Golden Week 2015: Shikoku, Chugoku and Kansai cycling tour

In Japan, Golden Week is a week of 3 or 4 consecutive national holidays and is a popular time to travel for Japanese people.

This year I decided to see Shikoku which is the only main island I hadn't been to in Japan. I went by bicycle and carried my tent and sleeping bag with me. The only other tour I have done with the tent was around Lake Biwako and that was only 3 nights or 400 km!

You know what another goal of this tour was? To visit 29 prefectures before I turn 29. So now I have visited 29 prefectures!

Day 1: April 29th, 2015

I left Nagoya late, at 11:30 am. oops. I took the Shinkansen to Okayama and transferred to a local line going to Shikoku. I got to Kagawa Prefecture, at Sakaide station (you can take the train across to Shikoku, by bridge) and rode for about 3 hours before finding a place to camp.
Kagawa is Japan's smallest prefecture, at a whopping 1876.73 square km. (2nd smallest: Osaka; 3rd: Tokyo; 4th: Okinawa)

Tent Sweet Tent.

 Day 2: April 30th, 2015

On my second day I went from Kagawa to Tokushima Prefecture. The weather was perfect. Originally I had planned to go to the coast, but I decided to cut down on time and go inland, across the north area of the prefecture. I found this to be an easy and pleasant day.

By the way this is what my setup looks like. (very minimalist!)

I found a castle there... Kawashima Castle
I think it was around 5 pm I found a spot to camp on a trail in Miyoshi city, Oboke Gorge (literally in the middle of nowhere). The area is famous for rafting tours and I went to an onsen there in the evening! Unfortunately I didn't go rafting!
This is near the site and I took these photos in the morning.

 Day 3: May 1st, 2015

Next I went from Tokushima to Kochi Prefecture. This was a very difficult day because there were two large hillclimbs, one halfway in and one when I was almost finished! But it was also a very enjoyable day because there was beautiful weather and very little traffic. In fact, it is the 3rd least populous prefecture in Japan!
Also, I had a scary discovery in the morning as I went to pump my front tire. The tire had a weak spot and was bulging out, and I had a spare tube but not a spare tire. This means if I hit a rock, or inflated it further and the weak spot broke, I could get a flat. I did not inflate it and hoped I could hold out until I got to Ehime.

I came across this nice temple and got a sticker for my bike

on the final hillclimb... almost at the top

Day 4: May 2nd, 2015

On the fourth day I went from Kochi to Ehime Prefecture. This was a very pleasant day, except for the first 10 or so minutes going from Kochi to Ehime. There was a 5 km long tunnel that was all downhill and I did it all the way going 40-50 km/h. I've done that before but not with a sketchy front tire and carrying camping equipment. Oh well safety 2nd!
Ehime is the prefecture that is connected to Hiroshima Prefecture via the Shimanami Kaido. I planned to set out on the Shimanami Kaido but I had already ridden 50 km from Kochi to Imabari, the north tip of Ehime. Also, around noon I took the opportunity to get my tire changed at Banff Cycle shop (a good Canadian name). I also did laundry (phew) and went to see the castle (just looked at the outside). The Shimanami Kaido is over 70 km long so I wasn't sure if I could do it. However, lo and behold I got to Onomichi, Hiroshima before 8 pm. 
Ehime is very cyclist friendly. This is a regular convenience store that caters to cyclists. The sign says "Conbini cycle oasis: air pump, water, washroom, rest area, info"
In Imabari I took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing.
In front of the entrance to Imabari Castle
Imabari Castle
I started out on the Shimanami Kaido around 3:30 pm
The Shimanami Kaido connects 9 islands with Shikoku and Honshu. It is like a 70 km long Seawall!
Some of the bridges are about 1 km in length

Day 5: May 3rd, 2015

Day Five was a bit difficult. I was going from Onomichi, in eastern Hiroshima prefecture to Okayama Prefecture. I guess I was just frustrated with the bad state of the roads and the drivers. To top it all off, it started raining around 3 or 4 pm so I decided to get to Okayama city quickly to find a place to camp. After I got my tent all set up I went to Arashi no Yu which is an onsen and ganbanyoku. Ganbanyoku is like a hot sauna where the floor is warm stones, and you just lie and relax.

Before I got to Okayama city I passed through Kurashiki which is a city with a famous historical district. It is also famous for Bizen pottery.

 Day 6: May 4th, 2015

According to my iPhone, it was going to rain on this day too, so I put my camping equipment in a large Air Canada bag before packing on my bike rack. However, the weather was quite fine and by noon I stopped and took everything out to dry. I continued on from Okayama in to Hyogo Prefecture (home of Himeji Castle, Kobe city, and the Hanshin Tigers).
In Himeji I considered skipping the castle to save on time, but I figured why not since it is a world heritage site and literally only hundreds of metres from where I was riding by. I decided not to go in, but just take a picture because the crowds were insane (that's Golden Week for you).
Himeji-jo Castle, a world heritage site which was restored last year
Me outside Himeji Castle
Day 6: May 5th, 2015
CINCO DE MAYO!!!!! Just kidding, this is the last stretch of the trip so I rode over 200 km! I could have split it and got home on the 6th but decided to push myself.
So in the morning I started from my campsite in Miki, Hyogo and went through Ibaraki, Osaka; Kyoto, Kyoto; Otsu, Shiga; Inabe, Mie; and Aisai, Aichi (just to name a few of the cities I passed through).
To date, this is the only double century I've ridden with a tent and gear. It's also the first time I've cycled 6 prefectures in one day!
I didn't do much on this day except eat rice at convenience stores and try to figure out how much longer it would be.

Next Tour

I am hoping to possibly do another tour in August, of Tohoku.

A Public Service Announcement from Emma

When you are a bicycle tourist, or simply meandering around the countryside in Japan, always take your garbage with you! Since there are convenience stores everywhere, you're never likely to be more than 10 km away from a garbage can. So DON'T throw it even if there are other pieces of trash lying around. That trash has been thrown by some stupid Yanki kids. (Perhaps I will make a blog post ranting about them later)
On this trip I threw every little bit of my garbage away. (except for the time I forgot my bike bag in Kagawa... oh and my hammer in Okayama...) And now I'm really cool and you can be too by throwing your garbage in the proper receptacle. 
Love the earth and the earth loves you too!


Skiing at Meiho (Gujo city, Gifu)

Today Satoshi and I went skiing at Meiho which is one of the closest ski areas to Nagoya. Considering how close it is, it was a pretty good time! The snow was crusty at first but around 11 it softened up a lot. Conditions were kind of like spring skiing at Seymour. 
Yes, that is Mount Ontake in the distance.

There were two parks, but one had a competition going on...
From the top we could see Mount Ontake which had a cloud of smoke coming out of it. Satoshi says there's a ski area on Mount Ontake so I hope to go skiing there too! If there is another eruption, I can ski out on the ash!