Monthly Archives: January 2015

Kamigo Shrine Cycle

Today was a national holiday so no work today, lots of time to do a ride. I explored the website and iphone app “mapmyride” yesterday and made my first route. I looked around a familiar place and marked all the shrines that I could see…there were a lot. I then plotted a route to go passed them all.

I tried to insert the route map here, but it doesn’t seem to be working. So click here to be redirected to it. The day I did it was a little windy, but I was prepared. I was wearing tighter clothes, not carrying a bag, on my better bike. So off I set.

IMG_2130 The route starts and ends in this park. It has plenty of car parking spaces, vending machines, and a toilet block.

Now let me talk about the kinds of roads or paths the route takes. Most of the route goes through villages and on main roads. You will cross a few train lines, so be careful there, especially at the unmanned crossing.

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There were a couple of problems with the route, sometimes cause by Google’s accuracy and my own route planning. For instance I ended up at these steps, but could see the road above would be ok to ride on. I ended up pushing my bike up the hill.

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The route around the lake at Sanuma park at coordinates 36.190689,139.951899 had an actual cycle path, but you are not supposed to ride over the bridge, get off and walk…it’s a nice walk and view. I saw cormorants and herons. This would a great place to stop for lunch or a picnic as it is about halfway along the circuit.

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Some of the roads were barely roads, thanks Google, you are far too detailed at times.

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Then there was this road/dyke, being resurfaced. At first I was happy as there was a temporary road, flat and smooth. But can you see the fence? The road eventually turned into mud and soon was impassible. But I could not get over the fence, so had to back track a little.

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On the whole though it was a pleasant ride, twisty at the start but you could pick up speed towards the end.

And now the shrines. I counted about 33 that I saw and photographed. As there were so many I only stopped briefly at most of them. Here is a gallery of the BSS (brief stop shrines).

There were a few shrines that I stayed longer at. This first one had one of the most interesting features I have seen at a shrine. There is no name on Google maps, but the coordinates are 36.109036,139.97366.

The island you see is covered in little shrines.

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They look to be family shrines. Here is the main shrine.

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The next one is at 36.121809,139.967649 and called Koshoji. I stopped at this one due to the magnificent entrance.

IMG_2160 IMG_2161 IMG_2162 Usually these statues are behind cages. So it was nice to see them up close and personal. All around the grounds were bonsai trees, I was going to write “little bonsai trees”, but I guess that goes without saying.

IMG_2163 IMG_2164 IMG_2165 IMG_2166 IMG_2167 I didn’t stay too long here as there was an angry dog, even though it was on a chain it made me feel uncomfortable.

The next one is called Jokoji and can be found at the coordinates 36.143693,139.958465

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The last shrine I spent some time at is called Muneto Shrine at coordinates 36.159395,139.967418

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There were plenty of other things to see along the route, I had a great day. I cycled around 45km and saw about 33 shrines. I think there were more as the route sometimes seemed to be a little crazy at times, why would I do that if there wasn’t a reason.

I really liked the app MapMyRide and will use it again.

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Ushiku Swamp and Wind

I was really looking forward to getting out today and exploring the new areas on the map I recently created. But today sucked for a couple of reasons, the biggest one being wind. Not wind of the flatulent kind, but wind of the atmospheric kind.

I could hear the wind as I set off, could feel it on my car, but a friend once said to me, “If you don’t cycle in the wind in the Japan, you don’t cycle”. It’s fairly true, it can be quite windy here, quite often. So off I set.

My destination was Hebinuma Park, near Ushiku Swamp. I had put a place mark for the swamp on the map and when checking today there was an area to the right that looked interesting, the small lake. You can see it on the map below.

It looks fairly big on the map and I love cycling around lakes. But when I got there I was greeted with this sign.

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Another, no dog, no bike, no bbq, no fun. BUT it is winter, there is absolutely nobody here, so who would know. Off I go, taking care to stick to paved roads. I may be rebelling, but I still care for the environment. Pretty soon I could see this was not going to be a good spot.

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Barriers and ropes all over the place, plus barely any paths.

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And when I do find a path there are steps.

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Which is a shame as it was a beautiful day..apart from the wind.

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Nothing to it but to head to the next area, Ushikunumamizube Park near Ushiku Swamp. This place look much more promising and another lake.

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As you can see by water the wind was still blowing. I didn’t notice it at the first place due to the trees. This place had no trees and I had a lot of trouble staying upright. When I stopped to take a photo I had to lay my bike down as it promptly fell over.

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The park was very small and there was nothing really to see there. However, it is a good parking space and there is a toilet block. I headed off clockwise, but it was a struggle. As you can see from the photos above there is a good road here, but I gave up. I barely made 5km the whole day. Maybe if I had been on a better bike I might have tried harder, but on the yellow bike I felt I was almost going backwards.

There is lots of advice online about cycling in windy conditions. Most of the information is for very fit riders or groups of riders in a peloton, but what about the recreational, podgy rider?

I did find a little information here and here, they basically say the same thing.

  • Get down.  Ride in a tucked position if you can do so comfortably, elbows in, get as low as you can.
  • Gear down and take it easy. Use a lower gear, you will pedal more but it will take less energy. You will use twice as much energy when cycling into a 10-mph headwind
  • Don’t wear a loose fitting clothes. Baggy clothes will act like a sail and slow you down. Try to wear tight fitting clothes.
  • Try to start rides heading into the wind. When you start you have more energy, when heading back the wind will push you along.
  • Watch for cross winds when cycling on roads with traffic. You might get pushed into the traffic.
  • Get shelter. Pick a route with trees, buildings, stone walls or other wind blockers.
  • Keep a good mental attitude. Stay positive. Wind, day after day, can beat you down mentally. But head winds actually help improve fitness.

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Ushiku Swamp looks like it might be a nice ride on a better day so I might return. The one thing that was fun today was turning around and heading back to my car. I decided to see if the wind would push me along. It did. On a flat road I checked my speed and it was 14km/h without pedalling. Cool.

Plans for the future.

I spent most of today searching website and maps for possible locations to go cycling. It is a bit chilly for me right now, so I thought I would use the time to plan ahead. I have trouble finding places to go on the spur of the moment so I decided to make a map of place so I don’t have to think too much in the future, I hate thinking. That way when the urge takes me and the weather is good I can just pack up a bike and go. I chose places that look interesting, have parking available (maybe), and are within a 2 hour drive.

Here is the map I created.

You will notice a spot quite far to the left. I am planning to drive there and stay a few days in the near future.

If I have done them I will change the spot to green. I might add more in the future, but I think there is enough to keep me going for a while.