Efficient, beautiful, structured, contrasting and mysterious: these are all adjectives that could be used to describe the unique culture of Japan. It is a fascinating blend of old and new, a place where ancient culture combines with cutting-edge technology.
Away from the excitement of cities such as Osaka and stunning Kyoto, this is a country of great natural beauty too, from the Japanese Alps of Central Honshu to iconic Mout Fuji. Transport in Japan is exceptionally efficient, especially the trains (the best way to travel), and its cuisine is now highly fashionable. All of this is set against a backdrop of spas, temples, snow monkeys and, in sakura season, the ubiquitous cherry blossom.
This was an amazingly rich first experience of travelling in Japan. The trip offers an excellent balance with cycling in varied and impressive scenery, countless included visits along the way allowing insight into the history and heritage of the country, and full immersion into the culinary and lifestyle culture.
A wonderful insight to this facinating country. Seeing the country by bike is certainly the best way to do it, giving the opportunity to get an insight into the real Japan and it’s people. We travelled in late November, spot on for autumn colours but obviously run the risk of colder, wet and windy weather. That said a bit of rain and strong headwind are a price worth paying. Accommodation was a mixture local Ryokans and modern hotels. The standard of the hotels was mixed, but generally very good. The food was one of the highlights, lots of real japanese food in all its guises from formal set meals (dressed in traditional kimonos) to simple noodles or curry/rice for lunch. Another highlight was definitely the guide Tatsuya ‘Tea’ along with his driver Tiachi and assistant Akiko. Organisation was calm and slick with clearly a lot of effort going on behind the scenes. The last couple of days are in Kyoto, this is good, but the hords of fellow tourists at the big attractions make you realise how special the time cycling away from the crowds was. If you are thinking of visiting Japan and are modestly cycle fit I would wholeheartedly recommend this trip (and in our case it attracted a very pleasant, like-minded group of people to share our experience).
If ever you wanted proof that cycling is a great way to get to know a country then this is it. And what a country. So different in every respect to the UK. The upside of travelling in November is the glorious colours to be seen all around you, enhanced if you’re lucky by blue skies. The downside, and this was outside anyone’s control even our meticulous leader ‘Tea’, is that the weather can be changeable and quite cold at times.We had some challenging days cycling against a very determined headwind. If you’re a hardy northerner this will be no problem, but if you’re a southern softie bring plenty of layers. Having said that most of the rain fell at night and we were only caught out once and that was at the end of a ride, so you could say that luck was on our side. For the most part the cycling was on quiet back roads with plenty of interesting stop-offs along the way, where our knowledgeable guides shared their knowledge and passion for their country. Hotels were a mix of western and traditional japanese inns which were generally of a higher standard than you might experience on many Exodus holidays. The traditional inns were very special and allowed you to immerse yourself, sometimes literally, into this unique culture. The food was excellent, but you do have to be prepared to experiment with a cuisine that is distinctly different from ours. The phrase ‘holiday of a lifetime’ is probably overused, but if you’re prepared to soak up the culture, be experimental and are relatively fit then this holiday will probably come very close to matching that description. And of course the toilets – you’re going to be very disappointed when you return to the UK or anywhere else for that matter!!