Cycling in Japan.

Pelotome –
around Japan on a bicycle.

~ Around The World on a Bicycle, Thomas Stevens (1888).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75

November 1886 – Published 1888.

Around the World on a Bicycle.

“From Teheran to Yokohama” was the second illustrated volume of Tom Steven’s pioneering ride around the globe and covers the second half of his journey on a fifty-inch Pope “Columbia” high-wheeler, from Persia to Japan.

Arriving at “the beautiful harbor of Nagasaki”, on a Japanese steamer from Shanghai, China, he starts on his final leg “of eight hundred miles through lovely Nippon to Yokahama” on 23rd November 1886.

Cycling “over a pass called the Himi-toge”, he reaches “the pretty little village of Yagami” before continuing to “the clean streets of Ōmura, a good-sized town”, “over hill and down dale” towards “Ureshino and the baths”, which he skips to remain on the road “to the village of” Takeo and Ushizu, “passing through a mile or more of Saga’s smooth and continuously ridable streets.”

Passing through Nakabaru, “Futshishi”, and Fukouka, “following for some distance along the bank of a large canal to Hakama,” before “traversing for some miles a hilly country, covered with pine-forest” to Ashiya.

The “road follows up alongside a small tidal canal to Hakamatsu, traversing a lowland country, devoted entirely to the cultivation of rice,” and from there “to Kokura the country is hilly and broken.”

“The jinrikisha road leads a couple of ri farther to Dairi ; thence footpaths traverse hills and wax-tree groves for another two miles (a ri is something over two English miles) to the village of Moji,” where he obtains “passage on a little ferry-boat across to Shimonoseki,” “on the mainland of Japan.”

“Following the shore in a general sense”, he passes through Hiroshima, “the important city of ” Okayama, “now within a hundred miles of Kobe, north of which place ‘Murray’s Handbook’ will prove of material assistance.”

“Beyond Himeji one leaves behind the mountains, emerging upon a broad, level, rice-producing plain,” and a “broad street leading through Hiogo to Kobe” and Ozaka, before “following the course of the Yodo-gawa” to Kyoto – “from the eighth century until 1868, the capital of the Japanese empire.”

“At Kioto begins the Tokaido, the most famous highway of Japan, a road that is said to have been the same great highway of travel, that it is today, for many centuries. It extends from Kioto to Tokio, a distance of three hundred and twenty-five miles,” and sees the Englishman “pass through the hills to Otsu, on the lovely sheet of water known as Biwa Lake,” “the village of Kusatsu,” Sakanoshita, and “through lovely valleys and pine-clad mountains to” Yokkaichi.

Continuing to Kuwana, “Miya” (Atsuta-ku, Nagoya), “Okabe and the pass of Utsunoya”, to Shizuoka – “the view of Fuji, now but a short distance ahead, is extremely beautiful,” – “it is indeed a glorious ride around the crescent bay, through the sea-shore villages of Okitsu, Yui, Kambara, and Iwabuchi to Yoshiwara” and Mishima.

His bicycle is carried over “the famous Hakone Pass, which for sixteen miles offers a steep surface of rough bowlder-paved paths” to Hakone, Odawara, Totsuka, and Kanagawa.

“Kanagawa is practically a suburban part of Yokohama : one Japanese – owned clock observed here points to the hour of eight, another to eleven, and a third to half past-nine, but the clock at the Club Hotel, on the Yokohama bund, is owned by an Englishman, and is just about striking ten, when the last vault from the saddle of the bicycle that has carried me through so many countries is made. And so the bicycle part of the tour around the world, which was begun April 22, 1884, at San Francisco, California, ends December 17, 1886, at Yokohama.”

After boarding a Pacific mail steamer at Yokohama, Stevens arrives back in San Francisco seventeen days later. completing his trip around the world.

  • By Thomas Stevens.
  • Published by Sampson, Lowe, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London.


“New sensations of astonishment await me as the upper portion of the smooth boulevard is reached, and I find myself at the entrance to a tunnel about five hundred yards long and thirty feet wide.

The tunnel is lit up by means of big reflectors in the middle, shining through the gloom as one enters, like locomotive head lights.

It is difficult to imagine the Japs going to all this trouble and expense for mere jinrikisha and pedestrian travel ; yet such is the case, for no other vehicular traffic exists in the country.

It is the only country in which I have found a tunnel constructed for the ordinary roadway, although there may be similar improvements that have not happened to come to my notice or ear.

One would at least expect to find a toll-keeper in such a place, especially as a person has to be employed to maintain the lights, but there is nothing of the kind.”

~ Around The World on a Bicycle, Thomas Stevens (1888).

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