I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bicycle Trip

Come on in, the water's fine.

Hello! Last weekend Katie and I took a bicycle trip up to Adogawa-cho on the west side of lake Biwa (Biwa-ko). We underestimated the distance a bit––on the map it looked so much closer––so the roughly 75 kilometer trip took us about five hours (seven and-a-half if you include stopping for a lunch picnic and a swim). If you look on the map, we started out in the middle of Kusatsu-shi, naturally, and rode up to the peninsula of Moriyama-shi that sticks its toe out into the lake. Here a toll bridge conveniently links the two sides where they are closest (about two kilometers apart). Most of the way was paved out on a cycling path that made everything run pretty smoothly. There are some really beautiful, quaint towns on the west side in Shiga, Takashima, and Adogawa-chos where the mountains rub up against the lake and the towns cluster in small farming communities (everyone should know by now how dear I find that). It was incredible to have the mountains hugging tightly on one side and simultaneously having the other completely laid open by the mouth of the lake. (I also added an interactive map of Japan that shows Shiga-ken in much better topographical detail for those who are interested.) I wish I could have seen what the area looked like before the recent industrial age.

The other pictures I posted are of the Shirahige Tori in Takashima-cho where Katie and I stopped briefly for a dip in the lake. North Biwa-ko is much cleaner and tranquil without all of the factories of Kusatsu and Otsu and the opposite end. I didn't have a camera, so I borrowed a few different photos from the web to show Shirahige Tori under different lenses. Katie and I were pretty lucky honestly, though, because when we swam out under the giant gate (probably about four stories tall) there was a mesmerizing sunset like the middle picture included. I hope we decorated the photos of passersby well. One older man talked to us for a few minutes afterward. He told us that the old name of Biwa-ko was Omi, which is a traditional Japanese lute, because the resemblance in their shapes. (This would also explain why so many towns and cities have the prefix "Omi-" in their names.)

I was a wonderful but exhausting trip. Needless to say we slept well that night at our friend's apartment in Adogawa. The next day we packaged our convertible bikes (I call them "foldies" because you can fold it in half, drop the seat and handles and put it in a travel bag to lug along on the train) and took the train home to Kusatsu. Remarkably, it only took a little over an hour to get all the way back around. But we really enjoyed the journey––that's what it's all about anyway––and plan on doing similar lake trips in the future.


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