Visit Japan's Iwakuni [rock-country] Region
Japan's main Island, Honshu, is an elbow shaped region that most people associate with the teeming crowds of Tokyo, Kyoto, and the central coastal area. There is much more to Japan than that, and cyclists would be well advised to visit Japan despite the mixed reputation that country has among touring bikers. Honshu has a central spine of mountains and highlands that reach from the extreme North, where the Hakkoda mountains frown upon Misawa and Aomori, to this southern portion. Iwakuni is a delightful town at the mouth of the Nishiki river. One need only follow the river a few miles upstream to Kintai Bridge, famous for its wooden spans and nearby park, and you have left the urban area of Iwakuni behind.
Japan's Cherry Blossom season tints the country in fragrant white
Cyclists with a sharp eye or familiar with the region can find this side road to Kintai, which follows the river closely and is a pleasant alternative to the main route 2, choked with traffic. In this picture the cherry blossoms were almost at their full majesty, and I spent more time dodging honeybees than anything else.
By the way the road makes clear, in part, why Japan can be a tough place for cyclists. Many routes are narrow and not well marked, although Japanese drivers are courteous and their cars are small. The summertime, most popular with touring cyclists worldwide, is a tough time in Japan. Early summer has the plum rains, which can be annoying. Late summer either has withering heat or a typhoon threat, and sometimes both. So if you can arrange to bike in Japan, the best times are early spring and early fall, when the temperatures and rains are more moderate.
The Nishiki river continues deep into the countryside and is marked by many parks and small towns. The cycling is fantastic. On my world tour I will get to the Iwakuni region very near the end....I have a way of saving the best for last.
Cherry Blossoms on the Nishiki river not far from Kintai Bridge