This is one of the best cycling routes for relaxed country riding that I’ve been on in Japan. The road is more or less flat with little traffic, and there is decent sized shoulder for most of the ride.
On the down side, the views aren’t that great, as you can’t really see the ocean. And, even when you can, it’s not that impressive.
I started around 2pm in Hachinohe and worked my way to HWY 19 and rode up the coast where it eventually merges with HWY 338. About 25KM from Hachinohe I took a left for a 5KM ride into Misawa.
There are quite a few places to stay here, and I think I picked the worst one, a small hotel behind the train station. The building was in terrible shape, my room smelled like cigarette smoke, and didn’t have a shower or Wi-Fi. On the bright side, it did only cost JPY 4,200 including breakfast and use of the public bath and shower.
There’s a good-sized US Air Force base in Misawa with around 10,000 Americans stationed there. That night, having been eating local food only for the entire week, I went over to the area near the main gate of the base in search of some non-Japanese food. I had a great taco and enchilada dinner at the Tex-Mex place.
It was kind of a surreal experience. I had been out on my bike for a week, having used very little English, and having seen only a couple other non-Japanese. And then, all the sudden, I pop into this restaurant and everyone is from the US, speaking English, eating tacos and drinking Coronas.
I met a really nice family who gave me lots of good tips about cycling in the area. And, later in a bar-restaurant called My Place, I had chance to talk with a lot more people about recommended cycling routes in the area.
Most people suggested that I head inland and avoid the coast, as there isn’t much to see on that route. That said, I AM on this silly mission to cycle Honshu’s coastline. So, in the morning, I decided to keep with the plan and keep going north on HWY 338.
The highway, as I said, is actually very bicycle friendly. But, the views aren’t great, and there are some remote stretches. At one point, I stopped and asked some surfers if there were any convenience stores in the area. They all answered in the negative, which made me a little concerned about where I’d get my next meal.
Well, within 15 minutes, I had found a convenience store, and biked past two more. I guess, when you are in car traveling at 80KM per hour, you tend to focus on different things. Us cyclists always need to looking for future supply points.
To that end, I decided not to ride all the way to the end of the Shimokita Peninsula as I couldn’t see if there were any places to stay or even get a meal on the map, and it looks pretty remote. So, when HWY 338 leaves the coast and takes a left to Mutsu, I followed it.
The last 20KM of the ride was pretty much up and down medium-height hills crossing over the peninsula. They were just high enough to keep the ride interesting, but were not even close in difficulty as I what I had ridden over in Iwate-ken.
Mutsu is not really an attractive city. It sprawls in all directions and looks pretty run down.
There are several hotels on the road that I followed and I got a room in Hotel Green for JPY 5,200 (in room internet – but no Wi-Fi). I spent a couple of hours walking around Mutsu and found a couple of redeeming points.
One, there is a beautiful new indoor and outdoor sports complex with grass fields, basketball and volleyball courts near to the coast. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in Japan.
Secondly, right across from Hotel Green, there is a great sushi restaurant that has been in operation and managed by the owner for 30 years. The service and food was excellent. Prices were very reasonable. And, the owner/chef is very talkative and entertaining.
When I was walking by the sports complex I met a group of cyclists who told me that the scenery around the end of the peninsula was fantastic and highly recommended the ride.
I’m looking forward to returning to Aomori and riding the remaining section of the Shimokita Peninsula.