The Thing About Climbs

Fukushima to Tendo

June 7, 2023

There are climbs and there are climbs or to put it another way, all climbs are not created equal. Back at home the climbs tend to be steep but short. Some, like the Foymount climb are so steep that many cyclists avoid it but just as many seek it out for the challenge. Japan is something completely different. To begin with, Japan’s geography is hilly to the point of being mountainous. Don’t go looking for the wide open Oklahoma plains here. Sure, Japan does have some flat rides but if you are going any significant distance, you are going to need your granny gears. This brings me to my point, some climbs are long and fairly steep grinds where you may have ten to fifteen kilometers to rise up over a thousand meters of elevation. On those climbs I just tuck in and keep cranking until I get to the top and try my best to ignore the various complaints coming from various body parts.

Above the dam

However, other climbs can be leisurely with the grade ranging from one to three percent with a small four or five percent every so often. Anyone who has done a lot of climbing on two wheels would find such a climb a bit taxing but enjoyable with plenty of time to soak in the scenery and with the knowledge that there may be a nice gentle downhill to follow.

Traffic can also make a difference as can road conditions. Worst case scenario for me is a steep climb on a road with no shoulders, a deep ditch and heavy traffic. I hit one like this and Korea and it caused me to walk my bike for most of a kilometer, something I have never had to do on any other long trip. Today we had a long climb using a road along a man made lake above a dam. It was generally uphill and while the total climb was around 500 meters, it was so gradual that it conserved plenty of energy for gawking at the surroundings. This held true until our directions told us to turn right and the only thing to our right was a very steep hill that seemed to go on forever. The turn took us up at a much greater rate but we rode past some major engineering where Japanese engineers have designed massive reinforced cement structures that are drilled and tied into the rock surface to control landslides. Impressive!

We also rode rode through a logging area where Japanese loggers seem to harvest trees from some of the steepest hillsides. They do this in Canada and other parts of the world as well but it is still impressive to see it. Of course, in a land where earthquakes and flash floods are common you can also see the scars where improper logging has altered the landscape.

Our destination today is the city of Tendo. From what I have seen of it, it appears to be a working class community that is also home to a famous temple. This temple is reached through a climb of a thousand steps. For me, it was one climb too many. However, I do have a lovely, traditional Japanese room to relax in.