This climb loops up from Route 64 through the hamlet of Tokakuji. Max Elevation – 300m
You can climb this from the east or west; from the west it’s 2.6 kilometres at an average of 10.6%, from the east it’s 3.5 kilometres at 7.8%. The main attraction of the climb is the terraced rice fields in Tokakuji and the view back down over Miyakomachi and Yukuhashi.
The first time I cycled through this area I came down a gravel road from Hiraodai and went down the west side of the climb. I remember thinking that it was ridiculously steep and you’d have to be an idiot to want to climb up that road. So obviously I went up it the next weekend.
If you’re going up from the west, the entrance to the climb is next to a stone merchant’s. There’s a small wooden signpost next to the road and a yellow map next to the pavement. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to make sure you’re in the small ring because it’s steep pretty much right from the off. A few hundred metres in, the road splits as it runs through the houses; you want to keep to the right. The road bends round to the right then through a couple of switchbacks and goes into the tree line. It keeps going up with no real respite and then you hit another pair of switchbacks – you definitely want to take the outside line on these! Fortunately there’s not much traffic on the road and the bends have mirrors so you can see if there’s anything coming.
There’s a feeling of déjà vu as you go through an almost identical section, at the top of which there’s a break in the trees going into a left-hand bend.
The gradient eases off and if you don’t know the climb you think you’re there. You’re not but as you come through the next left right combo there’s a nice flat section with a bit of a rise visible at the end. You think that if you whack it into the big ring and cane it you’ll be able to coast up that rise.
That would be a big mistake (which I’ve obviously made). The road rises quite steeply and you think it’s going to level off but in fact it’s just the outside of a bend you can see and the climb keeps going. There’s a house on the left and the the road bends round it so that you go past the driveway at the front but then you’re level with the top of the roof as you go round the back, only to be faced with a sharp, steep right-hander.
That section is only about 300 metres long but it averages about 16%. Fortunately, I was using flat pedals the time I tried it in the big ring, and even the next time I was probably fortunate not to snap my rear mech by frantically changing down while putting down as much power as I could to keep moving forward. Now I try to hit it in my lowest gear and spin like a loon at the bottom and then grind for all I’m worth when gravity takes over.
Anyway, the gradient eases off a bit but it’s still about 9% as you pass the entrance to Hakusantaga Shrine on your right. 100 metres or so further on you pass another entrance to the shrine, the road starts to curve to the left, you come out into a clearing and you’re there!
The road curves down to the right and there’s a gravel road which leads up to Hiraodai.
Stay on the main road and it’s a nice 800m downhill into Tokakuji.
Coming from the east, the road leading up to Tokakuji is signposted with a yellow map and a sign for the retirement home. The road climbs up past the Yamaguchi Dam and it’s a steadyish 7% to 8% for the first 2 kilometres. You’re soon into the trees and it’s much easier to find a rhythm going up this side. As you come out of the trees and into the bottom of the rice terraces, the gradient drops off and it’s a pleasant spin up through the hamlet. It picks up again as you head back into the trees for 800 metres to the top, but it’s nothing like as steep as coming up the other side.
And that’s about it. It’s definitely a climb worth doing if you’re in the area and it leads nicely into the Miyako Pass on Route 64, the Ajimi Pass at the other end of Route 64, or Hiraodai as part of a route.