Daisen map number 55, Hakken map number 52, Hidegatake map number 53, Ibuki is map number 45, hiked September 2-5, 2017
Here’s a good example of 4 hikes that I grouped together as part of the same trip. Mt. Daisen may have been a better option to group together with Tsurugi and Ishizuchi in Tokushima and Ehime prefectures. But hey, what’s an extra 700 km when I’m riding my Harley anyway?
I purposely chose to chain these hikes together, partly because of their proximity to each other, and partly because me and Joe (see Mt. Kasa / Mt. Kurobegoro for an explanation of Joe) would be riding our Harley‘s. Most Harley riders don’t really have a knack for physical activities such as hiking so it was rare to find someone willing to ride with me through Japan who did.
I have a sissy bar that I strapped my Osprey Atmos 65L top-load backpack to. I put my fully packed day pack, a Camelbak Arete 18, inside the bigger pack and would just pull it out every time I would hit the trail.
At night we stayed in business hotels, usually either the Route Inn or APA Hotel. They are chain hotels that are pretty much in every mid-sized and above town in Japan. They usually cost around $50/night, and include breakfast. We booked these hotels while en-route on our trip through Hotels.com or Expedia.
We left Sagamihara while it was raining. We started off with our rain gear on and had trash bags over whatever gear we had strapped to our bikes. The forecast showed that the rain was going to stop after about an hour on the Tomei, and it did. We stopped at a rest stop, took off our rain gear, and for the next 8 hours of riding enjoyed clear, but really hot weather.
I have a small 3.8L gas tank. I have to stop every 100-120 miles or so to get gas. I could probably push it to around 150-160 miles, but in Japan, it’s not like you can get off the expressway anywhere and find a gas station. You have to wait for a rest stop, but not any rest stop, it has to be one with a picture of a gas pump, and they are spaced every 50 miles or so.
We got to the expressway stop for Yonago. I have an ETC reader and card, it cost me about 8500 yen. Joe is a cash customer, it cost him about 12000 yen. One way was it was about 700 km, which comes out to about 12 to 17 yen per km. We didn’t cross any major bridges though, those usually cost extra. We stayed at the Washington Hotel Plaza in Yonago.
The next morning, it was raining. The plan was to ride to a parking lot near the Daisen Information Center (~1hr), hike, (~3hrs), then ride to the APA Hotel in Wakayama (~4hrs). We started hiking with all of our rain gear on, but even though it was raining, it was hot and humid, and we were climbing. It didn’t take long before the sweat started to make our clothes under our rain gear wet, so we just decided to take the rain gear off and change into dry clothes later.
We reached the top in about 1.5 hrs. It was cloudy and raining so we couldn’t see anything. We got our pictures with the Daisen marker, and headed back down. About half way down, the clouds began to clear and we could catch a glimpse of the surrounding area. We weren’t on the west side of Daisen, so we couldn’t see the ocean, but I bet that would’ve been beautiful from the top. Farther down, we came to a trail junction. We were pretty sure which way to go, but a Japanese man in broken English said to go the other way, it’s faster. It was the red route on the picture of the map below and it took us over a dry river bed, and through a couple of shrines, which were interesting.
When we got back to our bikes, it was drizzling lightly enough that we left our rain gear off, threw on some jeans and a light jacket for riding, and headed out. The ride to Wakayama took us through Kobe and Osaka. By the time we got to Osaka, it was rush hour, so we were lane splitting. Google maps doesn’t work in tunnels, and some tunnels in large cities in Japan are long, with multiple exits. We got stuck in one of these tunnels in Osaka and had no idea where to exit. We just took any exit that looked like it would get us above ground so that Google would work again.
We ended up taking a few surface roads, and Google took us back to an above ground expressway where we hit more traffic. Splitting lanes in Japan requires an aggressive riding style, but when I came really close to rear ending a box truck, I knew I needed to cool it. A few extra minutes stuck in traffic is better than a trip to the hospital with a busted front end and no way of getting back home – and I’m not riding two up on the back of Joe’s bike. I’d rather take a bus.
The next morning, it was about a 2 hour ride to the trail head for Mt. Hakken. The plan was to hike Hakken and Odaigahara in the same day since they were both close together and in a very rural area with no towns that would have hotels nearby. The road to the parking lot was tiny, windy, lots of forest debris, but also scenic. I wouldn’t want to drive a car on this road. The parking lot is not free, motorcycles were 300 yen, cars were 500 yen. I asked the parking lot man if there were any vending machines around because I needed coffee. He said no, but came back a few minutes later with a pack of canned coffees. Perfect timing for Japanese hospitality.
