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  • Glynn

East of Lake Biwa

Updated: May 26, 2023

I decided to ignore the weather forecast and endure some rain to explore to the east of Lake Biwa.

What you get when you wake at five in the morning on the shores of a Japanese lake

After my previous ventures from my base camp on the west shore of Lake Biwa, I booked into a campsite on the east shore, one that I had been trying to book previously, but because of its popularity and the many events that are held there, it was becoming an illusive little location. Not this time around! Miami Beach Auto-Camp site.

So fully loaded, I made my way toward Kyoto, trying to avoid the rain that had been forecast. Alas, that didn’t happen! Something to be aware of when touring Japan on a motorcycle is that, because of the geography and the variety of seasonal weather, forecasts cannot always be relied upon. As I rode, the squally showers that were being generated became very active and when exiting the many tunnels that are widespread in Japan, the winds were gusting from the sides, making control of the bike a challenge. Now when I departed from home, my primary concern was the extra weight on my bike because of the camping gear. I should not have worried! It turned out that it became a saving grace, holding the bike more firmly to its line as the side winds tried to launch me from the many bridges I would cross, exiting the tunnels. A double-edged sword you might say?

Loaded! (No head cam shots available en route... due to the need to control above said machine)

It took me just 2 hours, 15 mins. Using the ETC toll roads. I’d decided to forget the scenic routes as photo ops would have been limited because of the weather and headed directly through Kyoto to make good time and setup camp before the forecast rain front moved in later that day.

The site owners were very welcoming (with a hint of English), which I was very grateful for. They gave me written directions to my site location along with some tips to making my stay more comfortable and guidelines for using the site amenities accompanied by the requested etiquette that would be needed to adhere too. Now, I had learned from my previous Lake Biwa camping experience that I preferred some of life’s basic creature comforts (if I was wild camping, of course, I would have manned up...Lol). So this time I had access to my very own shower/sink/water supply positioned next to my tent and the hike had been significantly reduced to the restroom to a more RELAXED three minute stroll. A previous lesson learned... me thinks! And I was only a fifteen second Bimble to the shoreline. Hind sight has shown me that next time (their will be a next time) for this camp site I will book a site directly along the shore.

Looking north east

The mountains to the west of the lake

I’d brought the RedVerz tent again (making up for much of the additional weight) and also (a new idea for me), a tarp & poles to be used as a drying area or as a sunshade. This weight I’d thought through and although not a cheap tarp, the large Sea to Summit Escapist (440 grams) worked a treat! The poles were a little heavier than I had hoped, but as they were adjustable for length, they gave me many more possibilities in setting up and proved very useful when breaking camp as I could put all of my bike gear under the tarp while I unpitched the tent Now, the RedVerz Atacama is a quick tent to set up and doesn’t need much reference to the instructions, if any. With the ability to pitch, both the inner and outer tent together made for a very easy and dry way to pitch.

Home sweet home

The camp site location meant I was well positioned to explore the eastern shoreline, north towards Hikone Castle and into the Suzuka Quasi-National Park and yes... that name can be associated with Suzuka, one of the worlds greatest race circuits that nearly all bikers have heard about (only a further 25km to the east).

And so next day I headed on a route north along the shoreline (which is also particularly popular with cyclists) and because you drive on the correct side of the road here, the clockwise direction around the lake gives you much better vistas and photo opportunities. Then headed towards Hikone Castle for a quick visit of the town, as I had previously toured the castle during better weather and wanted to make use of the new roads and scenery to the east. I will not go into too much detail, as I have attached a map of the route with some supporting images. Just to give you a flavour of the trip.

All I can say is, that I will definitely return to Shiga prefecture and the Miami Beach Auto-Camp Site and I have left a few tips below if you ever fancy the idea of exploring on your own, beyond the city boundaries of Kyoto.

  1. Sometimes camping in a tent isn’t the only option. At the Miami Beach Auto-Camp site, they also provide small cabins at very reasonable prices negating the requirement for over loading the bike or your backpack.

  2. ETC (Electronic Toll Collection system). Visit this site Japan ETC Card for a bit of an overview. I haven’t used this company as I had my motorcycle dealer install my toll reader and my bank provide the necessary credit card.

  3. Be aware that Japan has a very elderly population, still driving! And let’s just say... be very aware of your surroundings and keep your distance. Maintaining your speed within the limits (a maximum of 15km over the limit, might keep you off the police radar) but you risk a ticket of some kind, especially if unable to explain, fully, your reasons for being over the limit. Also on the theme of speed some drivers believe they have... The Force! Beware any speeding Jedi! And the narrow streets hide small pull outs & side streets and are often visually supported my convex mirrors beside them with good reason. Use them wisely! Check out Rules of the Road.

  4. Camp fires are acceptable in most camp sites as long as you protect the ground beneath with some kind of protective mat, preventing burn damage to the grass or earth.

  5. Parking your bike under a tree, especially here in Japan, is an invitation to home a variety of spiders. Making placing your motorcycle helmet on your mirror a bit of a lottery!

During my return en route I thought of other solutions to improving my camping comfort and now I have safely returned home I have a plan to dodge the storms of the fast approaching rainy season by making my own weather forecast and use my time between my up and coming Japanese language lessons to navigate the T7 further west.

Raido Anzen

Ride Safe


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