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The route starts at Akita and goes straight east to Lake Tazawa through the city of Kakunodate. This particular ride is not long (3 hours?) and mostly level; though you have to climb a bit before the lake, it's only to about the 200-meter level. You can approach the lake from either west or east; coming from Kakunodate, west would probably be quickest. From there, things get MUCH higher; you have to go to 1,000 meters or thereabouts at least twice before Lake Towada (in the center of the map at left) - and much higher if you want to do the Hachimantai skyline; I didn't have time this trip. From Tazawa to midway between the lakes, Route 341 is your only real option, and from route 282 to either 103 or the smaller road off to the west will take you to the lake. If you're going to circle the lake at some point during your stay (which I recommend), note that the northern shore is yet another 1,000-meter climb but is worth it if not socked in by fog (like it was for me). From Towada, go east along the lovely Oirase river valley (route 102) and then cut up north, skirting Mt. Hakoda (this stretch is supposed to be spectacular in autumn) and into the city of Aomori. From Aomori, you can take a ferry direct to the Shimokita Hanto peninsula, or do what I did and go all the way up the coast to the northern reaches of the Tsugaru Kaikyo (kaikyo meaning straits). As this area has a very interesting desolate feel to it, this is the route I recommend. Avoid the busy highway leading up the western shore of the thin peninsula (route 279); if you must go up this way, I recommend the road on the other shore (route 338). If you're planning to go all the way to the top of the Shimokita Hanto, it might be good to take the ferry across on your way to Shimokita and then go DOWN this highway (338) since the area is pretty desolate and lovely and one of the best youth hostels in Japan, the Kawayo Green YH, is an easy day's ride away. Programming note: that particular route will be covered in detail when the marathon Nikko-to-the-top-of-Honshu "Mountain and Lake Tour of Northern Japan" route is incorporated into this web site in the not-too-distant future.

Story & PhotosTohoku_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlTohoku_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlshapeimage_17_link_0
Nuts & BoltsTohoku_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlTohoku_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlshapeimage_18_link_0