The trail head for Hakken is just across the road. We hiked over a cool wooden bridge, then the trail became steep for the next hour. We saw a group of monkeys on our way up. They took off as soon as we got closer. The trail flattens out for a bit but becomes steep again before you get to Mt. Misen. There is a nice, large hut at Misen, but turn south and head down a saddle to get to Hakken. We had a decent view, it was overcast, but you could see a good distance out.
We headed back down to get back on the road. We wanted to get Odaigahara before dark. It took us about an hour to get to the next trail head. It would’ve take about 30 minutes but we went through the same really long tunnel 4 times before we could figure out the right way to go (Google Maps doesn’t work that great in the woods either). The road was uphill and windy to Odaigahara. The parking lot was huge, but mostly empty. There were buildings selling omiyagi and ramen everywhere, but were closed by the time we got there around 4 pm. Since it was getting dark, we took the straight path to Hidegatake, which is the highest point in this area. There’s a wooden lookout point that has a nice 360 degree all the way out to the ocean, and gives you and idea of how far away from everything we are.
We left the area around 6 pm. We saw a few herds of deer waiting to cross along the side of one of the roads. That was scary, especially for a motorcyclist. Our plan was to get to Iga, a mid-sized town about half way between Odaigahara and Ibuki. In this area, there are very few gas stations, and most of them are closed past 5pm. My low fuel light came on back at the Odaigahara parking lot, and my phone wasn’t getting a good signal to locate a gas station. We got to a critical point with fuel and just had to stop, turn the engines off, and figure out where a big gas station that would be open at this time would be. Luckily Joe was able to get a signal on his phone, and found a gas station not far down a different road. It was like a beacon of light in the dark woods. Bright, plenty of gas, and attendants asking regular or haioku? Haioku of course.
Harley lights (at least ours) don’t work too good at night in the woods and on the twisties. Its difficult to anticipate a curve when the lights only beam a straight path in front of you. In other words, imagine not having peripheral vision. I ran straight through a stop sign that I didn’t notice. When I went through the intersection, Joe was behind me and I saw a truck coming perpendicularly. I knew I would miss the truck but it was even closer for Joe. But luckily he saw the stop sign, and I waited for him on the other side. It was kind of sketchy for a while, until we finally hit a major road, and took it all the way to the Route Inn, Iga, where there happened to be more gaijin that you would expect in the middle of nowhere.
The next morning, we took our time a little bit. Had breakfast, looked at the surrounding area (which was agricultural). Then I set Google Maps to “avoid tolls” and we took the back roads to Mt. Ibuki. It was about the same time to get there whether we took toll roads or not, so we figured we’d get a look at the countryside.
It took us about 2 hours to get to Ibuki. At the base of Ibuki is a toll booth that cost a ridiculous 2100 yen. Just pay the man and head up. This is a rather tricky road. Sharp curves, and steep drop offs. Probably better suited for those sport bikes than a Harley. My front pegs kept dragging on the pavement if I leaned too much on the curves. But we got to the really, really large, but also mostly empty parking lot near the top. Again, more shops selling omiyagi and ramen. Head past the tour buses to the trail head (can you sense my sarcasm?) It takes about 30-45 minutes to get to the highest point on Ibuki where, you guessed it, more shops selling omiyagi and ramen. If you could get past all of that, it actually was a good view up there.
This was the last day of our trip, and we had a 4.5 hour ride to get back home, so we didn’t waste too much time. The ride back was pleasant. There was a little overcast most of the way which kept the temperature down. We stopped at most of the large rest stops for gas and food.
Somewhere between Nagoya and Shizuoka on the Tomei (maybe Shin Tomei, they parallel each other. Probably Shin Tomei) Joe flagged me down to pull over, so I did. I figured maybe he needed to adjust one of his bags that was loose, but no, he red-necked up the Tomei by taking his shirt off and riding without a shirt for the next hour. That’s a very American thing, practically unheard of here in Japan. But I dug it, and threw him the “gnarly” sign as he sped by me.
Joe had a slightly different route to take to get home than me and we split up somewhere on the Ken-o. I never saw where he split off at. Just he wasn’t right behind me anymore. Riding by myself made me feel very vulnerable even though I only had a short distance to go and the route was familiar to me. I was used to someone having my back for the last 1700 km. It’s definitely good to ride with someone. And also to hike with someone. Good company makes difficult hikes easier, and good rides better.