Cycle Japan

From world-class sushi to legendary geisha, enthralling Japan is the perfect destination to discover by bicycle. Our cycling adventure gives you a slowed down, up close look of this fascinating country and allows ample opportunity to meet locals and glimpse the unique culture of the Land of the Rising Sun. From the temples, shrines and geisha of Kyoto to the frenetic but exhilarating chaos of Tokyo, and the beautiful mountain serenity of the Gifu Prefecture countryside in between, this cycling adventure has it all.

Calender 11 days

Difficulty: Moderate

From £ P/P

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Itinerary

  • Cycling allows you to get closer to the real Japan – from bicycles to Pokemon, serene temples to the organised chaos of the big cities, this classic adventure has it all.
  • Choose to end rewarding days in the saddle with amazing Japanese feasts of sushi, unagi, tempura or even fugu, all washed down with a traditional sake or Sapporo beer.
  • Ride both bikes and trains for the ultimate change of pace.
  • Cycle through peaceful landscapes that show a land far from the big city lights of Tokyo.
  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, World Bicycle Relief. Donations provide school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas with bicycles that provide access to education, healthcare, and income.

Konnichiwa! Welcome to Kyoto. Serving as Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868, Kyoto is the spiritual centre of Zen Buddhism and one of the most historically important cities in Japan. Unlike many of its neighbours Kyoto escaped destruction during World War II and thousands of temples, shrines and other historically invaluable structures survive in the city today. This adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you’ll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Afterwards, head out on an evening walk before enjoying a welcome dinner.

If you arrive early, Kyoto offers a myriad of options to explore. For a taste of Shogun life, head to the World Heritage-listed Nijo Castle, perhaps the best surviving example of castle palace architecture from Japan’s feudal era. See how the Emperor lived at the Sento Imperial Palace within Kyoto Imperial Park, an attractive park in the centre of the city. Or for a quieter moment, you may wish to contemplate silently in one of the serene karesansui (Zen gardens) that dot the city.

After breakfast and a safety talk by your leader, familiarise yourself with your bike and take a short test ride before cycling with the group west from our ryokan to the Katsura River, then north along a dedicated cycling path past traditional houses and community gardens to the ancient imperial resort of Arashiyama. Time allowing stop off for a coffee break in Arashiyama, well-known for its gorgeous bamboo forests. After a caffeine hit and a chance to soak up the peaceful atmosphere, ride on to Tenryuji Temple and Ryoanji Temple, with its famous white Zen rock garden. Pause here to contemplate the sound of one hand clapping and then move on to contemplate some lunch.

Afterwards, cycle east across the north end of Kyoto and then onto the Path of Philosophy and the Higashiyama area before returning to our accommodation. The ride today will be gentle, with only slight elevation on the roads as we head into Arashiyama. We start with a 5 kilometre ride on a main road, then follow dedicated bicycle paths and secondary roads for the rest of the day.

On arrival back into Kyoto, take an evening orientation tour of Kyoto’s Gion district. Observe Geisha and Maiko (apprentice Geisha) from key spots in the city’s old back streets and be tempted by some of the area’s great local restaurants, perhaps doubling back to visit for dinner after the tour has ended.

Kyoto’s streets are laid out in a convenient grid pattern, which is unusual for Japanese cities. In the 8th century, imperial city planners copied the grid layout of Chang’an (now Xian), the capital of the Tang Dynasty China. That’s not the only benefit we reap from the Tang Dynasty today – two well-known Tang engineers, Ma Jun and Zhang Heng, invented the mechanical gear system used by the bikes we ride around this easy-to- navigate city. Arigato Tang Dynasty!

The cycling route takes you through beautiful Japanese scenery on a dedicated riverside cycling path from the old capital of Kyoto to the even older capital of Nara. Here, you’ll see the Giant Buddha housed in the largest wooden structure on the planet. This city is well known for its Todaiji Temple and its cute, free-roaming wild deer. Head south along the river for most of the day, stopping briefly at Nagarebashi Bridge, a 356-metre wooden bridge that is a popular film location for samurai dramas.

Return by train to Kyoto.

Leave Kyoto behind and transport to nearby Otsu, located on the shores of the sprawling Lake Biwa. Today is a long but relaxed ride as you cycle around the mostly flat shoreline of Japan’s largest freshwater lake. Enjoy a lunch stop Omi Hachiman, a tiny historic trading town on the ancient Nakasendo trading route, with its well preserved old buildings and central canal before ending your ride in lakeside Hikone.

While small, Hikone is home to the feudal Hikone Castle, one of only five castles in Japan designated as a national treasure. If you have time it is well worth the visit. Otherwise enjoy a free evening wandering the streets are dining at one of the local cafes and restaurants.

Start the day early and take the train approximately 4 hours north into the heart of the Gifu Prefecture to the hot spring town of Gero Onsen. After checking in to your hotel its time to step back in time and check out the the Gassho Village, an open air museum of farmhouses. These centuries-old traditional steep roofed houses and traditional folk art give you an insight into a Japan far removed form its bustling cities. Take some time to explore then enjoy gather with your fellow cyclists for an included dinner in the evening.

