Tooling around the Tawaragaura Peninsula

Yesterday, I decided to check out the peninsula to the south of Sasebo.  The plan was for this to be road ride and be on the lookout for some trails to explore on another day.  I was actually looking forward to a ride where I did not have to deal with the arachnid gauntlet of webs across the lightly used trails around here.  Last weekend, I must have taken 50 spiders to the face and it got old.

Peeping around on the online maps it looked like the peninsula was gong to be “country” so I packed plenty of snacks.  Onigiri is my favorite ride snack in this parts. It is a triangle of rice with some type of filling on the inside (I dig the tuna) and whole thing is wrapped in seaweed. 

After a bit of hilly road work I got to a pretty cool park overlooking the “99 Islands” area.  The islands are quite pretty and as you travel around there are every changing views as your angles to the numerous islands change.

The main road I took while heading out on the peninsula stayed up on the ridgelines for the most part.  There are quite a few old farming roads that head down to the various nooks and crannies along the shoreline.   Many of these roads are much more narrower and far more interesting that most of the “Trails” built by the various land mangers in San Diego County.


While humping back up one of these old roads, I came across another crab.   While I’m only a couple hundred feet above sea level here, I was still amazed to see them up this high.  I did a little research and found out that the crabs here have adapted to living away from the tidal range so you can find them all over.   Like the one I saw last week, this bugger did not like having me around.  He did manage is get some pressure on my thumb through my glove and I must say that this little guy has got quite a pinch. Doesn’t he look pissed?

As I ventured further out towards the end of the peninsula I found the roads turned away from the southern tip.  I managed to find an old road bed turned trail and decided it was worth a look as it would keep me working my way south.    I learned a spider sweeper technique for riding around here.   I take a nice green stick about 3 feet long and keep it between my right hand and handlebar grip.   When I see spider webs I sweep the stick around out in front of me.   It works well when climbing non-technical stuff, but not so much when descending or in technical stuff.   Of course I look like a crazy mashup of  a mountainbiker and an orchestra conductor on crack but what the heck the spider thing gets old after a while and this lets me keep moving. 


The old road bed led me up to what I believe is a series of old WWII bunkers.  (I have yet to confirm this, but I am told there are nuemerous ones in the area) Some of them are dug into the side of the mountain while others are dug down into the mountain.  They were really trippy.   This was the biggest one with five interconnected bunkers dug into the side of the mountain right at the summit. 

This was one of the ones that was buried down into the top of the mountain.


When I was in the large interconnected bunkers, I was not alone.  There were some bats that called this place home.   When I got too close that started flying around and moved into the adjacent bunkers.  Since I had started at one end by the time time I got to the last bunker, they were all concentrated into the one room.  They did not want to go outside and since I was standing in the archway between the rooms, they were a little perplexed.  I spent a lot of time working on getting a shot of these little guys.  They would often buzz within a foot of my head as they thought about going past me to get to the other room.   The camera flash usually sent them wheeling around away from me.

This is the best closeup I was able to snag.  Ain’t he cute?   I heard this species is closely related to the endangered Texas Perot Bat.

After harassing the bats for long enough, I continued along my way of poking around on the peninsula.  There was lots of farm patches up here as well as a small community.  Looking back to the north I could see pretty much every peak I have gotten to so far in Sasebo.

I decided to drop down to the Shirahama Beach were I was expecting to see hordes of Japanese hotties in bikinis.   I had to settle for nearly having the beach all to myself while enjoying an onigiri and views of the East China Sea. 

The water looked inviting but you would have to watch out for these critters which were in abundance.

I spent quite a bit of time checking out some of the nooks and inlets. I’m sure some are only accessible via boat.   I took lots of notes and waypoints of the many old abandoned roads and nearly overgrown trails that dot the area.  I have enough dots and dotted lines for a return visit.

I got to a road junction where I could take the fairly direct route back, or I could take the more round-about way back along a big eastern chunk of the peninsula I had not gotten to yet.  Thinking that I could stay down along the shoreline I took the road downhill into a small fishing villiage.  I really like these small seaside towns, I feel like I’m closer to the culture when in places like this.   I dig watching families fish, old couples tending to thier crops or just strolling along the narrow coastal streets.  The people are so warm and friendly particularly when you know enough of the language to exchange basic greetings and be polite.   When you look on the maps the peninsula is listed as Sasebo, however the three or four folks I talked with on this ride all asked if I had came “from” Sasebo.  Clearly they don’t think of thier quite little neck of the woods as Sasebo and now, neither do I.   The ride back along the more scenic route was anything but the flat cruiser shoreline ride I had expected.  Between the little fishing villiages the road would climb back up into the hills and then drop back down at the next village.  I don’t know how many undulations I went through but by the time I got back to the hotel I was throughly pooped.   It was a good day on a bike.

