Adventure Cycling & Cycle Touring

A Guide To Cycle Touring In Fukushima

Looking to get adventurous with a bicycle in Japan? Get yourself to Fukushima. From volcanic lakes to epic hill climbs, with Japanese history round every corner, this prefecture has got the lot. Here's some of the best routes

Fukushima prefecture in Japan is home to some of the most unique and interesting landscapes, foods, and, of course, cycle routes. Fancy a 53km seafront cycle on the east coast of Japan? Or a 77km hill climb to the heavens? Even a 30km lap of a volcanic lake? Fukushima has it all and more. Whichever route you choose, you’re in for a series of treats when cycling here. Roll past the sea, mountains and lakes as you take in the incredible scenery of Iwaki, Jododaira and Urabandai.

After some breathtaking days of cycling, your evenings will be just as rewarding as the routes you’ll find yourself on. You’ll have opportunities to relax your tired muscles at one of the many hot spring resorts, taste the authentic local cuisine, and absorb the local history throughout Fukushima. Here are three of the most interesting cycle routes Fukushima has to offer.

Iwaki Seven Beaches Sea Road

Pictured: Cycling along the east coast of Japan, in Fukushima (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

Location: Iwaki, Fukushima

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Starting at the northern point of Hisanohama, the Iwaki Seven Beaches Sea Road (or Iwaki Nanahama Kaido) is a 53-kilometre cycling road that stretches along the Eastern coast of Japan (along the pacific-facing coastline of the Fukushima prefecture). The route is based around a well-maintained and flat cycle path. If you’re scheduling a rest break, be sure to look out for the red Torii Gate rising out of the sea on Benten-jima Island.

Iwaki Lalamew, a waterfront shopping complex, can be found further south after just over an hour’s cycle. Complete with seafood restaurants, a fish market, and shops to buy souvenirs from, it’s proven to be a handy stop on your route. Here you can find interesting local cuisine being cooked such as Hamayaki: simply defined as food cooked at a fire pit. Nearby, you’ll find Aquamarine Fukushima; the Marine Science Museum of Fukushima Prefecture, which is one of the largest interactive learning facilities in the Tohoku region. If you’re in the area for a longer stay, be sure to pay it a visit.

Pictured: Cycling on the Iwaki coastline (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

A slight detour from the Nanahama Kaido will take you on a spiritual journey to an historic Buddhist hall. Another hours’ cycle, this time north-westerly, will take you to the Buddhist temple of Ganjoji. Here you’ll find Shiramizu Amidado, an 860-year-old Buddhist hall that’s regarded as a national treasure. Surrounded by an ancient Japanese garden, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in both local and national history with a brisk walk amongst the perfectly maintained flowers and trees of the Shiramizu Amidado.

The Historic Iwaki-Yumoto hot springs will offer an enticing opportunity to relax and soothe your muscles after the day-or-two of cycling in Iwaki. Various springs can be found across the Iwaki area, each offering their own unique experiences.

Jododaira Hill Climb

Pictured: Just one part of the Jododaira Hill Climb in Fukushima (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

Location: Fukushima

Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced

The Jododaira Hill Climb is a 77km rewarding route guaranteed to excite and challenge both intermediate and advanced cyclists. Following the famous Bandai-Azuma Skyline, the route weaves through mountains and volcanoes on its way to the skies. There are two routes you can take to climb Jodidaira Hill, depending on your cycling ability. Intermediate cyclists should stick to the route via Tsuchiyu Onsen, where the slope is moderate, but the elevation is over 1500 metres. More advanced, confident, cyclists can try their hand at the route via Takayu Onsen where the distance is shorter but the slope is tougher.

For your overnight stay, why not consider staying in a hot spring resort? At an altitude of 1300m, you’ll find the Tsuchiyutoge Hot Spring Resorts, where you’ll have a selection of places to spend your night, such as Washikura, Okutsuchiyu, Makukawa, and many more. Each hot spring will offer something new, but there’s one thing they all have in common: starry skies at night, clouds permitting, of course.

Pictured: Taking a break on the Fudosawa Bridge (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

Another cycled ascent on the Jododaira Hill will see you reach the Jododaira Astronomical Observatory, the highest public observatory in Japan. Before you reach it, though, take a moment on the Fudosawa Bridge that crosses the Tsubakuro Valley. With the spectacular views at this point, you’ll find it easy enough to stop and absorb the views of Fukushima City. Once you’re able to leave the views behind, you’ll find yourself heading towards the observatory. The minimal light pollution in the area coupled with the altitude (often above the clouds) means that the stars of the night sky are often in full display. For the best chance of seeing meteor showers and shooting stars, make a visit in the summer months. As well as the Observatory, Fudosawa Bridge leads to Lake Inawashiro and Mount Bandai, so if you find the time make sure to check these impressive feats of nature out as well.

Just south of the Jododaira Rest House, you’ll find the highest point of the route at 1,622m. You’ll see this number painted on the road itself as a nice touch that reminds everyone of the feat they’ve achieved.

Lake Hibara Loop and Urabandai

Pictured: A resting spot on Lake Hibara, overlooked by Mount. Bandai (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

Locations: Urabandai, Aizu

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate

Cycling a loop of Lake Hibara will take you on a route of at least 30km through the natural history of Fukushima and its volcanoes. It’s fit for cyclists of all abilities. Those who are up for more of a challenge can venture out to neighbouring communities and towns, complete with their own vivid cultures and histories. Overlooked by Mount Bandai, cycling the shoreline of Lake Hibara will enrich those searching for a refreshing day of exercise surrounded by nature.

Each season will offer a different experience of Lake Hibara; see striking sunsets in the spring-summer months, cycle through beautiful golden foliage in the autumn, or try your hand at ice fishing in the lake in the winter. Anywhere around the lake will grant you with its own experience and view to remember, but here’s a handful we recommend: Kyukamura (a hot spring hotel and restaurant), Lake Sohara, the Renge-Numa Scenic Trail, and the Urabandai Road Station’s farmers’ market.

The neighbouring areas of Lake Hibara have just as much to offer and are well worth visiting if you have the time. To the east of Lake Hibara, a 15km cycle along the Bandai Lake Line will not only be one of the most breathtaking roads you’ll cycle, but you’ll end by rolling up to Lake Akimoto which offers impressive views of Mount Bandai and the surrounding mountain range. To the west of Lake Hibara, you can cycle for 25km and fall upon Kitakata City. Known for its 100+ ramen shops and near 4,000 storehouses, the city is completely unique in the best of ways. You won’t struggle to find any Kitakata ramen here. It’s got a real soy sauce flavour and is unforgettably tasty, be sure to try it in its most authentically done way here. 

Pictured: Make a visit in the autumn months to enjoy the golden foliage of traditional Japanese nature (Credit: Fukushima Travel)

Another cycle, 25km South of both Lake Hibara and Kitakata, is Aizuwakamatsu, a city complete with some of Fukushima’s most famous sites. Surrounded by traditional cherry blossom trees, a visit in the spring months will provide an iconic view of the 600+ year old Tsurugajo Castle. If you’re planning on a long stay in the area, Ouchi-juku is a former post town another 30km cycle south of Aizuwakamatsu and worth a wander for its 400-year-old traditional Edo thatched-roof houses. 

With the multitude of areas to explore, Urabandai provides an excellent option for cyclists in search of a cycling trip which finds a balance between interesting terrain, local history, and energising views. Just make sure to give the loop of Lake Hibara a go, given the ease of the route coupled with the panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges.

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