Tatsuya had done some cycle touring himself and had a pretty good sense of the areas that would be ideal. We explained that we had been staying at michi-no-eki stops when it seemed appropriate and he mentioned that the Minobu township to the south had a nice stop. We set out for more biking.
Another long day with some traffic-filled roads made things tough. We avoided the bad weather with a well-timed stop at a 7-Eleven to get some fresh coffee after a long day of riding. The skies opened up for about 40 minutes when we were about 6 km from the Yamanashi Fujikawa Craft Park, but the rain didn’t last.
A grocery stop just before the park gave us an opportunity to stop and watch some of the Sumo wrestling tournament that was on television and have a hot cup of tea. We packed up the groceries and I noticed that the bolt that held up my front fender had completely lost its nut, placing me oddly close to a mechanical problem if we hit the road and I hadn’t noticed. Fortunately, a hardware store next door helped me find a new nut and bolt to reinforce the fender to the frame and we were good to go.
When we got to the craft park, we were surprised with the last hundred metres of pure climb, but I was hopeful that this would mean we’d get a chance to see Fuji in the morning beyond the surrounding mountains. After looking around the park and discovering a rose garden and a crazy playground, we noticed that there was a picnic area appeared to have a dining shelter of some kind.
No. Not a dining shelter.
A two-story tree house build like a log cabin with an upper deck and a place to have dinner.
It was the swankiest wild camp we have had so far and we set up our tent – sans fly to boot – inside the shelter. We boiled some water for a bit of veggie ramen that we had picked up and suddenly this whole wild camping thing was looking like something that we could get used to doing.
The next day, despite the proximity and elevation gain (and, it should be noted, the favourable weather), we didn’t get a clear view of Mt. Fuji at all. I thought that nothing would be cooler than having a straight-on view of Japan’s tallest mountain, but it was blocked to the east by a competing mountain range. Our next stop, Miho no Matsubara, would give us all the view we could want and more.
Before we got very far out of Minobu, we stopped for our morning constitutional of coffee and sandwiches at the first 7-Eleven we came across. And this is when we met “the team”.
A group of five guys arrived at 7-Eleven on some classic road bikes and we gave a nod of camaraderie before they were interested in knowing about what the heck we were doing so far from home with all of that luggage. Suffice it to say that we got along. They were a bit shocked to learn that we had already cycled over a thousand kilometres in an attempt to see Japan and loved that we had hauled our bikes and all the luggage with us. Obviously, we needed to take some photos with these dudes.
We set out before they did with all of our luggage, but it didn’t take them long to overtake us on the beautiful side road #10 that delivered us right into Fuji town. They had a little laugh at our expense as they passed us.
You can imagine their shock when we caught them and passed them about 20 minutes later. While I didn’t think to film them first passing us, I made sure to record the moment we caught up with them on the GoPro. They just loved it.
After a long but pleasant ride south in wonderful weather, we rounded a corner and caught our first glimpse of the impressive Fujisan (standing at a grand height of 3776m above sea level) to the north-west of us. We snapped a photo because, well, you just have to. Bronwyn and I had visited Japan in 2012 together but her one opportunity to see Fujisan on that trip – from the Shinkansen – was stopped by thick cloud cover during a rainy July day. It felt good knowing that we rode all that way.
Our final destination that night was at Miho no Matsubara, a place famous for a Japanese Noh drama that takes places there (and gets a dramatic reenactment on location from time to time) as well as being the one of the famous views that Utagawa Hokusai features in his ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Interestingly, more people at the site were enjoying it as a busy Pokestop than as a famous historical landmark in Japan. I felt as though we were the only people interested in seeing the actual mountain from the actual sandy beach.
An onsen soak and a beachfront campground let us awake to the image of Mt. Fuji backlit by the rising sun in The Land of the Rising Sun.
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Cross that one off of my bucket list.
Next: the long ride to Hamamatsu to meet our Warmshowers host Tetsu, but not before we camped outside a Meiji-era tunnel on a mountaintop.
Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com