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three rivers Bon


Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
As usual for o-bon, I briefly went (from Tokyo) to the inlaws', north of Maebashi (Gunma). It's a straightforward route across Tokyo, a long way up Arakawa, a little way north, and then up Tonegawa. The exact distance depends on my choices (and minor mistakes) along Arakawa, but it's under 160 km. And of course it's all very flat. (The greatest "ascent" is from Gotanda to Takanawadai.) This would be the fourth time I'd gone there and back by pushbike: a lot more pleasant than the train and of course cheaper too.

I left home at six and went up Nakahara-kaidō, past Takanawadai (puff puff), Roppongi, Yotsuya, Gokokuji, and along Shinobazu-dōri, turning off onto (unmarked) route 458, past Tabata station and across the tramline and Sumidagawa, into route 449 and down to the cycle road at Kōhokubashi (without crossing Arakawa).


A number of the bridges have their names painted on the path in this way, presumably to help visually challenged Freds and also enemy bombers. The help is oblique, as bridge names don't appear on most maps. But the drudges of Japanese-language Wikipedia have kindly associated bridge names with roads for us. (Meanwhile, virtually every rail bridge is simply named Arakawa Kyōryō [荒川橋梁].)

The next bridge upstream is Goshikizakura-ōhashi (五色桜大橋); with its double-decker design, it's an unmissable landmark for the return trip.

Yes, Arakawa cycling road welcomes cyclists:


For a lot of the way up the right bank you have a choice: a path up along the levée crown, or a path down in the flood channel. I prefer the former, but you have to pay attention to signs (or follow other cyclists who you hope know where they're going). Because otherwise you'll arrive at places like this:


That's the first of two minor rail bridges. If I remember right, once you've gone beneath this first one you can then move up to the levée crown without worries about further annoyances. That is, assuming you don't mind the level crossing for the second of these rail bridges (I enjoy it). Moreover, being up rather than down puts one above dreary golf courses rather than alongside them.

The pesticide/herbicide-enforced golftopia doesn't go on forever.


On previous trips I'd always got stuck in golftopia (and even made a series of right-angled turns among ricefields). But this time I kept to the right bank, with just one minor complication: turning right to cross a tributary, but then getting off this bridge before it spanned Arakawa itself. (Looking at the map, I suppose the bridge was Kamikōbashi [上江橋], which takes route 16 across Irumagawa and Arakawa.) At no point was I on the left bank of Arakawa. (By contrast, @WhiteGiant 's RWGPS route takes you along both sides.)

Up, up, upstream, along some very attractive stretches to which my cheap camera (and my own crap sensibility) wouldn't do justice, past Honda "airport" and its runway, and to Yoshimi Sōgō Unō Kōen (吉見総合運動公園). Its website says "Let's act!", but as far as I can see it's a place where Freds drink chilled drinks and eye the hardware. These places have a curious charm.

(Pretty gung-ho naming in this part of the world. If I suddenly decided that I too desperately needed cycling togs that advertised Sky or whatever, I'd head east from the Yoshimi resort to route 17, where Google map informs me that a retailtopia named "Hey World!!" offers a "Sports Depot".)

I always used to think that the cycling road carried on upstream to route 407. But apparently it instead veers off to the left somewhere. Well, I keep on upstream anyway, for plenty of sights.


It's Arakawa Suikanbashi (荒川水管橋), which this page (of an extraordinary website) tells us is over a kilometre long and takes water from Tonegawa across Arakawa and down south.

At one point I briefly wonder if I might have strayed into Turkmenistan:


But no:


All this time signposts obsessively remind me of the distance from the mouth of Arakawa. And at about 76km, according to these signs, I come to the unceremonious end of the de facto Arakawa cycling road. I turn right, then almost immediately right again onto route 407, across Shin-Arakawa-ōhashi (新荒川大橋), then straight onto and along route 341. This seems charmless at first but turns out to have its attractions. Just north of the route 17 (Kumagaya Bypass), on the left, is a remarkable junkyard:


(The guardgoat intermittently gazed at me with very mild interest, while continuously mooning me.)

About 13km from Arakawa, route 341 rejoins route 407 and immediately reaches Tonegawa at Tōsuibashi (切水橋). I turn left (without crossing the bridge).

Unless you're relying on a GPS, it's a good idea to remember some bridge names for Tonegawa. They're signposted repeatedly. So in the picture below, Tōsuibashi is 9km behind me and Jōbu-ōhashi is ahead.


From Tōsuibashi to Bandō-ōhashi (坂東大橋, carrying route 462), I can actually forget that I'm close to Tokyo.

There's a minor kink in the route somewhere; I forgot to make a note, but Google map suggests it would have been in order to cross the tributary Koyamagawa (小山川).

I cross at Bandō-ōhashi. (Careful: for such a famous and elegant bridge, this has vicious expansion joints.) That's to get around the mouth of Karasugawa (烏川).

The left bank is if anything more desolate. A detail from a very rusty riverside factory.


But if you're tiring and with a very special friend, cheer up! Because you can soon enjoy o-yasumi (or even o-tomari).


(Its website is here; ogle its opulent bedrooms.)

