Bike Packing: Gokayama – Takayama – Nakatsugawa

Friday evening after work I hitched a ride with a friend and his wife to Gokayama (五箇山), a world heritage site, high in the mountains in Toyama prefecture (富山県), about 3 hours north of Nagoya.  Arriving around 11pm we all chose to sleep at one of the Michi-no-eki (道の駅) that you can find everywhere throughout Japan. They slept in their car while I slept in my tent. Pitching a tent at a Michi-no-eki is frowned upon so I had to find a quiet secluded spot and pack up as soon as it got light the next morning.

Early morning near Gokayama
Gokayama world heritage site

After a good but cold night’s sleep I awoke at 5am, packed up and headed out for a long day of riding. The plan was to ride from Gokayama to Yatsuo (八尾) and then on to Takayama (高山市) in Gifu prefecture (岐阜県) and sleep rough somewhere on the outskirts of the city. I’d purposely left the tent and a few other bits of gear in my friends car as I planned to use only a bivy bag for the next two days.

Rural Toyama
Open roads and mountains
Heading towards Takayama

The ride to Takayama was straightforward with some beautiful views and plenty of snow still lingering after winter. The ride was so good in fact that I arrived in Takayama well ahead of schedule and decided to push on to Kiso (木祖村) in Nagano prefecture (長野県). The new plan was to sleep somewhere high in the hills and catch the dawn light to hopefully take some nice photographs.

Spring in northern Gifu
Entering Kiso village late at night

At around 8pm and 200kms of riding I found a sheltered bus stop in Kiso and decided to sleep there for the night. If you find yourself riding in the parts of Japan that have a lot of snowfall in winter you can take advantage of these bus shelters as the buses are infrequent, the shelters are usually clean and warm, and as most of them are in rural areas if you set up after the last bus has gone and leave before the first bus the next morning then nobody will know you slept there.

Bus shelter accommodation
Bus shelter accommodation

The plan worked out well the next morning as I was greeted with some wonderful views of Mt. Ontake  (御嶽山) and surrounding area. I pushed on to Agematsu (上松町) and then on to Nakatsugawa (中津川) where I packed up my bike into a train bag and caught the JR Chuo line (中央線) back home into Kasugai (春日井市).

Early morning view of Mt. Ontake
Memorial to those that lost their lives after the 2014 Mt. Ontake eruption
Dawn on Kaida Kogen

Way back in the early 1990s when I was a teenager in England I’d always dreamt of exploring new countries by bicycle. Who’d of thought that I’d be sleeping in a rural bus stop deep in the Japanese mountains 30 years later. 

The more I do this, the more I want to do it.

The route on Ride With GPS is here.


5 responses to “Bike Packing: Gokayama – Takayama – Nakatsugawa”

  1. Fantastic photos and write up. Stumbled across the site recently and inspiring me to get my act together and get exploring! Thanks a lot mate


    1. Thanks! Good to hear it’s helped inspire you to get out and explore 🙂 Are you in Japan?


      1. Hi Sean, yes I’m based in Tokyo. Been here 6yrs and originally from South East England. Keen road biker and just started to get some kit together for bikepacking. thanks again


  2. I found this via your Instagram as we have the same bike!

    Really love the write up and now for sharing as bike packing is something I’m interested in but haven’t done more than day trips so far. Lots of long rides and a few hilly rides have been done, but as you mentioned the Fairdale Weekender is versatile, but heavy.

    I’d love to know what you pack as I feel what people pack overseas would be different here with all of the convenience stores. Do you carry a lock for toilet stops at convenience stores??


    1. Thanks for the comment. I don’t take any food or cooking gear with me apart from a few Clif bars. I’d rather use the supermarkets and buy bentos than carry food around with me. I try to avoid all the junk in convenience stores whenever possible though. Too many chemicals in all the food.

      I’ve been using the Weekender for over 3 years but recently as I’ve been riding it more and more for bike packing I’ve started to notice more than ever how heavy it is. So last week I went ahead and ordered a new frame/fork as it makes sense to go lighter instead of dragging all that weight around the mountains.

      I don’t lock my bike when I stop at the convenience stores but take a small light one just in case.

      Liked by 1 person

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