Mt. Daisen to Sea of Japan Downhill Cycling Tour 大山
The mountainous archipelago of Japan offers unique bicycle tourism. Just seventy minutes by plane and a short drive from urban Tokyo, Mt. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture has bicycle routes that combine Japanese culture, geography, agriculture, and sports into an adrenaline-pumping experience.
Last fall, as I sped through the countryside, I learned that bicycle riding in Japan is one of the best ways to glimpse Japanese culture. And this trip was reasonably priced at just 5,000 yen per person (Morinokuni, a local adventure sports company provides cross bikes, guide, and transportation).
Sky to Sea
It was a sky to sea ride, covering 22 kilometers in less than four hours. Our journey was like that of a waterfall cascading its way to the ocean. We started at the base of a snow-less ski resort on a small autumnal plateau along the flanks of Mt. Daisen and plunged down a curvaceous route to a sandy beach. We stopped here and there in natural and cultural pools for activities such as drinking fresh spring water, strolling through an abandoned school turned into an art gallery/cafe, passing through tiny villages, and biting into crunchy, juicy ripe apples at a farm. Each stop provided a taste of local life.
Nakagawa san, our nature-enthusiast, fun-loving bicycle guide from Morinokuni met us with a broad smile in the parking lot of a Mt. Daisen ski resort. Nakagawa humorously uses pictures to display sound riding practices, so speakers of languages other than English and Japanese can safely understand him and enjoy the rides. He carefully checked that we (a mixture of active and semi-active tourists) had bicycles that fit our bodies, adjusted our helmets, and herded us out of the parking lot on a comfortable pace down a smooth asphalt road. Two months later, snow and skiers would cover this path.
Far to the left lay the blue ocean. On the right, the autumn-hued mountain flank climbed past the historical peaks, shrines, and temples of Mt. Daisen to its summit in the clouds. Despite being mid-day, we had the road to ourselves. During the entire trip along forest and country lanes, we saw less than five moving cars.
Birch and other native trees drooped branches of red, yellow, and green leaves above the road. The effect was a long tunnel of fall foliage illuminated by dappled sunlight. The only sounds were the oohs and ahhs that the beautiful surroundings pulled out of us.
In the middle of the winding tunnel of trees, Nakagawa san signaled for us to stop and leave our bikes - unlocked - on the dirt border of the road. We strolled on a leaf-covered hiking trail to a stream where clear water gurgled into a rock pool. He bent down, cupped the water with his palms, and drank deeply. The source of the stream water was a spring on the side of Mt. Daisen. The Suntory Company bottles water from another area of Daisen and sells it nationwide under the name of "The Natural Water of Oku-daisen Mountain." I squatted and drank, too. It was cold and crisp.
After we got back on our saddles, the bike route continued winding between woods and passing small villages. We pulled into the driveway in front of an old wooden elementary school. I wondered why. The community had turned the abandoned building into a café/museum that held an eclectic collection of manga art, sculptures created from tractor parts, traditional Japanese ceramics, dolls, and fabrics made by neighbors, and much more. I could have easily spent several hours there, but we breezed through in less than fifteen minutes. We still had kilometers to cover to reach the sea and more to see.
Apples & Lawns
The woods turned into fields of Japanese daikon and other vegetables, orchards of apples and pears, gardens of tall verdant bamboo, and broad swaths of rolling green lawns. Tucked into the foothills of Mt. Daisen is one of the most influential turf grass companies in the world. It grows perfectly manicured lawns, cuts and arranges the turf into coils, looking like giant rolls of maki sushi, for shipment to sports arenas and golf courses worldwide.
Another tasty stop along our route was at an apple orchard, where we met the proud farmers who cut slices of a wide variety of cooking and eating apples that ranged from ones slightly bigger than golf balls to apples almost too big to bite. We also sampled sour yogurt at a small dairy near where dairy cattle munched grass.
Kingdom of the Forest
Back on the bikes again, we headed downhill and saw panoramic views of the sea in front and picturesque views of Mt. Daisen to our rear, when we looked back. Above us, hawks and crows circled and screamed at each other. The roadsides were aflame with yellow, purple, and red flowers and various greenery.
Finally, we swept through a tiny and quiet village of rustic wooden homes near the sea and then turned onto a bike road that paralleled the sea, the long beach, and lazy waves. The staff from Morinokuni collected our bicycles. Our trip was stress free, decent - not strenuous - exercise, and fun. The experience had been like riding through a living museum of natural and cultural attractions.
Morinokuni is Japanese for Kingdom of the Forest. In addition to bicycle trips, this organization offers opportunities for camping, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, making Japanese crafts, and more. Located close to the sacred and famous Daisen Temple and Ogamiyama Shrine, this kingdom provides guests with a physically active and culturally intensive vacations. For more information, visit their webpage.
Access - Getting To Morinokuni from Yonago
By car, it's a 15 minute drive from Yonago Expressway Mizoguchi IC or a 10 minute drive from Yonago Expressway Yonago IC. Buses take 35 minutes from Yonago Station. Get off at Athletic-mae.
Getting to Yonago by Air: Flights are available from Seoul and Tokyo, each taking just over an hour.
Getting to Yonago by Train: From Tokyo Station take the shinkansen to Okayama Station and change to the Yakumo Limited Express for Yonago. It is 3 hours, 10 minutes from Tokyo to Okayama and then 2 hours, 15 minutes from Okayama to Yonago on the Yakumo.
From Shin-Osaka Station it is 50 minutes by shinkansen to Okayama, then change to the Yakumo Limited Express.
From Kyoto Station it is 1 hour to Okayama Station by shinkansen.
These journeys on JR would be covered by a JR Japan Rail Pass.
Near Mt Daisen
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