Exploring Japan by Bicycle | Awesome Trip Ideas

Bicycle infront of a noodle restaurant in Japan
Photo by Kentaro Toma on Unsplash

Disclosure: Untold Wanderlust contains affiliate links. If you click on these links and make a purchase, we will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find our full disclosure policy and privacy policy here.

Everything looks prettier on two wheels. Japan, even more so. Why? Besides being an exceptionally beautiful and culturally rich country that is best explored slowly, Japan is also one of the best and safest countries to bike in. Outside of the big cities, most Japanese country roads have very little traffic, and whatever little traffic you will find, is well-behaved and respectful towards cyclists.

The only word of caution we’d like to add here is that if you’re considering going biking in Japan, it is better to do a guided bike tour with a good operator that specializes in guided tours such as this Japan bike tour operator. This is because while self-guided bike tours are all the rage in Europe and America, in Japan, and the rest of Asia, language and culture become a major barrier.  For instance, did you know that two people are not allowed to ride a bicycle side-by-side on Japanese roads? Or that you can’t ride a bicycle with headphones on in Japan? 

Not just this, having a guide with you also helps you find your way around the delicious Japanese cuisine that you’ll find pretty much everywhere you go. It’s this and plenty of other small things that make a guided tour worth the little extra that you pay for it.

That said, here are five amazing itineraries to explore if you’ve got around a week on your hands to explore Japan on a bicycle.

1. Kyoto to the Sea of Japan

Kyoto is Japan’s cultural capital and should ideally be number 1 on your list of places to explore in Japan, once you’re done with Tokyo. The city of Kyoto itself is a delight to bike through with its landmarks such as the Golden Pavilion and the Kiyomizu Temple. 

For a week-long cycling adventure in Kyoto, you should head due north towards Miyama, along the Yura River. You’ll see hills, fields, and quaint Japanese villages with traditional houses. The terrain is hilly here. 

See also  A Remarkable 2-Day Yogyakarta Itinerary | Route & More

From here you can head towards Fukuchiyama, famous for its castle built in 1576. Next, head east towards the Sea of Japan via Takeda. Spend the last day at Amanohashidate, the famous sandbar in the Tango Peninsula, also known as the gateway to heaven.

2. Eastern Hokkaido

Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island, and also its coldest. Its northern tip, the Shiretoko Peninsula, is just a stone’s throw away from Russia’s Sakhalin. Hokkaido is wild, thickly forested, and full of brown bears. Although, you’re more likely to bump into its famous Sika deers than any bears. 

On a week-long biking trip, it’d be best to start from Abashiri, which has an airport, and then follow the coast towards the Shiretoko peninsula. The scenery is beautiful here. The entire Shiretoko peninsula is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its beautiful coastline where you can watch floating sea ice. This is also a great place for whale watching. 

From Shiretoko, head towards Rausu, famous for its kelp, then take a southward course towards the Akan Mashu National Park. End the cycling in Abashiri so you can fly back conveniently.

3. Shikoku

Shikoku is famous as the setting for the 88 temple pilgrimage which involves doing a circuit of 88 famous Buddhist temples spread out across the island. The pilgrimage is an integral part of the religious and cultural life of Japan.

The presence of Buddhism is ubiquitous in Shikoku, and everywhere you go, you are likely to spot quaint Buddhist temples and contemplating Buddhist monks. In this sense, Shikoku is very reminiscent of Sri Lanka. If Buddhism interests you, and you haven’t been to the Emerald Island yet, make sure a Sri Lanka bike tour is next on your itinerary after Japan.

Getting back to Shikoku, for cyclists, the biggest Shikoku highlight is the Shimanami Kaido, a spectacular highway that runs across 5 islands over the Seto Inland Sea. The highway has its dedicated bike path, so no need to worry about traffic. 

See also  Everything You Need to Know About TEFL in Japan

You can start biking from Onomichi, then ride the Shimanami Kaido, before heading towards Matsuyama, famous for its beautiful castle. Next, ride into the beautiful Nakatsu gorge before riding towards Kochi, renowned for its sake, or Japanese rice wine. Make sure you don’t get too tipsy here, as riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol is also prohibited in Japan.

From here, ride towards Iya Valley, and end your biking in Konpira.

4. Noto Peninsula

Perhaps Japan’s least explored part, the Noto peninsula is home to the Japanese Alps. It also has some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in all of Japan and plenty of rice paddies everywhere. So it’s like Switzerland meets Thailand out here.

If you’ve got 8 days to spend here, start biking from Kanazawa, famous for its gold leaf work. You’ll find gold leaf everywhere in Kanazawa, even in the food. (worry not, it’s edible). 

Next, follow the coast due north towards Wakui and Togi. At Hakui, you even get to ride your bicycle right on the beach on an 8 km-long stretch of packed sand. Next, head south towards Takayama in the foothills of the Japanese Alps.

Visit Gujiyo-Hachiman and Gifu, renowned for their crystal clear mountain streams fed by the snow of the Japanese Alps. You can end a biking trip at Gifu and take a train back to Tokyo.

Final Thoughts

There’s no dearth of places to explore in Japan on a bicycle. Each Japanese island is an entire country in itself. You could spend a whole year exploring this country, and still not be done with it. That said, we’ve compiled the four itineraries that would be the best use of your limited time in Japan. 

If you’re interested in a 14-day backpacking trip across Japan, make sure to have a look at this detailed guide we’ve compiled for backpacking Japan on a budget.

Sayonara and happy traveling across Japan!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.