Last Call at Takatori

My final outing on the mountain bike for this trip to Japan was to head back out to the Takatori area east of Zushi. I passed through here on my lasting outing but it was mostly a transit through it. This time I wanted to futz around a bit.

Coming in from the south
Coming in from the south

I did some street riding from Yokosuka to make may way over to the entrance of the trail system. Like most of the trails in the area, you have to do so grunting immediately after the leaving the streets.

Trail Goodness

I entered the trail system were I had exited on the last outing and I was planning on retracing my way back up to top of Takatoriyama.   I was however going to investigate all of the various spurs that split off of the main trail I was on.

There were a few spurs of particular interest to me as I remembered them as being really cool during my last time on them more than a few moons ago.

I just love these kind of locals helping folks signs.

So much steeper and slick than it looks

I was armed with my GPS loaded up with my personal archive of adventures in this area.    The goal was to jog my memory and avoid a few of the spurs that will quickly dump you off the mountain resulting in pain and/or hike-a-bike to get back up to the prime riding stuff.

Trails old enough to have worn notches through the peaks of the hills.

On my way up to the summit, I did find the junctions that I wanted to hit on the return half of the route.   I even came across about five other mountain bikers out on trail.    One interesting thing I noted about this group was that while most of them while had rather high-end new bikes (Within 2-3 years), none of them were running  single chain rings up front.   Actually most them were running triples up front.    My theory is that most them ride their bikes to the trailhead which according to where you live on the peninsula you can easily end up being 7-10+ miles on the streets/roads.    While my rental rig is pretty much old and has seen better days I find the big rig to be a really welcome feature on it.

Once up to the summit, I hooked up with one of the trails that I used as part of the Takatori to Sengen-yama (Duckpond) connector.   I was not going to take it all the way out to the duckpond trails today but it took me more a couple of minutes to reorient myself at a couple of the trail junctions.    That section was just a good as I remembered.   This was also my first time on the trail during winter so I was able to see a more things than in the past as most of the foliage was dormant.    There were a couple of spots were I had never noticed that I was riding along a ridgeline that was less than 10 feet wide with extremely steep slopes on both sides with homes 100 plus feet below.   Other times of the year the trail is just in a tunnel of green.

More cool Nippon signs

The particularly trail that I chose to peel off on led me to the top of a long series of stairs back down to a street.    Riding these are just part of the mainstream skillset for riding here on the peninsula.   The rental hardtail added some additional fun to this descent.


After knocking out the stairs, I did a bit of street riding to make my way back over to the north side of the Takatoriyama area where I then made my way back up to the summit.

Climbing is what this spot is really known for in the area

From the summit I retraced my way (the trail was really fun in this direction) back the spur I had scoped out earlier in the ride.   This trail worked it is way towards the east along a series of ridgelines between two communities/towns.    There are several exit trails off of these ridgelines and according to my archives there was at least one I had not done before.

It is my understanding that most of this section of trail has a history of being a primary pedestrian route between several of the local communities.  (I suspect trains/buses my have lessened that usage in modern times).   One interesting bit is that there are long sections of this trail which have about an 18″ wide section of concrete walkway poured down the middle of it.   Pretty weird to have a “singletrack sidewalk” through the middle of the woods.    The trail/sidewalk in the woods eventually took me off the ridgeline and in an area of the peninsula I had not been before.     It was a bit of an adventure to find my route back to familiar streets which included traversing more topology than planned but it was all good stuff.

My final week of work in Japan end up being more work than I thought it was going to be so I did not get back out onto trails again.   Well one thing is for certain, my fondness for riding a bike in Japan has not diminished after this visit.

Zushi Double Shot!

After a week full of nasty rainy weather the sun was out! I headed to a trail system in Zushi colloquially known as “Duck Pond”. I have been there numerous time before but it has been about eight years since my last time here. I have a GPS track on how to get there, but I intentionally did not have my GPS turned nor did I look at a map to refresh my memory. Instead I opted to use the Swartz on this adventure. I enjoyed aspect of the retracing my steps. On this day I knew I had a right to make somewhere after getting on the backside of the Zushi train station. In this case a barbershop pole jogged my memory and it was smooth sailing from there to the trailhead. I find spinning through the small streets of Japan and route finding to be just as fun as the trails sometimes.

