Nice Rides: Cycling from Atami to Shimoda

November 1st, 2012By Category: Outdoor/Sports, Travel

Since moving to Japan this past spring I have heard many great things about the Izu Peninsula (Izu Hanto) including that it has Hawaii-like scenery and beaches, loads of suitable places for surfing, wind surfing, fishing, and camping, and excellent roads for bicycle trips.

Making it even more attractive is that the base of the peninsula is just an one hour train ride from our home in Yokohama.  So, during a recent three-day weekend my two older sons and I decided to hop on our bikes and explore the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula between Atami and Shimoda.

As I a have mentioned on my blog, one of the benefits of owning a folding bike  is that you can easily fold it up, put on the cover, and then hop on a train to get quickly out of the city and out to the prime cycling areas. In our case, we took the JR Tokaido Line from Yokohama Station to Atami Station an hour to the south at the foot of the Izu Peninsula.

Atami is primarily a tourist destination.  As such, the roads are quite busy and we decided to get out of town and on the coastal highway as soon as possible. Departing from the station we followed the road down through town and past the “Atami Ginza” shopping street and made the right turn onto HWY 135.

HWY 135 mostly follows the coast most of the way to Shimoda, is very scenic and generally well maintained.  That said, the traffic can be quite busy, particularly in the areas closer to Atami, and especially on busy weekends.

Another thing to look out for is that the shoulder is quite narrow in many sections, and there are several tunnels that don’t have adequate foot or bike paths.  I would advise that riders use both front and rear lights when going through all tunnels.

You will have to make a decision in Matsuburahoncho to stick with HWY 135 as it heads inland on a more direct route, or stay on the coastal roads. We opted to stay on the coast following HWY 109, which in my opinion was a good move as traffic was almost non-existent, and the road, often just on the edge of the beach, was incredibly scenic.  This is a great section to stop for photos, grab a bite to eat, or just to kick back, relax, and enjoy the views.

Towards the end of this section, as HWY 109 also leaves the coast, the road goes up a relatively sharp incline and past a small elementary school that probably has a better view of the Pacific Ocean than any other school in Japan. Lucky students!

We stopped for the night in at Hinodaeya minshuku in Izukogen, a small town located on HWY 109 just before it rejoins HWY 135.  The minshuku is located on HWY 109 just past 7-11 on the opposite side of the road.  We paid JPY 5,500 for adults and JPY 3,500 for children for a small tatami room, and a full-course breakfast.  The bath facilities were small but well maintained. The staff speak some English and were kind enough to allow us to put our bikes in a protected area behind the main building.

The next morning, after enjoying one of the best breakfasts I have had in Japan, we jumped on the bikes for the 3-hour ride to Shimoda.  We encountered more hills on this section often biking for 20 or so minutes up a hill only to quickly descend back to sea level and then repeat the pattern again.

Again, the scenery was very nice and made the ride, regardless of the hills, a real joy.

After arriving in Shimoda we spent a few hours exploring the port, famous as the landing spot of Commodore Perry and Black Ships (kuroi fune). We also got a much needed and deserved lunch, during which I had the chance to try dried eel spines (dislike!).  Eel spines aside, it was a very pleasant experience.  We then continued down HWY 135 about 5km to Kisami-Ohama (Big Kisami Beach).

Famed Ernest House was fully booked, and the place next door wanted JPY 7,500 per person per night, so we ended up staying at one of the several minshuku on the other side of the small river that runs down the beach. These minshuku seem to cater to surfers and are fairly spartan in terms of creature comforts.  When asked about meals, the owner told us that we should go to the “combini” for ramen.  That said, at JPY 4,000 for adults, and JPY 3,000 for children, the prices were lower that we’ve experience in other places in Japan.

The timing of our visit was excellent as there was good surf at the beach and the villague of Kisami was holding its annual festival.

The next morning having biked for two days, body surfed for a few hours, and stayed up late observing the festival, we opted to fold our bikes back up and hop on the train at the Izukyu-Shimoda Station (伊豆急下田) the terminal of the Izukyu Line for an easy ride home. It’s a straight shot back up the peninsula to Atami where we transferred back onto the Tokaido Line for the ride to Yokohama. Less than 3 hours later we were back home and planning our next trip.

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We found that the last car on the train is the most bike friendly as there is a large area in the rear of the car where you can place bicycles or other large packages. We set our bikes there and just tried not to block the door into the conductors’ room.

Be prepared for the tunnels. They are dark and noisy. You will want as lights behind you and a will benefit from a light in front as well as sometimes the road is difficult to see.

You may want to try to reserve your accommodations in advance as many places fill up on the busy weekends and especially during the summer ‘obon’ time.

Distance from Atami to Kisami:  Approx. 81 KM

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