The hotel is on the approach to Goryōbashi (五料橋, carrying route 354). I cross Goryōbashi to return to the right bank of Tonegawa, and continue upstream. There are some pleasing views, but it must be said that upstream from here to beyond Maebashi, the Tonegawa path is disappointing. Just when I think I'm in relative wilderness (one thoughtfully provided with facilities for hot and heavy, er, sleeping), I find myself pootling around a ribbon development from Tamamura through Takasaki and beyond. (Also, the obsessive signposting of distance from the mouth of the river suddenly stops at around 186km.)

One should savour the minor pleasures. There are plenty of places to sit down or refill water bottles. There are repeated warnings of Gunma's infamous flatulent automobiles:


Around Takasaki and Maebashi, there's some variety as the cycle path swoops down below bridges and then back up again. At least one bridge is mysteriously and unconvincingly shackled.


Gunma's administrative centre (Gunma-ken-chōsha) comes into view and as I pass it I spe(e)d up. Pretty soon, I reach(ed) my destination. Only 151km, in just over nine unhurried hours: I felt pretty good, certainly far better than the first time I did this (much more slowly). Shower, talk, dinner, fizzy Spanish wine, bed.

The next day, we took the train (boo!) to Minakami and thence to the extraordinary Doai (土合) station. The Wikimedia Commons version of the de rigueur photo up the steps is far better than mine, so I'll spare you. Indeed what with this being TCC, I'll spare you all the (cycling-irrelevant) photos. Just a note, though: a very short walk from the station and you reach the exorbitantly priced but convenient cable car that takes you some way up Tanigawa-dake, from which there's a pleasant-starting walk to the peak. (The walk there and back is said to take five hours. Realizing that we had very little to drink and were wearing crap shoes, we quickly turned back.) A bus took us back to Minakami station, where we saw the steam engine from Takasaki roll in ("Whoo-whoo!") and were briefly tempted by the thought of the local damn curry.

And the next day, back home. Just 8km or so from the end of Tonegawa cycle road, I'd thought I'd go up there first before making a U-turn and going back downstream. But it was raining when I left at 6 a.m., and the weather forecast suggested that the best chance of escaping the rain would be to the east. So I chickened out and went downstream.

The rain lasted 30 km. Thanks to shoe covers, my feet only got damp; the rest of me got soaked. I was glad it wasn't cooler.

Here (just upstream from Goryōbashi) is how somebody tells the world "I've got major wood":


Downstream from Hotel Seine, I was going through long puddles, grateful for my bike's (Shōwa-period) mudguards.


It stopped drizzling well before Tōsuibashi and it seemed time for caffeinaceous doping. Konbini coffee is hot and brown, and smells more like coffee than like tea. But it's not something I'd drink for taste. (My experience is limited; corrections are welcome.)

And then across to Arakawa, and downstream for perhaps 50km, until this strange sight to the right:


It's the left bank of, I think, Shingashikawa (pronunciation varies, anyway 新河岸川). The only obvious way there seems to be down from the cycle road (hoping that your brakes are very good indeed); and the only way up seems to require a winch. I imagine that vehicles that go there, stay there.

A bit further, and I was at Kōhokubashi and in Tokyo, heading for Tabata and home. I was feeling fresh, but yet . . . curiously unfulfilled (and not because I hadn't "rested" at Hotel Seine). Since I'd failed to go to the acknowledged end of any cycle road and would anyway end up so close to Tamagawa, I suddenly felt in the mood to go down Tamagawa to Haneda and back. (Plus it was threatening to rain, which would add to the madness.)

Gokokuji, Roppongi, Gotanda . . . near home with 152km on the clock . . . Numabe and onto the Tamagawa cycling road. Down to Sakurai Seimitsu Kōgyō.


Don't notice anything special parked outside? A working "Midget" (in fact this particular Midget).

I arrived:


Or anyway I arrived just across Bentenbashi (next to the "Heiwa" torii), which experience tells me is as far as it's worth bothering (for me as a non-planespotter) to go.

I lingered in the area a bit longer than usual.


And I popped in to Ōtani Masakichi Shōten, where the ever-smiling ladies served me with a cup of tea and sold me some marine comestibles.


Upstream to Marukobashi and home: total 178km and feeling good.
nice write up! I enjoy those rivers and the Minakami area (winter and summer).... I often go to the Doi eki area....
. . . I enjoy those rivers and the Minakami area (winter and summer)....

Dude, if you or anyone else has tips on riding beyond Shibukawa to(ward) Minakami, I'd be interested to read them.
Indeed a nice wrote up. I appreciate when someone takes the time to catch it in pictures too.
I can leave the house camera in hand and forget to take even 1 picture the entire ride.
Dude, if you or anyone else has tips on riding beyond Shibukawa to(ward) Minakami, I'd be interested to read them.

I mostly know the off-piste routes off of Tanigawadake.... a winter thing for me. I have had to cross a river, so maybe I don't know it so well....

(I had to do what this guy is doing....followed the wrong set of tracks....)


I did once try to do some recon on the bike. Rain shortened it quite a bit, but basically went to the bottom of the road that Doi eki is on (Melody Line) and rode up to the top. Would have done more if it wasn't so wet.

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