Today its back on your bike, following the Hida River as it winds it’s way between the rolling green hills north to Takayama. Today’s journey takes you through some beautiful scenery as you ride the quiet roads up the valley, flanked by wooded green hills and mountains on both sides.

Arriving into Takayama (also known as Hida-Takayama) in the early afternoon you will have ample time to explore this fascinating small city. Be sure to visit the beautifully preserved old town, dating from the Edo era. The area is home to traditional sake breweries, handicraft shops, and local food stores, offering a unique insight into Japanese culture and lifestyle, and is a great place to unwind after a good day cycling.

Rise early and head out to the famous Takayama morning market, one of the biggest morning markets in Japan. Cruise the many shop and stalls selling everything from fruits and spices to craft wares then it’s time to saddle up for the ride to Gujo Hachiman. At 70 kms/44 miles this is the longest ride of the trip, but all of the climbing is done first, giving you 40kms of mostly downhill cruising on the quiet roads that meander through the mountainous landscape of the island’s winter skiing region. On arrival you will have ample time to wander the quiet streets and canals of this small traditional town and perhaps take in it’s historical centrepiece, the 16th century Hachiman Castle.

Today is your last rural ride as you cycle the undulating but mostly downhill from Gujohachiman to the riverside city of Gifu. While now a modern city Gifu has had a significant impact on Japanese history since the 15th century. Discover a bit of history yourself and stretch your walking legs on a visit to Gifu Castle on nearby Mount Kinkazan – the views are spectacular! The rest of the day is free for you to perhaps visit the museum dedicated to the epic Battle of Sekigahara, further explore or simply relax after a long but rewarding ride.

No trip to Japan is complete without experiencing the country’s legendary train system. Swap your bike for a train and watch the scenic landscape fly by on a  journey (approx. 5 hours) to Tokyo. Hit the streets on arrival for a night-time orientation walk. Explore the contemporary centre of town as well as the old streets, and feel the hum of modern life in this famous city.

Riding distance: None

Hold on to your helmets because there’s a real treat today – two rides in one day! Get a better feel for the different areas of the city this morning as you cycle along the same local paths Tokyoites use to cut through the city. There are surprises, both old and modern, waiting at every turn along the way and architecture aficionados will be in heaven.

Along the way we visit many of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks; the first ride passing along the cherry tree lined paths of Ueno Park, home of Tokyo’s most popular museums and temples, Akihabara gadget town, the ‘Japan Bridge’ district of Nihonbashi, and upmarket the district of Ginza with its dazzling array of high-end shops, galleries and cafes.

We break between rides to enjoy lunch at the famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market before commencing our second ride to see such luminaries as the Edo-era Imperial Palace, the 333m-high Eiffel Tower lookalike Tokyo Tower, the elegant Hachimangu Shrine, Tsukishima (Moon Island), the manmade island in Tokyo Bay, and of course the Skytree Asakusa, at 634m the tallest building in all of Japan

Later enjoy an included farewell dinner then take the rest of the evening to spend as you see fit – enjoy a quiet night, let loose at karaoke, or walk and drink your way across the city with your local leader.

Sadly it’s time to say farewell to this great Japanese adventure. There are no activities planned for the day and you’re able to depart the hotel at any time. Check-out time is 11 am but if you’re departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. If you have time why not check out the amazing Urban Adventures on offer in this eclectic city. Read more at: www.urbanadventures.com/en/tokyo

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Route overview

While the cycling distances on this trip are relatively short (anywhere from 10 to 80km / 6-50 miles of cycling each day) the terrain of the Gifu Prefecture is naturally hilly and the climate can vary dramatically. Most people with a reasonable level of fitness will enjoy the trip, but remember we will always have the support vehicle on hand if you need to take a break for an hour or a day.

To complete this trip it is important that you are confident and competent in riding a bicycle, both solo and in a group environment.

While we always aim to ride to our next accommodation, outside of the main cities a support vehicle will also be with you at all times. Please note that the maximum number of cyclists we can fit in the support vehicle is 6.

On this trip we have a single leader that rides with the group, and another that drives the support vehicle (acting as a back-marker where needed) There may be times when a client is asked to be the back marker if the vehicle cannot travel directly behind the group.

If you feel like doing all the riding but with less effort we have the option of hiring an electric bike (e-bike) on this trip. Limited sizes are available so book quickly!

What’s included

  • 9 days guided & vehicle-supported cycling
  • 9 Days Included Bicycle Hire
  • Kyoto - Gion District walk
  • Kyoto - Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Nara - Todaiji Temple
  • Omi Hachiman historic village visit
  • Gassho Village open air museum
  • Takayama morning market visit
  • Gifu Castle visit
  • Tokyo - Sensoji Temple
  • Tokyo - Tsukiji Fish Market
Whats included

Check Availability

We have put together a fantastic selection of self-guided cycling holidays throughout Europe. All prices shown are per person and exclude flights.

Tip: To book, please select a day of the week that the cycling holiday is operating on. If the tour starts daily, you can pick any date. If there is a specific start date e.g. Saturday or Sunday only, please choose the right day of departure from the list of options.

We are still updating the website with the latest dates and prices, however, all cycling holidays are available. To find out the most up-to-date details, please send us a contact form.

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