Monday, December 28, 2015

Let's go to Nakabusa Hot Spring for a snow ride and downhill

Yesterday I went to Nakabusa Hot Spring for a snow ride and downhill with Brompton equipped with Scwalbe Winter, a pair of 16-inch stud tires. 

Nakabusa Hot Spring is known as a lodge with an abundant hot spring yield. The lodge has 16 independent hot spring heads and wells, the largest number among hot spring lodges in Japan. Behind the Lodge there was Yakeyama, meaning burning mountain, where geothermal power is great and everyone can steam egg, potato and other food just by burying things. Nakabusa Hot Spring is also famous as one of the bases of trekking and climbing for the North Alps of Japan. The lodge is located at the trail head for Tsubakuro-dake (Mt. Swallow). 

During winter  it completely becomes isolated from outside due to road closure. Those who want to climb Tsubakuro-dake (Mt. Swallow) during winter or who want to experience the hot spring need to start from the closed Miyagi Gate to go for 4-hour walk to reach the trail head or Nakabusa Hot Spring Lodge.

But I have come across a good idea. Why don't use a bike with stud tires instead of walking a distance of 12 km? Though the closed road may covered by snow, Brompton and I can go through it by using Schwalbe Winter Tires with studs.

route: JR Azumioiwake Station (551m above the sea-level) to Nakabusa Hot Spring (1,462m)
distance: 17.6km 
duration: 3 and half hours
max. difference of an elevation: 910m
average % of slope: total 5.1% ascent 6.5% descent 5.6%
acquired elevation: ascent 952m descent 48m

It was a first time use of the Schwalbe Winter 16 inch tires this season. Last year I used them several times and were perfect but I was a bit concerned with the condition of this challenging route. Nakabusa Hot Spring is located at 1,500 meters above the sea level. The last few miles might be snow-covered. 

Early in the morning I arrived in JR Azumioiwake where was the nearest station of Nakabusa Hot Spring though it was still 17 km away to go and about 1,000 meters to ascend.

I unfolded my Brompton and left the station at 7:30 am when rain changed into snow flakes. 

On the way to the hot spring, Brompton and I got through the gate of Ariake Shrine whose god was Mt. Ariake of 2,268 meters. The road to Nakabusa shares the way to Ariake Shrine.

30 minutes later, we were arriving at Miyagi Gate which is closed for cars due to snow during winter. Only hikers and bikes can go.

Brompton and I entered the world of monochrome.

Snow coverage gradually increased as an elevation rose.

The road was completely covered by snow beyond 1,000 meter high. It was too cold to use iPhone.... My iPhone 5S suddenly shut down due to extremely low temperature for its battery when I took it out from my pocket to share a snow road view with my Brompton friends....

While it was too cold for iPhone, I was sweating a lot as the steep hill with more than 10% slope continued. 

Before I knew it, the sun started to shine. The weather report was correct.

However, snow was getting more and more. 

At last Brompton and I were approaching the hot spring.

A little before noon, we reached Nakabusa Hot Spring.

It's time to dip myself into hot spring. I hurried to an open air bath first. Look! In the center, there was a rock-build spout. Because of high temperature over 90 degree centigrade of hot spring, it is necessary to pour it down from the top of the tower to the tub in order to cool down to about 40-43 degree.

It was wonderful experience to look over the mountain and blue sky when bathing.

I noticed that I was thirsty. Let's drink a bottle of S. Pellegrino as usual.

2 pm. It was about time to go down the mountain. People in the lodge gathered to say good bye to Brompton and me. A tiny snowman also made farewell to me. Thanks and see you again!

Brompton and I started downhill. It was already obscured in the Nakabusa Valley because of its deepness. 

Sunset was earlier in this season. Brompton and I needed to hurry but care. The temperature was below zero. A pair of the Schwalbe Winter tires provided excellent grip and control on the icy snow road. Perfect! But I needed to control the speed and must be careful of using brake. 

The beauty of the monochrome color again. Brompton in the world of "Frozen".

Due to the low temperature and snow fall, the Brompton looked like a cake covered with sugar powder.

The road surface was frozen like mirror. I needed to ride carefully even with the Schwalbe Winter.

Continued downhill. I was able to see the end of the Nakabusa Valley from the cleavage. There was sufficient sunlight outside the valley. I still have a couple of time before the sunset.

When I looked up, there was Mt. Ariake, wearing cotton clouds. It was beautiful.

We arrived at the station. Let's go home for dinner.

