Travel Logs Tsukuba Kasumigaura Rinrin Road
One of the most famous cycling roads in Japan and a National Cycling Route, Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road is a mostly flat route that's around 180km long. A local cycling guide who's active in the area for many years will bring us along the route to enjoy its wide variety of local attractions, including waterfront areas such as Kasumigaura, lush natural landscapes that offer great views of Mt. Tsukuba, and places steeped in culture and history.
Our trip begins at JR Iwase Station in Sakuragawa of Ibaraki Prefecture. After riding past Mt. Amabiki, Mt. Tsukuba, and the surrounding vistas and vintage townscapes, as well as stunning natural surroundings that capture the feel of different seasons and the vast Kanto Plain, cyclists will be rewarded by Kasumigaura and its peaceful rural landscape. If you're confident in your physical ability, you can even go around Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan. Don't miss the chance to enjoy one of the most popular cycling routes in the Kanto region that's easy to get to even from downtown Tokyo!
Cycling tour guide authorized by Japan Cycle Tourism Association, A guide for Team 36, which organizes cycling tours around the foot of Mt. Tsukuba, he's also the cycling leader for cycling events commissioned by Ibaraki Prefecture as a member of Ibaraki Cycling Support Riders.
Our trip starts at JR Iwase Station. If you're looking to enjoy cycling casually, we recommend getting hold of a wide-area rental bicycle. By making a reservation at least three days before the date of the trip, you can easily rent anything from a regular bicycle to a full-fledged road bike. There are 11 rental/return facilities along Ring Ring Road, so you can rent/return bicycles at your preferred location.
We start pedaling in full view of the majestic Mt. Tsukuba, which has two peaks and whose appearance changes depending on the angle we look at it, making it a joy to go around the mountain and discover how different its shape can look.
After departing from Iwase Station, we cycle southward for around 7km to arrive at Amabikisan Rakuho-ji Temple. While this temple is one of the best places in the prefecture to see hydrangeas, it's also beautiful in spring when Kawazu cherry blossoms and wild cherry blossoms are in full bloom. As it's located halfway up Mt. Amabiki, you can enjoy a short climb as you make your way up the hill.
Further south is the townscape of Makabe, which was founded in the early Edo period. This town is lined with valuable historical structures such as warehouses and gates that have preserved the atmosphere of the past, giving visitors the feeling of having traveled back in time.
We head further south once we've passed Makabe and when Lake Tsukushi, an artificial lake at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba that supplies water to Kasumigaura, comes into view. You can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms along the lake here in spring. There are also several mandarin farms in the Sakayori region close to Lake Tsukushi where visitors can take pleasure in picking mandarin oranges while appreciating the scenery of Mt. Shio in the distance during autumn.
As we travel further south, we enter Tsukuba City. Sake brewing using the abundant spring water at the foot of Mt Tsukuba is a thriving industry. Among the breweries you'll find here is Inaba Shuzo, which was founded at the end of the Edo period. Aside from carefully brewed Japanese sake, another popular product is ice cream made from lees – leftover from the sake making process!
Pray for a safe trip at Tsukubasan Shrine, which has a history of more than 3,000 years of faith and serves as the locus of worship for Mt. Tsukuba itself. The shrine is also called the "mountain of love" because of the belief that it brings good luck to those seeking marriage and marital bliss. Plum blossoms bloom here in spring, and visitors can enjoy the view of the foot of Mt. Tsukuba from the shrine grounds.
Around 6km south of Tsukubasan Shrine is the Hirasawa Kangaiseki Ruins, which is believed to be the former site of a government office that existed over 1,000 years ago. Feel free to visit these remarkable ruins, which are open to the general public as a historical park, to experience the history of the region.
Hojo Oike Pond near Hirasawa Kangaiseki Ruins is one of the most famous spots in Tsukuba City for viewing cherry blossoms, where you can enjoy the magnificent sight of cherry blossoms in full bloom in spring with Mt. Tsukuba in the background! Don't forget to take a short break here amid the wonderful scenery.
After taking a break, it's time to have lunch at Hill Climb, a western-style restaurant located right next to Hojo Oike Pond, where you can enjoy its signature spare rib set meal. The ribs are so tender that they literally fall off the bone! The restaurant's master is also a friendly cyclist.
As we make our way southward through the peaceful Kanto Plain, Kasumigaura gradually comes into view. Ring Ring Port Tsuchiura located near Kasumigaura is a cycling hub in Tsukuba that's equipped with shower rooms, bicycle maintenance areas, toilets, and a parking lot. According to our guide, you can buy not only juice but also food, tools, and even inner tubes from the vending machines at this convenient stop-off point.
