Climb up route 231. Max elevation 637 metres.
Strava Segments – Mt Kunimi.
This is one of the few climbs in the area that gives you a unobstructed view (well, 180 °) from the top. Route 231 follows the Shinnyoji River valley up past its source before finishing at the abandoned Ryujoin Camping Ground. From the start of Route 231 at the junction of Route 10 it’s 12 kilometres to the summit, but Route 10 is a horrible road to cycle on so you’re better starting the climb from the junction with Route 58 (11.5 kilometres to the summit) or the Keichiku Agri Line (9.1 kilometres to the summit).
For the first few kilometres the road is two lanes and relatively flat, but the last 6 kilometres are single track and average about 8%. There’s not usually much traffic,but if you do meet a car, one of you (you) is going to have to stop. There are a few places where the road splits and runs on both sides of the valley – I prefer the right side (as you’re going up). The lower part of the climb runs along the side of the valley with rice fields on your left and tall trees to your right. In some places you’ll see clusters of small logs covered with black netting where they are growing shiitake mushrooms. One of the things I love about cycling up the valleys is that they have retained the old stone walls along the sides of the road and in the stepped rice fields. It’s a refreshing change from the concrete in much of the rest of Japan.
The two sides of the road rejoin in a small hamlet at the top of the valley, and from then on the road is very windy and the road surface isn’t the best; on the steepest parts I find I have to stay seated to get any traction. You pass a small dam and the road disappears into woodland. You grind onwards to a series of short, steep switchbacks that’ll have you searching for a lower gear that you don’t have / hoping you haven’t ruined your rear wheel if your limit screw wasn’t set properly (and leave you wondering why your segment time and moving time are a minute or so out until you realise that you were going so slowly that the GPS autopaused) but grateful that there’s no traffic so you can use the full “width” of the road to take the outside line round the left-hand switchbacks.
Keep at it and as you come round the last of the switchbacks there’s a footpath leading off on the right after which the gradient eases off and it’s a more gentle climb into the campsite. On the left, just into the trees, there’s a small shrine that marks the source of the river.
Keep going past the abandoned cabins and at the junction keep going up. There’s another big map at the end of the road and the trail to the summit leads off from here. Another few hundred metres and you’re at the top.
Going back down there’s the choice of the way you came, or if you turn left at the junction in the campsite, you can go back down via a logging road. The logging road is wider with a generally better surface but has a number of short sharp climbs.