Japan- A Secret Cycling Paradise

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Japan is a country known for its advanced technology, neon lights, and bustling cities. 

For many, a trip to Japan is a bucket list destination. Authentic sushi and noodle dishes, futuristic hotels and restaurants, and streets lined with pop culture merchandise give the country an electrifying draw, however spots like Shibuya Crossing or the alleys of Akihabara are hardly the most cycling friendly. 

So, it might come as a surprise to some that Japan is also home to some of the world’s most breathtaking cycling paths. Outside of it’s busy cities, Japan is home to many beautiful rural villages, mountain ranges, and fields, which provide incredible scenery for any cycling journey.

Cycling in Japan. © Robert Thomson Flickr
Cycling in Japan. © Robert Thomson Flickr

Yes, cycling in Japan should be on every cyclist’s radar, with it’s lush woodlands, meticulously tended gardens, and ancient temples scattered across the country. And that’s not mentioning all the mouthwatering food and authentic produce that can be found along the way. 

Explore.com offers a 13-day adventure across the cycling landscape of Japan, starting in the historic city of Kyoto and finishing in the capital city of Tokyo. With a history of exceptional biking tours around Asia, their itinerary is sure to have any cycling fan captivated. 

Kick Things Off in Kyoto

Kyoto is a city of many wonders, and the first day of the adventure allows visitors to explore, and fully immerse themselves in the culture and sights of the city. Being one of the few cities in the area to survive the bombings of WW2, the city is home to many ancient temples to a variety of local gods, as well as an assortment of heritage sights and war memorials. Shrines set amidst colourful manicured gardens are a must see in the area, before the tour sets off in earnest.

Day 2 will see a more focused trek around Kyoto, with a guide leading the way through some of the city’s must see sights via bike. A ride along the Philosophers Path is certain to mesmerise, with the picturesque walkways and foliage making for a gorgeous scene. 

Path of philosophy, 2004. © Stephane D'Alu/ Wikipedia
Path of philosophy, 2004. © Stephane D’Alu/ Wikipedia

The tour is also set to make the cycling journey along the Kamo river, where the Tofukuji Temple is on the list as one of the temples to visit. This temple’s rock gardens are home to 1001 statues to the Goddess of Mercy, Kannon Bodhisattva, and is just an appetiser to the many other elaborate and wondrous temples Japan has to offer. 

A train ride over to Kanazawa is next on the list, a district most famous for the Kenrokuen Gardens. This 11 hectare garden is considered by many as one of Japan’s best, and considering just how many landscape gardens can be found in Japan, this title would not have been one easily won. 

Japan’s Beaches- A Cyclists Dream

Chirihama Beach is the destination of Day 4, and for cyclists, this beach is heaven. Located north of Kahoku, this beach has sands far denser than average, allowing it to be cycled across with ease. No worries of sinking or getting stuck here. 

The coastline remains the backdrop for the journey over the next few days, with a ride and subsequent stay around the city of Wajima. 12th Century temples and many beautiful gardens pave the route into Wajima, and once there, a visit to Wajima Market is a must.

Freshly caught fish and local produce can be found at the Wajima market, alongside Wajima made lacquerware- some of the best in Japan. Be sure to leave a bit of space in your suitcase for this spot!

The coastal route will then continue on Day 7 to Noto Ushitsu. The area has in effect been given the status of National Park, meaning that there are very few buildings and man-made constructs to be seen. Rural, and surprisingly remote, it is easy to forget that this spot resides within the same country as Tokyo, and some of the most advanced cities in the world. 

Day 8 is the final day along the coast, with a cycling trip to Nanao Bay, and to its adjacent town, Wakura Onsen. The area is known for it’s hot springs; natural formations of hot water in the earth with many holding many healing qualities. The hot water will do wonders for any cycling aches and pains after the multi day sealine trek, and due to its place in the earth is also said to perform wonders for the immune system and skin. 

Monkeys Can Be A Common Sight in Japans Hot Springs. © Pixabay
Monkeys Can Be A Common Sight in Japans Hot Springs. © Pixabay

So unwind, relax, and use the day to wash away any pains or worries. Also use this day to check out the array of locally sourced seafood, with fresh oysters and traditionally served shrimp just waiting to be tried. 

Cycling Citybound to Tokyo

Through Days 9-11, the journey will make its way inland. Passing by more relaxing hot springs and bath houses, this journey will also see thrilling climbs through Japans mountainsides, ending in Shirakawa-go. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains many homes that have stood for centuries, being traditionally built and meticulously maintained to this day. It is truly a spectacle, to be able to cycle through a slice of history.

The trip concludes in Tokyo, for the final two days of the trip. Cycling is optional when exploring this metropolis, with many sites to be seen and experiences to be had. Whether it be taking a ride up the Tokyo Tower, visiting the Studio Ghibli Museum, or cycling through the city to visit the many shrines tucked away from the busy streets, these final days are certainly ones to look forward to.

Happy cycling!

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