Cycle the land of the Samurai; temples, geishas and incredible Tokyo and Kyoto
There is no better way of experiencing the ever-changing landscapes of Japan than on two wheels, as we pedal from the rugged seascapes and wild beaches of the Noto Peninsula to picturesque farmlands and remote mountainous regions of Takayama and UNESCO Shirakawa-go, where we are able to get a close feel for the timeless rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. From temples, shrines and market visits, to hot springs and overnights in ryokans – traditional Japanese guesthouses – this trip offers excellent rural cycling without compromising on the cultural elements. No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to Kyoto, Japan's age-old capital, with its peaceful Zen gardens and geisha districts and futuristic Tokyo: sprawling, inimitably busy and extraordinary.
All breakfasts and 5 dinners are included. Japanese cuisine is usually one of the main highlights of any trip to Japan. It is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes which are usually prepared with seasonal ingredients. Seafood is very common, and it usually comes grilled or deep fried. Sushi and sashimi aside, other staple dishes include Soba or Udon noodles, Sukiyaki (meat, fish and vegetables cooked in broth) and Yakiniku (grilled meat). The included dinners are usually taken at ryokans (traditional guesthouses) which will serve a /kaiseki/ style dinner, a multi-course meal including a dozen of tiny dishes prepared with locally-sourced seasonal ingredients. When food is not included, your leader will be able to recommend the best local eateries and arrange some group meals for a full immersion in Japan's varied and excellent cuisine. Please note that in Japan the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free, strict vegetarian (no fish/seafood) or vegan is minimal or non-existent. The group meals arranged by the tour leader will be in traditional eateries where the choices of vegan dishes may be limited to simple salads or boiled rice, however in In Kyoto and Tokyo a number of vegan restaurants are available. You may also find it beneficial to bring some 'cycling snacks' with you from home if you have high energy bars or gels that you like to use during a ride. For those who wish to contribute a kitty is normally arranged and will be used to provide snacks and drinks during the rides.
The group flight to Tokyo Narita airport departs in the afternoon from London.
Arrive in Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital boasting a unique contrast of ultramodern and traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. Those on the group flights from London will be met on arrival at Narita Airport this afternoon and transferred to our hotel located in the city centre. With so much to see and do in Tokyo, we recommend arriving a day or two early to explore the array of attractions at your own pace. Exodus can book alternative flights and additional accommodation for you prior departure; please contact our Operations or Sales teams for a quote.
Today we enjoy a half day orientation tour of some Tokyo's highlights, starting from the popular district of Asakusa, where we visit Semso-ji, a Buddhist temple dating back to the 7th Century. We approach the temple via the Nakamise, a shopping street where we can find a variety of traditional, local snacks and souvenirs. We then continue towards the area of Ueno and walk through the beautiful public park filled with temples, shrines and about half a dozen museums. The afternoon is free for individual sightseeing and your leader will be giving recommendations on other must-see attractions in the city such as Shibuya, known for the busy crossing, and Meiji Shrine.
In the morning we take the express train (approx. 2.5 hours) to Kanazawa, in the western Ishikawa Prefecture, an atmospheric town that once rivalled Kyoto as the historical jewel of mainland Japan. After lunch we enjoy a short cycling loop around the city, a good opportunity to fine-tune the bikes whilst enjoying some of the main attractions in town. We will ride through the popular Nagamachi Samurai District, an area which preserves a historic atmosphere featuring samurai residences, narrow lanes and water canals. We also visit Kenrokuen, one of Japan's most beautiful landscape gardens, which is particularly spectacular during cherry blossom and autumn season.
This morning we leave Kanazawa and cycle along the Sea of Japan until reaching the popular Chirihama Beach driveway, where we pedal comfortably on the hard packed sand beach for about 8km. This route is a unique attraction in Japan as it is open not only to bikes but also to cars, allowing drivers to get really close to the water's edge. Small stalls selling hamayaki (grilled shellfish and fish) are set up along the coast from spring to summer and offer a good opporunity for a refreshment stop. En route we also visit Myojoji Temple dating back to the 17th Century and boasting a wonderful early five storied Edo Period pagoda. We continue on the coastal cycling path and then along the dramatic Noto Kongo Coast, often considered the most dramatic section of the Noto Peninsula, until reaching Togi. Here we check in at a traditional Japanese Inn, offering rooms with traditional futon bedding as well as a public bath (onsen)
Today we follow the beautiful coastline north of the Noto Peninsula, as we cycle on quiet back roads lined by traditional wooden houses and rice fields. The coastal journey to Wajima is undulating with some occasional steep climbs but the effort will be rewaded by spectacular views of rugged coastline and interesting rock formations along the way. In the afternoon we settle in our accommodation in Wajima, a city centered around a protected harbor on the Sea of Japan coast and famous for its lively morning market.
