Tuesday 22nd May
Hommoku Makado to Hadano
Distance: 44.65 km
Total Distance: 22369.74 km
We’ve received a message from Rich and Joan, warmshower hosts in Hadano. They’re going to host us for a couple of nights which is great because we’re in desperate need of some down time for laundry, bike maintenance and to publish the blog etc. And the forecast for Wednesday is rain. The ride is pretty unspectacular although it’s entertaining when we discover we’re not allowed to use the road tunnel under the multiple train tracks but instead have to use the pedestrian overpass – thank God the elevator is big enough for the trikes. We arrive at Rich and Joan’s house, they’re both university lecturers from Tokai University who hail from the USA but have lived in Japan for 10 years.
They’re having some friends over later for a barbecue and then we’re all going to visit the kittens they’re going to adopt in the next week or so.
So it’s a busy evening and once Joan’s friends foolishly show a hint of interest in our videos, Daz insists on playing them all, it’s like someone with their holiday snaps although I must admit shots of the Pamir Highway and whale watching are pretty cool. After we’ve eaten we head off to see the kittens.
There are 4 beautifully cute kittens in the litter and their colouring is reminiscent of the cats Rich and Joan had back in the States. They need to decide which 2 they want – tough choice!
Thursday 24th May
Hadano to Yamanakoko (Fuji 5 Lakes)
Distance: 52.27 km
Total Distance: 22422.01 km
Yesterday was an admin day. Laundry, bikes cleaned and serviced and after 15000km I’ve got new tyres. My rear and front right tyres were showing very definite signs of wear so 2 new tyres have gone on the front and my front left onto the rear.
Finally we managed to publish the blog which took most of the day and then Daz cooked a fab egg curry for us all and we then taught Rich and Joan how to play Nomination Whist. Rich and Joan have been great helping us with our future travel plan; they are incredibly knowledgeable about the area and have some great top tips.
They show us the bikes and trailer that they use. They have small folding bikes with a Burley Travoy, a kind of trailer that folds up as small as the bikes. It’s a great set up for travelling on the trains in Japan so they can get to those far flung destinations quickly and then cycle and camp. They also tell us about the Fuji 5 Lakes. These lakes to the north of Mt Fuji give incredible views of Fuji so we decide to change our plans and cycle there rather than Hakone. This morning we packed up, all fresh, clean and with bikes that don’t squeak although first Daz has to repair a puncture in my front left tyre!
We say goodbye to Rich and Joan, they have been fabulous hosts and we can’t thank them enough. The cycling is flat after an initial climb and we follow a busy road through a valley for some time. In fact, there are 3 main roads running through this narrow valley and it looks like each is quite busy! We are glad we are on the lower, slightly quieter one!
After 30km we turn off and then the ascent to the first lake begins. Oh my God!! 17 km straight up, over 1000 meters of climb. And it’s steep, very steep. I then get another puncture but now it’s in the rear tyre. The tyre has a minute splinter of metal in it, so when Daz switched my front left tyre to the rear, the metal splinter dislodged sufficiently to puncture my front left tube but then remained in the tyre that went onto the rear to puncture that tube too. We carry on climbing, at one point passed by a procession of racing cars, including a Lambourghini, seemingly driven by Europeans?!
They don’t offer us a lift and we keep climbing, got the picture yet? It is the toughest cycling we’ve done for months and clearly we’re no longer hill fit. At one point I can barely force my pedals round. Finally at 5 pm we reach the top, the sun breaks through and shines down on Yamanakoko Lake – it’s a fantastic sight!
We can’t see Mt Fuji yet because of cloud, but hopefully tomorrow it will be clear. We drop down to the lake, and pit stop at a 7/11. There’s a fantastic cycle lane around the lake and we head onto it. We know there’s a camp site closeby and an onsen at the other end of the lake. The campsite is closed but there’s a public area next to it which we can camp in. It has toilets but no hot water, only a cold tap.
We decide to stay put, we can’t be bothered going any further, we’re shattered from the day’s climb. So it’s a cold bucket wash, but we are camped by the lake and the fish are jumping. Swans sail by serenely and we can hear birdsong in the trees all around us. What a beautiful end to the day. Thanks again Rich and Joan for the recommendation.
Friday 25th May
Yamanakoko (Fuji 5 Lakes) to Lake Saiko
Distance: 35.00 km
Total Distance: 22457.01 km
This morning there’s still a lake mist at 7am so we’re off to a very slow start waiting for the tent to dry. There’s something happening on the adjacent beach because numerous cars are coming into our car park. I go off to investigate and discover a gathering of model water aeroplane enthusiasts. I watch one plane flying a circuit before coming in for a water landing. I go and tell Daz, he’s going to love these and in our excitement we’ve both failed to spot the incredible views of Mt Fuji because we’ve been looking in completely the wrong direction – Doh!
We follow the cycle path around the north shore of Lake Yamanakoko. I want to see Hana-no-Miyako Park, 300,000 square metres covered in flowers with Mt Fuji as the backdrop.
Then from Lake Yamanakoko we cycle to Lake Kawaguchiko again following the north shore and always with Mt Fuji as the stunning backdrop to the beautiful lake views.
