Day 2: Gotemba — Chino
Date: Monday, 18 May 2015, 9am depart
Major Climbs: Road 138 Pass (1102m), Chuo to Fujimi (1161m)
We woke up to blue skies and a full view of Mt Fuji on Day 2. Having eluded us the day before, hidden by overcast skies and fading light, you couldn’t miss Japan's highest mountain towering into the sky right in front of us as we prepared ourselves for another day of riding. Mt Fuji and its surrounding lakes would feature throughout the morning of Day 2. As we set off from the hotel the road instantly started climbing as we skirted around the eastern side of the snow capped volcano heading towards Lake Yamanaka, the largest of the Fuji Five Lakes. It was a rude way to start the ride but was softened by the amazing views of Mt Fuji.
After 15km of climbing we reached the peak of the pass and started a short descent towards Lake Yamanaka. By the time we reached the lake the morning sun was starting to be overshadowed by cloudy skies. We kept riding past Lake Yamanaka and on towards the towns of the Minamitsuru District of Yamanashi. As we rode through towns we spotted a big rollercoaster and a theme park. We rode closer and closer to Fuji Q Highland theme park until we were right at the base of it’s biggest roller coaster. With no luck finding an entrance and seeing the long queues to even get on the rides we kept pushing on. Navigating through the town’s backstreets and farm roads was slow going as we headed towards the next of the Fuji Five Lakes.
Not long after leaving the theme park, we approached the edge of Lake Kawaguchi, closely followed by Lake Sai. The roads alongside these lakes were easy going with open roads, nice scenery and minimal traffic. Throughout the morning we would turn and see Mt Fuji still imposing its figure on us in the horizon. As we rode down the northern side of Lake Sai, a few of us were conversing about the infamous Suicide Forest which lay on the other side. Aokigahara Forest or Sea of Trees is a very dense forest which historically has associations with Demons in Japanese Mythology and is a place people go to call it quits. There is an interesting documentary about it on Vice, which a couple of us had watched previously and made for interesting discussion as we rode close to the area that morning.
After passing Lake Shoji, the last of the Fuji Five Lakes we would see, we entered a mountain tunnel and started what would potentially be the best 20km any of us have ever ridden. We emerged from the tunnel and immediately began a descent through the Yamanashi Alps. The first 10km of the descent was smooth and fast with wide turning corners following the mountainside down towards the valley. We turned off the main route onto a smaller road which followed the winding river through the gorge. The next 10km of riding was pure bliss as we rode down the gully past small settlements and rice fields in the creek beds. Barely having to turn a pedal or squeeze the breaks we snaked our way down together without a car in sight. The scenery in the gorge just added to the enjoyment and made it one of the most epic moments any of us have ever experienced on the bike. By the time we reached the town of Ichikawa Honmachi at the bottom of the valley 20km later, we were all on a massive high. To make things even better a Ramen/Gyoza restaurant presented itself right on cue, so we stopped for lunch.
After sharing a few plates of gyoza and a bowl of Ramen each, we set off through the towns the Minami Alps following the valley floor. The second half of the day would be all uphill until we reached the outskirts of of Chino, our final destination. We rode uphill for 50kms passing countless farms and rice patties with the mountains on both our left and right until we reached Fujimi. From here we could see down to the city of Chino, a welcome relief after another long day in the saddle. We arrived in the late afternoon and were looking forward to dinner at a local restaurant and soaking our sore legs in the Onsen on the top floor of the Hotel, which overlooked the city.