Lake Biwa Ride

Riding around Lake Biwa was one of the favorites for full on day cycling from Kyoto at the time when I was there as a university student. This massive lake, Lake Biwa, is the largest freshwater lake in Japan with the area of 670km2, which makes almost as same size as Singapore (694km2).
Lake Biwa

Bikes (from left) Iwasaki - Kun's, Mine, Sambo's

Japanese Premium Asahi Beer, in a 'frozen' glass!!

Ishizaki-kun (left) Sambo (right)
 Ishizaki-kun (left) Sambo (right)
Asahi and Yakitori (Kawa)

Agedashi Tamago (Bonito Flavoured Omlette)


So with Sambo and Iwasaki-Kun, we decided to commit ourselves to ride around the lake like before. Sambo was my travel buddy when we did the bike trip of the whole length of Japanese archipelago, namely as Japan Cycle Crossing during the summer of 2007. He is now a bicycle mechanic at Eirin Marutamachi. Iwasaki-Kun is Sambo’s childhood friend who is a keen cyclist who did also ride across Japan, who is now a chef.

Sambo (left) and Ishizaki Kun (right)
Izakaya Catch Up
We met up night before the trip commencement at an Izakaya near Sambo’s place. Izakaya is a type of very small eating and drinking place where tapas kind of traditional Japanese food such as karaage (deep-fried chicken), yakitori (grilled chicken skewers flavoured with sweet soya sauce) and sashimi (sliced raw fish dipped with soya sauce and wasabi) and drink such as beer (Asahi) and local sake and shochu (famous Japanese distilled beverage, usually made from either rice, wheat or potatoes) are served at a reasonable price. To give you some idea, at this particular place, we each paid 2500 yen (about 30AUD) for a few pints of beer and enough food to make us stuffed. This is kind of place is somewhere you need to dine in during the stay in Japan as you will see real face of Japanese local cuisine and its warm hospitality, which are, in my opinion, quite different from other country.

Biwa Ride
After the sleepless night we left Sambo’s place at 4.30am for this main ride. Yes, we, Japanese people work very hard and (therefore?) play tremendously hard. Compromises are not made in any circumstances. In fact, Sambo and Iwasaki-kun had been working whole day prior to the meeting.

Lake Biwa

To get to the Lake Biwa from Kyoto is about a 20km ride, from the Kyoto City centre, easiest way would be riding towards east on Sanjyo Dori (Ave.). The temperature was 3C (26F). Although it is said that this winter is warmer than ordinal winter, coming back from Perth, It was freezing cold.
As we ride along the Lake the sun was rising from the horizon. We stopped by a shrine for a photo stop. There are not many places in this country where you can see a full horizon view as the country is mountainous and heavily developed. Also, there are number of temples and shrines you could visit during the ride of Lake Biwa.

Sunrise by the shrine
Horizon and Sunrise

The morning ride was perfect apart from the cold weather as the sun was up and reasonably few traffic. However, as we rode towards north and time towards noon, the weather started getting cloudy and misty. The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny but it seemed not going to be right.

As we go along, we stopped places called ‘michinoeki.’ Michi (Road) no eki (Station) is a place where tourists can get rest and enjoy local produces. Typically, you find locally produced vegetables, local cuisine and souvenir. There are michinoekis across the country and you can find many of them along the lake side too. (Probably about every 50km).

Yakiimo - Grilled Sweet potato

Local apple

Warabi Mochi and Iwasaki kun

Lake Biwa is a famous destination for cyclists and so the cycle paths are being facilitated too. However, I found that the paths are not very well sign posted. Therefore, map would be helpful for the ride. Otherwise, you will have to ride along the heavy traffic or get lost.

A passimon tree

By 3pm rain was getting stronger and stronger and we were getting sleepier and sleepier. We stopped a place called Nagahama, a town located on the north eastern side of the lake. We found its locally brewed beer, ‘Roman Beer’. In the next moment we found ourselves in a train with handful of the beer. After getting back to Kyoto, we cooked up some Nabe, Japanese hot pot, had the beer. We were supposed to be committed to do the ride but we couldn’t do anything in from of the local beer.

the wet weather

The last stop, Nagahama Railway Station

By the end of the day we realized having fun is always the primary goal for cycling and also we are no longer 19.

Japanese version of this post can be seen in Sabbai’s blog.

Photos for the ride by Sambo are here.

Today’s route

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Jana said...

Great story Yohei! I really enjoyed reading it. It seems like you've got a perfect sense of writing a travel journal...well done! The sunrise picture is amazing!

Yohei said...

Hi Jana,
Great to see your comment! more adventures will be coming:) I'll try to capture Japan through my eyes and describe as clear as possible. will keep you updated!



Anonymous said...

Hi Yohei,

Nice story!

I am in Notogawa now. And I want to get the best view of Sunrise and sunset in Biwa lake. Could you advise which place?
And what is near by station?


Yohei said...

Hi Jamal,

Sorry for late reply and thanks for your comment (Hope its not too late..)

Shirahige Shrine is a great spot to see sunrise as it is facing the East.

You can get there by train, getting off at Omitakashim Station(近江高島駅)