Ride the Wakayama 800
Watch out Shimanami-Kaido there is now a new blue line to follow and a rival destination for those wanting to experience cycling in Japan!
800km of Spectacular Cycling
With approximately 800 kilometres (hence the name) of glorious cycling paths to explore, the Wakayama 800 won't disappoint. Whether you are new to cycling or an experienced cyclist then the Wakayama 800 has a route to suit your abilities. For the beginner, there is a nice 60km one-way ride along the Kino River from Wakayama to Hashimoto. The path follows the river basin but there is a gradual climb towards Hashimoto. Alternatively, the Arida River course at 97km or Coastal course at 76km, both starting in Arida town are well suited to those without a lot of cycling experience but good levels of fitness.
For those more adventurous and the more serious cyclists then there are a number of nice climbs in the prefecture. There is the 78km Hashimoto to Kainan route which takes in the impressive UNESCO World Heritage site at Mount Koya along the way to a peak elevation of 830 metres. The steepest gradient here is over 16% so suitable gear ratios are recommended.
Koya-san isn't the only UNESCO World Heritage site in Wakayama. Running across the southern end of the prefecture are the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kumano Kodo. Here there are a number of different routes to explore. The Nachi Falls Hill Climb route is only 29km and is only estimated to take 2 to 3 hours to complete but the challenge lies in the fact the first 17km are uphill before reaching an elevation of 560 metres and the picturesque Nachi Falls, the image of which is now synonymous with Kumano Kodo.
In total there are 17 different recommended routes across the area being promoted by the Wakayama Prefectural Government. With its diverse scenery and landmarks, the beauty of Wakayama is nothing new but the investment and efforts into promoting cycling in the region is. These efforts have seen collaboration with local businesses to provide improved cycling-friendly facilities. The Wakayama 800 logo can now be found at hotels, cafes and restaurants across the region, including the Marriot Hotel at Nanki-Shirahama.
Furthermore, the introduction of a Mobile Stamp Rally in which riders can collect electronic stamps at points of interest is also underway. The top prize for one lucky winner who completes all of the courses and collects all of the electronic stamps by March 24th 2019 is a top of the range Trek Road Bike.
Promotional efforts have also seen former Tour de France, Giro D'Italia and Vuelta champion Alberto Contador stretching his legs whilst taking in the delights of the Wakayama 800.
Similar efforts and investment are now becoming more common across Japan as Prefectural Governments and Tourist Boards are waking up to the potential that cycle tourism can bring. Neighbouring prefectures Nara, Kyoto and Osaka are all working on improving cycling infrastructure and facilities which will help connect the whole Kansai region. The bar has been set high with the Wakayama 800 but add a ride in the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto to the mix and you have a cycling adventure that will rival with anywhere in the world.