In Part 02 of our grand tour through central Japan, we experienced some of the best touge roads the country has to offer. After making it as far west as Matsue City, we decided to head back home to Chiba via a southerly route.
Leaving Tottori Prefecture, our plan was to traverse Hyogo Prefecture for an overnight stay on the outskirts of Kyoto. So, deeper into the mountains we drove. On our first leg, we found ourselves behind a Suzuki Cappuccino, watching helplessly as it quickly pulled away from us on the twisting roads.
The driver, obviously local, more than happily exploited both their knowledge of the mountain climb and the agile, turbocharged three-cylinders in what is possibly the lightest rear-wheel-drive car made in the past half-century. All its upper metal panels, including the roof, hood, and rollbar are aluminum, and the tight mountain corners, we were really throwing our CR-V about trying to keep up. It was great fun to see one of the Bubble Era kei-class sports cars in its natural element, even if we had to watch its rarely used brake lights disappear off into the distance.
After a tank-up at an Idemitsu gasu-sutando (gasoline stand), we ventured off. Except perhaps for a dark green Honda Z languishing beside a truck yard near Fukuchiyama, we found little sign of kyusha in the mountains of Kyoto Prefecture. Unlike the Z we had seen previously on our tour of Yamagata-ken, this one was in serious need of some attention.
Enjoying the quiet mountain villages, the slow meandering roads, and a quiet lunch, we wound our way down into Kyoto City. Stopping many times along the way to photograph the local villages, we were met with diverse and plentiful opportunities to witness Japan’s picturesque countryside.
train lines, rivers, mountain mists, a few Honda Beat, Mazda Carol, Subaru R2, thatched-roof minka, Totoro bus-stops, summer rice fields, kura, twisting mountain roads in and out of the many valleys, and of course the always spectacular and interesting mountain views.
On one stop, we enjoyed the matched colors of a modern third-generation Suzuki Lapin with the “Welcome” sign to a local hairdresser, and on another two four-door Skyline parked outside an engineering works. A Suzuki and Daihatsu dealer marked the outskirts of town and the transition from farmlands to suburban expanses.
Our overnight stay was in the tourist town of Arashiyama, and though after mid-morning the bus-borne hordes from Kyoto became intolerable, the next morning was quiet and relaxing. Without the countless selfie sticks and people yelling at each other, it was apparent how beautiful the riverside town was. If you intend to visit, we thoroughly recommend arriving in late afternoon, staying overnight, and exploring the quiet streets before the arrival of the first mid-morning shuttles from the center of Kyoto.
After many days on the road though, our destination this day was a quiet seaside resort on Hamana-ko (Lake Hamana) in neighboring Shizuoka prefecture. Having slow-explored the southern shores of Kyoto-ken here previously, we joined the Tomei expressway to arrive early afternoon to sit down and relax for a few hours.
Along this length of the Tomei, we passed an Abarth Fiat 500 making more noise than a Lamborghini, we were passed by the low flying missile of a full body-kitted Silvia, and even saw the last murdered-out Celica in Japan.
Our lakeside hotel was a perfect place to sit down with a cool can of chuhai, a good book, and to watch the sun set over Hamana-ko. The next day would be our last on this tour.
Arriving in Yokosuka, off the Yokohama-Yokosuka toll-road, and as we had another day or two before we needed to return to the craziness of Tokyo life, we had a quick yakiniku lunch at the local car ferry terminal, loaded up the well-travelled CR-V, and steamed across Tokyo Bay.
With the Tateyama Cliffs in the background, we arrived 45 minutes later on the strangely exotic looking coast of the Boso Hanto in Chiba Prefecture. We had travelled through Yamanashi, Nagano, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Kyoto, Hyogo, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Mie, Aichi, Shizuoka, and Kanagawa Prefectures, shot 12 rolls of film (and lost one), stayed at eight different ryokan, traversed another two of Toyota’s suggested 157 greatest driving roads (bringing our total driven to 32), ate many glorious meals, saw even more amazing places, and met countless interesting people. From the ferry, it was a short journey to our minka, where we settled in to to plan the next trip.