Tag Archives: ushiku

Return to Ushiku and a puppy update

School broke up today and my plan was nothing more than going home, relaxing and drinking beer for the rest of the day. I have a little issue with just relaxing, I need to be doing something. So I thought, I could cycle to Ushiku and be back home in time for beer before it gets dark. It was a lovely day, blue skies, very little wind. That sealed the deal. Plus I just found a forever home for the puppy, now named Juno and was curious about the other one. Could I help that one too?

So, off I set. Firstly the second puppy was nowhere to be seen, neither was the old man. Around the area I could no longer see a water or food bowl, so my thought is that he found another home for the pup. I hope anyway.

The ride was great. I didn’t follow the same route as my last trip as I didn’t want to end up on the busy road again. I used the Google iphone app to find a walking route and mostly followed that, but took some detours knowing that the Google app would reroute almost instantly.

Along the route many trees were covered in wisteria. I love cherry blossom season, but it often seems man made or influenced. But wisteria just grows naturally on the trees, it is a purple extravaganza. I was just teaching my students about the history of purple and this was in my mind when I saw these gorgeous flowers.

The route is pretty much the same as my last post so I won’t repeat myself here. I will post some new pictures though. Also I used the iPhone app for this post only. It is easy to use but does post larger sized  pictures.


Ushiku, Shrines and Puppies

It has taken me a week to add this post due to an incident that happened on the ride, don’t worry I am ok no accident or anything.

For this ride I went down the “inside” bit of Ushiku swamp. It was a lovely ride that I will certainly do again, today was a little rainy so a sunny day would be great. I used the app Strava only and stole the route from a fellow Stravian.

Here is the route.

Just after I set off I almost ran over a couple of puppies that were roaming around.

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They were very cute and young. I stopped and played with them for a few minutes. I had seen them the day before and I rode this way to see if they were still roaming around, they were. Nobody was around to ask about them, but I could see a water bowl. I left them and continued on the ride, I would check on them on the way back.

The ride was along regular roads and passed by typical Japanese countryside. Recently I have seen a massive increase in solar panel farms. They have really taken off since the big earthquake.

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The app was easy to follow and I kept it on the map page rather than look at the stats. IMG_2312 IMG_2313

I saw other creatures on my ride.


One thing I really like about Japan are the mirrors everywhere. Local governments and regular people put them up. They really help seeing around corners and things coming out of drives. At first I didn’t trust them and always wanted to look for myself, but once you get use to them they make you feel a lot safer. You should still look though.


At the turn around point there is a small shrine overlooking the lake.

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Then as I was starting to head home I saw a sign for another shrine. It was up a steep path. I managed to cycle up it and speed up it too. It was short, but I felt proud of myself.

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It would be a great place to stop for a picnic on a brighter day. There are also public toilets here.

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On the way back I thought I made a mistake on the route and was heading on to a highway, but it was just a very busy road. On these roads I would usually use the path as they are often quite wide here and made for cycles on busy roads. But on this road there was a big kerb I could not get up and I must have missed the entrance. I cycled like crazy to get off the road and felt so relieved when I did. On the opposite side there were a group of cyclist. I bet riding in a group feels safer, but by myself I felt very exposed.

Anyway, I went back to check on the puppies. I wasn’t really sure what I could do, I think I really just wanted to play with them. This time there was an old man there and he explained that they were put out of a car and then the car drove away. He was looking after them for now, but didn’t know what do do with them. He then picked up one and handed it to me and said “lucky” in English. I asked “Honto? Really?”, where he replied, “dozo”, which mean something like “here you go”. So now I had to walk 2km carrying a puppy and pushing my bike after a 50km ride. All the while I was thinking, what am I doing? what am I going to do with this dog?

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I didn’t have anything and I was supposed to be meeting some school evaluators an hour later. I threw the dog in my car and drove straight to a pet shop and “tree-hugger girl” and “over-prepared man” helped me get stuff like food, poo bags, leads, collars, a toy chicken and shampoo. It was quite expensive. I then rushed to pick up the visitors, and the dog, now called barnaby, threw up in the car. The old man was feeding them people food. Later that night I gave the dog a bath and found it was a girl and renamed her Juno after a childhood pet.

She is the sweetest thing, it took her a few days to settle in and start to be playful. I had to take her to work each day where the other staff helped look after her. The students adored her. She has yet to bark and falls asleep when frightened. The vet says she is healthy, apart from a few fleas which she has been treated for. I slept downstairs on the couch for a week as I didn’t want her to go in the tatami room. Turns out she is perfectly house trained, bonus, but is in the chewy stage. Tonight she is sleeping at a potential forever home for a trial. There is another possible home lined up next week. It seems very quiet at my house now.

