Mountain Bike Bill, The Dirt on the Dirt

Return to Yoko!

It has been quite a few moons since I was last in Japan, and even more since being in Yokosuka. Work has brought me back for a few weeks and I am pretty stoked about. In addition to catching up with a couple old friends and reacquainting myself with the culture I was excited about revisiting some the trails I have fond memories of.

The rent-a-wreak

All of the mountain bikes at my local rental place were out when I first arrived.    I really did not have much to ride anyway as there was plenty to do with getting the work project rolling.   The second weekend a couple came in and grabbed one.

A mighty fine looking tree

The Fugatoyama trail system I hit up is near Zushi and the route would take me up to Fugatoyama.   I had uploaded some of my old track into my GPS.   Well so I thought.   Turns out I gooned something up and while I had plenty of tracks for the other trails in the area, I did not have the trails I planned on riding.

I love this section

I have ridden the trails numerous times so while not having my “safety blanket” of old bread crumbs I felt confident about being able to find my way around.

Shrine/marker along the trail.

I went to the trails system near the Arden Hills are of Zushi and was soon it old stomping grounds.   I had no issues with the figuring and the six trails junctions need to get my way up to the peak of Fugatoyama.

The trail has been around long enough cut a notch through the ridgeline.

After getting to the peak I retraced my steps back to the main junction that was going to take me down to the east side of the peninsula.    There are a handful of opinions to get down from where I was at.    The downhill was pretty awesome just as I remembered.    I got to one trail junction I had real tough time figuring out which way to go.  Either way would work but one of them was better than the other and extended your time on the dirt.

I pondered at the junction for quite sometime before picking and I picked…WRONG!     The route I took dropped me out of the woods way too quickly.     You also shed off so much elevation that I was not about to hike a bike back up to the junction.   I guess I’m just going to have to go back!

After some snack Nippon style it was time to cruise back to Yokosuka and my hotel.

A Nippon Weekend In Review

So I’m back in Japan for a couple of weeks of work.    This marks the first time I have been here in the late January, early February timeframe.    With the highs in the low 40’s and the night time temps below freezing it is downright cold for this San Diego Weather Weenie!   Wednesday was spent playing planes, trains and automobiles but with the international date line thing after getting some sleep in the hotel I woke up to Friday morning.   Friday was spent setting up for work that was start to start on Monday, give a presentation and make rounds of gripping and grinning.     In the middle of all that I picked up a mountain bike rental that not only would be my primary means of transportation while here in Japan, it was also be my recreational vehicle.    Friday evening was marked by the full blown onset of  Jet Laaaaaag!   

I have found that nothing helps to beat your body clock into a new time zone like some exercise.    After some early morning work preps it was time to set off on the bike.     Cold is cold, but the breeze was just downright biting so there was plenty of layering when donning my MTB apparel.   As in all of it!   I was pretty stoked with the hardtail rental I got.   I was the first person to rent one of the newest members of their rental fleet, a well equipped (for a rental) Jamis Durango 1 hardtail. 

 The plan for Saturday was not to do any exploring, just stick to a series of trails that I know and love in the  Fugatoyama area.   It is a rather large chunk of mountainous open space that is for the most part quite rugged.   It has been the source of many memorable head scratching intersections and brutal hike-a-bikes.

One nice change about riding here in the winter time is that you can see a lot more stuff as some of the trees have shed their leaves.    The picture above would be of mostly a veggie tunnel in the summer.   I had a good time out on the trails but was fairly skimpy on taking pictures. 

The final segement of trail along this route dropped me out into an area called ghost-town for the number of old vine entwined buildings that are rusting back to mother nature.    The little paths and streets quickly takes you back down into civlization where one can obtain tasty hot coffee out of a can.   This is straight up yummy caffiene crack in a can!  A nice warm can of coffee in the middle of a cold ride.    Good Stuff!   After the caffiene recharge there was a series of street riding back to my hotel.    I caught up with old friends over a home made dinner that night.   A mighty nice start to trip.


