Cycle Japan - Islands, Mountains and Monasteries

Japan Cycling Tour - Shikoku and Honshu Islands

Trip Notes   •   Back to this tour's main page

Introduction

Japan is such an eclectic mix of sights and sounds, landscapes, history and culture that it is a joy to visit. This cycling tour takes in the cultural centres of Kyoto and Nara, both cities are outdoor museums revealing Japan’s grand and fascinating history, as well as the monastic Koya-san mountain where Buddhism still thrives today. The cycling component will consist mostly of a crossing of Shikoku Island, Japan’s smallest and least populated of the main four. This route will take us through the central mountains into the Iya valley, famous for its clear running rivers, gorges and ancient vine bridges. We take in a rural Japan not experienced by most visitors: handpicked home-stays and local inns, onsens (hot springs) to soak those weary muscles and traditional local culinary specialities. Our final days riding are sure to be a highlight as we leave Shikoku and island hop across several small islands over a series of bridges on a dedicated cycling path to the main island of Honshu. From there we transfer to Hiroshima and get a chance to soak up this city’s historical ambience before taking the shinkansen, or bullet train, back to Kyoto. With some fantastic cycling and an unforgettable cultural experience we believe this trip has something for everyone.

Itinerary

DayActivityLocationMealsKm cycled
1Arrive KyotoKyotoD
2Free day. Morning cycle tour visiting Kyoto Temples.Kyoto 20
3Cycle Kyoto to NaraNaraBLD50
4Cycle Nara to base of Koya sanKoya SanBLD65
5Free morning before ferry transfer to TokushimaTokushimaBL
6Cycle Tokushima to KoyadairaKoyadairaBLD55
7Cycle Koyadaira to KazurabashiKazurabashiBLD85
8Cycle Kazurabashi to KotohiraKotohiraBLD80
9Transfer to Imbari/Cycle to Mishima IslandIsland StayBLD 47
10Cycle inland sea to Onomichi. Transfer to HiroshimaHiroshimaBLD40
11Visit to the Hiroshima Peace Park.HiroshimaB
12Departure dayB
   Total 442km
*Whilst every endeavour will be made to run the itinerary as stated, Bike Asia reserves the right to change any part of the itinerary at any time without notice due to weather, political, health or safety concerns.
Day 1 - Kyoto

This is arrival day and you are free to explore this fascinating city before our scheduled group meeting where we will go over all the formalities for the trip. There will be information at the local inn (ryokan) to let you know where to go for the group meeting and after that meeting we'll head out for some famous Kyoto fare in Gion district with a chance to do some Geisha spotting.

Day 2 - Kyoto (cycling optional 20 km)

This is a free day to explore Kyoto's many temples, shrines and palaces including Nijo Castle, Ryoanji Zen garden, Kinkakuji 12th century temple and the Philosophers' Walk. There will be bikes available to cycle around this ancient capital and we'll get you started on a bike tour to take in all the sights.

Day 3 - Nara (cycling 50 km)

We leave Kyoto to cycle one of Japan's few cycle paths to Nara. This is a flat ride with great views all the way and a good warm up to get the legs ready for the rest of the trip. Nara city predates Kyoto as a political centre and, like Kyoto, has many interesting temples and gardens to explore. We will have time to check out Nara's important sights such as Todaiji temple, the largest wooden building in the world, and its 7th century 250 ton bronze Buddha. Tonight we stay in a local ryokan.

Day 4 - Koya San (cycling 65 km)

Today is a big day's cycling to the base of Buddhist mountain retreat at Koya san. We'll take a break in Asuka on the way where we have a chance to see the remnants of Japan's first capital dating back to the 7th century and the huge burial mounds for which the area is famous. The first half of the day is flat until we begin our climbing on quiet mountain roads to the base of Koya where we transfer to the summit of the mountain. We'll be staying in a working monastery and will have a chance to meet and talk to the resident monks. The vegetarian food prepared by the monks is a real treat.

Day 5 - Tokushima

We rise early today so that we can take part in morning prayer, zazen, with the monks if we wish. We'll have time to do a bit of hiking around the mountain to visit the many temples of Koya san and its famous 1200 year-old cemetery, before heading to Wakayama for our afternoon ferry crossing to Tokushima and the start of our Shikoku Island ride.

Day 6 - Koyadaira (cycling 55 km)

From Tokushima we head inland. It's a tough start as we hit a couple of really steep hills. We are treated to beautiful views of an isolated area of Japan on little travelled paved roads before stopping for the night in a local ryokan (guesthouse). Throughout this area we will come across many onsens, or hot springs, and this night will be our first – a famous onsen used by the locals in the area.

