Table Of Contents
I want to preface this article with a statement about what exactly I am looking for in a cycling route. While I know that you can ride a bike anywhere, I do think that each individuals perception of a route can vary a ton based on what you are used to riding and what is considered safe/heavy traffic/etc.
For myself, living out in Kiryu, Gunma, a town nestled in the mountains on the very northwest edge of the Tokyo Metro Area, I am lucky that I can hop on my bike and in less than 1km be in quiet wilderness and endless strings of rindo forest roads.
So with that said, I was thrilled to take a short 3 day trip down to Kamakura and the Shonan area for the first time to see the legendary surf center of Japan and the stunning views of Fuji from the beach!
For those that want to just read about the ride, feel free to skip to the heading below Cycling the Miura Peninsula. And for those that just want the route (which I don’t recommend) and a TLDR, here you go.
If you live in Yokosuka/Zushi/Kamakura Area, it is a route you can do from your door. The farm roads at the bottom are pleasant, the rest is really just rough and congested. If you must see the ocean while riding your bike, IMO the pedestrian paths on the coast from Enoshima to Chigasaki is way safer and less traffic lights (albeit more foot traffic to navigate).
If you live in Tokyo, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Saitama, even Yokohama, there are sooo many better, and safer, routes than this. See all of the routes in Chichibu Area, Tochigi, Gunma, heck most of Fuji Area is less congested or has better wide sidewalks than this area.
Tourists Coming to Japan
If you are flying in to Japan from another country I cannot in any good faith recommend this route. There are so many better & safer ways to accomplish your cycling & sight seeing goals than this route. If you are planning your own trip, please consider things like the Shimanami Kaido, Kasumigaura, or Lake Biwa (with some edits). If you would like a more off the beaten path adventure, feel free to check out our Self-Guided and Guided Tours.
What, Where, Why | The Miura Peninsula 三浦半島
In short, I stumbled upon this route through a few recommendations of locals to the Yokosuka Area (known for one of the larger US military bases in Japan) and after seeing it mentioned a fair number of times in online forums and group of Tokyo riders.
We had planned to head to Chigasaki, a small beach town known for it’s surfing, to try surfing (my second time, Michelle’s first) and thought we would bring the bikes and also knock off another Japanese peninsula as last year we cycled the Noto Peninsula in April.
While it rained pretty heavily the first day, the following day we had the best possible weather (though my now sunburnt skin would disagree) you could ask for when surfing. It was sunny and 25 celsius with a cool breeze and cool water.
This was made all the more magical by the stunning views of Mt Fuji from the beach as we fumbled about on the longboards trying to catch the bunny hill of waves. I was told they were about 6in to a foot tall, but man they seem bigger than that when you are out there.
One of the most peculiar things about the area was the seemingly endless number of restaurants and shops named “Mahalo Burgers”, “Aloha Hawaiian Food”, “Californa Board Shop”, etc. In a funny way it sort of felt like the area was trying to emulate the feel of a California or Hawaiian surf area beyond being its own place. Nothing wrong with that, but I was not expecting it to be almost the complete culture of the coastal areas.
Cycling the Miura Peninsula
Part 1 – Kamakura to Zushi to Yokosuka
After our day of surf we hopped on our bikes in Kamakura where we were staying and began the lap around the Miura Peninsula. From Kamakura to a few kilometers to Zushi we had a really nice pedestrian/cycling path right on the beachside with fantastic views.
This however quickly came to an end, and from Zushi to the outskirts of Yokosuka (approx. 15km) it was a seemingly endless stream of traffic and traffic lights. While this section was not narrow, in fact it often had two or three lane wide huge city streets, it was plenty of stop and go, and lots of road noise the whole way. Couple that with honestly mostly city and housing for the scenery and it was not particularly memorable.
But that was a bit what I expected when I saw the routes. I mean, if you look at the map you can see just how densely populated the area is, so it makes complete sense to me that it would be this way as much of Japan’s cost line is very very densely populated and congested.
The most pleasant part of this stretch was when you take the road closest to the military base in Yokosuka. This was quiet, very low traffic, and signal free for maybe three kilometers? The scenery was a bit, well military.
Part 2 – Yokosuka to Misaki Port
This next stretch from Yokosuka to Misaki Port on the far south tip of the peninsula looked to me the part I would enjoy most. When doing my route research I saw this to be the least populated area of the peninsula and also to be the only area that seemed to have any sizable agriculture.
From Yokosuka the road wraps around the eastern edge of the peninsula and has a few brief moments of reprieve from the traffic lights and constant flow of cars & trucks. While in this section you mostly spend time tracing the coast, you do get a few nice small costal towns and a view of the ocean for probably 1/2 of the section.
Once you finish rounding the eastern edge though it quickly becomes what feels like the same suburban sprawl of western Tokyo all funneled onto one main road. Housing developments, strip malls, and large trucks (and lots of dump trucks thanks to a mine nearby?) made for a constant game of trying to use what little sidewalk was available and hopping on the road when it seemed safe.
