There’s no doubt that Japan is a beautiful country. One of the things that makes Japan so beautiful are its numerous picturesque mountains, from Mt. Fuji to Mt. Haku to Mt. Yari. Unfortunately it’s a bit hard to appreciate this beauty when you’re biking through them in a seemingly never ending ascent.
Our very first ride day took us from Fujisawa, just South West of Tokyo to Fuji-shi, the city just south of Mt. Fuji. In total the ride was only around 95km, not a huge amount by our standards, but the elevation gain was around 1,600m. 800m or so of that was in a single climb, near Hakone. In addition we had a rainy start to the day. Not heavy rain, but enough to get us uncomfortably wet and miserable.
We knew that the ride would be a heck of a climb, but we woefully overestimated our ability to tackle it without major issues. The biggest problem came when we hit a series of switchbacks which brought us up a 10% grade over the course of 1.2km. Simply put, there was no riding up that, and we were forced to get off and walk.
As we climbed, the temperature dropped to around 4-5 degrees. Rain was on and off, and as we climbed the sides of the road became increasingly covered in snow. We trudged through the snow, soaking our feet as cars zipped past us at high speeds and close distance (though seemingly trying to give us a decent berth).
The lowest point was probably when the already minimal sidewalk disappeared in favour of stairs for those who decided to hike up the trail. Lifting ~80lbs of bike and gear up several flights of stairs when you’ve been biking for hours and expending all your energy is not my definition of a fun time.
Near Hakone we found a tea house and decided to stop and warm up. The staff inside were very nice and were shocked that we had ridden all the way from Fujisawa. We drank hot tea around a heater while we tried to dry ourselves off and return some feeling to our cold limbs.
We continued on, ascending a bit more before finally reaching Hakone. After we passed Hakone we started our descent into Mishima / Numazu. It was a ~10km long descent during which we rode our brakes the entire time. Thankfully I had invested in a bike with disc brakes, even if they get a bit squeaky at times.
We ended up spending around 12 hours on the road, and when we arrived at our hostel we were utterly exhausted. After shoveling ramen, fried chicken, gyoza, and beer into our bodies, we decided that we would take an extra day to review the rest of our routes to ensure that we didn’t make the same mistake again.
Unfortunately the hostel didn’t have any availability, and other options in the area were quite expensive. In addition, there weren’t really any affordable options in our next city, Hamamatsu. We opted to stay the night in Fuji and then take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to the next city on our list after Hamamatsu; Nagoya.