Monday, December 22, 2008

Northern Honshu Images

After spending 25 days touring Hokkaido, we rode to the coastal city of Mororan to catch the ferry to Aomori, a beautiful port city on the north coast of Honshu. From there, we rode into the rugged northern Honshu mountains heading in a southerly direction toward Tokyo.

We spent the next 23 days winding our way through the spectacular mountains, headed west to the Sea of Japan on the west coast and followed the coastline to Niigata. Then we headed southeasterly back into the mountains and ended our bike tour in Nagano in the Japan Alps.

Cycling Northern Honshu was very challanging with the mountains very high and the roads very steep. The overall mileage between Hokkaido and Honshu were similar, 814 miles vs. 833 miles, but the vertical elevation gain was nearly double; 24,961' vs. 47,880'.

It was a tough haul but the mountainous countryside was stunning with the fall colors peaking in October. Riding along the Sea of Japan was a treat with many karst limestone islands and scenery similar to the rugged California coast.

Note: To view enlarged photo, mouse over pic and click

Arriving in the port city of Mororan on southern Hokkaido Island
to catch the ferry to Honshu Island.

In Aomori, we begin the tour of Honshu riding over a new bridge from the
ferry port to the central city

Near the bay in Aomori, were these dramatic pyramid shaped buildings

In the mountains outside of Aomori, we visited a contemporary art museum and
art school (above and below). A very beautiful setting.

This stone kiln-like sculpture was one of many pieces in the outdoor sculpture garden

At the top of a long, steep climb was an elderly couple selling grapes.
A refreshing rest stop on a hot day.

A nice display of sweet grapes we could not pass up

Cresting one of many false summits. The views of the volcanic peaks were awesome.
Passing steaming hot pools and hot springs

The folage is beginning to turn

Taking a break at an old stone bridge.
The way the river was engineered was remarkable (see pics below).

The river bed was lined with big stones and stone retaining walls erected to curb erosion during high flows. Another sign of extreme attention to detail and leaving nothing to chance by the Japanese engineers.

Another view of the stone-lined river bed. Pretty amazing piece of work!

Meeting a handsome looking family on ped bridge over the river

Our route took us through Orase Gorge where there are numerous waterfalls
and stunning scenery





The headwaters of Orase Gorge is Lake Towadako, a beautiful lake high in the mountains

Rice field up close and personal

An abandoned historic school house looking for a rehabber.
What potential for a cool building?

Colorful "Bonsai Island" at Lake Towadako is a major tourist attraction
Click pic to enlarge

"Two Bronze Maidens" is a famous sculpture on the lake

Beautiful shoreline at Lake Towadako

Shinto Shrine hidden in the woods at Lake Towadako was a gem (above and below)


The view of Lake Towadako from the summit. Referred to as the "Crater Lake" of Japan.

I had to stop to take in the serene beauty of rice fields and tidy farms


Seeing an elderly farmer on a tractor brought back memories of my dad on our family farm

The elderly woman marveled at how we were travelling on loaded bikes

Arriving at the Sea of Japan on the west coast.
The Oga Pennisula Quasi-National Park was quite spectacular.

The lads at an observation tower - Herb, Kory, Jay and Andrew

Picturesque fishing village on the Oga Pennisula

Setsuko, a friend of Jay, meets us on the Oga Pennisula


Riding along the picturesque Sea of Japan

A beautiful red bridge links to a cool cinder cone island


At the top of the island is a small Shinto temple

The view of the red bridge and village from the top of the island

The two pupeteers we met at a country youth hostel, a most interesting couple

A karst limestone tower marks the entrance to a fishing harbor

The Monterey "Ghost Tree" of Japan

You will never be thristy in Japan. Vending machines are found everywhere,
even in the most remote spots.

A packed bicycle commuter parking lot at a train station

White on white corridor inside the train station . . . pretty cool!

A beautiful steel suspension bike/ped bridge crossing a mountain river

Stopping at a rustic coffeehouse in a small village . . . great java and snacks!

More neat engineering in a beautiful river valley

A couple hanging rice stalks . . . luv' these indigenous slice of life

These colorful ceramic figurines were displayed in a sake shop. I have a fondness for folk art.

Fall colors at another beautiful mountain lake. The following pics are of famous mountain retreat where there are five lakes with different colors caused by minerals leaching into the waters.







Colorful Koi coming right up to the surface to be fed



We stealth (free) camped on this lake shore. Duckie boats at sunset.

Vagrants eating in the back of a convenience store

Trucking along below big Mt. Bandai

Overlooking a reservoir in the mountains

A ped bridge in a deep gorge

On one of our big climbs, we stopped to see a dramatic waterfall and
curvy cantilevered road across the canyon

Click pic to enlarge to see vehicles on road

Joining many tourists at a cascading waterfall

A busy day on the road with many tourists looking at fall colors


At yet another dramatic waterfall

Great colors bordering the edge of the waterfall

Andrew taking in the serene lake and colors

Hoohee! View looking down on the switch-back roads we just climbed

A remarkable sight.
Blooming sunflowers at 4,000' in late October. Who would have thunk?

High "5" after completing our last big climb, over 5,000', on our last day of riding.
We ended the bike tour in Nagano today.

In Nagano, a historic street lined with shops leading up to Zenkoji Temple

Remarkable Zenkoji Temple, one of the largest wooden temples in Japan, is 1400 years old

A cool wooden building next to the Zenkoji Temple

How you keep track of 6 year old school kids on an outting . . .rope 'em up.
Too cute!!

The mascot of Nagano is a frog
The Mastsumoto Castle, completed in 1593-4, is one of Japan's historic castles and a National Treasure. It is called the "Crow Castle" for it's black walls and spreading wings.

During the 1800's it fell into disrepair and was to be sold and disassembled. The good people of Matsumoto rallied and saved the structure and restored it. It was opened to the public in 1990.

The view of the red bridge and moat from the main tower

The 6-story Tenshu, main tower, flanked by two smaller towers comprise the beautiful castle

1 comment:

dAwN said...

wow ..what a climb..and fantastic scenery..
what a great trip that must have been.
I would definitely have needed a motorbike for that one.