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In November 2008 I started riding with a former SSE Ohtsu student “Ozachi” (his wife is still a student at our English school). He is an older gentleman who is quite inspiring. He rides, runs, or kayaks every weekend and is in amazing shape. He rides with a team from Strada Bicycle Shop in Kusatsu City and he often invites me to join them for rides (which of course I always accept).
In the tradition of Martin’s Driving in Japan series and Don’s Riding in Japan series, this is the third post in my Cycling in Japan series. Most foreigners only get to see Japan from the window of a train, and are limited to the sites that are near train stations. These articles are very eye opening and have given myself and my friends so many great ideas for places to go on the weekend.
Cycling in Japan 3: Peddle & Paddle in Shiga
We met at 9:00 am at Strada in Kusatsu. As more and more people arrived, introductions were made and I was impressed by how far some riders had come to join this event. There was a group who cycled from Nara prefecture, and 2 groups who drove from Osaka and Hyogo. Strada has 3 shops, 1 in Shiga, 1 in Kobe and 1 in Nara, so each shop has its own race team and cycling club. This particular morning we were a group of 16 riders, with 1 more following in a support van and taking pictures.
We left Strada and rode up the east side of Lake Biwa. This is a great route, as it is along the lakeside and there are no cars, no intersections, and therefore no stopping! Joy! After about 1 hour we crossed Biwako Bridge and headed south for about 20 minutes to O’Pal in Ogoto City (famous for Ogoto Hot Springs). O’pal is an adventure company, offering sea, land and sky outdoor sports and adventures. We were there for kayaks and lunch, both of which were excellent.
Ozachi led us through some stretches and then gave us a 30 minute lecture and how-to for beginner kayakers. Then we hit the water for some hands-on practice. We paddled around in the safety of the small bay, with Ozachi teaching us new techniques every few minutes. After about 1 hour, we went in and had lunch. Then it was back out and another hour or so of paddling.
The return ride was a bit slower, as we were all pretty worn out from peddling and paddling. Thanks to the 2 hours plus of paddling, I discovered some muscles that I don’t usually use, as they were sore for a few days after! Back at the shop, we said our goodbyes and I headed home to watch Asashoryu win his 24th Emperors Cup! All told, it was a great day, although a tiring one!
The day’s totals: 65 km by bike, 2.5 hours in the kayak.
I took up cycling and hiking about 2 years ago. Living in Shiga, this has given me the opportunity to go places most life-long Shiga residents never go. In Canada I lived on a small island in the harbour of a small city, and I prefer peace and quiet to the hubbub of city living. Hiking and cycling allows me to escape the bussle and noise of the city and head out into nature. Kyoto, Nara and Shiga prefectures are ringed by mountains, containing a myriad of trails and paths. Within 30 minutes I can be out of the city and alone, on a quiet trail in the forest.
If you are looking for a hobby that keeps you healthy and fit and gives you the chance to be outdoors, enjoying nature, cycling and hiking are for you. Give it a try!
Edward, SSE Ohtsu