Added Takatori to the website

I finally got all my notes, photos and map information together for the Takatori-yama area near Zushi and Yokosuka, Japan.   I added a Google Earth KMZ file to this review that is mashed up with my photos and trail notes  as well as Japanese topo map to help you get to know the area better.  One thing I like about this setup is that you can find all sorts of other information on the area in addition to photos from other people.  If you find yourself in the area you should definitely check this place out.  For all my peeps on the Far East Side that call this place home, keep the trails ridden and shot me some more information on the trail spurs I did not get to.

The Takatori-yama Page

More sights from around Sasebo

Okay for the last week or so I have been getting hammered at work.   I’m doing lots of writing but it is not about Mountain Biking.  Such is the nature of “work” sometimes.   I have managed to get out and find some new stuff and experience some more of the culture of Sasebo.   Here is a quick recap of the last week or so of my off-time in Sasebo.

There is plenty of terrian to play with here….finding the goods is tricky, but it is “coming along”.  Sometimes coming along means clearing old trails yourself.

When doing just that on one of the trails, I flipped over a rock and to my surprise this guy was there.  I’m a good 3 miles and 1,000 feet above sea level so I have no idea how “Mr Crabs” got up here.   I’m wondering if this guy has some “Finding Nemo” like story to tell.   One thing is for certain, he was quite a curmudgeon and was trying to get rid of me.   Thumbs up for full-fingered riding gloves!

I wonder how old Mr. Crabs would fair against this guy?  Lucky for Mr. Crabs this is a Japanese Rat Snake.

The food chain in action.  It is family dinner time at Charlotte’s house. 

I found a really old timber road up to the summit of Mt Syoukann.   So far this is the longest bit of climbable dirt I have found that did not include some hike-a-bike.


A real bonus was a pretty cool singletrack going down the other side of the Mt Syoukann that combined with the old road makes for a nice bit of riding.

Mount Eboshi is becoming a regular stomping ground for me but I’m still finding  bits of trails here and there to add to the riding inventory.

Mt Kaku is a bit bigger and west of Mt Eboshi.  It was a bit of work to get over to it and the final half a kilometer was a bit of beater hike-a-bike.    A snack and a little basking in the sun were well earned when I got to the summit. 

This trail coming off of Mt Kaku was a real treat.  This is a fairly new trail that shows some modern trail science applied to its design and construction.

You don’t have to get out on the trails to see cool stuff.  The city has lots of interesting stuff to see.  These Japanese carp are pretty fish and are plentiful in main river through town.

I came across some folks praticing a “Dragon Dance”.  It is some pretty intricate stuff they do.  There are 10 people working the dragon, conductor as well as about half a dozen kids playing various drums, gongs and bells to put it all together.

I watched them practice for about a half hour in the small park/court yard before strolling back to the hotel.

The sun is up and I have a day off….It is time to ride.

Toro Peak Access

It has been brought to my attention by a lawyer representing the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians that the land around the summit of Toro Peak is part of the tribe’s reservation lands. Since my original posting of Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak page in 2003, they have added signs to alert the public to the fact you will be trespassing if you go all the way to the peak. I have requested a meeting to see exactly where all of the boundaries are and get the full story on things. In the interim from what I have gathered from other sources you would cross onto the reservation lands shortly after the fork in the forest road at 12.8 miles. This is roughly halfway between SR-21 and SR-22 way points on my map. You can find numerous printed guidebooks and online resources that make no mention of the land ownership and access issues. Sometime in the last six years keeping the public off of Toro Peak has become a greater concern to the Cahuilla Indians. Hopefully my photos of this truly magnificent peak will satisfy your curiosity because you will be trespassing if you climb the last mile or so to the summit yourself. Also don’t forget to check out one my early additions to the site.

Exploring Mt Eboshi near Sasebo

Mount Eboshi is the most the promeint mountain surrounding Sasebo.  So of course I had to go up there and see what the deal was as I had been told there are trails up there.  I had even been given a very rudimentary map.  During my first visit I realized the map was pretty outdated and soon was relegated to remain in the pack as backup mountain money.   Luckily there were a few trailhead maps that I was able to key off during my second visit and things started coming together (sorta).