This morning we have the option of joining the leader for an early visit to the Wajima Morning Market, believed to date back over a thousand years. Every day vendors and elderly women gather here to sell various goods, including fresh seafood and lacquerware, the most well known local handicraft. We then set off on our bikes and pedal along the remote and rural coastal northern stretch of the Noto Peninsula throughout the day, passing famous picturesque rice fields and salt farms en route. The most famous sight we vist today is Senmaida, a hillside of over 1000 terraced rice fields whose colours and shapes contrast to the background of the blue sea. We reach Suzu late afternoon and check in at our hotel by the sea.
Leaving Suzu, today we cycle the last stretch of the Noto Peninsula as we follow the undulating coastal route around Toyama Bay. Along the way we enjoy coastal views and a scenic landscape dotted by fishing villages until reaching the Wakura Onsen, a popular hot spring resort which history goes back thousands of years. According to a legend, a local fisherman found a wounded white heron curing its body in the ocean’s hot water. Today the local waters rich in natural salts and minerals are still flowing and their healing properties attract large numbers of visitors each year. We will have the opportunity to soak in the hot springs at our traditional accommodation or in one of the public baths in town - a regenerating treat after days of cycling.
Today we take a break from cycling and experience a dramatic change of landscape as we travel inland by train and then bus (approx. 3 hours) to Shirakawa-go, a spectacular secluded moutainous region which was cut off from the rest of the Japan for a long period of time. Villages in this area are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses which were declared a UNESCO site in 1995. Their unique architectural style characterised by steep thatched roofs developed over many generations with the aim of withstanding heavy snowfalls during winter whilst providing a large attic space for the cultivation of silkworms. We arrive in Shirakawa-go in the afternoon in time to enjoy a leisurely walk through the picture-perfect mountain village, with the opportunity to visit some of the oldest buildings. Although not always guaranteed due to limited availbility, we usually spend the night at one or more gassho-zukuri houses, run by a local farmers, allowing us to get a real feel of a Japanese family home.
Today is the most challenging ride of the trip as we cycle inland to Hida Takayama, at the foothills of the Japanese Alps. Riding out of Shirakawa-go, from an altitude of approx. 500m above sea level, we gradually climb up 1100m for the first 45km of the route. There are some wonderful views to be enjoyed along the way, from the picturesque shores of Miboro Lake and quaint rural villages to hillsides and forested valleys which burst in colour during the autumn season. On the last section of the ride we will enjoy two great descents before reaching our destination Hida Takayama, often named Little Kyoto because of the similarity of its architecture and quaint atmosphere.
Today we cycle the Hida Seseragi Highway, a beautiful route which follows the swift mountain streams and one of the most popular places to experience the striking autumn colours in Japan in season. Riding past little villages, shrines and paddy fields, we reach the pleasant riverside town of Gujo-hachiman, known for its pristine waterways and its 16th century castle. Before dinner there is time for a pleasant stroll through the vibrant town's centre and along the atmopsheric canals and waterways which are still used daily by locals for washing rice, vegetables and laundry. Time and energy permitting there is also the option to walk to the hilltop castle built in 1559 by the local feudal lord from where one can enjoy wonderful vistas.
Today's pleasant and more leisurely ride follows the Nagara River, famed across Japan for its clear water and quiet beauty. Some sections of the riverside are paricularly picturesque during cherry blossom season when over 400 cherry trees in full and glorious bloom. We pedal along the river for most of the day and make a stop in the pleasant town of Mino, a century-old production center of high quality traditional Japanese paper. Our final destination today is Gifu where we should arrive in time for an optional visit to the castle located atop Mount Kinka. Overnight in Gifu City.
