Cycling in Japan

14 days
from
$6,749 USD
incl. taxes
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Suitable for:
Age 16+
Activity level:
Moderate / Challenging
Activity Rating - Moderate/Challenging
Trip code: 
MOJ
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailor Made Adventures
Activity:
Cycling
Group size:
6–16
Min age:
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 hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese guesthouses), some with shared facilities
  • 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 autumn colours departures
  • Local bike hire included (e-bikes can be requested but are very limited and subject to availability)
  • Countries visited: Japan

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 7 nights only in Tokyo, Kanazawa, Wajima, Gifu and Kyoto)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
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

Days of Cycling
Pace:

 Moderate: 13-16km/8-10miles an hour

Terrain:

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

Day by day breakdown
Day 313.0km/8.0miles
Day 480.0km/50.0miles
Day 560.0km/37.0miles
Day 647.0km/43.0miles
Day 7100.0km/62.0miles
Day 980.0km/50.0miles
Day 1070.0km/43.0miles
Day 1170.0km/43.0miles
Day 1340.0km/25.0miles

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

    Start Tokyo

    Our tour starts in Tokyo, Japan’s busy capital boasting a unique contrast of ultramodern and traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. 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 additional accommodation for you prior departure; please contact our Operations or Sales teams for details and prices.

  • Day 2

    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 3

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

    In the morning we take the express train (approx. 2.5 hours) 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 4

    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 opportunity 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 5

    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 rewarded 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
  • Day 6

    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 the Wajima Morning Market, believed to date back over a thousand years. Every day vendors and elderly 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 visit 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 7

    Final ride along the Noto Peninsula 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 Wakura Onsen, a popular hot spring resort which history goes back thousands of years. 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 8

    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. 3 hours) to Shirakawa-go, a spectacular secluded mountainous 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 availability, 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 9

    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 we 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. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    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 atmospheric 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 Dinner
  • Day 11

    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 particularly 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 centre 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 12

    Travel to Kyoto by train; free time for sightseeing

    Today we have another day off the bikes. After breakfast we travel by train (approx. 2 hours) 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 13

    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 northern 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 restaurants in the city.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    End Kyoto

    The tour ends this morning after breakfast for land only clients.

    Meals included: Breakfast
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. South African passport holders do require a visa; but it is worth all nationalities verifying visa requirements directly at your embassy before travel.

Vaccinations

Japan

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 5 dinners are included.

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 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 able 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 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 climates 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 by packing warm clothing and layers for cold weather (especially for the March and November departures) 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.

Please be advised, bike hire is included and there is no option to bring your own bike on this trip.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
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  hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns).

The hotels are usually centrally located and have modern facilities, Wi-Fi, en suite rooms and English speaking staff. All provide hairdryers either in the room or in the shared bathrooms.

During the trip, we also 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. Almost all the accommodation has its own private Onsen which means you can have a soak as soon as you arrive in from cycling, a superb way to recuperate after a day on the bike.

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 availability 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 only for 7 nights' hotel accommodation in Tokyo, Kanazawa, Wajima, Gifu and Kyoto for a supplement 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 will be refused entry if you have large and visible tattoos. The leader will explain etiquette but it is expected that you shower before stepping into the hot spring/bath. All hotels provide kimonos and is the norm to go to the onsen in these and take your towel with you.

Please be advised that the below accommodation listed in each location are the standard accommodations used. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at similar establishments of a similar standard and quality.

Tokyo: Sunroute Asakusa Hotel
Kanazawa: Garden Hotel 
Togi: Kogetsukan Ryokan
Wajima: Route Inn Hotel
Suzu: Noto Jiso Ryokan
Wakura Onsen: Kinpaso
Shirakawago: Gassho Zukuri Houses
Takayama: Wat Hotel
Gujo Hachiman: Onoso Ryokan
Gifu: Hotel Resol 
Kyoto: Hearton Hotel

Call for general departures:
1 844 227 9087
Call for tailor made trips:
1 800 267 3347
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.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed December 2019
    Teresa Humphrey

    Put this on your to-do list. Every day a winner.

