Content and photos by Brian Southwick Greetings, Bikepackers, from the Land of the Rising Sun. I am Brian Southwick, an expat from the US, and with long-time friend and cycling mate, Kiwi Don Speden, am attempting to introduce cycling’s exciting combination of biking and backpacking to Japan, where the two activities are popular but unintegrated. Don and I have been avid readers of Bikepackers Magazine for some time and enthusiastically follow the race and ride reports published therein, experiencing vicariously the drama of endurance racing and the serener enjoyment of weekend bikepacking excursions. We have watched from afar as organized bikepacking events have proliferated and grown in popularity in our respective home countries. Earlier this year articles in these pages chronicled New Zealand’s premier bikepacking events, the Great Southern and Kiwi brevets. Moreover, it seems hardly a week goes by without coverage of similar events back home stateside. The two of us long to do more than just read and dream of taking part in such events ourselves. While we head for the hills on overnight or multi-day trips whenever our busy schedules permit, we find it somewhat frustrating that the few brevets (and cycling events in general) held in Japan are geared primarily toward road cyclists. Thus it was that one evening some months back, with a few cans of brew for lubricant, the Castle to Castle Brevet was conceived. Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 11.14.39 AM Linking the castle towns of Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, and Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, the 250 km (155 mi) brevet incorporates a significant off-road section, in that respect unique in Japan. In addition, the Castle to Castle is a free ride, another departure from the norm. With thousands of meters of climbing and beautiful scenery along the route, we have high hopes for the future popularity of the event and anticipate that bikepacking itself will experience a Grand Depart of sorts in Japan. If you call Japan home or plan to be in the neighborhood later this year, mark your calendar for September 24-26 and join Don and me for the country’s first ever bikepacking brevet, the Castle to Castle. And in the meantime you can follow us at . Thanks, and pleasant pedaling. The photos are from a 5-day bikepacking excursion in Niigata and Fukushima in fall, 2013. Castle to Castle Brevet Rice fields in various stages of harvest near the Niigata/ Fukushima border, a common sight in Japan in September and October. Castle To Castel Brevet Thatch-roof houses in a trad village near Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima. Castle to Castle Brevet Suruga Castle, Aizuwakamatsu, the terminus of the brevet

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