Your Japanese adventure begins with a group welcome meeting in your hotel at 6pm. However, as one of the most historically important cities in Japan, we recommend getting in early to get yourself acquainted. Kyoto was once Japan’s capital city, and home to the emperor between 794 and 1868. To gain an insight into how the emperor lived, visit the Sento Imperial Palace within the beautiful Kyoto Imperial Park. Yet the places to discover don’t stop there! Because a lot of Kyoto escaped destruction in WWII, there are thousands of shrines, temples and zen gardens to wander around.
Your first day of cycling starts along the Katsura River, then onward past traditional Japanese houses and gardens to Arashiyama. Residing on the Westerly outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is known for its memorising bamboo forests, which you will have the chance to immerse yourself in. After, cycle to the Tenryuji and Ryoanji Temples before ambling down the Philosophers Path, lined with cherry trees. If you are lucky enough to visit in early April, be prepared to feel awed by the vibrant colours of the trees blossoming. Once back in Kyoto, you will be invited to join an orientation tour of the Gion District where you can witness Geisha in the labyrinth of alleyways.
Today you will ride on a traffic free cycle path along the riverside to another of Japan’s previous capitals. Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital, beginning in 710 under the name of Heijo. Once in Nara, you will be introduced to the largest wooden structure in the world, which houses the Giant Buddha. Another important landmark in Nara is the Todaiji Temple built in 752 and one of Japans most historically significant temples. As you explore Nara, look out for the free roaming wild deer – they’re very cute! En route home (which involves a train too), you will ride over the Nagarebashi Bridge. Featured in many samurai dramas, the bridge is 356m long and made entirely out of wood.
Give your legs a rest today on the train that takes you to the gateway for Noto Peninsula. Kanazawa is another of Japan’s cities to escape destruction during WWII and is located just south of Noto Peninsula. Upon arriving, you can get to know what the city has to offer on a short, leisurely cycle. One of Kanazawa’s most famous attractions is it’s outstanding landscape garden, Kenrokuen. The garden is included in the three best landscape gardens in Japan, and will leave you feeling relaxed and inspired. As part of your short ride, you will also visit the old Geisha and Samurai districts, where Geisha’s have been entertaining since the 17th century.
Over the next four days, you will cycle into the heart of Noto Peninsula, well known for rugged coastal scenery. Here the Japanese concept of Satoumi exists, which is defined by the coast having a strong connection to human interaction. Your first ride will take you on a scenic coastal route to the Myojoji Temple where you can learn about Nichiren Buddhism. The Japanese Buddhist movement focuses on individual empowerment for a more peaceful world. After the Myojoji Temple, cycle on the Chirihama Beach Drive, which is an 8km stretch of beach along the Sea of Japan. Pass by the Hatagoiwa Rocks, said to be home to sacred spirits.
Slightly shorter than yesterdays route, today heads northward with more jaw dropping coastal landscapes guiding the way. Admire picturesque rice paddies and beautiful mountains. En route to the lacquerware making port-town of Wajima, enjoy a couple beach stops. The first, Masuhogaura Beach, is home to the ‘worlds longest bench’, which we think is the perfect place to rest those legs! Then, relax briefly on Kamonoura Beach’s white sand before visiting the culturally rich Kadomi House. Built in the 1871, the house belonged to a small cargo vessel wholesaler and features tatami mat flooring and a port that harboured ships.
Prepare yourself for a tough, yet incredibly rewarding day of cycling as you hug the Sea of Japan’s dramatic coastline. Admire the Shiroyone Senmaida, aka ‘A Thousand Rice Paddies in Shiroyone’ as the 1004 rice paddies cling to the steep slope and fold into the still sea waters below. Onward from Shiroyone Senmaida you will pass through villages and waterfalls, as well as the Sosogi ‘Kissing Tunnel’, which is a tunnelled rock formation beside the Sosogi coast. Another highlight of today’s route is the unique salt farm, where the oldest method of salt-making called ‘Agehama’ prevails. Kick your feet up after arriving in Suzu (smallest city in Japan) or wander to the pottery shop and sea front.
For the last day of cycling in Noto Peninsula you’ll ride south, with scenic views of traditional villages and towering mountains, as well as more gorgeous beaches that are hard to get enough of. Although today is another long day in the saddle, you will be treated to a relaxing evening in the natural onsen hot springs to help soothe the muscles. The cycling route finishes in Anamizu, where you will board a train to Wakura Onsen, a historic town known for its hot springs. Japan is filled with hot springs, due to the geothermic activity in nearly every region. Traditionally, the onsens were used as public baths, with inns built around hot springs.
Say goodbye to Japan’s countryside, and hello to the exciting organised chaos that is Tokyo. Vibrant streets weave between both cultural and modern landmarks, creating a scene that feeds curiosity. From Wakuru Onsen, instead of cycling, experience the thrill of Japan’s famed train network. Sit back and watch daily life fast forward on a Shinkanesn (bullet train), where countryside will soon merge into city. Upon arrival into Tokyo, which will be bang on time without a doubt, join the orientation walk. Get acquainted with Tokyo’s bustling nighttime by observing the streets in their most active and raw form.
Rise and shine to the centre of Tokyo, which was likely wide awake much before you (did it even sleep?!). Today you will cycle two routes using local paths that cut through the city to avoid crowds and heavy traffic. You’ll be steeped in fascinating architecture that illustrates the city’s remarkable ability to adapt to new conditions. Ride under the cherry trees of Ueno Park, stop by Akihabara Gadget Town, then into the dazzling Ginza district all before lunch. After a delicious and culturally exciting experience eating sushi at the famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, your second route will lead you to the Edo-era Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower and much, much more…
It’s always a sad time leaving Japan, as the lure to explore more always creeps in. Check out time is 11am, so if your flight isn’t until the evening, or you do really want to stay longer, feel free to continue your Japanese adventure. There are no planned activities for the day, so talk to your leader for tips of what to do and research the endless web guides.
Cycling the heart of Japan is a thrilling experience, yet also provides the chance to unwind amongst peaceful countryside and soothing Buddhist temples. Experience a more traditional way of life in and around Kyoto, one of Japans old capital cities, where bamboo forests and Geisha districts prevail. Further North West to the Noto Peninsula and a dramatic coastal scene offers fantastic beaches along with a jaw dropping rice paddy that sits on the edge of a sea cliff. Finally, the bustling city of Tokyo blows everyone’s mind, with its vibrant streets and constant buzz providing new curiosities on every corner.