Even as an experienced cyclist I felt many parts of this stretch and the stretch connecting Misaki to Zushi were just flat out dangerous to ride on. We were riding at a steady 20-25kph, which is a very normal speed for an experienced but not fast cyclist, and the roads were honestly scary to ride on at that speed.
Here is a photo below of what was typical the whole day (sans the southern part of km 41-58).
Roads in Japan are already very narrow, but having dump trucks, large semis, and huge tour busses try to pass you on one lane roads with 50kph speed limits with constant traffic in both directions is just plain dangerous and not fun.
Part 3 – Misaki Port, the Best 10km of the Route
So once you finally reach the southern tip of the peninsula you will hop onto some far less trafficked roads that take you through undulating cabbage (lettuce?) fields to Misaki Port.
This portion of the ride was pleasant and I would recommend. While we did not have clear skies that day, on a very clear day you can see Fuji from many parts of this southern and western part of the peninsula.
Once in Misaki Port a cute little port town that really loves its tuna is waiting with a plethora of shops to get your Maguro and Otoro fix. We opted for the “eat at the port” option as we have had a good experience with this before in Himi on the Noto Peninsula.
It was indeed yummy and fairly priced at around 1,800yen/bowl. A very solid choice, albeit a bit of an odd building.
After lunch we hopped back on our bikes for the remainder of the pleasant portion of the route before rejoining with that main road and riding through what Michelle affectionately said, “it looks like we are riding through Maebashi right now”. Unfortunately, that’s not a complement as Maebashi is about as far as you can be into the urban sprawl of the Tone Valley far from our beloved quiet nature roads.
Part 4 – The Not So West Coast Road Back to Zushi
I had half expected to see a long string of coast from the moment we swung around the southern tip of the peninsula. “Sure”, I thought to myself, “It will probably be just as heavy of traffic as the east coast, but at least we will see some stunning beaches, and maybe Fuji in the distance.” And maybe we would have seen Fuji, but the clouds didn’t play nice with us on this strech.
And honestly it’s alright, I saw plenty of amazing Fuji the day before, for the most part I wanted to keep my eyes on the huge trucks and busses flying by me and make sure I wasn’t being pushed off the road as they tried to overtake into oncoming traffic.
I will give credit where it is due, there was one great beach with a plethora of kite-surfers right as you entered Zushi, but all the other beaches were not on the main route and would require little out and backs to see.
This is what I love about the magic of showing people just a photo. You could see this and think, right I would love to ride there! Now, let me show you the video this photo above is from, and give you some context to the type of traffic you will experience around most of this loop. This is one of the safer sections with something of a shoulder. But as you can see, the flow of vehicles passing is nearly non-stop.
I don’t know how that compares to where you ride, but for me I would see that many cars in maybe 1hrs time out on the routes I like to ride. And A LOT of Japan is way way less heavy traffic than this.
We hit Zushi again and our lollipop was complete, just a repeat of the stretch to Kamakura and we would be back. A final yikes was that we decided not to follow my original mistake route around a tunnel between Zushi and Kamakura, and instead follow the blue arrows of the “Pacific Cycling Road” home.
* A quick note, this is a real pet peeve of mine, here in Japan the government seems to want to paint blue arrows and call them “cycling roads” simply because there is an arrow on the road. This is regardless of the total lack of cycling paths or even just a simple wide shoulder on what are often the main road with the most congestion in the whole area?!
At some point I will do an article on this very topic, but in short, you cannot trust there is any quality control on these government designated routes. Many are downright dangerous such as this stretch. If you want to read more on success stories of these blue arrow initiatives please see the Shimanami Kaido and Kasumigaura, for some more failures of this please see Lake Biwa.
Cycling in This Tunnel Should Not Be Legal | This Is A Bike Road?
This was a huge mistake as two long uphill tunnels with no shoulder or pedestrian path (but a blue arrow!) were downright scary to get through. This was because, as one would expect as you crawl up a 50kph speed limit road with a line of trucks & busses behind you, they aren’t exactly happy to cheer you on up the climb. They want you out of the way, ASAP. But, being in a long tunnel with no shoulder you have nowhere to pull off.
But don’t worry, there are large reflective bumpy things in the middle of the road so vehicles can’t pass as the center lane would be near impossible to drive over. Well, the locals seem to not care as they passed into oncoming traffic with reckless abandon. It was maybe only 5min, but what an awful 5min it was.
How in anyones right mind did they decide that cyclists should be TOLD that is the route for this “Pacific Cycling Road”? It is clear near zero thought into traffic, road conditions, or safety went into this project, arguable the most important part of a cycling route. But I digress..
Wrapping Up the Ride & Area
So to sum it all up, I loved the surfing. The towns, Chigasaki, Hase, Kamakura, Misaki Port, all charming though also sorta feels like a Hawaii/California theme park in ways. The food in the area was great, and I look forward to coming back to surf again and enjoy the beaches. That said, I doubt I will hop on a bike again anywhere nearby except to cruise down to the beach or along the beach paths.
Call me spoiled, but I just don’t see the reason to ride on such roads unless it is your only choice. This place was built for beach life and cars, not a place for bikes in my view.
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