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[In summer 2012, the Maple Yaba Cycling Road suffered damage from torrential rains, making extensive repairs necessary. The section of the route between the Yabakei Cycling Terminal and Morizane, Yamakuni-machi became passable as of April 1, 2014, and the entire route was expected to be back by the end of May 2014.]

Most visitors to Japan skip northern Kyushu entirely. Those who do come are usually pressed for time, so they spend a day or two in Nagasaki and then shoot down to Aso or Kagoshima or head back to Honshu. Their loss is a cyclist's gain. The northern part of the island offers quite a bit more: the onsen city of Beppu with its fine sulfur-smelling baths; the Yabakei river gorge with its pretty scenery and unusual Buddhist sites; the canal city of Yanagawa, tremendously popular with Japanese tourists but virtually unkown to foreigners; the active volcano of Unzen; and of course the lovely port city of Nagasaki, famous for its catastrophic wartime history but perhaps even more noteworthy for its unique Chinese- and Christian-influenced history and culture. For cyclists, a special bonus is the wonderful bikepath (shown above) that gets you nearly a third of the way from Yabakei to Yanagawa. From Nagasaki, you can extend your trip by heading south through the islands of Amakusa... or go due east to the black castle at Kumamoto and on to Aso. But for the bikepath and Nagasaki alone, this route is well worth a look-see.