On Your Bike: Join The Japanese Odyssey 2018

The Japanese Odyssey

Calling all velophiles! Why not join an epic, unsupported bicycle journey along central Japan’s undiscovered ‘rindo’ (forest paths) this autumn?

The organisers of The Japanese Odyssey are clear about one thing - it’s not a race, it’s an endurance cycling event. It is a long-distance, unsupported bicycle "voyage". It’s also a personal journey - it’s about discovery, exploration, and challenging yourself, all from your vantage point of two wheels. 

The event has its origins in founders Emmanuel and Guillaume’s love of cycling. They wanted to do something with their passion. They had in mind something wild. They dreamed of an event with a high mileage that would take entrants to explore a true wilderness.

The pair did some reading and route tracing in their native continent of Europe, but it soon became clear that the venue would be not Europe but Japan. And just like that, The Japanese Odyssey was born. The idea was to transport people and their bicycles to Japan and enable them to “touch” even a small part of the country’s culture while they were there.
 

Track Record of Past Events

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The first Odyssey took place in September 2015. Six entrants (two Australians, one Singaporean, and three Europeans) followed the imagined north to south traverse of Japan, starting from Sapporo on Hokkaido island in the far north and ending at Kagoshima on Kyushu island in the south. 

The following year, the Odyssey took entrants up a series of famous climbs selected from among Japan’s Hyakumeizan, or ‘One Hundred Famous Mountains’. This collection of celebrated peaks was popularized by mountaineer, Kyuya Fukada, who published a book in the 1960s detailing his 100 favourite mountains in Japan.

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Twenty-one entrants rode from Tokyo to Osaka within a 14-day time limit. They could follow any route they chose as long as it took them up the eleven mandatory climbs. The imposed detours to reach the mountain climbs took riders to various regions in central Japan, from the magnificent Japanese Alps to the sleepy central island of Shikoku. This is a hallmark of the Odyssey - apart from the requirement to pass the mandatory checkpoints, nothing is imposed. Smooth blacktop or gravel trails, challenging mountain passes or winding valley roads, the choice is entirely up to you.

For the third Odyssey last year, the founders decided on the theme of “secondary, unnamed and untraveled roads”, taking sixteen riders on a 3,200 km journey to nine imposed segments in remote and secluded areas of Japan all the way from Tokyo down to Kyushu.

Discover Japan’s Rindo, Forest Paths

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During their previous visits to Japan, the founders discovered and fell in love with Japan’s intricate network of interlacing woodland paths, which are called rindo (林道, literally, “forest roads”) in Japanese - and these are the theme for this year’s Odyssey. 

Starting from Tokyo on 31 October, 2018, the fourth outing will take entrants deep into the densely forested wilds of central Honshu and Shikoku islands. Riders will have ten days to complete a 2,600 km loop, passing through twelve mandatory checkpoints on abandoned forest roads in some of Japan’s deepest woodlands.

Tokyo to Shikoku: 2018 Checkpoints

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Starting and finishing at the Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo, cyclists will make their way around the course’s dozen checkpoints, which are scattered across several prefectures and two islands, in their preferred order. They will need to pass through four checkpoints sandwiched in between Tokyo to the west and Kyoto to the east, three of which are in Nagano prefecture - the Wada Pass, the Shirabiso Pass, and the Tsukishige Observatory on the Bushu Highway - and the Arimine Rindo forest path in Toyama prefecture.

For the next group of checkpoints they will then need to head west to the area around Kyoto and Osaka, tackling two passes in the environs of Lake Biwa, the largest natural lake in Japan - Onyu Pass in Fukui prefecture and Torigoe Pass on Mt. Kanaguso in between Gifu and Shiga prefectures - and the road to Mt Aonegamine in Nara prefecture to the south of Kyoto.

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After that cyclists will have only one more checkpoint left to clear on the Japanese mainland - the Odori Pass on the border between Hyogo and Tottori prefectures - with the remaining three checkpoints to be found on Japan’s fourth largest island of Shikoku, which they will be able to access using a combination of mandatory and allowed ferry routes and bridges.

After touching down on Shikoku, riders will have three final checkpoints to tick off: Kumoso Pass and Ochiai Pass in Tokushima prefecture and the Kaze-no-Sato wind farm in Kochi prefecture. Once they have cleared all the mandatory checkpoints then it’s time to peddle back to Tokyo for the end of the event.

Ready For a Challenge? #beprepared

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Can you feel Japan’s beautiful forest roads calling your name this autumn? If all this talk of roaming through Japan’s mountains, forests, lakes and islands on two wheels has got you fired up to join this unique and epic cycling adventure in Japan, then read on to find out what can you expect if you join the event this year. 

One stage - you will have ten days to cross the twelve mandatory checkpoints, and then head back to Tokyo. How to manage the time is up to you - you decide when, where and how long to stop off.

Go your way - apart from the requirement to pass the mandatory checkpoints, nothing is imposed. Speed along highways or venture off the beaten track, the choice is yours.

Unsupported - private assistance or pre-arranged support is prohibited, in order to ensure equal opportunity for all riders, whether local or international.  

No stopwatch - it is not a race, so there are no official rankings or finishing times - anyone who reaches the finishing line within the allotted time-frame is counted as a successful rider. Try to reach Tokyo as fast as you can, or ride for the sheer pleasure of the ride - it’s up to you!

Throughout your journey you'll be able to share your experiences on this once-in-a-lifetime saddle-top adventure online using the Odyssey's hashtag #beprepared (which is also a handy reminder to remember to pack your puncture repair kit!).

I’m Ready to Ride Japan’s Rindo - Sign Me Up!

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If you think you are ready to take on the challenge of the Japanese Odyssey 2018 then the first step is to visit the official website, where you must download and read carefully the entrants’ manual before signing up: www.japanese-odyssey.com/register/ 

The entry fee for the event is priced at €190 for entrants bringing their own tracker device or €255 for those who need to borrow one. In both cases it includes setup of the tracking leaderboard and satellite tracking, participating in the pre-event briefing, dinner in Tokyo on Tuesday 30 October, 2018, and an event goodie bag.

In the meantime, if you want to whet your appetite even more then take a look at the Odyssey’s Instagram account for a sneak peek of the stunning natural and urban scenery that awaits you on this once-in-a-lifetime journey in Japan: www.instagram.com/japanese_odyssey/ 

For more information about this year’s event, follow the Odyssey’s Twitter and Facebook pages or contact them directly at contact@japanese-odyssey.com

All photos used in this article credit Eigo Shimojo

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