Coast to Coast

AlanW

Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
1,214
434
103
Tokyo
#1
Naomi-san and I took advantage of the nice autumn season in Japan to ride all the way from coast to coast, sea to shining sea, from the Pacific Ocean at Tokyo Bay, to the Sea of Japan at Naoetsu. This ride was another from the "10 of the best rides" book, our second of the 10. The author designed the route to avoid main roads and make as much use of dedicated cycling roads as possible.
In contrast to Travis's mental one-day solo bash, we decided to take two days to complete the ride. The distance was 355 km, which still gave us two fairly long days of biking. Some advance research by Naomi-san found a pension in Karuizawa which had its own onsen, ideal for recovering after a day in the saddle, while I transcribed the book's map to our GPS units.
The "official" route starts at Kasai-Rinkai park, but to keep the first day's distance reasonable, we decided to start from the nearest bit of sea, under Rainbow Bridge. Just after 7am, we set off from home and wound our way down to the sea shore.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3484%2F3957146221_90fa135287.jpg&hash=8d3a74bdf154d436446ad3ec16c84f52
It took us a while to get on the proper course due to all the small streets and turns, but soon we were heading north through central Tokyo, passing the Imperial Palace as the traffic started to build up.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3429%2F3957146277_90cb7bca96.jpg&hash=5f08694200d0c95ea3169cbbd721bef3
We rode the familiar streets of Tokyo, up past Ueno Park and Tabata, before joining the Arakawa Cycling Road.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2435%2F3957146299_2b471545cd_m.jpg&hash=8de675404aad905e99be136954bc5d75

Instead of heading south as part of my short, fast city route, we turned left towards the north and the rest of the ride. In contrast to the busy streets, the cycling road was deserted, we had it mostly to ourselves :) so we could roll along nicely. Soon we were outside the urban areas and heading though an avenue lined with cherry trees and red higanbana flowers in bloom.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2515%2F3957146347_f325789df5_o.jpg&hash=34253a111082fd08102bfd62e6c03894
We were still on familiar paths, as the Shirokuma-pan ride also runs up the Arakawa CR. Shortly after Honda Airport, however, we carried on to the north, following the river.
There are many bridges across the plain of the Arakawa including this amazing 13 red arched pipebridge spanning a huge distance.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2570%2F3957924500_13bc81d5b5.jpg&hash=df350678bb3cd2e7520120a2ec094a21

Just after Kumagawa, we finally left the cycling road, and rolled through the town. After the solitude of the cycling road, it was something of a shock to be sharing the road with traffic again! However, after only a few km, we reached the banks of the Tonegawa, and the start of another cycling road. The Tonegawa is in a wide, flat plain, with the cycling road on an embankment on the easter side. In contrast to the Arakawa, there are few facilities along the way. However, the route diverged from the river for a short section which took us past a conbini where we stopped for a refill. Due to the heat of the day, we were both drinking litres and litres of water, and had to keep an eye out for vending machines along the way.
With our bottles filled and pockets stashed with energy bars, we were soon back at the riverside.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3507%2F3957146405_9f3891a142_o.jpg&hash=ac3fcf925a77da75b43c1bc6e09b3054

Shortly after Yanasebashi bridge, the route took us onto the Nakasendo route, which was the way the Daimyos of old used to travel to Edo. Several of the lodgings are now preserved and can been seen along the side of the road.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3525%2F3957146433_bedc406929_m.jpg&hash=0f8a265452e994682a16c5c4f5d32a8a

As we approached Takasaki, my GPS decided that it wasn't interested in the last 35 km of the route and offered no more guidance. Luckily I had loaded the route onto Naomi-san's as well, and we were able to roll along with her shouting directions at me! Of course we had the maps as well, but it's much easier and faster to follow the GPS screen for a complicated route.
After we left Takasaki, we got a great view of Miyogi-san with a volcanic fin along the ridgeline.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2601%2F3957146459_1ec159d6c6_o.jpg&hash=ed32b19e1d8c6d3814cf2d9f0b28702b

The landscape was totally different from the early part of the ride as we approached the mountains and the only significant climb of the journey.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2595%2F3957146501_5777020e37.jpg&hash=3de78f5873ba6d0ccdf938d602937214
Approaching Usui pass, we saw a gigantic brick-built viaduct called Meganebashi (spectacles-brdige) which used to carry a steam railway through the mountains up to Karuizawa.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3457%2F3957146529_bb0e762e8c_o.jpg&hash=9ce826a95398891511e00f904663b3be

