Many of us Tokyo cyclists like to ride from Musashiitsukaichi station in Akiruno through Hinohara village up to Tomin no Mori and beyond, to Okutama-ko. Occasionally cyclists venture up infamously steep Kazahari Rindo to Kazahari Toge above Tomin no Mori, but there’s a lot more to the Hinohara area that many never see.
The pass at Nokogiri, between Hinohara and Okutama town, has a reputation as being really rough and a place to cut road tires on rocks, but it’s still semi-popular for more adventurous cyclists for a loop from Musashiitsukaichi via Tomin, Kazahari-toge, Okutama-ko back to Musashiitsukaichi.
There are many roads less cycled in Hinohara (and around Okutama) because they’re not trough roads to a pass, but out-and-back routes to the steep end of a mountain valley. Along the way there are quite a few temples and shrines and the odd limestone cave. There are many waterfalls.
One of these falls was my destination on Monday. I had cancelled my Saturday ride plans due to rain and worked instead. Monday was mostly cloudy and gloomy, with some drizzle, but no serious rain. The temperature was mostly in the 20-22 C range. I had a definite feeling that the summer was over. For some descents I wore my windbreaker, but mostly I was still fine in shorts and jersey.
I made my way out to Akiruno via the Akigawa back roads. On the way I came across this scarecrow. The annual rice harvest is only a few short weeks away now.
I had coffee and bread at the Familymart up the road from Musashiitsukaichi station. When I came out again I came across this Edddy Merckx AFX-4 (Scandium frame, Ultegra compact, women’s version). I chatted with the owner who had come to explore another of Hinohara’s mountain passes. We talked about our bikes and took pictures.
My first destination was Nanayono Falls, which lie off route 201, at the foot of Mitake-san. According to a sign on the hiking path it’s only 0.8 km from there to Musashi Mitake shrine. Also nearby is a place called the Rock Garden. I had seen Nanayono Falls and the Rock Garden signposted at a previous visit to the shrine, but never hiked down.
Route 201 turns off main route 33 a couple of km after Akiruno, before you get to the center of Hinohara. It climbs uphill and gradually gets steeper, to more than 10%. The river near the road seems popular for fishing. About 10 km from Musashiitsukaichi the road turns to gravel. Other steep parts have a concrete surface.
Finally the road narrows to a trail, then ends. Here I locked up the bike and started hiking up a steep slope with many obstacles. My cycling shoes with SPD cleats are not the best shoes for this stony and in places muddy trail. While my bike with its wide tires has no problems with gravel sections, I wished I had brought a pair of sneakers for the hiking. Still, 10 minutes later I reached the falls. I just had to be careful not to slip on the wet rocks.
The falls are at an elevation of about 670 m, or only about 200 m vertical below the top of Mitake-san. With proper shoes it’s probably only half an hour to this ancient shrine and pilgrimage site.
Back at the bike I had some bananas and cold milk tea, then started the descent. I had the rear brake pads swapped at GS Astuto two days earlier, but hadn’t done enough descending yet to fully bed in the new pads and rotor. This descent took care of it Soon the rear brakes were quiet and grippy, just like the front brakes.
After returning to the main route 33 I turned right, towards Hinohara and Tomin. At the Hinohara t-junction traffic light I turned right on to route 205, which follows the Kita-Akigawa river.
At a blue bridge I followed the sign for Kanotoiwa, a small canyon at the base of the Nokogiri climb. Having visited it a couple of weeks ago, I did not hike it this time, but it’s a nice place worth a visit!
After passing through the tunnel to its right I entered new territory for me, having never climbed Nokogiri before. I had forgotten that someone had mentioned that the pass was closed for forestry work.
I decided to try my luck, even though I could read enough of the road closure sign that it explicitly also applied to bicycles. After a few km I was stopped by two people in a microbus. Apparently workers were clear-cutting trees on several steep slopes near the road and were operating heavy machinery to move the logs. The road really was off-limits to every form of unauthorized traffic.
However, because it was almost the time when the work crew would wrap up for the day I was told I would be able to pass if I waited for half an hour. So I slowly climbed to the work site and was allowed to pass, while apologizing to everyone and thanking them for letting me through.
Steel cables are used to hoist trees up the slopes where they can be loaded onto trucks. Here you can see one tree, reinforced and anchored to tree stumps with steel cables, as the endpoint of this tree lift.
The road on the Okutama side turned out to be in much worse shape than on the Hinohara side, but not too bad for my wide 650B tires. I had ridden much worse rindos near Arima toge a couple weeks ago.
After about 500 m vertical of descending, I reached the main road towards Okutama town. At a Daily Store conbini I stopped for coffee and food before descending towards Oume.
A couple of km later I noticed my GPS was showing a series of dashes where it was supposed to indicate my speed and the km count remained frozen. Uh oh! It had lost satellite lock and would not recover for over an hour. It didn’t matter whether I stopped and waited by the roadside or kept rolling, whether I explicitly paused it or kept it in recording mode: It just failed to lock to the satellites again. Meanwhile my phone found 12 satellites in the sky and had no problems at all figuring out where I was. So I started a fresh Strava recording of the ride on my phone so I would at least capture some data again. At home I saved the original recording, cropped away everything after where I started the smartphone recoding and merged the cropped and the smartphone recording into a single GPX file using the gpxmerge tool I had written a few years ago. This worked out fine.
Because I wasn’t sure how many km I had missed between losing satellite lock on the cycling GPS and starting the phone recording, I couldn’t be totally sure about my overall distance. I did want to make sure it counted as a century ride (160.9 km), so I rode an extra 6 km up and down Setagaya dori in Tokyo when I was near my home. After all the repair work the total distance turned out to be 171 km with 1600 m of elevation gain.
There are more mountain valleys, water falls and limestone caves around Hinohara and Okutama that I’d like to visit and explore. This ride has definitely left me with an appetite for more rides of this kind.