Biwaichi Takes the Wind from Our Sails

Having completed about two-thirds of a circumnavigation of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, the final day was supposed to be an easy jaunt to the train station and a comfortable ride home to Tokyo for the Kangaeroo crew.

“Ha, ha,” laughed the devil.

On paper, the last leg of the Biwaichi circumnavigation was a mere 60 kilometers on a flat course, nearly all of which was isolated bike tracks.

For the first hour, that was precisely what Kanageroo and the missus got as they headed out of Seta and off toward Hikone.

The bitter taste of a terrible time at the Royal Oak Shiga slowly dissipating as we rode along Biwa, which offered a clear view of its built-up opposite bank with mountains in the background.

Nearing Moriyama, however, the wind suddenly blew up a storm…right into our faces.

The gentle ride suddenly became a herculean task as we ground the Brompton and BD-1 into the face of the 30-km/h headwind.

The steady rapid pace of the day’s first hour of riding was almost halved in the near gale, and pedaling became even more difficult in the open farmlands near Azuchi, where cyclists got no protection.

Finally, though, we rolled into Hikone at around lunchtime, an arrival somewhat earlier than planned.

It was here that Kangaeroo was to fulfill a 30-year-long dream of visiting Hikone Castle.

Before arriving in Japan in 1988, Kangaeroo read a travel guide that raved about the feudal era castle and its surrounding gardens.

Life intervened, though, and he never made it….until now!

Hikone Castle was a delight! The early 17th century castle is one of only a dozen that is in its original state. Glorious gardens that had once been the havens of the castle’s lords remain intact, as does the inner moat around the castle.

Even more delightful, a yakatabune runs tours through the moat, giving a wonderful look at the castle and accompanied by (Japanese language) guides with expert knowledge on the national treasure.

What’s more, there was also a little touch of Australia with a black swan (endemic to Oz, but this one was born in Japan) swimming its waters and frantically chasing the boat as it headed through the moat.

After an obligatory photo with the castle’s nationally famous mascot, Hikonyan, it was off to Champontei for a bowl of omi champon, noodles that are a local specialty.

Following the hearty and delicious meal it was a short walk to Hikone Station, where the bikes ended their fabulous journey by being packed back into their bags for the train trip home.

Being the year’s last long weekend, the trains were packed as the Kangaeroo crew headed back to Tokyo.

But it was essentially an eventful, though long, journey on the stopping all stations kodama bullet train to Odawara and then suburban trains to get home.

It was an amazing and rewarding journey with special kudos to Mrs. Kangaeroo, Brommie and Birdy for jobs well done.

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