This blog is about travelling through Japan on a foldable bicycle (Brompton) but also by train, ferry, plane, bus or any other transport, if sea, weather, mountains or the like come between me and my desire to ride.
I have tried to summarise information that could be potentially helpful also for other bicycle travellers through Japan, such as list of bicycle roads, helpful web pages etc. Once I start my ride, I will upload the actual routes taken, together with some pictures and description.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Day 10 - Tono to Hiraizumi 遠野から平泉へ

Bicycle touring Japan - Day 10

On my second day touring by bicycle the Tono valley, I got very lucky with the weather and enjoyed a great ride through the landscape and small villages. 

Bicycle: 30 km
Train: 80 km
Route: More sightseeing in Tono, train to Hiraizumi
Riding time: 3 h
Weather: sunny (!), average 18 C

Today finally the weather forecast and the weather agreed with each other. Although when I first woke up in the morning and went to get my morning bath, it did look quite gray outside... But that was low hanging fog, which before 9:00, when I finally made it on my bike was all gone. Well, nearly all...

After considering yesterday my options, I had decided to spend the morning in Tono valley, as it seemed to be very nice, looking at my experiences on Day 9, and I hadn't been able to finish my touristic program the day before because of rain. There was only one problem, which train to take from Tono valley to Kitakami valley or directly to Hiraizumi. For the local trains, i.e. trains that stop at Masuzawa, where I wanted to finish my ride of Tono valley, there is a long break between one train that stops there at 10:18 and the next at 13:23. I finally decided on the 13:23 day, which was a great decision. Catching the one at 10 would have been unrealistic anyway.

So I leisurely rode out to Aragami shrine, supposedly a place of great beauty and typical picture of Tono valley. The shrine itself is very small (I knew that) but nicely located. However the really nice part of today was the ride to Aragami shrine and back through the valley. In contrast to many other parts of Japan (although hopefully I will get to know more parts that are as nice as Tono valley over the next weeks as I travel around Japan), the village here were quite nice. Generally well-maintained, big, traditional houses, often surrounded by manicured gardens, which trees could rival with a French garden.

While I didn't see any L-shaped farms, like in the open air museum yesterday, there were a lot of traditional houses around:

Even some with straw thatched roofs:

And some traditional storage houses with the family crest:

And here, finally the shrine to which I was riding:

... small but scenic. 

As it seems to be a quite well known point in Tono valley, I thought that it would be more touristic, but actually it is not touristic at all. No parking lot, no Omiyage shop. When I arrived no one was there, after some time someone came by car, took a picture and drove on. Well, one has to admit that there isn't much to be done here, besides taking a few pictures. But as said, the ride to and back from it was very nice. Specially the village of Aozasa. 

Today I could also observe rice harvest. There seems to be (so far) 4 different techniques how to dry the rice:
  • mechanically (apparently it dries in a day, but the taste isn't very good - I however suspect that most of the rice we are eating is mechanically dried)
  • sun-dried. For sun-drying I have seen so far 3 different ways how to put the rice out for drying. All of them directly on the fields
Although I have to admit, that I am not 100% sure that this is for drying the rice. Maybe the rice here is already harvested and only the rice straw is being dried???

In the last two images the rice is definitely still on. But the first form I have seen only around Hiraizaumi, while the first form I have seen today in Tono but also previously in other regions of Japan. What might be the difference?

I learned from this friendly elderly lady that sun-dried rice is much more tasty than the mechanically dried one.

The landscape of Tono valley is really very nice. Inviting to take a lot of pictures...

I left the part around Aozasa and returned along the river and back roads to Tono and then continued on along the river on the bicycle road towards Masuzawa. I however didn't make it until Masuzawa, as at some point I got hungry, and right at that point there was a rest area, 道の駅, with a nice balcony looking over the valley. 

Today lunch was comprised of some cold soba noodles:

When I left it must have been about 12:50. And while the train did not arrive to Masuzawa until 13:23, I still decided for an earlier station, so I had enough time to find the station and pack up the bike. Actually finding the stations would seem to be a straight forward business, but they are so small, that even the ways leading to them are very, very minor roads. There are no ticket vending machines, so similar to a bus, one just takes a ticket when boarding and pays upon arrival. 

This train line is also known for a fantasy novel by Kenji Miyazawa: Night on the Galactic Railroad 銀河鉄道の夜. I frankly don't know the story, but saw that there is a film available, that I plan to watch in the next days. Apparently the stations of this train line are part of the story, but get different names. Names in Esperanto! Well, maybe more about that once I have watched the film. 

Ayaori is called "Teksilo":

This concluded the ride of Tono valley.

While I had stopped Garmin once I had arrived at Ayaori, I didn't "End the ride" until I was in Hiraizumi... although I didn't restart it here, it still took all the way in a straight line.

Bicycle touring Japan - Ride maps

For details on the first part of the bicycle tour today in Iwate, checkout the below maps:

In Hiraizumi I arrived around 15:30, but with time to get out of the station, put the bike up again and get some touristic information on Hiraizumi it was around 16:00 when I left. I had originally (i.e. yesterday evening) thought to visit Chusonji temple today on the way to the hotel, but I was kind of tired, it was getting late and even the people at the tourist information thought that in Hiraizumi there are only things to see for a day... so I tabled it for tomorrow.

I went past the temple though on my way to my ryokan for the night. I had some difficulties finding accommodation in Hiraizumi, so I opted for this state run ryokan a little bit outside of the city, overlooking the valley:

And even with its own small (probably reconstructed) castle, where I took a picture of 3 "horses" in front of it:

My horse for sure is the fasted of all!

I had read mixed reviews about the state run hotels. I think so far I can confirm the assessments I had read, the buildings are outdated, but the food is exceptional!

This was all for me, alone... and I managed to eat most of it, including the entire Shabushabu.

Here the ride from the train station to the hotel, with a small detour where I was searching for some ruins that supposedly are there... but didn't find them (nor insisted on searching for them).

Bicycle touring Japan - Ride maps

For details on the second part of todays bicycle tour, checkout the below maps:

1 comment:

  1. Heute auch wieder richtig schöne Bilder! Ich mag die ländliche Idylle mit den Erntebildern am liebsten und die Reethäuser sehen aus wie Norddeutschland (^ ^)