    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.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many highlights in a trip which offered lots of contrasts between city and landscape, a rich cultural heritage and gastronomic variety. Highlights of riding along the dramatic rugged western coastline of the Noto peninsular gave way to the delights of riding small lanes through fishing villages on the softer eastern coast. And then came the spectacular scenery of the mountains, clad in wonderful autumn colours. Entering the UNESCO village of Shirakawa-go exceeded all expectations, and the experience of total immersion in the traditional way of life when staying in a local farmhouse when the daytrippers had gone home was a real high spot. There were so many cultural highlights that the names tended to merge, but we particularly remember being bowled over by our visit to the Myojoji temple complex. The garden at Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, and the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto were memorable. Walks around Tokyo and Kyoto at night with the guides who knew where to go were an unexpected delight. And finally, there were some inspirational banquet-style meals, taken in the traditional way, kimono-clad, quite wonderful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tea was unfailingly enthusiastic, friendly and encouraging to the group with a healthy respect for cycling safety. He was readily available at all times of day and night to deal with any issues arising and was very an efficient organiser to ensure each day ran smoothly to plan. He was keen to help us understand many aspects of Japanese history and culture, and had put thought into places to visit en route, including ones not on the usual tourist agenda, which made interesting and unexpected diversions, often with opportunities to engage directly with local people. The co-team members, Akiko and Taichi were also fluent and engaging people who added much to the enjoyment of the holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to go with an open mind about eating in the Japanese way and expect to eat with your eyes as well as your mouth. Fish, raw and cooked is delicious, but non-pescatorians may have limited choices. You will develop a bread and cheese craving after 10 days or so but the odd bakery snack stop will crop up along the way. Several meals are taken wearing kimonos provided by the establishment, so you don't need a large off-bike wardrobe. You will need good rain gear 'in case' and flexibility of layered and warm !clothing to cope with variations of wind and temperature, although you won't need to carry this on the bikes as the support bus is regularly at hand to access day bag supplies.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hired bikes were good quality, light touring machines.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    Neil Lawson

    Wonderful Experience

    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).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in the hills away from other tourists. The leader, Tatsuya was pretty inspirational too.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Top bloke and no mistake.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just do it. Be prepared to food outside your comfort zone.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Take warm clothing and waterproofs if traveling at the extremes of the season.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    John Cartwright

    Truly a magical tour. It will make you want to return .....soon !

    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!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We visited a small family run ryokan which was our first introduction to a japanese inn, and this for me was the best night of the holiday. It was quite basic in its facilities with no ensuite in any room. But it had a bar (quite a rarity) where you could warm up after the ride, in preparation for an exquisite evening meal followed by an impromptu japanese 'harp' recital. You just had to remember which shoes to wear, and of course no footwear on the tatami mats in the bedroom and dining area. There were many other contenders, but if I was asked to pick just one that would be it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mr Tea, as I called him, was a true professional. Very methodical and meticulous so that nothing was left to chance resulting in a very smoothly run holiday. He certainly went the extra mile every day, cycling up and down the group as we progressed, resulting in a vast array of photos of us on the move, and I don't think I've ever been on a holiday with so many group photo requests! He was ably supported by Taichi, our driver and Akiko our sub-leader. They worked hard after we'd finished cycling and were up again in the morning ensuring that the bikes were in tip top condition. Very impressive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Follow the advice in the trip notes. Take plenty of cash although credit cards were accepted as payment in most places, but not on the metro! Travel out a a couple of days before the tour starts to acclimatise and get to know Tokyo, and maybe also an extra day in Kyoto at the end. Depending on the time of year bring plenty of layers as it can get cold in the mountains, particularly at night. Don't bother with too much evening wear. Traditional japanese kimonos are available in many hotels. Just be open minded and read up about japanese customs before you go out. Politeness is embedded into japanese society so don't let the side down.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Peter Loughridge

    An excellent introduction to Japan.