Using the Swartz

The cheery blossoms were going off of the trees at trailhead entrance.

Chery Blossoms thinking about spring

Ye Ole Duck Pond

Duck Pond

To get up on the ridgeline where the trails are require some work from Duck Pond. Nothing like some hike-a-bike get you going.

So much steeper than it looks!

Once up on the top the rolling sometimes contouring singletrack started.

Got Roots?

I was thoroughly enjoying myself getting reconnected with this “old friend” of a trail system. You get to see more stuff during the winter months when the foliage is sparser. In addition to seeing some of the exposure which is otherwise hidden you have more opportunities for distant scenery. On this particular day Mt Fuji could be seen.

Mt Fuji making an appearance along the trail

I did take one trail that started dropping elevation off in a hurry. By the time I realized this was really not the way I wanted to go down, I really did not want to go back up. So I took the trail down to the bottom and would get back up another way. I got back up onto the ridgelines by climbing the Asaina-kirodoshi. It is one of the seven greater notches through the mountains leading to and from Kamakura. Kamakura is surrounded on three sides by steep mountain and the notches served as defensive passages and passes through the mountains back in “the day”. “The day” in this particular case one was 1241. I climbed up from the west and I was quite satisfied with my performance through the technical sections of this climb. The picture below is from the saddle.

From here I did some more exploring/reconnecting with the trails up on the ridge that included passing by the back side of the Kumano Shrine.

Backside of the Kumano Shrine

When done on the trails up top I would come back by this shrine again and connect up with another trail that would drop me down into Asahina. The bottom of this trail rolls right through a community farm space which always makes me feel like I’m sneaking through someone’s backyard.

The trail going through a community farm

From here this was have been a good time just cruise back along the streets. There was however plenty of daylight left so I decided to go through one of my other trail systems I am fond of Takatoriyama.

The road route to get over there was not particularly straight forward. I decided to give Google Maps a shot at getting me over there. After selecting the walking route I was on my way. Well the walking route was the most direct route but it did include a bountiful amount of stairs. Once the route become clearer to me, I turned off the guiding voice of pain in my pocket and worked my way along the streets.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

As I climbed up the street on the north side of the mountain, I pulled off on a side trail I recognized to check out some of the shaded relief carved to the walks of this old stone quarry.

Off the beaten path treasures at Takatoriyama

My legs where getting pretty well cooked at his point so I opted to settle for a long distance view of the budda vice committing to the work to get over to it. Below is a closeup from my 2009 visit here.

The Takatoriyama Budda as seen on a 2009 ride through here.

Once at the quarry/peak it took me a minute or two to get my bearings straight for the connector I wanted. Twenty seconds down the trail I knew I was on the right trail as I recognized the spot where I had one hell of an endo in 2004 which left me with a cracked sternum. The Ghost of Biker Injuries Past has a long memory.

A section of trail on Takatoriyama

I had worked my way south along what seemed like half a dozen plus trail junctions. I ended up resorting to loading up my old GPS files as my legs were doing some serious wanking at this point and I was not up for more bonus mileage. Turns out I was less the 100 yards for popping out where I was expecting too.

It’s not a train!

The final bit was descending some steep little residential streets and then going through one of the largest pedestrian/cyclist tunnels I have ever been through. It is wider than the street I was on. After that it was about 6 or 7 miles of street riding back to the hotel.

What a great day to be out and about!

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

“Feeling” my way around — A Nippon Navigation Weekend

The weather Gods showed favor on us last weekend as we had a couple of days of no rain and it looked like it was going to hold through most of the weekend.  Friday afternoon, Dan and I headed out for some riding in an area near Zushi.