It was a great ride with the Schwalbe Winter in this season. The performance was perfect even under tough conditions of the hilly road with snow and ice. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter comes

Winter comes to Tokyo.

Leaves have fallen to the ground.

(At the foot of famous Ginko Tree of Shiba Tosho-gu planted by the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun 400 years ago)

Sky is clear blue but cold wind blows from north west to chill all the things.

(Tokyo Broadcasting Tower and Zojoji Temple in Shiba)

Sunset comes before 5 pm to urge people go home.

(Marunouchi business district overlooking Imperial Palace)

People are awaiting new year holidays.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hot Spring of Nobel Prize!

I congratulate two Japanese Nobel laureates this year, Mr. Omura and Mr. Kajita. I suppose that one of the beauties of Japanese society is that quite average people can receive a nobel prize as long as one works very hard and achieves something for the society and human being.  

Last week I visited Nabeyama village of Nirasaki city where Mr. Omura was born and grown up. Mr. Omura was born in a poor farmer family of Nabeyama. The place was very very country. Because Mr. Omura loved his home village and wanted to contribute to the local community after his success by somehow. He thought of digging hot spring to offer a good spa for local people. He did it and then stroke hot spring. In addition to hot spring house, he built a museum to offer culture for local.

I really wanted to visit that hot spring because I very much sympathize his way of thinking about how to contribute to the world, Japan and also his community. The name of the spa is "Takeda no sato Hakusan Hot Spting". The hot spring is not so far from JR Nirasaki Station. 

distance 3.1km 
max. difference of elevation 82m
ave. % of slope total 2.6% ascend 4% descend 1%
gained elevation ascend 66m descend 1m

I arrived at Nirasaki Station with Brompton.

When I went down the stair, I found a bill saying "Congratulation Dr. Satoshi Omura for Nobel Prize".

Just outside the station there was another bill board congratulating Dr. Omura.

There was a bigger poster of congratulation on the wall of the building.

Every street lamp hangs a poster congratulating a nobel laureate Dr. Omura. Nirasaki-city was really excited with Dr. Omura's award winning.

Even a Sushi restaurant celebrated Dr. Omura's honor. Dr. Omura is the hero of the town.

Brompton and I continued to climb the slope toward Nabeyama village at the foot of the mountain where Dr. Omura was born and the hot spring was located.

We were approaching.

Arrived. Dr. Omura's smiling photo welcomed us.

What a beautiful color the hot spring water is! Let's dip myself into the hot spring. 

This is KAKENAGASHI, meaning free-flowing hot spring. This is a strong preference of Dr. Omura.

There is an open-air bath with fresh hot spring.

Next to the spa, Dr. Omura's museum collecting modern pictures of Japanese woman painters was open to the public. 

Between the museum and spa, there is a restaurant which offers Dr. Omura's favorite dish, Udon noodle. As the restaurant was full of people due to Dr. Omura's popularity after his Nobel prize winning,  I gave up eating here today and decided to visit next time.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Brompfication QR Platform Pedals (Ultra light weight)

Brompfication offers Ultra light weight QR Platform Pedals. They are suitable for use with Brompton Bikes. You can reduce the weight by approx. 225 grams from the original pair. The price is about 150 US dollars, which means 6.7 cents per gram. Isn't it reasonable in order to reduce total weight of the bike compared with other parts ?

Brompfication QR Platform Pedals 
The pedal body is extruded and CNC machined in magnesium, and then powder coated black. With a platform that are 75 mm long by 65 mm wide, the pedal is inherently light weight, but the platform is still large enough to provide a stable grip for your foot. Titanium are used for the coupling and 7075 aluminium for the sleeve - spring and balls are made from stainless steel. This pedal will save you 225 grams over the original Brompton folding pedal.
A sealed bearing and a PU bushing are used to keep the pedal spinning smoothly. Additional seals are installed on either end of the pedal body to keep dirt and moisture out.
Weight: 175 grams/pair Platform size: 75mm x 65mm
(source: Brompfication homepage)

The pedal platforms are made of magnesium. Ultra light weight.

Easy to install. Just use 8 mm Hex wrench.

Right pedal is quick release. Titanium are used for the coupling. The sleeve is made of 7075 aluminium.

Just one click to use like this. No tool is needed.

Left pedal is not removable as the original equipped one is.

I equip the pair with my S2L today and plan to improve the result at the Mt. Fuji Hillclimb race scheduled in next June.