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Cycling from Kyoto to Nara

Following the ancient route between two old capitals

In September I rode my bicycle from Kyoto to Nara. I began in the back streets of Yamashina, pedalling past a number of fine old houses and Daigo Temple,then following the road into the outskirts of Uji.

<p>Charcoal treated wood and small windows on this old fashioned building</p>
Charcoal treated wood and small windows on this old fashioned building

Rather than take Route 7, which runs parallel to Keihan Nara Line and always has heavy traffic, I tried to head out into fields of rice, lotus and tea. The lotus fields were full of pink blooms and heavy heads of grain bowed the rice plants over, so I didn't regret the detour, but I couldn't find my way. Eventually I headed back to Route 7 and followed it over Uji Bridge until it ended with a turn onto Route 69, which later merges with Route 24.

The road began to follow the Kizu River, and I would have preferred the river path, but there was no access. To make matters worse, there was no sidewalk, no bicycle lanes and too much traffic. Then a police car came along and bellowed something from the loudspeaker. The only words I could catch were "dame"(no good) and "abunai" (dangerous). In this context I assumed it meant cycling was not permitted on this road (there are quite a few roads like that in Japan.)

I turned off away the river, which meant climbing a hill. However I soon found myself on a road which ran beside Keihan Line (Route 70), and was much quieter and more scenic. I passed through a pretty river town named Ide. Judging by the number of cherry trees lining the Tama River bank there it must be a popular hanami or cherry blossom viewing spot in Spring.

<p>Temple gate set back from the road</p>
Temple gate set back from the road

Route 70 also eventually merged with Route 24, but that portion of the road seemed to allow for bicycles, and I could follow it all the way past Heijo Palace, where I stopped to take photos of the walls and gate. A left turn then took me into the center of Nara City, and I had arrived.

The distance from Yamashina to Nara is about 37 kilometers. If you follow alongside Keihan Line as closely as possible, you should have a very enjoyable ride!

<p>Suzakumon - the main gate of the palace</p>
Suzakumon - the main gate of the palace
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