On the Road in Susono
Cycling in Susono City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Miles and Smiles
Susono may be eclipsed by more well-known landmarks like Mt. Fuji and the Gotemba Premium Outlet shops, but there’s a thriving outdoor scene for those in the know. Home to an expansive outdoor playground at a wide range of elevation, Susono provides numerous opportunities for the active-minded to run wild and free.
In early November, we set off from southern Kanagawa Prefecture where we live to Susono in neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture for a weekend of recreational cycling. Over the course of two days, we rode our bikes guided by cycling locals and practiced bike handling skills with a former Olympian. Our main objective was to learn about Susono, its history and people, so we made several sightseeing stops throughout each day.
Check out our itinerary and highlights below to jumpstart your cycling adventures in Susono! With favorable weather, you can plan for jaw-dropping views of Mt. Fuji, enjoy the lush green outdoors, and gain confidence on the road. Plus, you’ll get to ride along a segment of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Men’s Cycling Road course!
This content was made possible through a cycling monitor tour event funded by a Japan Sports Agency subsidy program and implemented by the Susono City Council for Sports Tourism Promotion.
Learn more about outdoor experiences and events for the active sponsored by Susono City HERE (Japanese only).
At the Foot of Mt. Fuji
Located in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture, Susono is a small city at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Geographically speaking, Gotemba lies to the north and Mishima to the south; popular tourist destinations Lake Ashi and Hakone border the east. Susono is home to the Yeti Snow Resort, Grinpa kids amusement park, and Fuji Safari Park.
Susono is easily accessible by public transportation and personal vehicle. From central Tokyo, expect just under two hours by public transportation and personal vehicle. Those coming from Nagoya will travel approximately three hours. The closest airport is Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport in Maikonhara, about 60km from Susono.
Climbing Into History, Nature, Culture
On Saturday morning, eleven cyclists and a handful of staff met at the parking lot of Susono City Hall. After some introductory speeches covering the agenda for the day and the weekend, we were swiftly guided through a routine bike check to ensure all of our gear were in working order.
From our meeting point, we rode a short distance to Susono Chuo Koen (Central Park). Our first stop was the former Uematsu Family Residence, a replica made in 1971 of a spacious thatch roof structure reminiscent of a village leader’s home during the Edo period.
As we walked further through the breezy shaded grounds of the park, we were enveloped in lush greenery and picturesque landscaping unique to Japan. Eventually, we were led to an opening where the Goryu no Taki (Goryuno Falls) gushed water fiercely over the edges.
At our next stop, one of our local cycling guides spoke about the role his ancestors played in developing the Fukara canal and local irrigation schemes that continue to make farming and agriculture possible in Susono.
We hopped on our bikes again and made our way to Susono Undo Koen (Athletics Park). Lunchboxes and hot bowls of noodles were already prepared for us as we settled into the picnic chairs, benches, and tables set up just for the occasion. With some spare time on our hands, we walked further into the park where a few of us couldn’t resist rolling down the very long slide – sans cardboard rear protectors (not recommended!).
With everyone’s bellies full and some sore behinds, our laughter at the park soon turned into heavy, labored breathing on the road. Back on our bikes, our ride became less leisurely as we began to ascend about 700 meters into the mountains. Slowly but surely, we ground our pedals up the roads grimacing as we made our way past each switchback and peered at the roads snaking above.
Once the majority of the climb was behind us, we found ourselves at one end of the Victory Road, where the commemorative Olympics men’s cycling road monument is located. In Shizuoka Prefecture, the three municipalities of Gotemba City, Susono City and Oyama Town made up part of the road race course, and the Victory Road in particular offered spectacular views for the last stage of the men’s race.
From the Victory Road, we took our bikes on our last segment of the day towards Jurigi Kogen, where we stayed the night.
Day 1 Route & Stops
Susono City Hall
Former Uematsu Family Residence & Goryu Waterfall (Goryu no Taki)
Fukara canal and irrigation area
Lunch at Susono Undo Koen Park
Suyama Sengen Shrine
Victory Road & Olympics Monument
Jurigi Kogen & Funwarikon Lodge
Day 2 Route & Stops
Fuji-san Yume Road
Lunch at Lily’s Garden
Panorama Road and the Bell of Happiness monument
Susono City Hall
Riding Down Town
Our second day was noticeably colder than the previous day and most of us opted to bundle up with sleeves, tights, and even shoe covers. After an obligatory maintenance check to ensure the working conditions of our bicycles, we set off from Funwarikon Lodge towards Fuji-san Yume Road.
With relatively little vehicular traffic and a healthy mix of fast flats and rolling hills, the Yume Road was a perfect area for an informal bike handling skills mini-clinic led by former Japanese Olympian, Mitsuhiro Suzuki.
Sufficiently warmed up from the Yume Road, we made our way back to the Victory Road for a round of individual photoshoots and video content with Mt. Fuji in the background.
We then moved on to a hearty lunch at Lily’s Garden (see below, “Nutritiously Balanced Meals”) before our last stop of the weekend – the Susono Panorama Road.
A long stretch of perfectly paved road that extends from the outskirts of Susono towards Mt. Fuji, the Panorama Road certainly lives up to its namesake. Both sides of the road boast an abundance of seasonal flowers lovingly tended to by local volunteers. Adjacent to the Panorama Road is the Bell of Happiness monument, which provides a kawaii photo opportunity featuring Japan’s most iconic mountain in the background.
Having fulfilled all of our social media appropriate snapshots, we got on our bikes and made a controlled descent back to the city center. In the crisp autumn weather with the sun warming our backs and the blue skies providing epic scenery (#nofilter), we reflected on just how beautiful the weekend had been – and how lucky we were for the perfect weather to ride!
Upon our return to the parking lot, we shared parting words and received additional participant gifts, including visitor cycling maps, white bean manju snacks and souvenir packets of local drip coffee.
Nutritiously Balanced Meals
One of the best parts of our guided cycling tour were the meals. Both filling and healthy, each of our meals were provided by businesses participating in the Susono Itadaki-Meshi program (see details below).
On Saturday, we ate our hearty lunchboxes under the warmth of the afternoon sun at Susono Undo Koen (Athletics Park). Supplied by Yasai Shokudou Rafu, also known as Cafe Rafu. Each bento was also accompanied with warm bowls of locally made udon and vegetables.
There’s nothing better than finishing your day with a complete meal. From the sweet and the smoky to the tangy and creamy, dinner presented an excellent variety of flavors. For dinner, we gathered at the Funwarikon Lodge for a multi-course meal.
For starters, we had bite-size appetizers, including liver mousse pate, smoked gouda, and pickled radish with shirasu whitebait. We were then treated to a refreshing hot lemon soup and a delicate dish featuring steamed monkfish with miso sauce. This soon followed with the main of grilled chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce with a side serving of spaghetti, and a plate of white rice. We wrapped up dinner with our choice of tea or coffee and a light dessert yogurt with a berry sauce.
The following day, we enjoyed a simple breakfast at the hotel with eggs, sausages, and our choice of bakery items or Japanese breakfast options, such as white rice, natto, and miso soup.
After several hours on the saddle, we gathered for our last meal together – lunch at Lily’s Garden, a dog-friendly cafe and lodge. Under the watchful eyes of two resident dogs (including Lily herself), we were treated to a salad, warm servings of keema curry rice and a light, nutritious egg drop and tomato soup.
Itadaki Meshi is a homegrown project overseen by a certified dietitian to make nutritionally balanced meals more widely available for athletes and sport enthusiasts training in Susono. Rich in protein, iron, calcium and daily nutrients, each meal is designed to optimize performance.
View the dietitian-approved balanced meals available at participating Itadaki-Meshi restaurants around Susono HERE (Japanese only).
Located near Mt. Fuji Kodomo no Kuni (Mt. Fuji Children’s World) and Fuji Safari Park, the Jurigi Kogen area in Susono is known for its bessou, or second homes. It also home to several cozy bed and breakfast type of privately operated lodges, also known as pensions. Nestled in the woods, the hilly area is a maze of peaceful residential roads and cul de sacs.
Due to the size of our group, we split our accommodation between the Funwarikon Lodge and Pension Crik Crak. In the evening, we gathered together for dinner and the seminar with Mitsuhiro Suzuki at Funwarikon Lodge. Afterwards, a small group of us gathered in the common space, playing boards into the wee hours of the night. While each pension has its advantages and quirks, both were down-to-earth, cozy, and relaxing, as though you were staying at your friend’s grandparent’s place.
Perks of Guided Tours
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cyclist, guided cycling tours provide rare opportunities to deep dive into an area. Learning the history of Susono from local cyclists and hearing their personal stories weaved into the culture and happenings of the city was an engaging, interactive way to connect with the city.
Our guided tour came with a support vehicle that carried extra layers, or a place to shed and store layers. And if the going was just a little too tough, you could hop on with your bike and sit one out. The support vehicle carried our personal belongings, hydration and snacks for pit stops, and helped set up the outdoor picnic at Susono Undo Koen on Saturday.
While not every guided tour includes a former Olympian and several local cycling guides, we were fortunate to have both. On Saturday evening, we were treated to an enlightening and humorous discussions about pro cycling and the build-up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Susono. The following day, we gawked at the high level demonstrations of bike handling skills and imitated to the best of our abilities under the watchful eyes of those who have made cycling their livelihoods.