Reader Question: Touring in Tohoku

We received an email about cycle touring in Tohoku from Stefano. We thought we’d reply with a blog post, in case any other readers have similar questions.


Hello,

we are thinking of coming to Northern Honshu in August for some cycle touring. Do you know this area and what kind of climate to expect?!

Our ambition would be to visit some more humble rustic areas, not necessarily go great distances – maybe 40 miles per day for a week in a scenic area, arriving by train (with low geared Bromptons) from Tokyo.

Could you recommend any areas – preferably inland rather than coastal??

thank you,

Stefano


Hi Stefano,

Thanks for getting in touch. I’ll try to answer your questions.

First of all, we live in the Tohoku region of Japan. Tohoku consists of the six northernmost prefectures in Honshu: Aomori; Akita; Iwate; Miyagi; Yamagata; Fukushima. We live in Koriyama, a medium sized city in Fukushima prefecture. Much of Tohoku is rural, so if you’re seeking the rustic, you’ll have lots to choose from.

Some recommendations of things to do and see, and routes to ride:

  • Ouchijuku is an Edo-period postal town in the south of Fukushima prefecture, with straw roofed buildings and traditional crafts on display.
  • Nikko is a small town in Tochigi with several famous temples and shrines, including the mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns.
  • The Abukuma-do caves are limestone caves in Central Fukushima.
  • Riding along the Abukuma River was one of the highlights of our Honshu Coast to Coast tour. From Nasu, you can follow the river for 150 miles to the Pacific Ocean. The golden rice fields will look amazing at that time of year.
  • For inspiration on day routes to ride in Tohoku, take a look at the Cycle Aid Japan 2013 website. Many of the middle courses would fit inside your 40 mile daily target. We took part in the event last week.
  • August is a time of festivals in Japan. Most towns will have some kind of matsuri going on during the summer. The three big summer festivals in Tohoku are:
    • The Akita Kanto festival: many lanterns carried on spectacular bamboo structures.
    • The Sendai Tanabata festival: giant paper dolls decorate the streets of the city.
    • The Aomori Nebuta festival: beautifully painted paper lanterns illuminated by candlelight.

    Any of those would be an unforgettable experience. If you want something smaller, check the Prefectural Tourism websites via the links below to find out about local festivals too.

Climate: August in Japan is hot. For us, coming from England, it’s really hot. What kind of temperatures are you used to? Daytime temperatures in Fukushima regularly break 30°C during August, with the north a little cooler, around 25°C. It can also be very humid. Be prepared, and pack hot weather clothing, sunglasses and a cool hat. If you plan on camping, a light sleeping bag should be fine.

Trains: It’s great that you’re bringing Bromptons. It will give you a lot of freedom to move between different areas by train or bus. If you plan on making several rail journeys, it might be worth considering either the JR East Pass, which lets you ride the bullet trains and express trains, or the Seishun 18 Ticket, which only lets you ride local trains, but is much cheaper. Both are a good deal, and both can be purchased once you get to Japan. Bikes on trains in Japan must be bagged, but with a folding bike that’s not too difficult.

There’s a lot on offer in Tohoku in summer. Travelling by train and folding bike is a great way to experience this part of Japan. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

Have a great trip.

David and Laura


We’ve put together a reading list of useful links below:

Official Tourism Information in English by prefecture:

General information about cycling in Japan:
Kancycling: a great site that’s full of useful information
Japan Cycling Navigator: another excellent source of information
Tokyo by Bike: Byron focuses on issues affecting urban cyclists, and much of what he talks about applies to all cyclists in Japan.

Do YOU have anything to add about cycling in Tohoku? Please join the conversation in the comments below.

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