We took our new bikes on their maiden tour during Golden Week. Our route took us to the Pacific Ocean near Watari, and then across Honshu to the Sea of Japan at Murakami. Conditions were mixed, flat and hilly, warm and cold, wet and dry. We rode 375km in seven days. From difficulties we faced, we learned a lot, and there were some amazing highlights. This is a summary of our trip. We wrote up a day-by-day journal for Crazy Guy On a Bike, so if you want more detail, please click here.
Leaving directly after work on Saturday, we rode into the night to get from Koriyama to our friend’s house in Date. Riding in the dark wasn’t much fun, but it meant we could start our next day in relatively unfamiliar territory. From Date we headed north-east towards the Pacfic, following the stunning Abukuma river, and camping by a rocky creek near Marumori. We rode to the Pacific the next day. Watari district suffered severe damage as a result of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, and though reconstruction work has started, there was still a tangible sadness in the air. We turned west, and climbed up towards the castle town of Shiroishi. Climbing continued on Tuesday, as we followed route 113 into the hills of southern Miyagi, and through several harrowing tunnels, towards the vast dam at Shichikashuku.
The second half of our trip began with some sightseeing. We visited most of the signed tourist attractions that we passed on Wednesday morning: a stunning suspension bridge; dramatic waterfalls; a marsh full of pale calla lillies; an ancient triple pagoda. We faced headwinds and rain in the afternoon, and were exhausted when we arrived at our campsite, only to discover that it had been abandoned long ago. We took refuge that night at an onsen-ryokan in Iide town, soothing our muscles in hot mineral baths. The rain didn’t let up at all the next day, as we left Yamagata and entered Niigata. We camped in a carefully chosen and well-hidden spot close to a parking area, only to meet two friendly guys with a similar plan, except that they didn’t bother trying to disguise that they were camping. We were shattered, and soaked, so we didn’t accept their offer of a drinking party that night. In the morning they brought us coffee as we packed away out tent. Our final day was an easy downhill cruise to the Sea of Japan at Murakami. We were almost too tired to celebrate, but we had finished our coast to coast journey.
We learned a lot on this trip. We’d tested most of our equipment before setting off, but it was illuminating to see how well it functioned in the bad weather we faced at the end of the week. Based on how we slept, for example, it’s clear that Laura needs a thermal sleeping bag liner to keep her cosy on colder nights. Our concerns about stealth camping have considerably diminished since we spent the night at the same parking area as the two friendly men. In spite of the difficult conditions we faced – bad weather, tough climbs, terrifying tunnels – our mental fortitude held true. At our lowest points, we supported each other. The highlights were accentuated as we shared them. The most important thing we took on the trip was each other.