Sasebo Catchup

I have been back from Sasebo for a couple of weeks now.   The last few weeks that I was in Japan was pretty hectic.   I did have time to ride but little time to do much posting.  Here are some pictures.


From the north slope of Mt Yumihari.   I come to loath the rental wreak that I had.   Cantilever rim brakes!   I now that the hand shake strength of a pair vise grips.


Views found in a break in the foliage.


There was plenty of rain which kept most the trails soggy for way too much of the time I was there.  I often did the road climb up to the top of the Mt Yumihari after work.   It was almost always a chasing the sun kind of ride.  While I typically beat the sun, the rain got me on more than a few occasions.


Views from a park at near the top of Mt Eboshi east of town.


Sasebo as seen from Mt Eboshi


More of Mt Eboshi


More views from the chasing the sun series


I lost the race against the sun on this ride


Intentionally enjoyed losing the race on this evening.


Views from south of town.

Pre-Typhoon Ride in Sasebo

Earlier this week, work has taken me back to Sasebo in the southern part of Japan.  I’ll be here for about a month and change.  I had debated about shipping/bringing one of my own bikes over here for the duration but between the cost and hassle, I decided to take my chances with getting a rental.    I’m thinking I maybe should have went with shipping one of my own bikes over as the pickings were slim at the rental place.


The steed for this trip is a total Throw “Way The Hell” Back rig complete with canti-brakes.   Brakes is a bit of an optimistic term in this case, slowers is more appropriate.  On the plus side, I’ll soon have hands that can grip like a bear trap and I should not be accused of skidding up the trails around here.


The weather guessers were calling for a typhoon to come through the area the following day so getting a ride in before that was a priority.   The outdoor adventure center were I rented the bike is more centered on scuba and deep sea fishing than biking so I had to spend quite a bit of time get the bike setup and tuned before heading off for the late afternoon ride.   I’m fairly certain that the clipless pedal I put on the bike doubles its value.


When I started out from my hotel room, a nearby thermometer read 90 degrees with the humidity being around 85%.  I was sweating and I was barely moving.   The climb up Mount Yumihari is on narrow paved roads.  The plan was to take the pavement up and a couple of different trails down and then back into town.


The climb is fairly steep and it was good workout.   I have done this climb numerous times so I knew what to expect which helped with the climb but I was still getting worked. Once I got to the top I realized that all the pre-ride tinkering had eaten up my daylight margin.   I was pretty certain that taking the trails back down would end up being a night ride.   A night ride I was not really prepared for.  So I went with plan B and enjoyed the views from the top for a leisurely bit before taking the roads back down the mountain.  This should help with the jet lag.   This is not my first time MTBing in Sasebo so you can find other Sasebo related blog posts here.

Playtime on Mount Eboshi, Japan

Last weekend I was able to squeeze some time off from my work here in Japan to get in some mountain biking on Mount Eboshi near the city of Sasebo in the southern part of Japan.   The weather was pretty freaking awesome.

Nearly all of the climb was done on narrow mountain pavement roads which had some pretty steep bits.   There was some mighty pretty roadside views along the way to the top.

Once I got up to the peak of Eboshi I was treated to nice views of the Sasebo City below.  

I went down the backside of Eboshi and linked up with a network of trails that are typically fun and often challenging.   The crappy rental bike I had made some of the technical bits even more sporty.   The clunk-a-clunk fork mades some sections downright scary.  (Clunk a clunk is the sound it make everytime you go over a rock of any size)

I had forgotten just how many bannana spiders were out and about on these trails.   I can not fully express the invigoration that occurs when you go through one of thier webs and the spider plants squarely in the middle of your face.   There are harmless but I find that my mind fails to properly communicate that to my body as I seem to be incapable of not wigging out when one of these spiders takes and unplanned ride on my nose while I’m cruising down the trail.


I came around a bend in the trail and thought I was witnessing the start of the Zombie Apocalypse!   That is one crazy looking root.

This is part of the trail.  Actually I’m standing at a trail junction.   The trail I was on actually goes off to the right (not shown here).   It is not until you goe about 40-50 yards down this rock/creek bed until the other  “trail” gets back onto dirt again. 

Once you get back on the dirt you are treated to a narrow singletrack craved into the side of the very steep hillside that goes on for about a mile.   Above is one of the few spots where the thick foilage opens up to show civilization below.   After this trail I hit up another handful of trails before zipping back down the mountain and calling it a day.    A mighty fine way to spend an afternoon on a bike.

Yumihari Sunset

I finished up work yesterday with a couple of hours of daylight left so I decided to make get in some two-wheeled excercise by way of climbing Mount Yumihari.  It was cloudy misty rainy a couple of days ago when I first when up to the top so the prospects of taking in a sunny day’s sunset seemed pretty interesting. 


 I made okay time up the mountain and had some nice light left in the day.   Here is looking to the east at the center of the city.


 To the west is the 99 Islands National Park.   


The sun about to set.    I forgot to bring along the dinky little light that came with my rent-a-wreck so I opted to not take one of the trails back down the mountain and instead took the skinny mountain road back down into town.    Not long after I was enjoying some mighty tasty sushi for dinner that cost just a small fraction of what I would pay for that kind of quality back in the states.   Not a bad way to spend a few hours after work.