Yatabe Circuit – Ushiku Swamp

Yesterday I had my original bike spring serviced. The gears were not shifting properly and I thought I needed a new cable and rear derailleur. I thought about doing it myself, but after watching some videos on youtube I realised I didn’t have the right tools or patience. So off to my local bike guy I trotted and I watched for 2 hours as he cleaned, oiled, and adjusted stuff. I learned a lot.

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He put on a new front tyre, an e-tyre he said because it had no wire apparently. New hand grips, with a special design to stop my hands aching…apparently my old grip showed signs of “grippage”. He didn’t replace the cables, but took them off and oiled them and the housings. He took off the back wheel and the cassette and oiled all of that too.

It felt like a new bike and is now my favourite again over the giant bike, for a while anyway. I decided to try it out on a bumpy path, not suitable for a road bike. I chose to go around one of the inlets to Ushiku Swamp.

For my actual course you can follow this link. I created the course by using Google Maps to give directions and used the directions on this blog to export the data to a GPX file for my gps machine. I also used the gpx file I generated to test out uploading it to mapmyride.

Though it is a short ride, only 14km, I actually cycled 10km to get there. So for me it was a 40km ride. One day I might try cycling round the whole of the swamp, but for now I went to the last bridge from where I began.


On the way there I passed this weird street that was “bricked” for no reason at all. It didn’t see like a special place, it was lovely though.

I started the circuit at Yatabe Baseball Ground, for the reason that it had a car park and toilet block. So it seemed as good a point as any.

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The road starts off ok, but quickly changes to a rough path. I had seen on google maps that this was the case, hence the cross bike.

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By the time I returned to a real road from this track I had forgotten how bumpy the initial road was it was to start with and was loving the flatness and the hills. With the gears all fixed, going up the few hills felt like a breeze and it made me want to try Mount Tsukuba again…before I wreck the gears again. The track itself was ok, but I did keep my teeth together to avoid a bitten tongue.

There were quite a few fishermen along the side of Yadagawa River, proper fishermen..not the electronic, watch tv and wait for a beep kind.

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Parts of this route are quite quaint. It would be a great outing for a blue sky/picnic day.

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There are many kinds of birds to be seen along the route swans, coots, geese, ducks. Some of the route is quite urban and feels a bit derelict.

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On the whole I had a lovely day despite the fact I wasn’t sure if it was raining or just loads of were bugs hitting my face. When I got home I realised it was indeed bugs and had a bath to remove them. No smiling on this route please.

Here is a link to a map of the circuit: Link

Ushiku Nature Sanctuary

I looked on the map and this place looked like a nice distance to cycle..and good job because when I got there I found there was no cycling allowed. NO CYCLING ALLOWED. The cheek. Anyway, good job I cycled there otherwise this would be a drive and walk blog.

Here a map of where Ushiku Nature Sanctuary can be found.

Of course this place has a car park and a toilet block. It also has a visitors center and a classroom.

Cycling to the “sanctuary” led me through lots of typical Ibaraki villages..lots of grass fields! and then this one.

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I am not sure if the farmer would be pleased or not. The grass fields around here are meant for golf or lawns, yet this one is covered in cheeky little lilies. Each stalk has just one flower poking up, spoiling the lawn, poor farmer. Though it did look pretty.

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My trek bike matched the colour of the lilies. You don’t want to clash with the lilies.

Anyway when I finally arrived at the the sanctuary I found that bikes, cigarettes, and dogs were banned. I got off my bike, put my cig out..and shot the dog…kidding, I must be tired…I got off the bike and went for a trundle.

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This place would be great for kids interested in nature, especially if you have someone who reads Japanese. There are an abundance of signs detailing the flora and fauna. AND you can catch stuff in nets!

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Plus there is a TOWER of jenga!!!! So tempted to take one from the bottom, seriously how long did those take to build? I think the people in the visitors center had a jenga party and everyone won.

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I didn’t see many people around at first, but thankfully the paths are really well marked out so no getting lost this time.

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Then I came across a couple of hides. Though I think the visitor center people are better at jenga than these people are at hide and seek.

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The area is quite dense in vegetation, though surprisingly very few mosquitoes bothered me. The noise of cicadas was a bit loud though.

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At the back of the sanctuary was a real sanctuary of the shrine kind.

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And happily for me I saw some familiar statues. Hello Daikoku!

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All this belongs to me!!!  As you can see I had a lovely day. And just because I can…here is a video of the actual ride there. Sorry about the rain drops on the screen at the end…if you get that far..but it was raining.