Golden Week CyclingJan Heine
Golden Week is one of the biggest vacation times in Japan. It’s a combination of one-day holidays that result in a little over a week of time off. And it’s springtime, so virtually every cyclist takes to the road. This year, we went on a ride in the Japanese Alps with a group of friends.
Spring in Japan is a great time for cycling. It’s warm, but not yet hot. The skies are blue, and the fresh green of the forests looks especially vivid in the bright sunlight. The rice fields are being flooded. It’s the Japan you imagine in children’s picture books.
The best roads of Japan go through the mountains, and this pass was especially spectacular. The cliffs were so steep and loose that the road was built into the mountain, with avalanche galleries protecting it from falling rocks (and snow in the winter). At the top, we exited a tunnel to see a spectacular view of the Japanese Alps (top photo).
This area really deserves the name “Japanese Alps”, as the steep mountains and broad valleys look remarkably similar to Switzerland. So do the small fields, and even the ski slopes.
We cycled on tiny roads past bucolic lakes.
The roads rarely were flat, which made the cycling more interesting.
The pace was unhurried, with plenty of time for exploring…
… visiting local shrines…
…and even a farm where wasabi (Japanese horseradish) is grown in the shade of a little valley.
We avoided large roads as much as possible, preferring little byways and even dirt paths.
Our ride ended in Matsumoto with its magnificent castle.
After some more sightseeing, we Rinko’d our bikes and returned to Tokyo. Thank you to our friends for organizing this great trip!
Photo credit: Natsuko Hirose (top photo).