Tokyo to Kawaguchiko via Route 56.
Taking a half-day Friday, a friend of mine and I planned a quick trip to the Fuji Lakes area as he needed to be back on Saturday evening.
We left Tokyo separately and met up at a restaurant in Sagamiko as it’s quite picturesque near a lake, at the end of the highway, and the start of the more scenic roads leading west. I left the highway a little bit earlier to take in a short twisty section and, of course, immediately took a wrong turn after a rather convoluted exit ramp and had to backtrack through a long tunnel. And then, of course, got stuck behind a car during the twisty bit.
After lunch we headed off towards Yamanakako taking a small road to Route 56 which we then followed all the way to the lake. On the way we had a quick fuel-stop in Doshi but otherwise just enjoyed the ride. I wanted to check out Nijinomotsu bridge, so from Yamanako we headed up a small road. After a mile or so it got covered in debris and small rocks, and Wilson didn’t want to go on with his street bike, so he turned around to find somewhere to wait for me.
I kept going and after another corner, the road turned into a dirt/rock track. Unfazed I started up it, but after two hairpins and the incline getting ever steeper I decided that this was probably not a good idea.. and anyway, after glancing down at my GPS I realised I wasn’t even on the road anymore! Doh! So turning back and finding the right road, I headed up it. No debris and tarmac. However, after a couple of miles, it was blocked off, presumably due to a landslide or something. Bugger!
After messaging Wilson that I was on my way back and texting him the location of a parking lot to meet up, I turned around. When I got to the parking lot I had a message from Wilson that he was waiting at a McDonald’s a few miles away. Battling the rush-hour traffic, I eventually got there and enjoyed a chocolate shake for my efforts, yum!
From there it wasn’t far to our final destination, a hotel in Kawaguchiko, which we found after an accidental detour over the bridge. Following check-in we wandered off to find dinner and ended up in a chinese restaurant. Well, that was a bit different! The crispy-duck pancakes came with four pre-cut pieces of duck and a tiny bit of hoi-sin sauce, and the sweet-and-sour pork was what seemed to be soy sauce.. Finally back at the hotel we enjoyed a nice hot sentan (unfortunately no onsen) before rolling into our futons for a deep sleep.
Kawaguchiko to Utsubuna for lunch; around the Fuji lakes, scenic forest roads, and some fast curvy stretches.
We got up around 7am, geared up, dropped the key into the check-out basket, and headed off. First stop was a service station on the other side of the lake for Wilson to feed his hungry steed, while I wandered across to a 7-11 to feed myself. Wilson’s not a big breakfast person, but I do like my cup of coffee in the mornings!
From there we followed the road around the lake, then looped around Lake Saiko, Lake Shouji, and Lake Motosu before heading along Route 300, a fantastic curvy stretch. Nearly at Fuji River we peeled off onto the 413 which is a small road leading through forests. There was a bit of debris on the road, so we took it nice and slow until we got to the top where there was a nice look-out. We stopped for a couple of pictures, and a guy arrived from the other direction on a Postie Bike. He said his other bike was a GS, and also mentioned that there was more debris on the road from the direction he had come from.
We continued on and it was actually not as bad as what we had already done, but when we got to an intersection Wilson said he’d had enough of the tiny road and wanted to get back on something more decent. Unfortunately the road leading back to the main road, while starting off nice and wide and clean, quickly turned very narrow, very bumpy, and very mossy, so slowly, slowly.. nevertheless we made it back without mishap and then proceeded to follow Route 9 beside Fuji River.
We stopped in Utsubuna for lunch in a small restaurant beside the road. Although we had both initially wanted Tempura we opted for soba bowls instead, and they were very delicious. After lunch Wilson and I split up – Wilson was wanting to head back to Tokyo, and I was wanting to check out a small road leading to Tenshi Lake.
Utsubuna to Shirakaba Lake via dirt roads, Shizuoka, and the fantastic 152; long dash to the hotel at night.
The road to Tenshi Lake, rather predictably by now, got narrower, covered in debris, and eventually turned into a rocky track leading deeper into the forest. Less daunted, I kept going and it was quite a nice ride, I even saw a deer grazing beside the road. Eventually the track turned less rocky and more gravelly, but developed a centre grassy hump which was a bit tricky to negotiate at times. Still, I made it through without mishap and had a good time of it!
From there I had wanted to ride Route 152 further west, but to get there required riding through quite a bit of town and major roads, which were full of cars and people. I miss the quiet countryside already! After slogging my way through Shizuoka I turned off on Route 362 which was much nicer. I also wanted to take Route 32, but this turned out to be closed a few miles in, so I had to backtrack. Still, 362 was mostly ok for traffic and most cars let me past.
I eventually reached 152 and, after passing the detour in Isuka due to a landslide I had managed to get past all the cars and could really enjoy the road leading up the Funagira Dam Lake. This was a well-paved road with great sweeping corners, fantastic to ride. Eventually though, as seems to always be the case here, the road turned into a single-lane narrow road through the forest. My aim was to get over the Bungui-toge Pass, but this was thwarted…
After reaching the Hodono Castle Ruins (which I actually didn’t see as I didn’t realise I was there at the time – I was running a bit behind schedule to reach my hotel for the night at this stage…) I ended up taking a wrong turn through a long tunnel.. which I then had to backtrack. The 152 was closed here, but there was a smaller road which should detour around and meet up again with the 152 later. Except, after a few miles, yep, you guessed it, it was also closed!
Checking for alternatives I realised there really was nothing.. and by now I was _really_ behind schedule. I had originally wanted to get a place somewhere in this area, but they were all booked out, and I accidentally ended up booking something near Nagano, which was still a couple of hours away.. so I just told the GPS to route me to the hotel, fastest route, and gave up on going over the Pass. Funny story: the new route took me through the tunnel I had taken a “wrong turn” through an hour earlier…
Here followed a mad dash to the hotel. I should have spent a bit more time trying to plan the route instead of trusting the GPS as, instead of routing me over highways, it took me via Route 152 and other quite small roads. During daytime this would probably have been really nice and picturesque, but as it was getting dark, the highway would have been a lot more comfortable. Still, I got to try out the auxiliary lights on the bike after dark and damn, are they impressive! I was still able to make quite good progress even on small twisty roads through the forest. I’m really glad I reprogrammed them to be dimmer before setting off as otherwise they would have been blinding to oncoming traffic even on low-beam.
I eventually reached my destination, the “Petit Hotel Kurumi No Milk” without mishap, despite having to stop to let a few deer cross the road on the very last stretch. As it was already nearly 9pm by now there was no point trying to head out to find dinner as the closest places would be a 15 minute ride away or so. Unfortunately I lucked out again and the place had neither an onsen nor a sentan – and after my epic ride (over 500km, mostly over small roads) I was a bit beat. So I folded myself into the ofuro and soaked before collapsing in bed. Still, it’s a nice enough place and, as it turned out, was on the Venus Line, which is one of the best roads in Japan for motorcycling!
“Petit Hotel Kurumi no Milk” to Tokyo; via the last bit of the Venus Line, various other small roads; 2 caves, and a rather horrid last stretch back to Tokyo..
I left quite early again as the hotel didn’t have breakfast – I really need to start booking through Jalan again as the places it has usually have breakfast options! A very nice trundle along the last bit of the Venus line followed, in very comfortable 18C at this altitude. After various great mountain roads I stopped for breakfast at a kombini – not my favourite, but it was too early for anywhere else to be open, and I needed coffee!
I was mostly just moseying back towards Tokyo, but realised that I was well and truly too early as I had originally expected to be starting at least 100km further back and was wanting to check out the “Median Tectonic Line Museum” in Oshika this morning. In retrospect I could have had a great blast up the Venus Line and had breakfast at the top.. oh well.
Instead I did a sudden U-Turn when I saw a sign for Fujido Cave and headed up the side-road to that. I already got a sneaking suspicion on my way up the access road, which was confirmed when I reached the top – I had already been here! Well, no point going in the cave again, so I traipsed across the Ueno Suspension Bridge in search of ice-cream. Unfortunately it was still too early for that, so I traipsed back and got an ice-cream out of the Cave shop freezer instead. The view was nicer on this side anyway.
From here I did a big loop through a small forest road just for fun, and then tagged another cave as my next destination. The ride to Hashidate Limestone Cave was mostly along Route 299 and overall great, although the last bit through Ogano was a bit painful with traffic. FWIW, Hashidate Cave isn’t worth it as a specific destination.. it’s quite small and there’s barely any indication of stalactites or stalagmites. It’s also a bit of a scramble to go through, so only recommended if you’re reasonably fit and flexible. It does seem to be quite a popular tourist destination though with a big eatery and other touristy stuff. The only hint is to drive up to it instead of parking at the top carpark.
I tried to keep going up the road past the cave to get to Arima Dam, but, yep, it was closed maybe 10 miles later.. so back I went and had to take quite a long detour to get there, some of it through busy towns. I made it eventually and discovered it’s a hot-spot for bikers! Lots of bikes parked up on the dam wall with people lounging about.
From here there was really nothing else except back to Tokyo. I tried to take a smaller road for a bit but, again, closed, so again, backtracking.. the main road leading down into Hanno got busier and busier, and, coming out of the mountains and onto the Kanto plain, the temperature soared to 30C+. I was getting quite hot in my gear, and the neverending lines of cars did not help. After various attempts to reroute myself off the busy main roads I eventually got onto the highway back to Tokyo.
Unlike the south, there were no major hold-ups and apart from not taking an exit when I should have (the GPS and road signs disagreed with each other; the GPS turned out to be correct..) it was a mostly reasonable ride back. Still, I was more than happy to finally get home and have a shower!
What a fantastic weekend 🙂 Looking forward to the next ride.. although I definitely need to invest in some summer riding clothes!