lot of snowfall in winter you can take advantage of these bus shelters as the buses are infrequent, the shelters are usually clean and warm, and as most of them are in rural areas if you set up after the last bus has gone and leave before the first bus the next morning then nobody will know you slept there.

The plan worked out well the next morning as I was greeted with some wonderful views of Mt. Ontake  (御嶽山) and surrounding area. I pushed on to Agematsu (上松町) and then on to Nakatsugawa (中津川) where I packed up my bike into a train bag and caught the JR Chuo line (中央線) back home into Kasugai (春日井市).

Way back in the early 1990s when I was a teenager in England I’d always dreamt of exploring new countries by bicycle. Who’d of thought that I’d be sleeping in a rural bus stop deep in the Japanese mountains 30 years later. 

The more I do this, the more I want to do it.

Early morning near Gokayama
Gokayama world heritage site
Rural Toyama
Open roads and mountains
Heading towards Takayama
Spring in northern Gifu
Entering Kiso village late at night
Bus shelter accommodation
Bus shelter accommodation
Early morning view of Mt. Ontake
Memorial to those that lost their lives after the 2014 Mt. Ontake eruption
Dawn on Kaida Kogen
Otaki River
Dawn on Kaida Kogen
A shrine near Nakatsugawa

The route on Ride With GPS is here.



Gokayama – Takayama – Nakatsugawa

Agematsu – Mt. Ontake

I did a short trip from Agematsu (上松) on the Nakasendo (中山道) to Mt. Ontake (御嶽山) recently, catching the late afternoon train from Kachigawa (勝川) north of Nagoya to Nakatsugawa, where I changed trains to Agematsu. Altogether about two hours of travel. From there I rode just under 40kms or so west towards Kaida Kogen (開田高原) before finding shelter in a small picnic area at the side of the road for the night.

These areas are perfect for bike packing in Japan – easy to find, sheltered from the rain, and quite often have toilets and amenities nearby.

I settled down for the night and surprisingly managed to sleep for a solid 8 hours or so. Maybe it was the calming sound of the nearby river or simply tiredness after waking up at 4am earlier that day.

After packing up I headed up Mt. Ontake to superb views of not only the volcano itself but also the ‘Alpe d’Huez’ of Japan, Mt. Norikura (乗鞍), and Ishikawa prefecture (covered in cloud) in the far distance.  From there I rode the R435 and R441 across the northern slope of Mt. Ontake (still erupting) down into Gero Onsen and back home. I’ve written about riding here before so take a look if you haven’t already.

Train fare – ¥1940 (single)

There is no planned route for this trip but if you want any help with planning your own please send me a message.

Agematsu Station, Nagano
Riding towards Mt. Ontake, Nagano
Quick break, Kaida Kogen, Nagano
Hotel for the evening
Bike packing in Japan is easy
Mt. Norikura (Japan’s ‘Alpe d’Huez’)
Mamakodake (継子岳), Nagano
Towards Ishikawa
Mt. Ontake (still erupting in the distance), Gifu
Fairdale Weekender Drop
Northern slopes of Mt. Ontake. The snake-like formation is Japan’s largest ever lava flow apparently.
Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 9.35.52
Screenshot of day two
Agematsu – Mt. Ontake