We were enjoying the afternoon as we had plenty of daylight ahead of us.  We had time to stop and smell the flowers (so to say)

Over the course of ride through the  area we came to one of those spots were either going to be at the apex of your loop or you are going to jump ship and head for another area near Kamakura and extend your loop.   The fork in the road at this junction was at the top of a pass know as the Asaina-kirodoshi.  Kamakura sets on the ocean, but is also surrounded on three sides by mountains. They are not tremendously tall, but really steep.  For defensive purposes notches, passages and passes call kirodoshi were cut through some of these mountains. The Asaina-kiridoshi is one of the seven greater kiridoshi leading in and out of Kamakura.  It was built in 1241 and is rumored to have been built in a single night.   We opted to descend the eight century old road down towards Kamakura and see if I could figure out a route I followed a local on five years ago.

After quite a bit snooping around I had to resort to “Umm, it feels this way” tactics.   My “it feels this way” tactic has gotten me and the poor saps with me in trouble on more than a few occasions.   We were starting to watch our daylight as things can get dark really quick under the foliage of the forest.  Just when I was really starting to doubt if I was on the right track, I recognized a trail feature and had a “full navigational recall” occur.  The feature is a trail junction know as the Okirigishi juncture, in the Nagoe Kirtoshi pass.  (It was too dark in this area to get a photo) This pass was used primarily from 1185 to 1333 to connect the Kamakura and Miura areas.  It was just a narrow path back then just wide enough for a single horse to pass through.  Today it is still narrow and quite a bit on the burly side with some natural stone steeps that require your due diligence to navigate.

There are a few spots along the trail were some trees were and underbrush are strategically cutout to provide scenic viewpoints.   It was amazing to see home much light was actually being obscured when under all the foliage.  Below us and in the distance were could see where we were going to be dropping out at.

From here to there took a little longer than expected and there were a couple of trail junctions were some thinking had to be done before choosing a direction.  We ended popping out right where I expected (okay hoped is a better word 🙂  ) to and we still had just a bit of daylight to play with.  From here we did some street cruising back to where we started from.   We did make a pit stop along the way at a small mom and pop restaurant that my friend Ken turned me onto during a visit last year.  The food here is just awesome with the kind of yumminess that “grandma used to make”.  The husband and wife who run the place are in fact grandparents and she kindly treats us like one of her grandkids.  She sees enough of the local mountain bikers that she keeps a newspaper around so that we can cover up the chairs so we do not funk up their chairs.  She even helps me out when I screw up my Japanese and notices when I use a new phrase.   It is always more than a meal when eat here.    I slept good that night.

The following day still looked good and by lunch time I had polished off all of the work than needed to be tended to so Dan and I headed out for some more exploration.  This would be another area that I had ridden a few times five years ago and but I was always just tagging along.   We did quite a bit of street exploration before finding a route up into the trail system.  I had never been this way before to get up into the trail system and we went for quite sometime before we came to a trail junction that “felt” like I had been here before.   Riding around over here would be a whole lot easier if I was just learn kangi, hirokana and kitokana.

A few trail junctions later and I knew where I was at and where we were going.  Takatori has some really cool technical features strewn about on the trails.  The section below is gnarly little root fest and it is also the spot where five years ago I cracked by sternum and bruised up a few ribs pretty good.

The summit of Mt Takatori is the site of an old stone quarry that has become a favorite spot for area climbers.  There are at the least a dozen such faces where folks can come and get thier climb on.

The quarry area also has some cool rock features to play on so we did.  Here is Dan giving his front tire and fork a workout.  Take note that Dan is riding with flat pedals and no shin pads.  Dan told this was the first time and months he had gone for a ride without them on.

I have a feeling that Dan is going is not going to forget those next ride.

After playtime on the summit, we set off on another trail that included a bunch of steps to descend, but the cultural payoff is really awesome.   You are literally just riding along and pop out into a clearing with this in front of you.

This carved relief statue is around 30-40 feet high and is simply impressive.  If you do not say something along the lines of a awesome, wow, or holy crap when you first see this then something is wrong with you.  Dan was pretty stoked to see this.  After this point we continued  along the trail that included lots of steep descents and natural log steps that dumps us out at the bottom of Takatori off the north slope.

From here we worked our way back up the mountain on a easily climbable road.  Once back at the peak were retraced our way back to where we started.  I have a new to-do list item to go back and explore the numerous trail juctions in the Takatori area.  By the time we got back I was pretty much done and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.  A couple of days well spent.