SF TO LA
Tour de Nippon in Akita
19 October 2017 / Japan
This past September, we at Far Ride were invited to Papersky's Tour de Nippon, which kicked off in Akita. Lucas B.B and Kaori Berkow, the owners and editors of the Japanese travel print magazine, were kind enough to invite five of us, Jules (Portland), Tina (Los Angeles), Evan (Taiwan), James (England) and myself, to join them on the cycling adventure as part of their media team.
The Tour de Nippon is a two-day trip in the Tazawako area of Akita, which we traveled by bike. A brief overview of the event included sampling Akita specialties, playing with the famous Akita dogs and going for a dip in the relaxing hot springs. On top of that list was to fully enjoy the lush Tazawako nature.
On the first day, we met at Tazawako Station at 10:30 in the morning. There were roughly twenty participants and it seemed like everyone was representing a foreign brand or magazine. With not too much luggage, we started off on a light ride. We rode a distance of roughly 32-kilometers on the first day, with a total elevation gain of 433 meters. At points when the riding became too difficult, the organizers had set up rest stops and snacks. The highlight of the day was stopping by the Japanese-style onsens in between our rides.
Since rice is an Akita-regional specialty within Japan, we also stopped along the way to sample some rice. It was definitely a strange experience, but the locally prepared rice and side dishes were delicious. Afterwards, we had a chance to play with the Akita healing dogs and although the experience was short, it left a lasting impression. I got the feeling that the trip was well organized and thought-through.
At the end of the night, we set up camp at the beautiful Lake Tazawa. There was even a bungalow where we could set aside some of our luggage and unwind. We feasted on a special type of Akita bear that a local hunter had killed and made into a type of stew for us. After a hearty meal of bear barbecue and stew, we had a 'Tent Sauna Party' at a small sauna booth that had already been set up. All of the sweat from the sauna inspired us to take a cool dip in the beautiful lake in front of us.
The next morning, we woke up early. We started the day with another refreshing tent sauna party and a simple breakfast before kayaking on the lake. The emerald waters against the morning midst made for a stunning view.
On the last day, we readied ourselves to ride 40.6 kilometers. Although fatigue from the second day was beginning to set in, I looked forward to a fun day of riding against a beautiful backdrop. We took a road that wound around Tazawa Lake while the two local riders gave us their insight on the town. Thanks to the safety measures taken beforehand and the lack of traffic, the course felt secure. We even stopped along the way to check out the castle town, Kakunodate, and experience the samurai culture of Itaya.
The entire tour took place flawlessly and the unique program allowed us to explore the sights of the region as well as try out local cuisines. The tour could suit anyone from cycling-novices to pros looking to take it slow. I’m looking forward to going again next year.