Japan is famous for it’s huge snowfalls but it might surprise you it also has a brief yet brutally hot summer.
My home town summers hit 40 degrees, I’m accustomed to heat, but here the humidity is stifling. You perspire profusely as your body struggles not to overheat and there is a need to drink copious amounts of fluids to avoid dehydration. But no matter how hot, fine weather in Japan is too limited to ignore so lets ride.
First day touring the goal is to find a small mountain village possessing a steep zig-zag road.
Best way out of Tokyo is the expressway and today it was not too congested. Later in the cool air of this 4km tunnel a photo comes to mind. Came out not too bad.
The rivers here show the recent heavy rains and road damage caused a couple of detours before reaching the beginning of the mountains.
It’s a very green and panoramic valley.
And then it appears, the village in the sky.
From here you ride the mountain ridge for about an hour north. It’s totally remote and very beautiful.
Then it’s a sharp descent with more great views. Seeking to use my Theta camera more creative and not entirely succeeding – but you have to start somewhere.
Despite knowing to drink lots it seems easy to miss the mark and end up dehydrated by days end. I must improve tomorrow.
Day two the FJR panniers are loaded with 3 litres of sports drinks on ice which will be topped up during the day.
This is the sort of scenery you can enjoy all over Japan. This is the real Japan.
100,000km touring here and yet still finding new places like this. The lake offers you two choices, the left is sweepers the right tight and technical. Riders are spoiled in Japan.
This leads to Mount Ontake. A superb mountain climb but a road too shy for photographs.
Back down at the lake there is a lovely park for a rest with picnic lunch.
Above is the other side of Mount Ontake looking for a road called Karagoe Panorama Line. Bit of mystery as the road seems abandoned after this viewpoint. Japan is incredibly green in summer.
The Japanese generally don’t post corner advisory signs but when they do the road tends to be spectacular and that description fits route 463 this afternoon. Big sweepers that suit a big bike.
The route then shifts down gear to single lane but opens to grand views.
Next hour is riding remote single lane. Route 441 is a narrow high pass with views along a deep valley.
Reaching the end and looking forward to some cool air conditioning at todays hotel which lies just 17km away however the road is closed.
There seems an obvious detour except it is a dead end and no phone signal to look at Google maps. No option than to backtrack turning this into a long day.
Day 3 and time to revisit a favourite road.
From Takayama it’s nice rural riding to the north then enter the valley above on route to Lake Arimine.
Some roads feel like they were made for motorcycle riding – this is one of them. Perfectly surveyed well surfaced gentle climb from the valley to highlands with almost no traffic.
Alas not an easy road to photograph. Later near the lake the road turns to one lane but offers some good views.
There is a high dam wall you get to ride across and it’s amazing how much water that wall is holding back.
Lunch in a lovely park at the dam which despite being a Sunday was empty and very peaceful.
This is the northern exit from the national park, those high mountains seem forever enshrouded in clouds.
Then it’s the expressway north-west from Toyama. The Japanese alps meet the sea here and there is no inland route across them this side of Nagano. But the expressway service areas offer other delights.
There are small valleys dotted along the coast with roads that end a few km into them. Lets take a look at one today.
Pretty road of Hydrangeas and man made cascades.
And with a little luck and riding around some road closed signs you will find this beautiful vista.
Back at the ocean the afternoon turns into a furnace so a cold shower in hotel beckons.
Day 4 is an ambitious route in this heat – actually a bit stupid be honest, but stupid is my middle name.
The FJR is still going well after 7 years. Looking at other bikes but with the demise of the touring motorcycle there is nothing that stands out. Could be on this one for a fair while yet.
Despite being mountainous Japan doesn’t build rice terraces like Philippines or Bali. This small display near Joetsu is one of only a few.
Drink stop. The countryside north west from Joetsu in Niigata has a wonderful old world charm to it. Another place to explore in more detail later.
Today this high viewpoint is first target but alas it is so hazy. Spring with snow on those peaks would be best time here if the road up remains open then.
The cool air is enjoyable before proceeding across the valley to those mountains that lie ahead.
This is route 352 AKA the Jukai Line. It is a remote mountain road which is nearly all one lane with blind switchback corners and many small water crossings.
It is quite scenic but much of it today was damaged by landslips and very slow going.
Here is maybe half way, you climb and descend three ranges. No services for couple of hours.
You get tired of the corners, no joke it is relentless until the valley on the far side where you have a small reprieve before entering the Oze National Park where there is another mountain pass with a hundred corners.
Oze is as close as I will be getting to Aussie this year. My flight home for next month was cancelled due to small number of citizens the government is permitting to return each month. However perhaps my being bumped is fortuitous. Risk adverse Australia is in constant lockdowns and hard borders. People are required to check in your movements. Covid police with Gestapo like red arm bands handing out massive fines. Barely recognise my county now. But I digress, back to the ride.
Ah! the sweet cool air inside tunnels feels like riding into an air-conditioned shopping mall. So good.
Day 5 starts on the Nichien Toll Road which is now free. An extremely twisty road where you are in constant change of direction. It rides better from west due to decreasing radius turns.
Drifting south you enter the region of Nikko and some terrific riding on a weekday but best avoided on weekends.
Beautiful picnic spot for lunch next to Chuzenji lake. Nearby are the remnants of a villa built by Thomas B. Glover in 1893 who thought the area looked like his home in Scotland. Glover introduced trout and fly fishing which lead to the area becoming a summer resort.
When riding in summer you can always feel a storm brewing. Time to get my wheels rolling.
Cool rain drops are a welcome relief however no point getting drenched. A curious school boy said hello while the GPS decides fastest way to tonight’s hotel.
A very impressive high bridge in the middle of nowhere that serves a handful of farms. This is a common thing in Japan yet still is striking.
The FJR bathes you in heat from it’s radiator fan in summer traffic, tonight’s hotel was a welcome sight.
Last night on the road and chance to splurge on Indian food, yum.
Day 6 and fatigue has set in. Its still early yet the temperature is 36 and rising. But the riding continues to be grand. First up the enjoyable curves of Mount Myogi.
Later route 299 then the excellent route 140.
Small shrine tucked away in the shade. Good spot for a rest. It’s too hot this day to get interested in exploring or photography.
Route 411 is a popular one day riders road in Yamanashi and has been upgraded with a beautiful double loop ascent from the fruit farms in the valley below. Amazing bit of road building.
A much needed respite from the afternoon heat.
Then it’s time to hit the expressway for home.
Taking me awhile to recover from this ride! Fatigue hit me hard for a few days and my old knee injury did not like being bent back all day on the FJR footpegs. Sounds like I am getting old. (editor – you are getting old)
However some good riding achieved and valuable hands on time with my slowly evolving photography hobby. Chance to clear the head yet also bring clarity to some issues – magic stuff only a motorcycle ride can do.
Thanks for reading.