    We have always wanted to visit Japan and this trip gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit the cities, rural areas, travel by train, experience Japanese cuisine and, best of all, explore by bike. The itinerary was varied and interesting. Onsens (hot baths) have to be experienced and helped relieve tired and aching muscles at the end of the day. We stayed in a mixture of modern hotels and the more traditional ryokans with tatami mats and futons. The Japanese people we met were always polite, pleasant and helpful. This was a travel experience like no other. Just do it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Arriving at the first ryokan and learning how to observe Japanese customs in this environment.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very well organised and efficient. Perhaps a little shy at first but this passed as the trip progressed and his confidence in dealing with the group developed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring a fairly large backpack as there are two separate days when you don’t have access to your suitcase. Keep your evening wear to a minimum as many of the hotels and ryokans provide a yukata (a casual summer kimono). Be prepared for rain and low temperatures. Very little fruit available generally and virtually none at breakfast.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Japanese drivers generally considerate and patient. We felt safe on the roads.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Sandy Celovsky

    Incredible Trip!

    This trip was an excellent intro to Japan! It covered a huge variety from highlights of sprawling Tokyo to rural seaside and mountain villages as well as offering insight into Japanese culture through the eyes of our wonderful local guides, “Tea” and “TaiChi”. Despite the weather being colder and wetter than expected ( trust me, bring full waterproofs especially hands and feet as temps were also near zero in places), the sheer adventure of cycling along a beach, up some challenging climbs to our local ryokan and wonderfully exquisite prepared dinners, the photos relect is all smiling through the weather! The rides were punctuated with well thought out cultural stops and a wonderful selection of lunch spots. I would highly recommend this trip!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me, it was the introduction to such an unique culture. Despite Japan being a developed country, the norms, many intricate rituals and the respectful nature of the Japanese, made this such an interesting trip with a great deal of variety. I also would include the nightly soaks in the onsens a highlight! Our group completely got into this routine around the peninsula where they were common!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    One cannot say enough about our primary group leader “Tea”. An incredible person, he was the epitome of organized, safety conscious, accommodating, knowledgeable and patient. We were not sure when “Tea” slept as he seemed to always be engaged doing something for the next day, ensuring all special dietary needs were met, organizing tickets, lunch stops etc. He also turned out to be photographer at large capturing many fantastic images of the group cycling..not quite sure when he managed to capture so many images as he always seemed to be leading us with commands of “single file”!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring less evening clothing (you really do end up wearing kimonos more than half the time post cycling) and bring more cycling stuff..full array of warm weather and cold/wet weather gear. Hands and feet especially. A down puffer jacket is recommended as used more than several times and lacks light and small.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I found this trip to have the perfect mix of enough cycling mileage, cultural stops and highlights. It offered a fantastic variety and having been home now for a week, I look through the photos with extremely fond memories of a wonderful adventure with a fantastic crew and group of fellow travellers!
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Paul McCormack

    Coastal cycling in Japan

    Wow what an amazing trip ! Cycling in Japan is a truly fantastic and interesting cycling trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There are several - The friendliness and courtesy of the Japanese people, the traditional inns, the cuisine and the well maintained roads, the incredible bullet train.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tatsuya ( Tea ) is a fantastic group leader. He loves his country and imparted so much knowledge of local customs and etiquette in only two weeks it felt as if I had been in Japan for months. Nothing was too much trouble for him either on or off the road

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There isn't much need for a wide selection of "off the " bike clothes as you change into local dress ( provided ) almost immediately on arrival at hotels and inns. There are washing and drying facilities in most hotels. Take cash as Japan , perhaps surprisingly , is not a credit card culture

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I can't recommend this trip highly enough !
  • Reviewed November 2018