This is pretty much your average trail look near the top of the mountain.

Ready to get your chunk on?  (Yes this is the trail)  This this is pretty much the most extreme section of trail in the area, this type of rock is found interspersed along the trail and provide some nice character and features.

While stopping to smell the flowers this critter came along.

Check out this lookout/rest stop.   Look at this angle on the benches.  Does that not just scream, “Take a load off, lay back and relax”.

A skinny little bench cut that reminded me a bit of the SART.  It was one of my favorite and longest sections.  There is a lower section to this trail that appears to be rarely used that was also superb but suffered from some deadfall.  I spent some time and cleared the stuff that could not be ridden over.  I was hoping to see it continue on down the mountain but it stop at a road instead of crossing it and continuing onward.  Bummer.

Sort of a hazy view from the summit of Eboshi.   There are three trails going up to the summit, one is pretty mild, one looks nasty, and the other I have verified is a hike-a-bike pain in the arsh with just a merger 309 steps on the final section to the top.


Yes I counted them and even took notes  — I didn’t have a pen 🙂

A view from coming down the south side of the mountain.

While there is are some nice sections of trail I have yet to find a good trail that cashes out most of the four plus miles of climbing it takes to get up here on the road.   Most of the trails are up on top and none of the trails I have found go more than a third of the way down the mountain before dumping out onto roads.  I have found remnants of trails but the pace of Mother Nature’s reclamation program there just does not seem to be enough use to keep some of them from becoming overgrown.   With a few or so seasons of TLC  this place could be a far east MTB mecca quality playground.   More to follow…. 🙂

Snooping around Sasebo, Japan

So work has taken me back across the International Date Line for some more adventures in Japan.  This time I am in the south of Japan in the city of Sasebo.     The work is interesting with some new challenges to keep me on my toes.  I even have run into some old freinds from San Deigo who are calling Sasebo home these days.   What was really cool upon arriving here were all the freaking mountains I saw on the drive from the airport to the city.   Forested ridgelines that seemed to go on forever was pretty much the norm.  Early last week, I snagged a rental and have started snooping around.   With promenant peaks in just about ever direction there is plenty to explore.   There is not much of a organized scene here MTB wise, but there is a culture of hiking and what I would call “Micro-National Parks” in the area.  

This past sunday I checked out some of the in-town mountains.  There was quite a bit of road interconnecting to get to the trails but I think it was worth it.  This is an exceptionally pretty area so it was more like a tasty road-touring cake with some yummy dirt frosting on top. 

The view of the a small slice of the “99 Islands” from Mt Ishidake.

Zippy along the trail on Mt Akasaki.

Hmmmmmmm, where to go next?

The chunkier route less followed.

Brushing this out of your face along the trail is kinda cool.

Brushing these off your face is not so cool.  They get about as big as a silver dollar and while harmless they can freak you our when you get “Bulls-Eyed” right in the face with them.   This has happened more times while riding in Japan than I can count.

One of the mountains within the city limits of Sasebo is Mt Yumihari.  It is sizable and the roads are a bit steep.  While I have been on Mt Yumihari a couple of times already, there is no real trail system but more a like series of not quite connected trails.


Still there appears to be plenty of stuff worth exploring.

There are some stunning views from the summit, but I thought some of the more interesting bits were off in the back corners and the not quite so accessible spots.

This little spot about several hundred meters past and a brisk climb from all the parking lots was absolutely empty and made a pretty tranquil spot to chill and knock back a snack.

I recognized this as soon as I saw these as they were also near Mt Takayama near Yokosuka.   This is the basement foundation for a anti-aircraft gun battery used during World War II to protect the port of Sasebo.   I could not help but think what must have been gone through the minds of the soldiers manning this battery on August 9th 1945 when “Fat Man”, the second atomic bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki just 30 miles to the south.   On a clear day they would have had an unobrstructed view of ground zero and the mushroom cloud that reached upwards of 60,000 feet.  I’m sure they must have felt and heard it for sure.   Talk about being a witness to history.

There was this faded sign nearby.

By this time I was getting pooped and the my daylight buffer was getting a little short for full blown by myself and unaided by maps exploring.  I went down the mountain on a new route that included an extremely narrow one-lane paved road and took notes on all the various trails heading off here and there to be snooped at on another day.

It was a great day on a bike and I slept like a baby that night.