Cycling in Japan

16 days
from
£4,599
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Trip code: 
MOJ
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
New - Cycling
Min age:
16
Group size:
6–16

Discover the best of rural and modern Japan on two wheels

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.

Highlights

  • Cycle rural roads through peaceful Japanese countryside
  • Discover temples, zen gardens and geisha districts in Kyoto
  • Ride along the picturesque shores of the Noto Peninsula
  • Stay in authentic guesthouses and bathe in hot springs
  • Visit the UNESCO historic village of Shirakawa-go

Key information

  • 13 nights 3-star hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese guesthouses), some with shared facilities
  • 14 days land only/16 days flight inclusive
  • 9 days cycling with partial vehicle support (limited seats)
  • 90% tarmac roads, 10% country lanes or gravel paths
  • Mainly undulating with a few steady climbs
  • Special cherry blossoms and autmun colours departures
  • Local bike hire included

What's included

  • 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

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request for 4 nights only at hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

9

Pace:

 Moderate: 13-16km/8-10miles an hour

Terrain:

Low altitude; 90% tarmac, 10% gravel paths and country lanes

Day by day breakdown
Day 415.0km/9.0miles
Day 575.0km/46.0miles
Day 670.0km/43.0miles
Day 770.0km/43.4miles
Day 865.0km/40.0miles
Day 1075.0km/46.0miles
Day 1173.0km/45.0miles
Day 1265.0km/40.0miles
Day 1450.0km/31.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Tokyo
to
Kyoto
  • Day 1

    Depart London

  • Day 2

    Arrive Tokyo

    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. 

  • Day 3

    Morning orientation walk and free afternoon to explore Tokyo

    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.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Train to Kanazawa, the gateway to the Noto Peninsula; afternoon cycle loop and sightseeing

    In the morning we take the express train (approx. 4hrs) 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. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Cycle from Kanazawa to Togi, along rugged coastline and past fishing villages

    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)

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 6

    Rewarding coastal ride to Wajima; enjoy scenic ocean views and rock formations en route

    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.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 7

    Early morning optional market visit; cycle to Suzu; enjoy coastal views and verdant rice paddies of Senmaida

    This morning we have the option of joining the leader for an early visit to visit the Wajima Morning Market, believed to date back over a thousand years. Every day vendors and ederly 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.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    Final ride along the Noto Peninsula to Anamizu; train to the popular hot spring resort of Wakura Onsen

    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 town of Anamizu where our ride concludes. A short train ride (approx. 1hr) takes us to Wakura Onsen, a popular hot spring resort which history goes back thousands of year when, 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.

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 9

    Travel to UNESCO Shirakawa-go village by train and bus; overnight in a traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouse.

    Today we take a break from cycling and experience a dramatic change of landscape as we travel inland by train and then bus (approx. 3hrs) 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.

     

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 10

    Challenging ride to Hida Takayama, at the foothills of the Japanese Alps.

    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 will 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. Tonight we stay again in a traditional Japanese guesthouse where we have the opportunity to experience the traditional lifestyle and hospitality. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Cycle to the castle town of Gujo Hachiman, past little villages, local shrines and paddy fields

    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.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Cycle along the Nagara River to the town of Gifu

    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.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    Travel to Kyoto by train; free time for sightseeing.

    Today we have another day off the bikes. After breakfast we travel by train (approx. 2hrs) 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.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Final circular ride in Kyoto exploring the pleasant district of Arashiyama and two seasonal temples

    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 restaurant in the city.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Depart Kyoto.

    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.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Arrive London.

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Japan

Most nationalities do not require a visa to visit Japan. Australian and South African passport holders do require a visa; these will usually be issued on arrival but it is worth verifying this at your embassy before travel.

Vaccinations

Japan

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 5 dinners are included in the cost of the trip.

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 is 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 always to hand 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 (see extra expenses) and will be used to provide snacks and drinks during the rides.

