Around the Hayakawa hills

Dusty foorprints in the earth

This isn’t a post about a specific ride, more that in January on a few quick jaunts I was poking around the Hayakawa hills, just outside Odawara, and trying out some of their farming roads to various degrees of success. This is kind of a backwoods for me, an area I must have ridden past hundreds of times, either on the 135 coast road to the south, or the Route 1 and Turnpikes to the north.

The Place

The name Hayakawa (早川) means literally ‘fast river’, which it may be following typhoons and downfalls, as it gracefully exits into Sagami Bay and the Pacific Ocean under a multi-level bridge arrangement.

Hayakawa meets the ocean, as seen from the HIlls
Hayakawa meets the ocean, as seen from the HIlls

Following a tip from a like-minded friend over at TougeExpress, for my first foray I decided to turn off the 135 just after where the Seisho Bypass Toll Road ends, and come at the area from the coast, ducking behind the Ishibashi Diving Centre, and heading under the Tokaido Shinkansen train bridge which runs overhead. It’s a small farming-meets-ocean community of fairly old houses, and narrow farming roads.

Also, it seems none of the online maps have got it exactly correct, and that first time I was a bit confused about how to get to the road I wanted to be on which would take me to the mikan (kind of like a tangerine) farming areas. I could see the road I wanted up on the hillside, but I wasn’t sure the best way to get there. I saw a narrow path between houses, and I could’ve ridden up that way, but decided to have a look around since if I met any vehicle or a person coming the other way, things could get awkward. This is a factor you get used to here in Japan – the definition of a ‘road’ can be anything really, and you have to make a judgement call about whether it’s prudent to take some of them for yourself, and the safety of others, just in case.

View Larger Map

Fortunately, a local saw me looking about and checking my map and asked where I was looking for. I explained the path I could see but that, well, whilst I could ride it, I wasn’t sure it was polite too. He pointed me to another road – a single-and-a-bit lane which wasn’t on my map, curved around a bridge pillar and assured me it led up to a small bridge over the village stream I could cross for the road I wanted to get to.

So off I went, and as promised, there was the bridge, and a broken old concrete track led up to the very nicely asphalted road I wanted. These roads I would learn are a mix of quite new, two lane roads, which will then suddenly revert back to narrow, badly concreted roads with little notice. Either are fine for me!

Check Your Options

Whilst I was looking for that bridge I noticed the road ran further on up the mountain, so the next time I was nearby I decided to give it a go, and came to another, newer bridge leading to a nice piece of road along the hillside, but it’s one of those bridges that by the look of it gets virtually no traffic. It seems to offer no benefit over the previous bridge and the road between them is quite narrow and broken (meaning it’s fun for me).

A New Bridge, but feeding into an old road.
A new bridge, but feeding into an old road.

As you can see though, that road also continues up a little further so of course the next time I kept going, and both Google Maps and OpenStreetMap claimed there was a connecting road over the ridgeline. After a kilometre or so of increasingly narrow and track like conditions, punctuated by various industrial looking compounds, it opened up into a small construction area which seemed to be for road work in support of some control structures they were building in the stream itself.

Thinking of my bikes well-being, I walked a bit further and the rocky path became far worse, so I made a note, and decided I’d come back when I had a more suitable vehicle, perhaps with knobbier tyres and a bit more clearance.

Astony track which became a very rocky pass just around the bend.
A stony track which became a very rocky pass just around the bend.

So, I didn’t go that way, and being sensible, I went back down and over the newer bridge, enjoying the stunning views between fruit trees and the ocean. I stopped to take a few photos, and was quite surprised at how many farmers were out and about in their small kei vans. I imagine this is because there must be crop due.

It’s not all fun roads and fruit trees though, there’s more tracks you can try if you like – I saw one (sadly no photo – I’ll get one next time) which featured a tunnel uphill and whose concrete was just covered in dirt and in places looked like its main ambition in life was to become a river. Tempting… but not that day.

Off the bike

Towards the top of the farming area near the spine ridge there’s a farm coffee shop and viewing area, a if you fancy it, a small hike around the Ishigakiyama Castle Park. Let me just spoil this up front by saying there is no castle, just some grassy areas where something maybe large enough for a fort perhaps once stood. That said, it is a very quiet and relaxing walk up the hill and has some good vista photo opportunities, if that’s your thing, and I am certainly not above that.

Views from the old Ishigakiyama castle area

From there, you can ride back down towards Hayakawa town and on to Odawara, on the coast side, or you can take the winding path over the ridge and down to meet the Route 1 and the pile of east-west roads in the valley.

One note on this second option though: At the time of typing, at this point the road goes from that nice, new smooth curvy asphalt I mentioned, to broken asphalt and concrete, on a slope down into a corner, and if you’re not expecting it, in the wet, well, things could get a bit more exciting than you may want. I’ve heard at least one biker ahead of me commenting loudly on it as they tried to rein it in. It’s not that bad if you’re doing a reasonable speed and paying attention.

So that’s a bit around the Hayakawa hills. I think there’s a mornings worth of poking about up and down to be done there, both on and off the bike, and you’ll likely get to meet some of the relaxed people working the fruit farms, and pick up some fresh mikan along the way.

Caveat: I haven’t tried that coffee shop, as I’m there before it opens, but I’ll make a point to try it on a return ride one day.

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