Story and photos by Brad Bennett
With a Beatles tune in my head and a trailer full of gear, I left Tokyo in the direction of Mt. Fuji. My plan: To make a two-wheeled pilgrimage to the famous mountain while photographing the autumn scenery on local roads and old mountain highways along the way.
As I left Futako-Tamagawa, my trusty hard tail mountain bike was fitted with “skinny tires” and a BOB Trailer. This handy trailer can haul loads up to 35 kg and it was packed with a heavy tripod, two cameras, camping gear, numerous bike parts, tools, hiking shoes, first aid kit and extra clothing.
I was making great time cruising up the Tama riverside when Maeda-san, a firefighter and fellow cyclist, waved me down for inspection. The BOB was destined to attract its share of curious admirers and before long I was answering more questions about die one-wheel trailer, this time from Ohkawa-san, a rider from the local Pergita Cycling team.
Both offered helpful advice about my planned route and, after listening to reports of quiet roads and hot springs ahead, I pedaled on.
Near Ome, I left the tranquil riverside and briefly entered the realm of motorized vehicles on the Ome Kaido before crossing over the Tama River Gorge on the more pleasant Yoshino Kaido.
A few hours later, I rolled into the peaceful town of Kori, and with daylight to spare, I unhitched BOB and set off to find nearby Moeginoyu Onsen. The natural hot spring had an outdoor bath with great views and a silence rarely found in Tokyo.
AROUND DAIBOSATSU-REI MOUNTAIN
Day Two was chilly and clear and, after what seemed like a short nap at a friend’s place, I was on the road early. I stopped for supplies at the “westernmost convenience store” in Tokyo and found a large wooden map of the Okutama Mukashi Kaido.
After hanging with a group of Harley riders at Okutama Lake rest area I was inspired to pick up the pace, as I knew the climb to Yanagisawa Pass was going to take some time.
Entering Yamanashi on Rt. 411, the traffic was sparse and the Tabayama area was left wanting for tourists. I knew this was going to be my longest day. After stopping for photos of autumn leaves and to catch my breath, I was in fine spirits coasting into the Kofu Basin where I was greeted by the bright lights of Daibosatsu no Yu just off the highway.
The staff at Daibosatsu were super helpful in getting me a room for the night, and a long soak later, I headed to the Nakamuraya Ryokan where I was given VIP parking for the bike and a clean room for ¥5,000, including breakfast.
MITSUTOGE: THE THREE MOUNTAIN PASSES
Day Three was also blessed with fine weather and, after eating some local natto (soybean curd), my next stop was wine-tasting among the rolling hills of Katsunuma. The mellow morning was soon forgotten as I reached the intersection to Rt. 137 and began climbing Mitsutoge or “Three Passes Mountain.”
A few long hours after, the infamous Mitsutoge ghost tunnel came into view. There was no light for the first 500 meters and, although I didn’t meet any ghosts, I emerged to a grand view of Mt. Fuji.
This led to another long and winding downhill into the town of Kawaguchi where, after sunset, I met up with some friendly locals who introduced me to some tasty micro-brews and pizza at the popular Sylvan’s Restaurant.
THE YOSHIDA MOUNTAIN ROAD TO THE 5TH STAGE
The next morning I left before dawn, wrapped in many layers as fog had settled in, with the temperature in single digits. Fortunately, the sun broke through at Sengen Shrine, in Fujiyoshida, as I ventured up the Yoshida Tozando (mountain road), peeling off clothes en route to the fifth stage of Mt. Fuji.
After jumping the last barrier (beyond which no motorized vehicles are allowed) and suffering for a few quiet hours, I saw the road became a trail, and I ended up walking the last two kilometers to Komitake Shrine.
Soon after passing the Satogoya mountain hut, the bustling fifth stage rest area of the Subaru Line was in view. The downhill course was long and fast, and I had to stop just to cool my rims and stretch my fingers.
Returning to Tokyo from Kawaguchi by bus was not my original plan, but I had to be back and couldn’t complain about the ¥1,700 ticket to Shinjuku as the driver allowed me to slide my BOB and bike into the undercarriage of the highway bus.
Drifting off to sleep in my reserved seat, I reflected on the stunning scenery I had witnessed, knowing it would not be long before the next adventure in Japan with BOB.
Tel. (0428) 82-7770
Web site www.okutamas.co.jp/moegi
Daibosatsu no Yu
Tel. (0553) 32-4126
Tel. (0553) 33-2078