Asamushi – Towadako (E)

After a long flight, we unpacked and assembled our bikes and took the train to Tokyo. From there we scorched to 700km distant Shin-Aomori by Shinkansen in less than 3 hours, where we changed to local trains driving to Asmushi Onsen. The journey from Switzerland to the northern end of Honshu took almost 24 hours.
For two nights we enjoyed the amazing food and atmosphere of Tsubakikan ryokan and met with our friend Eiji-san. The day after, surrounded by buzzing cicadas, we started our cycling journey!
On our route to Hirosaki we visited Seiryu temple with the recently built collosal Buddha statue. In Hirosaki we stayed at the traditional Ishiba ryokan and spent another relaxed day, before heading to lake Towada.

(Hold ALT key to zoom)

DIY Ikea backpack

Since it was difficult to find a light backpack, large enough for my bicycle touring gear, I decided to make my own.
Most of the time this pack will be rolled and stored in the bicycle. The concept behind this frameless pack was to lay my two empty Ortlieb classic panniers flat against the back and stuff it tight with gear.
My Hyperlite 4400 Porter served as a template. After a busy weekend and 3 Ikea bags, the result was surprisingly usable. Carrying 10kg gear with this is bearable for up to 1h, I guess.

Let’s see how it will hold up.

Why not Japan again?

Recently, the thirst for a Kirin after the onsen (hot spring) grew stronger.
Since we had such a great time cycling southern Japan in 2015 – we are planning for a new Japan cycling tour 2017!

I believe it was on Rob’s blog when we saw a Bike Friday folding bike the first time. How convenient it would be in Japan if we had folding bikes!

When we met Jonas, the owner of Faltbar in Biel, weather wasn’t perfect for cycling. Nevertheless, we tested his BF New World Tourist Silk and Brompton, which helped our decision a lot! Bromptons are fun to ride, but definately not for many hours. Around 4 months later we were able to ride our own Bike Friday New World Tourist folding bicycles.

Soon these tyres will ride on the lonely backcountry roads of Japan!

Japan Travel advice

We would like to share some advice with fellow travellers here. Comments are welcome.


Some japanese skills are needed, especially if you plan to leave the beaten tracks. We recommend:


It is very common to book a hotel room by telephone. A nearby Tourist information office is the best way to book a room and it can be very rewarding to look for a stay that can’t be found on the internet. Our links anyway:

  1. <<Hotelsaurus>> Best booking meta search engine for Japan
  2. Booking
  3. Japan Travel Organisation
  4. Japanican
  5. Rakuten Travel
  6. Jalan


Forecasts more than two days ahead are very unreliable, especially during Taifun season. In general the weather changes many times a day. Links:

Navigation and Maps

If you want to download and use Hiking maps on your mobilephone, the MotionX GPS App does a good job (see table below for more info). In addition many Tourist information offices provide local maps for free.


If you want english books, bring them from home. We recommend:


More things to refer:

Other Japan Travel blogs

More hints and stories:

Japan Travel Apps

A list of recommended iOS Apps for the Japan Traveller.
Google TranslatorJapaneseUnfortunately there is no better alternative for Text Recognition than Google. Network required
Imawa?JapaneseLarge dictionary with many specifc features
LingueeJapaneseCompact dictionary
RealKanaJapaneseLearning tool for Hiragana and Katakana
FootpathNavigationBest planning app for Hiking and Bike routes. Save GPX track and import into Motion-X. Network required
Japan MapNavigationOne of the few alternatives to Google Maps which displays City names etc. in latin characters. Network required. Online version:
MotionX GPSNavigationThe best App for Navigation and GPS Track logging. Has option to cache/download maps for offline use.
PeakFinder EarthNavigationDiscover the Mountains around you.
Track EditorNavigationEditiong of GPX Tracks, for e.g. Trim and Cut
YamapNavigationOnline Hiking community with Access to GPS Tracks and Pictures. Japanese only! Searching can be difficult, but it might be useful if you have decided for a mountain already and want more details or routes.
YamatokogenchizuNavigationAllows to buy the official Topo Hiking-Maps. Japanese Only! but with some time its possible and these are the best maps if you are in one of the available Areas.
AccuWeatherTravelLocal Predictions, Network required
FourSquareTravelThe best Google Maps alternative to find restaurants, etc. around you. Network required
Wifi MapTravelSearch for Free WiFi Hotspot around you
Adobe Photoshop ExpressPhotographyThe best app to edit Photos on the go
Average Camera ProPhotographyReduce picture noise in Low-light conditions through averaging technique.
Mobile HDRPhotographyCurrently the best iPhone App to create HDR (Tone Mapping) Pictures from exposure bracketings.
AgodaBookingBooking platform specific for Asian countries
Booking.comBookingStill the best Booking platform with many offerings for Japan
HostelworldBookingBooking platform for Hostels
Hotel TonightBookingLast Minute Booking
Hotels.comBookingLarge Booking platform
JalanBookingJapanese Booking platform. App in japanese only. Enlgish website:
JetsetterBookingLuxurious Booking platform
KayakBookingMixed Booking platform
VenereBookingAnother Booking platform
APRS MobileOtherBest App for accessing APRS-IS. SmartBeaconing and automatic reconnect after Signal loss are working.
DollarbirdOtherTracking of expenses
KonverterOtherConvert measures and currencies (and many more)
SternatlasOtherEasily identify celestial bodies.

rather scarcity than excess