Hokkaido is the most northern island in Japan, yet it is so different from the main island of Honshu, that in some ways it feels like a foreign land. Tsugaru, however, which lies in the farthest reaches of Honshu, feels like you are venturing deep into Japan’s true north.
We begin our two-wheeled journey north of Hirosaki, an old castle town in Midwest Aomori Prefecture. Hirosaki-jo is well known for the cherry trees that line the moats of this famous Tohoku castle.
From Hirosaki, we pedal on toward the foot of Mount Iwaki (Iwaki-san). The mountain has been dubbed “Tsugaru Fuji” for its beautifully balanced shape, resembling iconic Mt. Fuji. The area boasts the largest apple crop in Japan; enjoy the blossoms in early summer and eating some delicious apples in autumn and winter. Continuing on, about one kilometer west of Narusawa Station on the JR Gono Line, you will hit a north-to-south stretch called Melon Road. We pedal northbound on the road toward Jusan-ko (Lake Jusan).
As we go north along the lakeshore past Kodomari, the road gets quite hilly with sections exceeding a ten-percent grade as we head up to Chokandai lookout at an altitude of 502 meters, the highest point of the route. From here, a breathtaking descent will leads down to Cape Tappi (Tappi-misaki). A lighthouse is located on the top of a hill and the national route from here weaves down to the coast below through a series of stops. No cars are allowed on this national route, yet you can push your bike down on the ramp on the side of the steps or take the paved detour.
From the cape, we crank on through quaint fishing villages with the sea rolling in on the left. Hokkaido’s mountains look close – and they are – only twenty kilometers across the water. After rounding Cape Takano (Takano-saki), the route heads south towards the bustling capital of Aomori City.
Takashi Niwa actively organizes guided tours around the world, from the back alleys of Tokyo to remote villages in Tibet. He has authored many books including “Otona no Tame no Jitensha Nyūmon” (Nihon Keizai Shinbun Shuppansha). His company, Niwa Cycling Tours organizes tours in Japan and around the world.