21 June 2009

A Charming Tradition Since Before Positivo Espresso

Before P.E. -- A tradition since 2005. That is how long founding members of Positivo Espresso have been stopping at the charming little reservoir-side cafeteria at the far end of Okutama-ko. (Well, at least I was there in 2005 with Jerome and Juliane; it is mentioned with a photograph of the exterior in a post from one of several earlier 2009 visits; Tom refers to a visit from April 2008 as stopping at "Juliane's favorite okutamako cafeteria". Archeologists report visits by foreign road cyclists dating back to the last millenium, as well as entire busloads of Japanese tourists stopping there in the decades after it was first built).

Actually, the off-white (beige? grey?) stucco exterior of the restaurant is not so charming, and not nearly as nice as the much newer, but quaint-by-design, Japanese-style wood building down the street. In fact, from the exterior, to the uninitiated--such as the typical gang of motorcycle riders, ready to gorge on some food before heading up Kazahari who joined Jerome and me mid-meal on Saturday--OUR restaurant is virtually indistinguishable from the one next door.

(Note to Michael H. and Manfred -- PLEASE be careful not to step into the wrong restaurant. This would be even worse than going to the wrong convenience store, as the restaurant proprietress is far more likely to take offense than the convenience store clerk if you should excuse yourself to go next door. And if you should happen to make a mistake and stop at the wrong shop, just be sure not to record the error in a blog post!)

In any event, Jerome and I stopped at The Restaurant on Saturday for some well-deserved nutrition. We noted to the proprietress ("Mrs. Watanabe") that we would be in Europe next week at a famous bicycle race, attempting a nearly impossible crossing of snow-capped mountains together with the tall German woman who used to frequent her establishment. After some urging, Mrs. Watanabe agreed to come out of the kitchen for a photo so that we could send her best wishes to the "bijin", as Juliane is known at The Restaurant. (The word "bijin" was used more times than I could count.)

In this atmosphere of being among old friends, international fellowship and goodwill, Mrs. Watanabe comp'ed us some extra cucumber salad with special mayonnaise sauce, and a large Aquarius sports drink each. And her friend and helper ("Mrs. Tanaka") even joined one of the photos as they let Jerome put his arms around their shoulders, even as the sweat glistened.

Anyway, I've gone straight to the highlights, but let me offer a brief trip report.

Jerome, chastened by last week's humor regarding his insistence upon, and failure to show up at, the ridiculously early start time, made me promise to call him at 4:45AM to make sure he was up and ready for a 5AM start. Before I could do so at 4:44, he called me and the start was confirmed. We made it to Takao in decent time, stopped at the traditional 7-11, with time for a photo of my new Assos gear -- I'm told that the white bib shorts are really FAST, passing like a flash of light, and I wanted a photo since they will never be quite as white again as on this maiden ride.

We went over Otarumi and along Route 20 to Uenohara. Uneventful so far, but I was not enjoying the Route 20 traffic or the increasing heat, and I was still convinced that this should be a relatively easy, "warm down" ride before our departure for Europe. Jerome still wanted to go over Matsuhime Pass from the long southern approach. So we parted ways at Uenohara, Jerome headed for Sarubashi then Matsuhime, and I headed to the Northwest up Routes 33/18 along the beautiful, deserted "Uenohara-Tabayama-sen" through a valley and up and over Tawa Pass and Tsuru Pass.

I just cannot get enough of this road, and leapt at the chance to ride it on my "warm down" day, somehow forgetting that Tawa and Tsuru can be pretty miserable in the sticky heat.
I made it over them (no rest except at the traditional covered rest area table/water faucet/toilet between lower and upper Tsuru, around 700 meters elevation), and then down to the base of Matsuhime. I stopped to wait for Jerome, pondering the near future when we (and the occasional motorist) will have a choice between the beautiful climb over Matsuhime (right fork), and a multi-hundred-million dollar series of tunnels and bridges (left fork).

I took the right fork and had climbed about half of the remainder to the top of Matsuhime, when Jerome came heading down at me. I turned around so we could both descend to The Restaurant and then head home.

... After several hours of suffering in the heat riding into a stiff head wind, a 185 km+ ride (more than 200 km for Jerome) with "only" 2000 meters or so of climbing, and a brand new tubular tire going flat on Yoshino Kaido, replaced by Mr. Wachi himself of the Wachi Cycling Team, we finished our warm-down ride.


Unknown said...

I was very happy to run into Jerome courageously finishing the last few hundred meters before cresting Matsuhime....what a fantastic TransAlp duo! I will not be able to make it this Wednesday unfortunately but wish both of you an unforgettable week in the real Alps!

PS: nice photo showing the new Matsuhime tunnel...once that new road is completed, the old road will be all for us cyclists!

Manfred von Holstein said...

You have sufficiently scared me - can you send me the exact location of that restaurant?

And good luck cycling across the Alps! The distance each day looks manageable, the altitude to be covered is definitely harder, especially without any days of rest, and what scares me most is that a lot of the road seems gravel! Will you do this with your "normal" bikes??

(BTW, what was the backside of Odarumi like? I hear it is gravel, but how bad?)

David Litt said...


No need to scare that easily! I'm just enjoying the role of Positivo Espresso historian and enforcer of orthodox doctrine, until Michael K. resumes his duties and riding fully and stops blogging about trips to Ikea for beef stroganoff with the local young mothers.

Well, The Restaurant is among a cluster of buildings just at the bottom of the climb to Kazahari. Coming down from Kazahari, you cross a bridge, turn right (onto Rte 139, the road to/from Kosuge), and it will be on your left (the second of two nearly identical cafeterias, each with vending machines in front. If you cross a second bridge and make a second right turn (onto 411, to/from Tabayama-mura/Yanagisawa) you have gone too far.

Here are some photos from just in front of it -- one looking at The Restaurant (note lack of any signage), and the other looking out at the bridge that leads to Kazahari:


Google maps suggests that it DOES have a name -- something like ya-ya-tei -- the middle building on this map:

Best, David

P.S. Please don't call her Watanabe-san since I don't have a clue what her name is.

Manfred von Holstein said...

Got it! And I'm glad to report I have not yet been to the wrong one! The only one I have been to once (and duly blogged about at the time) is across both bridges right in front of the first tunnel on 411.