Cycling JapanBy Takashi Niwa
Hakkoda and Shimokita Peninsula Loop
Mountains, sea, capes, wilderness, forests and hot springs – this cycling trip is dotted with natural attractions. Moreover, local produce and seafood delicacies are not to be missed. The trip route runs counterclockwise around the central and eastern parts of Aomori Prefecture. The terrain is not too hilly, except in the Hakkoda Mountains, and there’s not much traffic.
Head south from Aomori Station and go over Kasamatsu Pass. The first leg of the route is a hill climb from nearly sea level up to 1,000 meters. So, take your time and enjoy great views of Aomori City and Mutsu Bay down below; vegetation changes with altitude from sugi (cedar) to buna (beech) trees to ōshirabiso (conifers).
From the Pass, descend through the meadow and farmland via Shichinohe Town to Lake Ogawara, where the route turns north and heads for the ax-shaped Shimokita Peninsula. The lake, located at the end of the “ax handle,” spreads out in front as you ride over gentle terrain along the broad expanse of water, between rice paddies and gradually into the hiba (cypress) forest.
Surrounded by nature and tranquility, you will see very few houses from here to Cape Shiriyazaki. You may feel a little helpless from time to time, but it is a more than reasonable price to pay for this empty road in a beautiful natural setting, a rare find in Japan unless you are deep in the mountains.
At Cape Shiriyazaki, turn west for Cape Ōmazaki, where, from the northernmost tip of the peninsula, Hokkaido looks remarkably close on a fine day. The sea in front is a fabled fishing ground for hon maguro (giant tuna), and you’ll find trolling boats tied up in nearby harbors. Those boats are crewed by a single fisherman who tackles the big fish on a single line.
Ōma is famous for landing the highest quality and most expensive hon maguro, which is evident by the mansions of these fishermen near the harbor.
The route turns south in Ōma and finishes in Sai, where ferry service is available. Enjoy the views on Hotokegaura’s rocky coast on your cruise back to Aomori.
Total distance: 257.3 km.
Best in: June to October / 6～10月
At Cape Shiriyazaki, the sea stretches out in front and alpine plants blossom at your feet. The 32.8-meter brick-built lighthouse is the tallest of its kind in Japan, and the light from its beacon can be seen 34 kilometers out.