Yunohama – Agano
Entering Niigata Prefecture meant that I was officially leaving Tōhoku, the north of Honshū behind, and saying a hearty ‘Hello’ to the Chūbu Region, Central Honshū.
Niigata is a prefecture that prides itself on producing some of the best grades of rice in all of Japan, its output of rice is second only to the much more sizable Hokkaidō. This much was evident as I cycled through the prefecture’s coastal plains, surrounded by a limitless splendour of photogenic rice paddies. As a steady westerly breeze shimmied across the low-lying landscape, the rice plants’ vibrant green shoots rustled together like the sound of a scrunched up plastic bag slowly unravelling itself. I trailed inland as far as the foothills of the Echigo Mountain Range, where the rice paddies, known as ‘Tambo’ in Japanese, would abruptly come to a halt. The mountains were not requiring my exclusive company today, so I skimped alongside them, before arching back towards the coast – in the direction of Niigata.
The weather gradually worsened, forcing me to stop in the shrink-wrapped city of Agano, some 14 miles short of my goal. The centre of Agano was home to the lily pad encrusted Hyoko Lake. There I found a small cluster of trees out of the plain sight of suburbia. Not that anybody would want to look out of their window, as no sooner had I erected my tent, did the heavens vivaciously open, spelling an immediate end to the day. Yet, I lay snugly in my tent, as a burly thunderstorm gradually billowed around me. The surrounding trees jostled wildly as the insides of my portable bedroom were occasionally lit up via sudden bursts of lightning.
The rain would continue to hammer down throughout the night upon my stoically impenetrable tent. I was proud of Sir Leaksalot now; almost as if I’d won a bout against Mother Nature herself. A guileless instinct to have nonetheless; one that sooner or later would undoubtedly see me come undone.
‘Tokyo to Tokyo – A Cycling Adventure around Japan.’
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Enjoy the ride.