While it's fine to get back on the road after a break at Ring Ring Port Tsuchiura, you might also consider staying overnight at an onsen inn or hotel in Tsuchiura if you're looking to conserve your energy to cycle around Kasumigaura.
The Kasumigaura Wide-Area Cycling Cruise, in which cyclists load their bicycles onto a cruise ship and have fun cycling at four ports of call in Kasumigaura, is another popular activity among cyclists. The option of loading bicycles on a cruise ship offers great excitement and a very different experience from cycling on the road. As this cruise is only available during certain periods, you'd need to check the schedule and make reservations in advance.
After departing from Ring Ring Port Tsuchiura, it's time to visit Ushiku Daibutsu, the symbol of Ibaraki. At a height of 120m, this bronze statue of the Great Buddha is the largest standing bronze statue in the world. You can also stop by Ami Premium Outlets, which is located nearby, for a meal or a break.
After leaving Ushiku Daibutsu, we make our way to Osugi Shrine, which is dedicated to Anba-sama, Japan's "only divinity that fulfills dreams." Its elegant and gorgeous shrine buildings known as the "Nikko Toshogu Shrine of Ibaraki" are a must-see.
After that, we go around Kasumigaura in a counterclockwise direction toward our next destination. On the way there, we see Myoginohana, a vast wetland that's known as a paradise for wild birds in the Ukishima area of Inashiki.
Cycling around 20km from Osugi Shrine brings us to Tennozaki Park. This park is located on land that juts out into Kasumigaura and is a popular resting area for cyclists where they can catch views of Mt. Tsukuba and Kasumigaura. It's also the best spot around Kasumigaura for enjoying the sunset.
After leaving Tennozaki Park, we head in the direction of Tsuchiura by cycling along the seemingly endless straight road along the lake!
After cycling for some distance, we are greeted by the Kasumigaura Bridge, which connects the cities of Namegata and Kasumigaura over a straight-line distance of around 1.1km. We are finally on the last leg of our Tsukuba cycling trip!
At the foot of the Kasumigaura Bridge is the Roadside Station Tamatsukuri. Here, you'll find fresh local agricultural products and specialties, and you can get a taste of the area's food culture. This is a great place to take a break and try some local delicacies if you're hungry.
At the 4km mark along the bridge, we find the Fujimizuka Tumulus Park, which has a large keyhole-shaped tumulus believed to have been built in the early 6th century. The mound is 78m long, making it one of the largest in the prefecture. It also offers exceptional views of Mt. Tsukuba and Kasumigaura. Ibaraki Prefecture is unique for being home to several such sites.
We then cycle around 12km from the Fujimizuka Tumulus Park toward Tsuchiura to find the Sakihama fossilized oyster site and the Yokoana Tumulus Group. This precious historical site is proof that Kasumigaura used to be a sea some 120,000 to 130,000 years ago, allowing you to feel the passage of time!
After going around Kasumigaura, we finally reach our goal at Tsuchiura's cycling hub. Having completed the route that loops around Kasumigaura known as "Kasuichi," it's time to reward ourselves by soaking our tired feet in a hot spring and relaxing for a bit.
This report is divided into the first-half route from Iwase Station to Tsuchiura via Mt. Tsukuba and the second-half route from Tsuchiura around Kasumigaura, which combine for a total distance of around 140km. We hope this introduction gives you a glimpse into the beauty of Tsukuba, which looks different depending on the area and season you visit. Even then, however, there are still countless other wonderful sights here that we haven't been able to share with you.
Another great feature of the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road is that even beginners of cycling can easily enjoy the ride by setting their own pace and distance. Even if you don't have your own bicycle, you can freely customize your trip by renting a bicycle that you can drop off later or by making use of the cycling cruise.
Given Tsukuba's easy access from downtown Tokyo, it's the perfect place to forget the hustle and bustle of daily life and cycle to your heart's content!
When to go
March to November
The main cycling road is well-marked with many traffic signs, such as arrows that indicate the position and direction for cyclists, allowing you to enjoy cycling with peace of mind.
Ring Ring Square Tsuchiura
Ring Ring Square Tsuchiura is Japan's first cycling hub directly connected to a station (JR Tsuchiura Station). In addition to bicycle rental and bicycle shops, tool rental as well as repair and maintenance services are available here. It is also equipped with shower rooms, changing rooms, and coin lockers, allowing you to enjoy cycling right away without the need to bring anything along with you.
1-30 Ariake-cho, Tsuchiura-shi, Ibaraki-ken
Check here for information on other cycle stations.