We decide to continue to Lake Saiko because we’ve spotted a campsite with an adjacent onsen. The campsite has great views over the lake but views of Mt Fuji are blocked by the hills around the lake.
Tonight we’ve got a disposable barbecue and it’s steak night tonight!
Saturday 26th May
Lake Saiko to Shimizu
Distance: 75.03 km
Total Distance: 22532.04 km
We were rudely awoken at 6am by the campsite owner asking us for 2000 yen. The site had beautiful views but given there was no hot water or showers and we usually get these same facilities for free, we’re a bit annoyed- Bah Humbug! After breakfast and another puncture repair we continue along the north shore and soon Mt Fuji comes into view.
Adherents of ‘Fuji-ko’ (faith that worships Fujisan) make a pilgrimage around the lakes including Lake Saiko, which is a major spiritual spot, to purify their bodies. Lake Saiko is dedicated as a National Place of Scenic Beauty. The views of Fuji and it’s reflection mirrored on the lake have been depicted in artworks such as those of Ukiyo-e wood block prints.
From Lake Saiko we head to Lake Shojiko, stopping to do a short woodland walk. Being called the ‘Wild Birds’ Forest’ we were hoping to see some birds but sadly we don’t see any except a grey wagtail (or was it a yellow wagtail?) on our return. We just touch the southern tip of Lake Shojiko and head on to Lake Motosuko. We stop to do a short walk up to Mt Eboshidake and then on to the panoramic viewpoint. We climb and climb up through the woodland and finally we break through at the top of Mt Eboshidake and have views of Lake Motosuko and Mt Fuji.
Then it’s another 30 minutes to the panoramic viewpoint – we should be able to see all 5 Lakes and Mt Fuji but the weather is against us and we can only see 4 lakes. But it’s still impressive. We head back to the bottom and our trikes spotting a bird’s nest on the way with a cluster of eggs. The nest is right next to the path and I hope the mother hasn’t abandoned her eggs because of all the foot traffic passing-by. We have one more stop and that’s at the northern tip of Lake Motosuko where the view is that shown on the 1000 yen note.
Now we just need to cycle around the rest of the lake and then head south. There’s a wind surfing competition in progress and then some sort of Army exercise in progress and they’re camped on public ground with civilians, how strange.
From Lake Motosuko we have a fantastic downhill, ruined somewhat by the head wind. We see some paragliders off to our right, it looks as if they’ve jumped into a storm front and we can see the fliers being buffeted by the turbulence – looks very scary. We’ve been seeing a few runners, then down in a valley we catch sight of a huge campsite full of people and tents.
Japan’s Mt. Fuji World Heritage Center, designed by Pritzker winner Shigery Ban. Located 20 miles southwest of Mt Fuji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, the sculptural building pays homage to Fuji with its inverted latticed cone that, when seen in the reflecting pool, mimics the shape of the famous dormant volcano. We were blown away by this building – beautiful!
Then we see a sign, it’s the Mt Fuji Ultra trail race, no wonder there’s so many running groups out. We make good progress to the coast and camp in a small park with a toilet block.
The toilet block is heated so we have a good wash without freezing our arses off!
Sunday 27th May
Shimizu to Fujikawaguchiko Machi
Distance: 83.21 km
Total Distance: 22615.25 km
Well sadly not much to report today, just a very long, hard slog with a nasty headwind and tough navigating. We knew we were going to have a lot of ground to cover over these 2 days to make our date with Kate and Brett, but the reality is still unpleasantly tough. We have seen some lovely tea plantations today and yesterday evening which we weren’t expecting.
We find a nice camping spot by the river with ensuite bathroom – another thorough washing opportunity.
Monday 28th May
Fujikawaguchiko Machi to Toyohashi
Distance: 60.49 km
Total Distance: 22675.74 km
We had a lovely undisturbed sleep last night except for the occasional big fish launching itself out of the river after mayfly and making a thunderous splash on landing, This morning we blow the cobwebs and launch into a fast pace.
We’ve got 40km done in less than 3 hours and stop for a snack and drink. Then a final push sees us arrive in Toyohashi where we are staying with Aaron, our warmshower host. He’s going to look after our trikes whilst we tour by train with Brett and Kate who arrive tomorrow. We cycle around and find a coin laundry and then get changed into clean clothes with a little bit of a scrub in a town hall. All our dirty stuff we chuck in the washers and sit on our trikes waiting for them to finish, riveting stuff.
We cycle over to Aaron’s and are welcomed by his landlord with a beer, an excellent start. There’s a huge antenna on the roof, and we ask the obvious question, but it’s just a ham radio setup. The landlord can reach the whole world with his set, no wonder with the size of that antenna.
Aaron soon returns from work and we chat about our travels whilst sharing beers and crisps. Aaron is a Spaniard who gave up his job in Spain to go cycle touring, about 10 years ago. He ended up in Japan where he found work with VW as an IT project manager looking after projects all over Asia. He’s been in Japan for 10 years and finds the Japanese culture rather suppressed compared to the easy-going, social Spanish way of life.