While the higher peaks of the western borders of Nagano and Gifu Prefecture claims the highest road in Japan, across the Matsumoto Valley one will find some of the best highland cycling in Japan. Here, at over 2,000m above sea highland grasslands await those who dare cycling the Venus Line Road that connects the Kirigamine and Utsukushigahara Highlands.
Some 60 kilometers of mountainous roads between 1,400m and 2,000m elevation, the Venus Line is a favorite route for cyclists and motorists across Japan. While the whole Venus Line is certainly rideable, there are also other smaller roads in the area that are great for cycling to avoid the busier sections, and enjoy the best parts once atop!
Climb Score Card from our full article on the 14 Best Cycling Climbs in Japan (Hint, Not Mt Fuji!).
Osusume Route ~ Cycling the Venus Line Kirigamine Highlands
There are lots of great roads that connect the highland plateaus east of Matsumoto between the Utuskushigahara in the north stretching down to the Kirigimine and finally the Yatsugatake Volcanic Formation in the south. That said, for those looking to explore the Venus Line’s best sections while avoiding the large number of motorists that also frequent the route we recommend the below route.
Climbing up a smaller backroad from Chino City 茅野市 you can avoid the heavy traffic that takes the Venus line up into the highlands. Once atop you will rejoin the Venus Line at the most picturesque section reaching the summit of the road at over 1,800m above sea. Then, down to the high lake Shirkaba-ko 白樺湖 before another climb up to the Suzuran Pass スズラン峠. Flinally, a long winding descent takes you back into to Chino City.
Alternative Course | Nagano’s Highland Epic Route
For those looking for an epic day in the saddle, consider connecting the Utsukushigahara Highlands with the Kirigamine Highlands via the Venus Line!
combining our Osusume routes for the Utsukushigahara Highlands and the Kirigamine, this route is 120km of sweeping panoramic vistas and wild diversity of terrain in just a few dozen kilometers. Over 60km spent at over 1,300m above sea, those who love the mountains will be in heaven, just be ready to climb!
Gain – 4/5 | 1,000m from the west, 1,100m from the east
Views – 5/5 | Sweeping views around almost every turn thanks to the low highland grass and minimal tree coverage.
Accessibility – 3/5 | 2hrs direct via express train from Shinjuku Station to Chino Station
Pavement – 4/5 | Rough surface finish compared to many other highland areas in Japan. Minimal damage & holes, but not the smoothest.
Zen Factor – 3/5 | There is no denying this route is a big hit with motorists, so while the views are amazing, most days you will be sharing the wide roads with a steady stream of cars, motorcycles, and buses.
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