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.

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

Mt. Fuji & the Five Lakes

It’s impossible to put into words how I felt the first time I saw Mt. Fuji in all its splendour. If the weather is good and it’s the right time of year – in other words when there’s still plenty of snow on the peak – then it is simply stunning. It can of course impress at anytime of year and at 3776m it is easily Japan’s highest peak. Mt. Fuji is understandably revered throughout the country for it’s beauty.

In summer and autumn it is possible to cycle around Mt. Fuji (富士山) and witness stunning views from both the Yamanashi (山梨県) and the Shizuoka (静岡県) sides as well as take in some, if not all, of the Five Lakes (Fujigoko / 富士五湖) – Kawaguchiko (河口湖), Yamanakako (山中湖), Saiko (西湖), Shojiko (精進湖), and Motosuko (本栖湖). Caution is obviously advised for winter and spring as there will still be plenty of snow on the slopes.

At approximately 125km and 2000m of climbing the trip can generally be done within a day, or if you want to ride more leisurely spread out over two days.

When I did the trip in June 2014 I skipped Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu due to time restrictions but did cycle around Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako and part of Saiko. If you’re feeling particularly brave you could also attempt to climb one of the three climbs that go directly up the volcano – the Fuji Azami Line (ふじあざみライン), the Fuji Skyline (富士スカイライン), and the Fuji Subaru Line (富士スバルライン). Be warned, none of them are easy, with the infamous Fuji Azami Line on the eastern slopes feared the most among cyclist in Japan. Also worth a mention is the equally infamous Aokigahara Forest (青木ヶ原樹海), otherwise known as suicide forest which is on the northwest slope near Lake Motosu on R71. The route below, however, steers clear of R71 as it’s a particularly busy and dangerous road and instead uses the R139.

Overall it’s a fairly straightforward route but if you start from the campsite at Lake Kawaguchi then it’s probably best to start early to avoid all the tourist traffic that can build up in the area throughout the day. Starting early also means you’ll catch some of the wonderful early morning light which is always worth considering if you want to improve your chances of capturing some great photos.

On the south slope you’ll ride from east to west along the Fuji Skyline (R23/R152/R180) which is a long steady climb that cuts directly through a Japanese Self Defence Force base. The last convenience store along the road is here (7/11 Gotemba Takegahara) and as it’s a fairly long way to the next store at the base of the descent on the other side, make sure you have enough food and drinks to get you up the climb. There were drinks machines further up the road however.

The campsite is under the bridge that runs north to south over Kawaguchiko and is aptly named Lake Kawaguchi New Bridge Campsite (河口湖ニューブリッヂキャンプ場). It’s a basic campsite with a friendly owner. There are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby so stocking up on food or eating out will not be a problem.

Distance – 125kms

Total Elevation – Approx 2000m

Campsite – Kawaguchiko New Bridge Campsite ¥500 1 person 1 tent / ¥1000 2~4 people

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Want the files for any of our routes? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to send them.

Mt. Fuji & the Five Lakes

Nomugi Pass & Mt. Norikura

It’s no secret among cyclists in Japan that Mt. Norikura (乗鞍岳) is the highest road passable by bicycle in the country. Some call it the Japanese Alpe d’Huez but I think comparing mountains is somewhat silly. All mountains differ, and all mountains have the potential to change character within minutes.

Most road bike cyclists start from the car park at the bottom of the Nagano side where you can expect to be riding for about 17kms and gain over 1000m until you reach the dizzing heights of just over 2700m at the car park near the summit. Starting from Matsumoto on the Nagano side, or Takayama on the Gifu side is also possible although both sides will add another 40+ kms to your climbing and the tunnels on the Nagano side are some of the worst I’ve ridden through in Japan. One other lesser used route is from Nomugi Pass (野麦峠) in south up and over Shirakabe Pass (白樺峠). It’s a fairly isolated road without much traffic but plenty of wildlife. I saw wild monkeys, native Japanese deer (Nihon shika /日本鹿), and I was given a bear bell at the local campsite to scare away any of the larger wildlife that roam the area.

Camping, giant moths, Nomugi Pass – made famous in this old film – and the eery climb up Shirokaba Pass makes for a solid weekend of riding. I made a short film for my friends over at First Over Everything about a recent trip. You can watch it here.

Distance – 87kms

Total Elevation –  approx. 2400m

Campsite – Takasome Campsite  ¥1540

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Want the files for any of our routes? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to send them.

Nomugi Pass & Mt. Norikura