In May 2017 I arrived in Narita Airport to begin a bike tour in Japan. I didn’t have any routes planned out; I’m not familiar with riding on the left side of the road, and I’ve never been to Japan prior.
I was a bit concerned about my lack of preparedness. At first I was pretty hyped on going to Tokyo-3 (from Neon Genesis Evangelion lore; also known as Hakone), then I learned that I would have to ride through Tokyo (which I didn’t want to visit) and into some big climbs while competing with tour buses. Hakone seemed less appealing and I thought about doing a loop around Chiba just to get accustomed to riding in Japan. I quickly gave up on that idea after a few days of rolling around Chiba.
While in Chiba, the riding around was mostly pleasant. I used Maps.me as a guide and took mostly smaller back roads. The thing I noticed riding around these parts is the lack of shoulder on the roads. You can ride on the sidewalk, but they are sometimes bumpy and can suddenly turn into dirt, or even disappear. The drivers are, however, almost always very courteous – sometimes driving in the opposite lane to avoid spooking me.
After a few days of wandering around aimlessly, I decided to head back towards Narita and think things over. That’s when I decided I’ll head up north towards Aomori and take the ferry to Hokkaido.
My strategy was to book a hotel through a mobile app that was in the direction that I’m heading, and also within a reasonable distance. Where the lodging is will determine my route, for the most part. Google Maps and Maps.me will be my tour guides.
Google Maps seems to prefer offering the fastest routes which is great for cars and when it’s raining. Bicycling feature does not work in Japan. Maps.me will choose much more interesting routes but the app does not work while the device screen is off, if you choose to use turn-by-turn navigation. It gets very tedious having to keep checking the phone to see if I’m on course.
My little test run in Chiba concludes, and it’s time to roll out. Please come back for the next post.
Below are some photos from the few days in Chiba: