Hello, this is _hiroyuki.ta. This time, I toured by motorcycle from central Tokyo to Shiga-Kusatsu Road in Gunma Prefecture. The Shiga-Kusatsu Road is a section of National Route 292 that connects Shiga Kogen in Nagano Prefecture and Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture, and is a mountain sightseeing road that crosses Shibu Pass, the highest point on a national highway in Japan at an altitude of 2172 meters. This road is a scenic road where you can enjoy three different scenery: volcanoes, plateaus, and forests, and is a coveted route that every rider should ride at least once. This time, I rode this route on my favorite Harley-Davidson FLSB Sport Glide, so I would like to report on how it went.
What is Shiga-Kusatsu Road?
The Shiga-Kusatsu Road is a tourist road that opened as a toll road in 1963 and was opened to the public free of charge in 1994. This historic road was once called the Kusatsu Kaido, and was very busy in the early modern period with pilgrims visiting Zenkoji Temple. The total length of the route is approximately 46km, and the altitude difference is over 1000m, but since it is mainly a traverse route, there are relatively few steep gradients, so even beginners can enjoy an exhilarating ride. The Shiga-Kusatsu Road has several unique highlights, including a plateau landscape dotted with white birch forests and lakes, mountain views such as Mt. Yokote and Mt. Shirane, and a large panoramic view from the highest point on the national highway. However, in the winter, the road is often closed due to snowfall or blizzards, and the road is closed from mid-November to late April of the following year. Additionally, due to the effects of volcanic activity on Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane, motorcycle traffic is currently restricted between Kusatsu Onsen and Manza Three Intersections. Therefore, it is not possible to pass from Kusatsu Onsen to Shiga Kogen, but it is possible to pass from the Shiga Kogen side to Shibu Pass.
Route to Shiga Kusatsu Road
This time we started from central Tokyo. Enter the Metropolitan Loop Line from the Shuto Expressway No. 6 Mukojima Line, and take the Shuto Expressway No. 5 Ikebukuro Line from Takebashi JCT. Take the Tokyo Gaikan Expressway from Bijogi JCT, and take the Kanetsu Expressway from Oizumi JCT. The train will travel approximately 103km on the Kanetsu Expressway, but will take breaks along the way at Hanazono PA and Akagi SA. Exit at Shibukawa Ikaho IC and enter National Route 17, but immediately turn left and enter Shibukawa West Bypass. This bypass is easy to drive with little traffic. After entering Prefectural Route 35 and driving for a while, you will enter Joshin Expressway from Kanai IC. Joshin Expressway is a free expressway that runs parallel to National Route 353. I drove for about 7.7km on the Joshin Expressway, but I stopped by the observation deck of Yamba Dam along the way. From here, you can see the huge dam and the Azuma River. The dam is still under construction, but when completed it will be one of the largest dams in Japan. Exit the Joshin Expressway and enter Prefectural Route 35. This road runs through the mountains, so there are many curves and the scenery is varied. You can also soak in hot springs at Ishiuchi Onsen and Nakanojo Onsen along the way. Enter National Route 145 from Prefectural Route 35. This road is called the Yamba Bypass and runs parallel to the Joshin Expressway. After driving approximately 9.4km on National Route 145, you will enter National Route 292. This is the beginning of the Shiga-Kusatsu Road.
Highlights of Shiga-Kusatsu Road
The Shiga-Kusatsu Road is about 21 km long from Kusatsu Onsen to Shiga Kogen, but the most interesting part of the road is the highland area with an altitude of over 1,500 meters. In this section, you can see strangely shaped rocks, fumaroles, and hot water boilers that were formed as a result of volcanic activity. You can also enjoy mountains such as Mt. Yokote and Mt. Shirane, as well as highland scenery such as Yoshigahira Wetland. The highlight is Shibu Pass, the highest point on the national highway. At an altitude of 2172m, this is the highest point above sea level in Japan. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Kanto Plain and Mt. Fuji. If the weather is nice, you can even see the Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower. There are stone monuments and observation decks at Shibu Pass, but please note that there are few parking lots. Also, be careful of temperature differences and fog.
Motorcycle parking lot on Shiga Kusatsu Road
There are several motorcycle parking lots on Shiga-Kusatsu Road. On the Kusatsu Onsen side, you can use the Kusatsu Onsen Ski Resort parking lot or the Hot Spring Tourism Association parking lot. On the Shiga Kogen side, you can use the Shiga Kogen Ski Resort parking lot or the Shiga Kogen Tourism Association parking lot. There is also a motorcycle parking lot at Shibutoge, but the number is limited.
This time, I toured by motorcycle from central Tokyo to Shiga-Kusatsu Road. The Shiga-Kusatsu Road is a scenic road that crosses Shibu Pass, the highest point on Japan’s national highway, and is a route where you can enjoy three different views: volcanoes, plateaus, and forests. This is a coveted route that every rider wants to ride at least once, but please note that it is closed in the winter and there are traffic restrictions due to volcanic activity. I hope this article will be helpful to those who want to drive on the Shiga-Kusatsu Road. See you again for the next touring report.
English translation: Shiga-Kusatsu Road