I did not get an early start on Sunday so as to let mother nature warm things up a bit before I went out.    I had been wondering about a different route into the Fugatoyama area that in theory would cut out a bunch of the street riding.    There is a foot bridge over the Yokosuka-Yokohama Expressway that seems to go from nothing but woods on one side of the expressway to nothing but woods on the other side of the expressway.    There has got to be a trail there.   I had never been able to figure out how to get down off the Fugatoyama ridgelines to this footbridge.   I was going to figure this out from the opposited direction on this outing.  The plan was to start from town and get up to the footbridge and then get up onto the ridgelines, where I should know where I am at at that point (That was the theory).   So after some Google Earthing, some exporting and file conversions I had my GPS uploaded with with some waypoints and tracks to investigate.    While not the most direct route to where I wanted to go the route took me through a pedistration tunnel.  Pretty cool. 

After a bit of here, there and to and fro I ended up at my first objective, an entrance into the Taura Plum Grove.  Just after the spot pictured above I got in some stairway to heaven action. 

The Taura Plum Grove is a park and while for the most part it is a rock sidewalk affair it was pretty cool looking.   Springtime here when the plum trees are blooming must be a really awesome sight.   Things are not flat here and my route was taking me to the upper west end of th park so it was a climbing affair. 

Up near the top of the park the views open up.   Tokyo Bay is in the distance and the large building in the distance on the left-hand side of the pictures is the Landmark Tower in Yokohama.

 At the top of the park is a viewing tower where even better views of the area can be taken in.

I was more interested in what was just beyond the tower.  Finally some dirt and the trail that would take me into the Fugatoyama/Muira Alps area.   The trail became a skinny singletrack as soon as it left the park and before long I was across the footbridge and headed west towards the ridgelines.

I had a stupid grin on my face at this point. 

 Some nice little technical rooty bits to contend with.   Big smile on my face here as well.

 Okay, the smile on the face was about 50 feet back behind me at this point.  The trail turnned sharply up a mega-steep ridge side.   The picture does not do the steepness of this section justice.   The good news was I was gaining elevation quickly even if I was not riding the bike.   I was thinking that if this gets me up on the ridgeline where I think it might I will have lots of mostly downhill goodness to ease the kinks out of my hike-a-bike calves.

 I did recognize the trail when I finally did make it up on the ridge.   It was promptly followed by a big “Oh Shit”!  I was much further to the south than I thought I would be and I was exactly at my most southern point of exploration along this particular ridgeline.    The Oh-Shit was because I knew that I had three technical hella-steep hike-a-bike sections between me and the full-time ridable “money dirt” to the north.    My GPS said I had one hour and 23 minutes before sunset.  Farting around was no longer an option.

There were some exposure bits that are hidden very well by the flora, but wintertime has allowed them to me a bit more revealed.   I had only ridden the section above only during the summer months before and I while I knew there was a bit of drop of here I had not idea just how freaking far one could tumble from here until today. 

I made good time through the hike-a-bike bits and was soon back on the money dirt.   I took the shot above and put away the camera and enjoyed some sweet flowing trails that was nearly all downhill to the north.   I popped out of the woods just before sunset and enjoyed an extremely brisk street ride back to my hotel.    A mighty fine way to get primed for a week of work ahead.

Updated Fugato-yama Japan Page

I have finally got my first of what I hope to be half a dozen a or so updated and new Japan trail pages up.  The Fugato-yama (aka Ghosttown” area is a really cool trail system that I have yet to fully get into each corner of yet.   The updated page reflects a bit of work left to be done as far as the trail information goes. I highly recommend a GPS for riding this area unguided for the first time and I have included a bunch of electronic data to help with that effort.   The primary file is a Google Earth KMZ file that includes a topographic map overlay that I created using data from the Japan Geospatial Institute.   Additionally most waypoints in the file also links to trail junction photos I took while playing around out here.   I hope this will be a useful tool for my peeps who visit the area.   

Updated Fugato-yama webpage

Fugato-yama exploration

Well I’m back on the right side of the International Date Line and I must say I had a really cool time in Japan but I’m glad to be back at home where I have more “normal” things to fill up my day like leaky facets, broken sprinklers, kid’s hockey games and other family goodness.