As we climbed the pass, which was a steady 5% gradient, we could see glimpses of other small viaducts and tunnels through the trees. Naomi-san heard some monkeys calling, but neither of us saw them.
All the corners of the pass are numbered, but unfortunately I misread the number as 134, not 184 as it really is :confused: Anyway, we eventually made it to the top and into Nagano prefecture.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2434%2F3957924662_e0a5357aa2.jpg&hash=8dcc027621410945414fb29c62fcafbd
It was getting dark as we rolled into Karuizawa, but we were able to find our Pension without too much difficulty, where we enjoyed the onsen (twice!) and had a delicious dinner made from local ingredients. The owner was somewhat incredulous that we had come all the way from Tokyo by bike!
The next morning we had a big breakfast at the Pension, and we we on our way by 9am. The day started with a big, fast descent which allowed us to get 20 plus km under our belts quickly.
Once again, we were following the traditional route from the North to Tokyo, and soon came across this old staging post.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2465%2F3957146613_58f85c810d.jpg&hash=8d932fdcd6adaf08a232bf522c1eaaad

From here we joined yet another cycling road, this time along the Chikuma river. I was continually impressed by the amount of this tour that is on dedicated cycling roads away from the traffic.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2506%2F3957146673_e27a14f382_o.jpg&hash=a666e7a63c50dedf8c45bcd0b283b153

A little further on, we passed through a street of traditional Japanese buildings and flowers - it was like stepping back in time (apart from our 21st century racing bicycles of course!)
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2536%2F3957924734_8847d45f25.jpg&hash=25fd3300ebba290029fa19d0cd4ce510
Soon we were back on the cycling road. Now we were no longer gravity-assisted, the strength of the wind became apparent, and unfortunately it was coming straight at us. For kilometer after kilometer we battled our way into the wind. Our speed dropped to 25-27 km/h even on the flat, and there was no respite and no shelter. However, with a train to catch in Naoetsu, we had to keep pushing on.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2522%2F3957146703_b325ce9dec.jpg&hash=9f92c7bf4c516f81374ae5e8416ba3eb


proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2469%2F3957924954_fd6efa03f1_m.jpg&hash=9ec89afe85371dcd752661658a7aa286


Along the way, as a contrast to the traditional and Edo Era buildings, we saw this:
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2671%2F3957924816_ed5c1ef485.jpg&hash=897b3b1d153da108fb99a5dda6cb070c

which was certainly different!
Soon we were passing through orchards of apples, chestnuts, and pears, with grapes growing in vinyards. Again, very different from earlier in the tour. The ground was obviously very dry and gave the area a feel like southern Europe.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2452%2F3957924898_07a1581e5c.jpg&hash=e500e9cf84c1f3021de93cf766b08773

We left the river and the orchards behind and rolled through rice fields. We could see and smell the rice drying in the sun, and each house had a dedicated store room for rice, to cope with the harsh winters of the area.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm3.static.flickr.com%2F2460%2F3957146793_50e34f0d56_m.jpg&hash=5464d392d236966f4a21634297ca7668

After 90+ km of fighting the wind, we had one last climb to do, the 270m Wakui pass which took us into Niigata, our fifth (and last) prefecture of the tour. Again, the gradient was not too severe, but we were still glad to reach the summit and head downhill. The wind also abated once we crossed the range of hills - at last!
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3510%2F3957924986_24cbffce0b.jpg&hash=4ac7495bbac5f7b6b418021327fa63ae
The descent from the pass was sweet and we savoured the sweeping turns and high speeds! With only a few more km left, the road headed straight for the coast. Finally my GPS map scrolled to show the ocean and a few minutes later, we arrived at the Naoetsu coastline :D
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3486%2F3957925004_98d35b151f_m.jpg&hash=1099587c0276b77feaa3a9742e6c24a7

Where our reward was this beautiful sunset and a long soak in another onsen, before catching the train home.
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm4.static.flickr.com%2F3427%2F3957146877_f0b6d2d7f9_o.jpg&hash=5c5574b37c9993d7e244ef61b5feadb6
 

thomas

The Crank Engine
Nov 1, 2005
1,799
203
93
多摩区
#3
Beautiful pictures, Alan. Congratulations to you and Naomi-san on accomplishing a c-to-c crossing!

How exactly did you proceed after Honda Airfield? I once tried to reach Kumagaya from there, but got totally lost in a maze of channels, roads and fields. Do you have any Garmin data, by any chance?
 

kpykc

Speeding Up
Jun 13, 2007
804
4
38
38
Tokyo
#5
Very nice ride report, looks like you enjoyed your trip 100% with clear blue skies and onsen stops. (.. and perfect weather for taking perfect photographs :))