Today we have another day off the bikes. After breakfast we travel by train (approx. 2 hours) to the wonderful city of Kyoto. With over 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japan's cultural heritage and remains undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cities in Asia. Unlike many other Japanese towns, it escaped the ravages of both the Second World War and modern urban development thereby keeping intact much of the spirit and architecture of traditional Japan. The day is free for individual sightseeing with many highlights awaiting to be explored including Nijo castle, built in 1603 as a residence for the Tokugawa shoguns, Kiyomiduzera temple and the scenic Fushimi Inari Shrine, featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. We also recommend a walk in the historic district of Gion, which is at its most atmospheric in the early evening, when the lanterns are lit and apprentice geishas will flit about the back streets on their way to their appointments.
Today's cycling loop explores some of the best areas and attractions of Kyoto, heading first towards Arashiyama, a pleasant district in the western outskirts of the city. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. After pedalling through its charming centre, via the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge and bamboo grove, we continue back into Kyoto following a different route. En route we stop for a visit to Ryoanji Temple, the site of Japan's most famous rock garden, and the splendid Kinkakuji (also known as the Golden Pavilion), one of Japan's most iconic landmarks. Finally, we cycle via the famous Philosopher's Path, a pedestrian and cycling path that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal in northerns Kyoto, until reaching Kyoto station where our last ride finishes. In the evening the leader will be arranging an optional celebratory farewell dinner in one of the most authentic restaurants in the city.
The group flight usually departs Kyoto late in the evening, meaning there is an additional free day at disposal to enjoy further sightseeing in this marvellous city. Please note that although late check out is not included in the cost of the trip, the hotel provides free lugagge storage facilities. Those travelling on the group flight will transfer to Kyoto airport in the evening by taxi and train.
* All breakfasts and 5 dinners * All accommodation * All transport and listed activities * Flights from London (if booking incl. flights) * Group transfers (for group flights) * Local bike hire
This trip was an excellent intro to Japan! It covered a huge variety from highlights of sprawling Tokyo to rural seaside and mountain villages as well as offering insight into Japanese culture through the eyes of our wonderful local guides, “Tea” and “TaiChi”. Despite the weather being colder and wetter than expected ( trust me, bring full waterproofs especially hands and feet as temps were also near zero in places), the sheer adventure of cycling along a beach, up some challenging climbs to our local ryokan and wonderfully exquisite prepared dinners, the photos relect is all smiling through the weather! The rides were punctuated with well thought out cultural stops and a wonderful selection of lunch spots. I would highly recommend this trip!
Wow what an amazing trip ! Cycling in Japan is a truly fantastic and interesting cycling trip.
This is a great holiday for those who enjoy cycling in great scenery and want to learn a bit about Japanese culture and the Japanese way of life en route. It offers a bit of everything and includes great cycling, lovely countryside, traditional inns with traditional food, rooms, sleeping arrangements and hot springs. The guides make sure that all venues that offer education and enjoyment are visited during the cycling, so that overall one is left with a feeling that one has achieved some insight into Japan which is a very different society from ours. It was an inspirational trip with wonderful guides who made sure that we experienced all that there was to experience.
Japan- an incredibly fascinating country with a culture like no other. The 2 week bike trip was a wonderful way to start to get to know Japan. Of course cycling is the best way to travel anywhere but having guides that explain their beloved country, teach you some of its culture, try to teach you the social skills that the Japanese excel at, getting you to test all the interesting food, giving history lessons and nature lessons, explaining the Shinto or Buddhist religion all the while giving you a great cycling experience makes the entire experience beyond memorable. The choice of the route gave us a good variety places to see. Staying in the Japanese inns ( ryokans) was amazing and definitely a must on any Japan trip. The food is an experience all on its own and if you are a fish lover than you will be in paradise. I really felt that the trip was complete and didn't just focus on one element of Japan so I never felt that I had too much of any one thing which was great. The description of the tour corresponded to what the trip really was and that is always appreciated. In the end, I didn't have too many preconceived notions of what I would be seeing and I can tell you that I was constantly amazed and ended up having enormous respect for the Japanese and their way of life. I thought my own country of Switzerland was well run but Japan wins on that respect. Kudos to the people of Japan and their being so courteous towards us tourists. Weeks later I am still feeling the effects of this trip and it is wonderful. Oh and thanks to Mother Nature for blessing us with the cherry blossoms.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
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