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Cycling in Japan

by Martha Hales

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At first glance, a land of mountains and islands may not be the obvious choice for a cycling holiday, but Japan has some treats in store for anyone who enjoys pedal pushing trips. There are routes to suit all levels of cyclist from gentle one day loops to challenging two week trips, and there’s enough variety to keep even those with the shortest of attention spans interested.

Cycling in Okinawa, Japan

Japan has a reputation as a highly urbanised, modern destination, but take a few days out of the famous cities to meander through the back roads by bike and you will soon discover that Japan’s countryside moves to a very different beat. Rural areas are scattered with farms and villages, picturesque landscapes and charming traditions ideal for bike touring. Cycling pace is perfect for taking in the scenery and getting into the heart of local life yet covering enough ground to allow you to see a lot during your holiday.

bicycles in rural japan

Our handpicked local experts are perfectly placed to create a bespoke itinerary based on your requirements, so if you want to keep the cycling to half days or there is a particular route you are keen on completing, they will know the best way to incorporate that into your broader plans while making sure you are seeing the authentic Japan and enjoying some wonderful accommodation too.  

With their help, we’ve rounded up a few ideas to inspire you, including places to head for and practical tips to consider when planning your Japanese cycling adventure.

Cycling the Noto Peninsula

This scenic backwater is tucked away on Japan’s northern coast, curving north from Kanazawa city. There’s no shortage of beguiling coastal views on this cycle route, which takes in some lovely old fishing villages, paddy fields and the hilly interior.

Noto Peninsula

Following quiet lanes behind the beach or wending through ancient village streets, this is a 400 kilometre route in total, though of course shorter versions are perfectly possible. Highlights include the rugged rock formations along the coast, the artisan lacquerware workshops of Wajima, and the excellent seafood available all over the peninsula.

The Noto Peninsula in Japan

The Shimanami Kaido Route

If 70 kilometres of dedicated cycle trails among some of Japan’s most captivating landscapes tempts you, then consider the Shimanami Kaido. The route begins in Hiroshima prefecture and encounters six different islands before it ends in Ehime prefecture.

Tatara Bridge on the Shimanami Kaido Route, Japan

70 kilometres can be tackled in one day if you are a fit regular cyclist, or you can subdivide it as you please to take in the seascapes at a more leisurely pace. Highlights of this car free route include Seto Inland Sea National Park, and cycling across one of the longest cable-fixed bridges in the world: the iconic Tatara Bridge.

Tatara Bridge in Japan

Pedalling Cape to Cape

If you are into endurance cycling and 100 kilometres a day for several days doesn’t fill you with fear, the Cape to Cape route could be for you. It’s not a trip to be undertaken without proper preparation and training, and a genuine love of spending time in the saddle.

Harbour on Shimoda Cape

1,000 kilometres of roads and trails takes you from Kanazawa at the base of the Noto Peninsula on the Sea of Japan, right across the nation to Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula which is located on the Pacific coast. Highlights include biking over the highest sealed road in the country, breezy coastal trails behind empty beaches and routes that weave around glittering lakes among the foothills of Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji at dawn


Practical tips for cycling in Japan

  • Be prepared to get wet as Japanese weather can be very changeable. Pack quick-dry, lightweight clothing and windproof, waterproof outer layers. Spring and autumn are often the most settled months with the best overall weather picture for outdoor activities.

Cycling in the rain in Tokyo

  • If you plan to bring your own bike, which is usually wise if you are doing a multi-day bike tour, you can ship it between major stations quickly and cheaply to enable you to reach your start point by train without the hassle of lugging your bike with you.
  • For energising snacks on the go, Japan is a cyclist's dream destination. There are vending machines all over the place that sell anything and everything, but most importantly cheap and delicious snacks perfect for the road. Look out for umeboshi, salt pickled plums which Japanese cyclists swear by to replace the minerals lost through rigorous exercise.

umeboshi - Japanese pickled plums

  • Staying in traditional ryokan is a great way to combine seeing Japan from the saddle and experiencing traditional Japanese culture and hospitality. Make the most of the blissful onsen (spring fed hot tubs) to ease your tired limbs, and tuck into tasty home cooked meals to replenish all those calories burnt.
  • Lastly (to our right-sided cousins) don’t forget to cycle on the left!

Cycle lanes in Kyoto, Japan

Make it happen

Hop on your bike to see Japan from a new perspective. Choose as much or as little time in the saddle as you like, and leave it to the local experts to put together your ideal itinerary. Get in touch with our handpicked Japan specialists today to get started. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.

Happy pedalling!

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