Last year I went to Setouchi area for cycling with my Brompton, and this year my bike mate, Haruna with whom I had traveled last year suggests me to go to Aizu area in Fukushima. I have been to Aizu many times, mainly for skiing but it is first time for me to go for cycling. So four of TGCT guides, Haruna, Etsuko, Kazu and I had two nights three days cycling trip in early June, when just before the rainy season has started.
(Three beauties and our Bromptons 😉
The trip was brilliant, beautiful natural landscape, Onsen on top of local Sake and foods , nice bike friends and beautiful weather made our cycling trip such an unforgettable memory. We discovered a lot of hidden gems which only local people know. Unfortunately the name “Fukushima” became world famous after that hideous catastrophe happened in March 11, 2011. But Aizu in Fukushima is truly lovely place for cycling and we recommend to anyone who are planning cycling holiday in Japan. Actually Fukushima (福島) literally means lucky (福) Island (島). Fukushima prefecture is divided into three areas, Aizu, Nakadori and Hamadori. The nuclear power plant is located in Hamadori and the area we visited this time, Aizu is 130 km away from Fukushima Daiishi Nuclear Power Station. Although we reaffirmed that accident when we watched TV news at Onsen Ryokan room and news mentioned Today’s radiation level as well as tomorrow’s weather forecast. In Tokyo we hardly hear this news recently, so it was a bit shocking for us…
Anyway, here is our cycling story…
We met at Asakusa station in Tokyo at 8 am and took Tobu Line for Aizuwakamatsu. The best part of cycling with Brompton is easy for Rinko (輪行). In Japan, we need to fold our bikes and put them into Rinko bags.
After three hours, we got off at Yunokami Onsen station. The design of the train and the station building are so cute and we were so happy to take pictures. From the station, it is 6 km uphill cycling to Ouchi-Juku . Ouchi-Juku is a small post station along the old trail (Aizu Nishi Kaido) from Edo period. It is only 6 km but the hill was quite steep… But that’s why when we finally arrived at Ouchi-Juku, we were so excited by those charming thatched roof houses, pretty sure we enjoyed the scenery more than those lazy people who went there by bus, huh!
After tasting yummy Soba noodle lunch, we enjoyed nice down hill back to the station and took the train again heading to Nishi-Aizu station. Before checking in tonight Onsen Ryokan, we enjoyed easy cycling in Aizu-Wakamatsu city, visiting Aizu castle, a few Japanese Sake brewers (shopping for tonight Sake as well!) and old downtown.
+++ Day 2 +++
It was a big day. We started Inawashiro Lake ( 500 m elevation) ended at Noji Onsen at 1,200 m for about 40 km. Good thing is that the weather is just perfect for cycling again and another thing is that I had great cycling mates.
We started at around 8:30 am and cycling in the fresh green rice paddies are just gorgeous. The morning fog coming from Lake Inawashiro covered the fields and that give us nice and mysterious scenery to enjoy. Mt. Bandai is at our back as if she is helping to push our back to pedal further.
After 20-25 km easy moderate cycling, hill climbing has started. Among us, Kazu is the most experienced hill climber, while Etsuko is the first time to do hill climb cycling and she was a bit nervous. I am just OK, it is my second one this year after the one in Nagano during Golden Week.
I say some cyclists passing me but didn’t see anyone who are riding mini-velo and they are all surprised to see us as we were all on small wheel bikes (3 Bromptons and 1 Birdy), and which I was proud of ! We all made being at 1,400 meters point with big smile.
We stay at the traditional Onsen Ryokan tonight. Sagamiya Ryokan at Shinojionsen. They are a member of small sized Onsen Ryokan group called Japan Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns. Their Onsen has nice rustic atmosphere especially their outdoor bath was super cool!
Smells sulfur and color is creamy white, look good for beautiful skins 🙂 So we jumped into the water!
Before dinner, after dinner, just before going to bed (or Futon) and the next early morning before breakfast, I enjoyed four times at one night stay there.
+++ Day 3 +++
The last day of our trip was another beautiful weather! Today’s cycling is on the road named Bandai-Azuma Skyline with 29 km distance over the Tsuchiyu pass. This was originally toll road but it is now toll free for reconstruction after Fukushima was devastated by the earthquake in 2011. Actually the road is selected top 100 beautiful road in Japan.
After the highest point of 1622 meters, we had a rest at Jyodo-Daira. The whole area was in National park and originally created by volcanic activity. There landscape is so unique, very stark but beautiful. There are 111 volcano in Japan and 5 of them are in this area. The latest eruption was happened about 120 years ago, but we can see the clear sign that the mountains are still active here and there.
Oops! What should we do? The caution says “Poison Gas. Another sign even mention ” You have better close your window” We are cycling, there is no window to close! No wonder this area is named “Fox hell” Means that poison gas might kill small animals such as foxes or rabbits.
All of us enjoyed down hill cycling, yeah, downhill! That’s the reward of our climbing yesterday and this morning 🙂
We finally arrived at JR Fukushima station, the goal of this trip. We cannot help jumping to joy. We love cycling, we love Fukushima!