The last two weeks in Japan were pretty busy so not much time to play online, but I did get in some riding.  Specifically I went out to the largest chunk of forest on the pennisula.  Most of my friends refer to this area as Fugatoyama, but it is actually a sizable chunk of the Kanagawa Wildlife Protection Area that has several names.  Topology-wise there are a series of ridges lines that form a reverse C shaped bowl with a river that forms and flows from east to west  of out the outlet of “the bowl” and onward to Segami Bay.  Most of the riding occurs and the northern leg of the “C” and down the northeastern flanks of the ridgelines down to the Tokyo Bay side of the pennisula.  

In 2004, I had done quite a bit of exploring on the southern leg of the reverse C. There are nice sections of trail in that area interspresed with hike-a-bike and aggressive sections.   If you have ever ridden Bell Ridge or Los Pinos in Orange County it is sorta like that but forested and the trail is often criss-crossed with roots.  I had snooped around for connections between the North and South legs but had mostly found brutal steep hikes that were “Advanced/Expert Hike-A-Bikes”. 


I really wanted to find a connector that only included some “Upper Intermediate Hike-A-Bikeage”  After a good bit of research I had some proposed routes that inlcluded going into “The Bowl”.   There is an awesome chunk of trail going into the bowl.  It is wonderful sweeping flowing singletrack that gracefully looses its elevation into the bowl.  I was hoping to find such another trail leading out of the bowl to the south.   Hope…..Hope on it’s own is for idiots who are too stupid to come up with a plan.  The plan was to be mentally prepared for a brutal hike-a-bike up to the south or bailout on a proposed trail along the river to the west.

“The Bowl” is an amazing wooded area that rivals some of the best forested scenery I have ever been in. I found myself not making much headway and I was enjoying every minute of it.  

I learned a really interesting bit of information from some of the locals about the snakes of Japan.  All of the venonmous snakes have slited eyes while all of the non-venonmous ones have round eyes.   The drawback to practically applying the information is that you have to get close enough to them to figure it out.

After exploring most of the options in the west end of the bowl I was soon started picking trails that would take me towards the southern ridges.  The bowl is not as much of a bowl as I had expected as there were some smaller ridges inside of the bowl that proved to be beaters.   This was by far not the first I had failed to fully appreciate the thin topo lines spaced closely together.   My payment to the mountain gods would come in the form of burning calves and triceps as I carried, lunged, and pushed my bike up the trails less traveled.

Once I had gotten up onto these intermediate ridges, I was presented with some trail options that left me scratching my head.  It was one of those things were I was pretty sure were the splits would take me but knowing and confirming are two different things.  I took a couple of these options as out and back to confirm were they were coing before continuing along my intended route.  

The next series of trail options shed off yet some more elevation and took me further down into the bowl.  When I reached a point where there was supposed to be a four-way intersection, I only found a T-intersection with my intended direction being the missing leg.    From pouring over my Japanese maps I figured out that I would have to take a long uphill climb that would most likely be hike-a-bike way to the west to catch the southern leg of the “C”.  I already knew the southern leg would also have a bit of hike-a-bike between the riding sections.   I was feeling fatigue creeping in but more importantly I was mentally growing tired of the hike-a-bike exploring.   I opted to take the trail option that followed the stream/creek downstream.

Boy was I glad I went that way.  After a good bit of technical riding, the trail started mellowing out and the riding got real flowing and just awesome.  I now started encountering some hikers here and there.  The further west and downstream I went the more mellow things got.  This was one hell of a great “bailout”. Eventually the “trail” ended at and old road that has been turned back over to mother nature when the wildlife protection area was established.   Mother Nature is doing a mighty fine job with this road.

Over the next few miles the trail/road turned to a dirt road, then a paved road and before long I was back in rural civilization.   I ended up taking a series of streets and trails back to the apartment.  While cruising back I got to thinking that if this was back in the states, it would surely be designated wilderness area or some kind of sensitive area that would be off-limits to bike.  Hats off to the Japan and thier outdoor culture.  Trails are trails over there.  You can ride your bike anywhere you dare too including national parks and thier wilderness equivalent.  From what I understand there are only a few trails in the entire country that are off-limits to bikes. One of them is Mount Fuji and that is closed only during the busy hiking season.  After dinner that night I broke down and packed up the bike and got all packed up to finish that last bits of work and fly home the following evening.