Fukui prefecture (福井県) seems to be a fairly unexplored region of Japan for cyclists and as a region along the Sea of Japan coast it used to be considered an isolated region before modernization. It’s northeast of Gifu prefecture and getting there from Aichi (愛知県) by riding through Gujo Hachiman (郡上八幡) in central Gifu (岐阜県) is a good option.
I’ve wanted to showcase a route to Gujo for sometime now and combining it with a trip to Fukui seemed like a good idea. However, with all the devastation that the recent Typhoon Jebi brought I encountered numerous road closures and landslides. Luckily the road closures only resulted in a couple of minor detours. There are two main routes from Mino city (美濃市) , north of Nagoya (名古屋), that you can ride to Gujo – the busy one (R156) that’s easy to get stuck on if you don’t know the area so well, and the much quieter, safer, and scenic road on the other side of the Nagara River (長良川).
There are numerous ways to get to Mino from Nagoya and I usually prefer to go through Inuyama (犬山市). Anywhere south of Mino is fairly urban and built up so catching a train and starting from Mino is also a good option. Once you get there you can ride all the way to Gujo without having to go on the main road at all (you’ll just have to cross it a couple of times), but due to the aforementioned typhoon this trip meant a couple of small stretches were unavoidable. Hopefully the damage will have been cleared up by the time you ride it.
I chose to divide the ride into two days and ride the majority of the route on day one up along the Nagara River then over the western mountain range before descending into Fukui prefecture and on to Kadohara (勝原), where there are views of Mt. Gankyohji (頭教寺山) which borders Fukui, Gifu, and Ishikawa (石川県) prefectures.
Depending on my arrival time I would then decide whether to cycle up the mountain to the end of the road and camp the night or remain at the bottom. As it turned out I rode up to Hatogayu Hot Spring (鳩ヶ湯温泉) for a meal and of course a welcome hot bath. There I met a local hiker that mentioned the weather forecast for the following morning was expected to be cloudy so I chose to descend back down to the train station and sleep in the town.
Food at the hot spring finished at 4pm but despite arriving at around 4:15pm the staff were kind enough to cook me a delicious kinoko tempura donburi despite the kitchen being closed. The bathing area in the spring was one of the smallest I’ve ever seen in Japan but it was still such a pleasure to soak away all the aches and pains after a long ride.
I woke on day two at around 4am, packed my gear and headed back the way I came for 10kms or so before turning northeast and riding up through the Itoshiro valley (石徹白）and on to Meiho Hot Spring (明宝温泉), located centrally between Takayama (高山市), Gujo, and Gero (下呂市). The ride along the Itoshiro valley in the early morning light was sublime and well worth it. Despite there being a sign* saying that the road was closed to the Gifu border I chose to continue on and up to Itoshiro, a small isolated village that has in recent years being trying to attract city-dwellers to escape from city life, without limited success it has to be said. Along the river I saw numerous birds, a stag deer, and a lone Japanese macaque.
After passing through Itoshiro and Shiritori Wing Hills ski resort, used for downhill mountain biking in the summer, I descended down to the R156 and then climbed up and over Hirugano Heights (ひるがの高原) before rejoining the R156 for a short time. R156 is a fairly busy road so the climb over Hirugano Heights was much quieter.
The final climb of the day took me to 1350m in elevation to the east of Mt. Eboshi (烏帽子岳) and a gravel road which popped out onto one of the ski slopes of Meiho Ski Resorts. It was a long technical descent over the ski slope and through the forest to Meiho Hot Spring which was the goal for the day.
Day One – Kasugai – Kadohara (Fukui prefecture) 172kms (1706m)
Day Two – Kadohara – Meiho Hot Spring 95.2kms (1853m)
*Generally if the sign is blocking the road completely it will mean that the road is probably impassable and you’ll have to go back. If it is just at the side or only blocking half the road, chances are a bicycle will be fine. On this trip I encountered two signs at the side of the road and two that blocked the road completely. The ones at the side were passable, the others were because of landslides that were indeed impassable. That’s just a general rule that I’ve found to be true so proceed with caution.