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

Urugi – Fujimi Panorama – Shiojiri

Urugi – Fujimi Panorama – Shiojiri

At the end of July and beginning of August I had a few days spare to do a short bike packing trip before a two week trip to Australia for work. A friend of mine, Alex, who I hadn’t seen in a while and had previously been living just outside Nagoya for more than a decade recently called time on his job, packed his bags, and moved out into the southern Nagano countryside with his young family. He moved to Urugi village (売木) which is fairly isolated and hidden away behind a number of mountain passes. Alex is planning on converting his house into a guest house for foreigners so if anybody is interested in staying please get in touch.

With that in mind I chose to plan a route that took in Urugi, where I could sleep the night in his traditional house, catch up on old times, and then head north to Mt. Nyukasa (入笠山) and Mugikusa Pass (麦草峠) in central Nagano. I originally planned to head further east to Tenryu (天龍) and cycle north from there but the road was closed due to a landslide. There was also a summer lightening storm when I arrived at the base of Mt. Nyukasa so it wan’t wise to ride up that either. However, I still managed to camp rough at Fujimi Panorama (富士見パノラマ), a popular mountain biking park/ski resort, and head up Mugikusa Pass the following day. I stashed all my gear in a bush at the bottom of the climb before heading up to 2128m. It was a climb I’d done on numerous  occasions before so knew what to expect. Despite reaching more than 2000m the gradient never gets too difficult. On a clear day you are rewarded with some wonderful mountain views.

From the top of the pass I turned around, descended into Suwa (諏訪) and headed to Shiojiri (塩尻) where I caught the Shinano Express back to Aichi.

A short, cheap trip, but satisfying and as usual there was some breathtaking scenery.

Autumn is the perfect time of year for bike packing in Japan so expect some new routes/rides to appear here in the coming months.

Shiojiri – Nagoya train fare – ¥5180

Camping – free

Day One – Kasugai – Urugi

Distance – 94kms

Total elevation – 2250m

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Kasugai - Urugi
Kasugai – Urugi

Day Two Urugi – Fujimi Panorama

Distance – 134kms

Total elevation – 2000m

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Urugi – Fujimi Panorama

Day Three – Fujimi Panorama – Shiojiri

Distance – 96kms

Total elevation – 1860m

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Fujimi – Mugikusa Pass – Shiojiri
Urugi – Fujimi Panorama – Shiojiri

Shimanami Kaido with First Over Everything

Bike Packing Japan hasn’t had a chance to ride the iconic Shimanami Kaido (しまなみ海道) route yet but Bradley from First Over Everything has and he made a video this time last year.

As it’s one of the most popular rides in Japan for foreign tourists it’s well worth taking the time out to watch.

As I haven’t ridden it yet I’m not in a position to offer advice on where to stay etc but as it’s so popular logistic shouldn’t be a problem. 

Shimanami Kaido with First Over Everything

Kanazawa – Noto Penisula, Ishikawa

The Noto Peninsula is a region of Japan that I’ve wanted to explore by bicycle for a long time. So when I got the chance in August 2015 I jumped at it. The ride was divided in three parts, starting in Kanazawa early in the morning to beat the summer heat, riding up the west coast to Wajima, then on to Mitsukejima, before finally heading back south and finishing in Anamizu. Heading along the coast is the way to go if you want the coastal views of small fishing villages that the area is famous for. Heading inland pretty much anywhere on the peninsula will quickly get hilly although if you don’t mind climbing then cycling inland will provide you with a few shortcuts to other areas.

Day one –  Kanazawa to Wajima

Leaving Kanazawa station (金沢) early I headed north out of the city and straight onto the cycling path that follows the Noto Satoyama Kaido (のと里山海道). It’s an easy to follow cycle path running for just over 30kms from Uchinada (内灘町) to Hakui (羽咋). From there I continued along the coast on the R249 heading inland only after reaching the 100kms mark near Monzenmachi (門前町). It was another 25kms to the campsite on Sodegahama beach (袖が浜) which I was told would have a great view of the sunset. The campsite was fairly simple with easy access to the beach. The first day of riding, 122kms altogether, was perhaps a little too much for the time of year due to the heat but it was a fairly straightforward ride with great views of small coastal villages looking out across the Sea of Japan / East Sea.

Distance travelled – 126kms

Campsite – Sodegahama Beach Campsite ¥1030.

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Day two – Wajima to Mitsukejima

On day two my goal again was to avoid the heat as much as possible so I left just as it was getting light, however, it was still blistering hot by 8am. Again it was a straightforward ride on the R249 along the northern coast of Noto to Mitsukejima (見附島). The northern most tip of Noto is hillier than other parts of the peninsula so expect a little climbing. You’ll be rewarded with wonderful views of the coast and a feeling of isolation that is hard to get in other areas of central Japan (excluding the Alps of course).

Arriving at Mitsukejima Campsite you’ll need to go to the lavish looking hotel next to the campsite to check in. The cost of one night’s stay was ¥1300 but after checking the website in Japanese it seems that the it’s ¥300 to camp and ¥1000 for car parking. Perhaps the clerk misunderstood me when I checked in at the time. Either way, if you expect to pay around ¥1300 you should be OK. The hotel next to the campsite has a wonderful little outdoor hot spring with a great view of Mitsukejima although I think the outdoor bath alternates daily between male and female.

If you stick around at sunset (and there’s no real reason not to) sit along the beach and watch the crows flying back to the island to settle down for the night. I was absolutely amazed at the number of crows that the island can accommodate.

Distance travelled – 76kms

Campsite – Mitsukejima Campsite approx ¥1300

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Day three – Mitsukejima to Anamizu

Day three again was an early start to avoid the heat and finished around midday after a 70kms ride hugging the southern coast as much as possible. To do this I started on the R249 again but followed the smaller roads that run parrallel to the coast as much as possible, before switching to the R35, then back on the R249 briefly, before finishing the ride on the R34 which takes you to Anamizu (穴水町). For me this was where my trip ended but it is perfectly possible to continue along the coast to Wakura Onsen (和倉温泉) and then back to Kanazawa or head southeast towards Toyama city (富山市)

Distance – 70kms

Campsite –  N/A

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

Kanazawa – Noto Penisula, Ishikawa