 

Weather

Japan has four very distinct seasons although weather patterns vary across the island. Our aim has been to avoid the extremely cold winters and humid summers and settle for the more pleasant climbs of spring and autumn which are more comfortable for cycling. Temperatures in March, April and November will be around 14-17ºC during daytime and as cold as 7-10º C during the night. May, June and October are usually milder with temperatures ranging from 14ºC at night up to 27ºC during the day, although the likelihood of rain is higher during these months. It is important to be prepared for cold weather in the interior in the region of Shirakawa and Takayama.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is classified as Road, Activity Level: 4: Moderate/Challenging
9 days cycling, average 60km/day (37 miles), Partial vehicle support (with limited seats).

On this trip we cycle more than 500km over 9 days with an average of 60km per day so a good level of fitness is required. We cycle mostly on surfaced roads with a few sections on country lanes, cycle paths and gravel. The routes are mainly undulating but they get hillier on the inland section to Takayama and Shirakawa-go where you will face some steady climbs. A support vehicle (with limited seats) accompanies the rides throughout the tour, except for the city bike tours in Kanazawa and Kyoto.

Routes follow mainly quiet back roads with low levels of traffic, but this does increase when approaching towns. We aim to cycle most of the route door-to-door, with only a few transfers and train rides organised to shorten some distances and avoid busier roads. Most rides will include some short sections through tunnels which are lit.

This trip is great for a first time visit to Japan as it encompasses the varying different aspects of the destination, from the serenity and history of Kyoto to the extraordinary and modern Tokyo.
Some nights will be spent in traditional rural accommodation and guesthouses with shared facilities which do not run along the same lines as western hotels.

Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels and traditional ryokans

On this trip we use a mix of 3-star hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns).

The hotels are usually centrally located and have modern facilities, wifi, en suite rooms and English speaking staff. 
For 4 nights during the trip we stay in ryokans, comfortable traditional inns where we are able to get a close feel for the timeless rhythms and customs of the Japanese countryside. Ryokans, while comfortable and full of local character, do not run along the same lines as western hotels. Rooms do not generally have private facilities and bedding is generally in the Japanese style with thick futon mattresses placed on tatami mats on the floor. Bathrooms and showers (see section on Onsen below) are generally communal. 
In the UNESCO town of Shirakawa-go we usually spend 1 night in a gassho-zukuri farmhouse. In the traditional style, guest rooms come with tatami mat floors, futons and a low table. Toilets are typically modern but shared. Due to limited availbility the group may stay in different houses near each other and the accommodation may be dormitory style with up to 6 people (split according to gender) sharing a room. Staying here is a unique and memorable experience.

A single supplement can be booked for the 4 nights' hotel accommodation in Kyoto and Tokyo for a supplement of £180, payable at the time of booking and subject to availability. Elsewhere a single room may be available locally on payment of a supplement but, as some of the hotels and ryokans used are quite small, this cannot be guaranteed.

Onsen (Japanese public bath)
For many visitors to Japan the onsen is a somewhat unfamiliar territory. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them. The combination of a strict bathing etiquette, the fact that nudity is involved and compulsory and that the water temperature is often hotter than most jacuzzis can cause some reluctance for first timers. Once the courage is mustered however, you may discover that a dip in an onsen is likely to become one of the highlights of your visit to Japan. Please note that it is very possible that you may be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos.

List of hotels normally used:

Tokyo: Sunroute Asakusa Hotel
Kanazawa: Garden Hotel 
Togi: Kogetsukan Ryokan
Wajima: Route Inn Hotel
Suzu: Noto Jiso Ryokan
Wakura Onsen: Ryokan
Shirakawago: Gassho Zukuri Houses
Takayama: Murayama Ryokan
Gujo: Hachiman: Gujo Inter Business Hotel
Gifu: Hotel Resol 
Kyoto: Hotel Palace Side

 

Call us on
0208 772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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