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Old 04-12-2015, 05:32 AM   #1
Evil-Lucian OP
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Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Germany
Oddometer: 36
The Hokkoda Gold Line, Aomori Japan

Every fall the Japanese close the Kasamatsu Pass on highway 103 between Aomori and Towada. In early April the snowplows clear the pass and open the road to pedestrians and then automobile traffic. The snow can be so high on either side of the road that it’s almost like driving through a tunnel of snow. I wanted to ride this road since it got warm enough to ride, but I waited because I was concerned that there would be ice and snow on the road surface. Today was warm enough so I decided it was now or never.

First, let me start by stating that we don’t get a lot of ride reports about Japan. I’m an American who is in the business of living abroad and a year and a half ago I found myself in Japan. I am very interested in riding Japan, but I am having trouble figuring out where to go. (Perhaps it’s the cultural barrier?)

Today my friend and I rode Misawa to Aomori Japan.

We left Misawa in the AM after meeting up for some doughnuts. The plan was to take the Michinoku Toll Road to Aomori to meet an expat who had a motorcycle helmet for sale. I know of an alternate route that had less traffic which would take us to the toll road much quicker than the “popular” route used to by most.

The thing about riding in Japan is the speed limit is ridiculously slow. The typical speed limit for just about every road is 50 KPH, about 35 MPH. This can be very frustrating when your bike is capable of cruising at 90 MPH on the highway and 60-70 MPH on country roads. And yes the roads are narrow, and yes they are lined by ditches, but 50 KPH is painfully slow for just about every road outside of a town.

Any way, I discovered the key to riding in Japan. You have to take the route less traveled. By traveling the side roads and avoiding the main routes you will encounter much less traffic and be able to travel at an appropriate speed for the road surface and conditions. I’m not saying I’m a speed demon, but I am saying I used to live in Germany where the rules allowed me to travel as fast as I could safely maintain. 50 KPH is slow, no matter how you slice it…

Any ways we took the side roads out to the toll road junction and we headed for Aomori.

It wasn’t long before we started seeing snow piled up in the shady spots and the thermometer started to drop from about 52 down into the 40s. We made to Aomori and the first place we stopped was the Aomori Buddha. I’m not sure it’s exact claim to fame, but I think it is the largest “seated” Buddha statue in Japan.

After a brief stop at the Buddha we heading into Aomori city. We were riding to the center to a large triangle shaped building on the waterfront. We made it near there, but I made a wrong turn and we ended up out on the waterfront in some sort of a park. Which wasn’t bad because the view was nice.

It was there where we met up with our contact in Aomori. We hung out and talked for a few, did some motorcycle helmet swapping business and then we asked where a good place to eat would be? Our Aomori contact recommended a Ramen house in Amori that served Miso Curry Ramen. I have a weakness for ramen and since today was a cool spring day I figured Ramen would warm us up.

The Ramen house was awesome, the people spoke no English, but they restaurant was very welcoming.
After Ramen lunch we headed toward the main goal for the day, the Hakkoda Gold Line. On our way out of Aomori I spotted a BMW Motorrad dealer and I flagged down my riding partner so we could stop in. You see, I need to get my bike serviced this year and I want to find a local place so I do not have to coordinate something all the way in Sendai. We were ushered into the BMW place by enthusiastic Japanese girls wearing BWM gear. We got off our bikes and the ladies told us that today the BMW dealer was having an event and they asked if we wanted coffee. I said yes so the Japanese BMW dealer gave us Coffee and doughnuts. I asked about bike service, but I didn’t get anywhere with the language barrier… I did get a business card, so I plan on having a Japanese friend call and try to negotiate bike servicing. (I might have to keep up the service myself in Japan.)

We started climbing toward the Hakkoda Gold Line. Aomori City is one of the snowiest places on earth and the mountains just to the east receive insane amounts of snow as well. (I am a huge fan of Hakkoda skiing.) It wasn’t long before we started seeing snow.

We stopped on a plateau area to take some pictures.

We rode on and the temperature started dropping. I watched the thermometer drop from the mid 50s to the mid 40s and then as we neared the Hakkoda Ropeway the temperature dropped to 41. I pulled over to check on my riding partner. He was on a Yamaha V-Max with heated grips, but I don’t think he was a layered up as I was. He said he was good and we pressed on for the pass.

The snow on either side of the road grew higher and higher.

We rode on past a high-mountain hotel and Onsen. On the back side of the Onsen I caught a whiff of sulfer in the air. I looked to my left to see a steaming pond where the snow wouldn’t accumulate. From this point on we were riding the road that is normally closed during the winter.

After a decent amount of twisting and turning we made it to the pass. I believe the snow on either side of the road was 15-20 feet high. I may be exaggerating, but the snow walls were tall!

We stopped at the pass to take some pictures and we climbed up the side of one snow-wall to survey the pass from the top. We found a house that was completely buried by the snow.

After the pass we rode on down through to the Oirase Gorge and Towada. The ride down to the gorge was incredible and was only spoiled by a few “SLOW” drivers.

Today was a good day.
"If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up."

Evil-Lucian screwed with this post 04-12-2015 at 05:51 AM
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