    Cycling in Japan

    This is a great holiday for those who enjoy cycling in great scenery and want to learn a bit about Japanese culture and the Japanese way of life en route. It offers a bit of everything and includes great cycling, lovely countryside, traditional inns with traditional food, rooms, sleeping arrangements and hot springs. The guides make sure that all venues that offer education and enjoyment are visited during the cycling, so that overall one is left with a feeling that one has achieved some insight into Japan which is a very different society from ours. It was an inspirational trip with wonderful guides who made sure that we experienced all that there was to experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational moments on the trip and it is difficult to name just a few. There was a lovely ride for about five miles on the Noto peninsula; there were so many coastal views that we often stopped every few miles for a photo. The traditional inns were a unique experience which we felt privileged to share. If we had been doing this trip on our own without a tour guide and Exodus I'm sure we would have missed out on these unique experiences. The cycling in the mountains and experiencing the autumn colours was heavenly. The good weather and blue skies helped of course. Tokyo and Kyoto were fascinating places and we did a lot considering we were there for only a couple of days.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Tatsuya Yamasawa, was exceptional. He was very organised and methodical and made sure that the tour ran smoothly. He was kind, very friendly with an excellent sense of humour and camaraderie. Nothing was too much trouble for him and the whole group was so appreciative of all that he did for us. He was a credit to Japan and we all fell in love with the country partly due to him. We could not praise him highly enough.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In terms of advice I would say that the cycling is moderate to challenging. Our group was very good and no one had any problems, but some hills did require a bit of puffing. I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone to do this trip unless they were used to cycling up to 50 miles at a stretch over undulating terrain. Travellers should also be flexible as traditional inns and traditional food are very different from what we normally experience in the west. You have to be prepared to bite the bullet and eat the raw fish, the seaweed, the octopus legs and the snails if you want to experience a traditional meal. It's worth it though to experience something truly unique.
  • Reviewed May 2018
    Debra Friezner-Blanc

    Cycling through cherry blossoms

    Japan- an incredibly fascinating country with a culture like no other. The 2 week bike trip was a wonderful way to start to get to know Japan. Of course cycling is the best way to travel anywhere but having guides that explain their beloved country, teach you some of its culture, try to teach you the social skills that the Japanese excel at, getting you to test all the interesting food, giving history lessons and nature lessons, explaining the Shinto or Buddhist religion all the while giving you a great cycling experience makes the entire experience beyond memorable. The choice of the route gave us a good variety places to see. Staying in the Japanese inns ( ryokans) was amazing and definitely a must on any Japan trip. The food is an experience all on its own and if you are a fish lover than you will be in paradise. I really felt that the trip was complete and didn't just focus on one element of Japan so I never felt that I had too much of any one thing which was great. The description of the tour corresponded to what the trip really was and that is always appreciated. In the end, I didn't have too many preconceived notions of what I would be seeing and I can tell you that I was constantly amazed and ended up having enormous respect for the Japanese and their way of life. I thought my own country of Switzerland was well run but Japan wins on that respect. Kudos to the people of Japan and their being so courteous towards us tourists. Weeks later I am still feeling the effects of this trip and it is wonderful. Oh and thanks to Mother Nature for blessing us with the cherry blossoms.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment for me was anything involving how their society functions. The quietness on the public transport ( no talking on cell phones), how orderly the cities are in what could be chaos, the esthetic of beauty in every detail, the cleanliness, the courteousness everywhere, the most amazing toilets, the taking off of shoes, the lack of crime, the precision of the trains or metros, and I can go on and on. I was just gobsmacked.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Well is there a word better than incredible to describe Tatsuya or Mitch? Tatsuya, besides being a really interesting person with a very subtle sense of humor, was really a wonderful guise. Very attentive to our needs and our safety and an amazing sense of organization. Not easy getting a group through crowded metro stations and onto the bullet trains or biking through a city but they made it easy. He has a great wealth of knowledge of all aspects of Japan and really explained things well. I immediately had confidence in him and therefore didn't really need to think about anything other than riding my bike and experiencing Japan. Mitch and Tatsuya were a great team and this being a first run trip makes it even more unbelievable at how well run it was. They both had a huge amount of patience with us and stayed calm at all times and I know that they are always thinking of the next part of the trip and that their work is never done but I never felt this. They took great care of us and I appreciate how attentive they were with me being a vegetarian. Highly recommend these guides and I thank them for the fabulous experience.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    One of the advantages of Japan is that on many of the nights in the inns you wear kimono like robes- so you don't need that many clothes other than cycling. As far as the Japanese baths the women and men bathe separately which wasn't very clear in the instructions and do follow the pre- bathing ritual if there are Japanese there at the same time. If you are vegetarian it can be difficult at times but do buy nuts at the convenience stores to compensate for some lack of protein. Being vegan here would be quite difficult.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Nothing left to add. Great trip once again with Exodus.

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