Opening Spin on Mount Yumihari

I have a work project in Sasebo Japan for the next few weeks.   I arrived on Thursday night and was able to get my hands on a grade A piece-o-crap rental MTB complete with a 7-speed drivetrain, reflectors and a swanky kickstand.  Unfortunately my luggage (that contained my bike stuff) did not arrive until Saturday.   So despite the threat of a typhoon tracking through the region so I decided to get out while I could.   So after ditching the kickstand and throwing on my pedals the bike was at its portly climbing weight and I was off up the mountain.   Here are a few of the limited pictures I took while out and about on and around Mount Yumihari. 

The view from the lookout on Ymihari.

In Japan the word for “locally sourced organics” is “food”

Two years ago this statue was hidden back in the woods and looked a little neglected.   The area around this has been cut back and it is now easily visible from the road.  It has also been painted to really show it off.  It was nice to see that this has been pulled “out” of the woods.   

Mount Eboshi in the distance before I head down off of Yumihari.   I’ll be up onto of that mountain in the near future.

Lagging at La Costa

So I spent last week working in Southern Japan.   I was hoping to squeak in a bike ride but the rental place was out of mountain bikes.  The weather was pretty freaking rough as well as I don’t think the humidity every dropped below 95%.  I think that even if I would have had a bike I would have had to muster up some serious motivation to get out in the woods when it is 99 degrees out with 99% humidity.   So I took in a bit of traditional and limited sight seeing during this visit.   I will be back for a longer period in the fall so I will get my time on the trails.JA-Sasebo-JUL12-04

Yesterday was my travel day back to the San Deigo.  With the International Date Line in the mix, I did Sunday twice in the course of my 27 hours of planes, trains and automobiles.   I was pretty freaking toast by the time my head hit the pillow yesterday.    I did sleep well last night but was still dragging a bit today.   I decided that a lunchtime ride would help to snap the body back onto my timezone.    I decided to ride Rancho La Costa a few miles away from Casa Del Bill.  I also decided to ride my bike to the trailhead as I could use the extra excercise on the several intervening hills along the way.


I was meeting Michael (aka YetiRider) that works near the trail system and routinely knocks out a lunchtime loop out there.   I knew I was going to feel a little tired but was quite surprised just how freaking tired I felt about five minutes into the commute to the trailhead.   My body was quite certain it was a little before 2AM its time.   I made it to  Michaels work shortly before his lunch break and we were soon hitting up the last bit of asphalt to get to the trailhead.    I was feeling a bit better in that I did not feel so fatigued by the time we got to the trailhead.


I climbed alright on the way up but I certainly felt off in the way of not firing on all cylinders.   On the way down I realized my reflexs were more than a little off and I found myself dabbing in spots I would not normally dab in.  It was good to be out on the bike but it was a little disconcerting to be all out of wack.


The pavement return back to my place drained the rest of my energy so I don’t think I really helped out the jet lag out at all today because after a shower and snack I knapped away the rest of the day.   It was still a good experiment.

“Taiiku no hi” Ride

 This past  Monday was Columbus day in the United States, but I’m not in the States.  Lucky for me Monday was also the Japanese Holiday of  “Taiiku no hi” which is “Health-Sports Day”.   What better way to celebrate that than a bike ride. 

Fall is happening here.   The summer heat is gone and the cooler temps of fall have taken over. There are no huge splash of colors just yet but you can tell that mother nature is dusting off her brushes and shaking the paint cans.

The closest mountain to town is Yumihari.  I have been on most of the flanks of this mountain and have found some stuff to ride in all those areas.   The place suffers from little use and even less maintenance.    This place would be incredibly awesome if there were enough riders to keep this place debrushed.  I was focusing on the southern area today and was quite pleased with what I found and that it is seeing some use.   One such trails was an awesome benchcut along a ruggedly steep hill side.

I eventually found my way over to what I was looking for.  There is a large statue that you can see from town perched up along the ridgeline that I had been eyeing from work for a couple of weeks now.    This thing is huge.  At least 20 feet high and it sets top of 20 foot raised base.  This was a great spot for some snacks so I enjoyed them while taking in some of the views. 

There was an old couple there tending to the grounds.  Eventually the husband and I struck up a conversation which was a mixture of my bad Japanese, his bad English and a healthy dose of International Charades.   From the jest of the conversation, the man was 70 years old and his father made the sculpture.    He was very proud of his father’s work.  He was also proud of the fact his wife was much younger than him (only in her 50s).   The wife snickered at this and gave him a gentle slap on the arm.  While I did not catch what see said, the facial expressions translated to something along the lines of “You Dirty Old Fool”.  While he looked old, he was mighty healthy and was doing some significant work like cutting grass, trimming back branches, etc…   I hope to be that spry when I am his age.  You can tell they loved and cared for this place.    After a bit more broken chit-chat over a can of coffee he gave me, I was on my way.  After such a nice little life enriching experience I could have called it a day right then and have been quite happy.

Lucky for the me the old man had “Charaded” me some more information on trails, so settting off from the shrine, I did some more snooping around.

What the old man had pointed to was a really cool bit of trail where you descend down along a mostly steep ridgeline through a forest of mixed bamboo and hardwoods.   It was a pretty fun descent with some scary bits thrown in when things got rocky and really steep.  

After this I climbed back up the mountain and hit some one the loops I have done several times which put me back onto the side of the mountain I wanted to be on.   After another rather technical descent I popped out into another neighborhood.   From here I zipped along a series of narrow twisting sidewalks that descended the rest of the way down the mountain back into town.  I love when the navigation calls for anyway that is downhill to get “home”.    I might get another ride or two in before I leave Japan but if not this would be a downright cool closer ride.

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.

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.

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…. 🙂