Since this route travels virtually across the entire island, you have literally dozens of options. Here are a few of them:

One potential detour that you might consider taking at the very beginning of this trip is a short detour north to Usa to see Usa Jinja, the fabulous Shinto shrine that is the headquarters for all of the "Hachimangu" shrines throughout Japan. It's one of the largest and most unusual shrines in Japan, and well worth a look if you're anywhere near the area. Following the coast up and around from Beppu would add 100 km to your trip, so it would probably be better to cycle just a bit up the coast and cut inland along the icky route 10 (a little under 40 km) or smaller roads (route 24 and a succession of smaller roads, or routes 500 and 387). Alternately, start from Moji or Shin-Moji (unfortunately, this requires a 50 km ride down a busy highway). Or just see Usa Shrine as part of the North Kyushu route.

At journey's end, another potential sidelight is Ibusuki, a hot springs town some 50 km due south of Kagoshima along the coast (alas, along busy route 226). Besides the hot springs, Ibusuki's chief claim to fame is the experience of sunaburo or "sand-bathing." In the areas where beach sand is heated by underground hot springs, you lie down and people shovel hot sand on top of you. It's an interesting sensation, but in my experience the top sand cools off rather quickly, after which it just feels like a dead weight on your chest. Still, life is about trying new things. In getting there, you might want to skip most of the busy highway by taking the "Ibusuki-Kagoshima Intaa-sen" (Route 17 / 246) through the interior; my map indicates it offers outstanding scenery -- but unfortunately doesn't say whether or not bicycles are allowed. If cyclists are banned from the toll road section at the beginning, take the coast down as far as Route 232 and then cut over to pick it up from the ordinary road section (and thumb your nose at the guys at the gate). Warning: expect some hills. This route ends at Lake Ikeda, which supposedly offers brilliant yellow "na-no-hana" (rape blossoms) in spring and two-meter-long wild rabbits (!).

It's possible to make a complete circuit of Kyushu by including the North Kyushu route between Beppu/Moji and Nagasaki, which includes a lovely bikepath converted from a rural rail line as well as the city of Yanagawa where you can take boats poled through the canals of the town -- a famous Japanese tour destination that comparatively few Western guidebooks even mention. Needless to say, the lovely Chinese-influenced city of Nagasaki is well worth a few days all by itself. There are many ways of making the circuit: you could (b) start in reverse, from Kagoshima up to the Yamanami, cutting off it at the Mizuwake-toge@@@ pass (707m) to see the sights in the northeast) or (b) start by spending a few days in Nagasaki, then head east to join up with the Yamanami. That would have you going DOWN the Yamanami rather than up, which might be better - but personally I like the idea of kicking back in Nagasaki for a few days at journey's end (or midpoint), so I might opt to do this in reverse. Alternately, you could head all the way along the Yamanami into Kumamoto (site of one of Japan's few black castles) and then on to Nagasaki, then head south by ferry or the like and rejoin the route at Ebino or thereabouts. If you're a cycling fanatic or completeist, then you’ll want to make a full circle: Beppu down to Kagoshima, then up along the west coast to the beautiful scenery and Christian sites south of Nagasaki, then pick up the North Kyushu route and end up at either Moji or Beppu for the ferry home.

If cycling across one island isn't enough for you, you could always take a ferry to next-door-neighbor Shikoku -- the Kansai Kisen ferries that go from Osaka/Kobe to Beppu stop off at Matsuyama along the way. Many other ferries link the islands as well; check your jikokuhyo (train schedule) or consult a travel agent.

If you want to extend your trip in the other direction, you should know that Kagoshima is the starting point for ferries to Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. I took this ferry many years ago and had a great time with other young travelers on board - but be advised that it takes a good 24 hours, which is a long time if you're in steerage. It’s also almost as expensive as the cheap internet plane fares these days. Islands such as Amami-Oshima also have a reputation for being rather challenging (lots of hills) but lovely. Campers in the Ryukyu Island should be aware of the poisonous "habu" snake which infests the undergrowth; check with the local residents about which places are safe for camping (these snakes try to avoid humans, and there appear to be few problems). Needless to say, hikers should wear thick boots and pants and exercise extreme caution.

You could even make your trip an international one - ferries from either Kagoshima or Okinawa also make their way to other parts of Asia, including Taiwan and Hong Kong.

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