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Cycling Japan

By Takashi Niwa

A Coast-to-Coast Ride Across Honshu

2009
ISSUE
30

Starting from the Tokyo outskirts, this ride takes us across the island of Honshu. Many cyclists try to ride across Japan’s largest island but end up pedaling on major truck routes with speeding cars and roaring trucks passing by. Our route, however, avoids these busy roads. We carefully chose comfortable, often scenic, roads along some historic routes too, so you can get the most out of the journey to the other side of Honshu.

After getting set up at Kasai Rinkai Park, we go north along the west bank of the Arakawa River, mostly on the cycling road (CR). Cross Ōashi Bridge in Konosu, Saitama, and head for Kumagaya, then take K341 to Tōsui Bridge, where a CR resumes along the Tone River.

If the Tamamura CR and the old Nakasendo (center route) to Takasaki is convoluted and hard to follow, veer off onto R354 at the Goryo Bridge. From Takasaki, take the Usui River CR to An-naka and R18 (the old route) to Yokokawa. You will be climbing 560 meters to Usui Pass, the highest point on the route, but an easy grade makes the climbing manageable.

The 958-meter pass is on the water divide of the Honshu Island and the old R18 starts a gradual descent through Karuizawa, Komoro and Unno-juku, an old post town on the Hokkoku Kaido, which once bustled with pilgrims to Zenkōji in Nagano City and gold bullions transported from Sado Island mines to Edo. Past Ueda, the route crosses Nezumi Bridge and takes you onto the Chikuma River CR.

Pedal CR and local roads through Nagano to Obuse and further on to Nakano. From here, an old route will take you through Iiyama and R292 up to Wakui Pass. After a long descent, northbound R18 and K123 pass through central Joetsu, and then you finally reach the seashore.