Day 7 - Kazurabashi (cycling 85 km)

This is a big day's ride where we take on the toughest hill on the trip. It is very steep, has countless hairpins and we cycle almost to the peak of Tsurugi san for a well-earned lunch. The afternoon is all downhill cycling through gorges and villages. We stay in a ryokan again as we do as often as we can on this trip. Ryokans offer an insight into Japanese life as our hosts will be a local family and we will have lots of time to meet them and enjoy their particular brand of hospitality. This Ryokan has one of the best outdoor onsens in Japan!

Day 8 -Kotohira (cycling 80 km)

Our last day in the Iya valley takes us downhill for the first 30 kms and then a big climb before winding down into Kotohira. For those with energy left in the legs, a walk up to Kompirasan, formally known as Kotohiragu (a highly popular shrine in the wooded hills of Kotohira), will show off some of Japan’s finest temple architecture. Great views are to be had of the surrounding country-side.

Day 9 - Inland Sea track (cycling 47 kms)

We start the day in the vehicle transferring to Imabari. Stunning views of small uninhabited islands provide the backdrop as we fly across the inland sea that lies between Shikoku and Honshu. We cross this inland sea track via a series of 7 impressive bridges linking one island to another on a dedicated cycle path. We’ll stay on one of the islands to take in this unique crossing and be treated to some wonderful home-cooked traditional Japanese food.

Day 10 - Hiroshima (cycling 40 km)

We finish the last of our “hops” in Onomichi, pack up the bikes and board a train for an hour to Hiroshima. Metropolitan Hiroshima is imbued with history but is firmly entrenched in the future. With a great atmosphere and much to see we have plenty of time here to take in all that Hiroshima has to offer. In the evening we’ll head out for a delicious Okonomiyaki dinner and a beer or two to celebrate the end of our ride!

Day 11 - Hiroshima

We’ll get today started with a visit to Hiroshima’s War Memorial Park where we’ll invite one of the locals to talk about their experiences of the devastation the city suffered and how it has shaped the thinking of its people – an unforgettable experience.

Day 12 Departure

As this is departure day you are free to leave at any time.

Bike Asia Travel Style

We think cycling through a region for the first time with a group of like-minded people is a great way to travel in Asia. Our aim is to provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, learn about new cultures, experience different landscapes and most all to have some fun. Cycling is a major part of our trips – they are cycle tours after all. We have designed them so that they are accessible to people with a reasonable level of fitness. Different trips will require varying degrees of physical ability. Each trip dossier has specific details on terrain, cycling conditions, distances covered each day and an altitude profile. All of our trips are fully supported, so should you want or need to take a rest, there will be a seat for you and a place to put your bike. Our trips are also designed to allow you the opportunities and time to appreciate the environment, scenery and culture around you, and to participate in any activities that may be on offer.

Responsible Travel

An integral part of travelling is to have a positive impact on the country that you are visiting. On this trip there are a number of things you can do to have a positive impact on the communities that we visit.

Dress: parts of Japan are still quite conservative. In rural areas and temples overly revealing clothing is considered offensive. You should make an effort to dress more conservatively in these situations. Walking around a village in bike shorts is not appropriate so if you wish to cycle in just bike shorts you should have something with you on the bike to put on over the top (eg long, loose shorts or a skirt/sarong). When visiting temples shorts are acceptable providing they cover the knee. Singlet tops are not acceptable in temples.

Phrase Book: A highly memorable part of your travels will be the local people you meet. In the tourist areas some people will speak English but away from these areas you should learn a few words of Japanese. We will teach you some of the basics but if you want to really interact we recommend bringing a phrase book.

For more information about Bike Asia's commitment to ethical and sustainable travel practices, please read our Responsible Travel Policy.

Group Size

Minimum 6
Maximum 12

Accommodation

The sleeping arrangements are for twin-share where possible so if you are a single traveller you will be paired up with someone of the same sex. This ensures that whether you are travelling solo or with friends, everyone is paying the same rate. We will be staying in a mixture of hotels and local guesthouses though to make the most of the best riding course, so there will be a few nights (of 11) where we stay in true Japanese style with shared baths (fed by wonderful natural springs in the fertile Japanese countryside) and use same sex multi share rooms in these ryokans (local inns). The accommodations are comfortable, centrally located (which often means in the middle of quiet, clean and charming Japanese countryside) places which are adequate in every way. The hotels will have private bathrooms. The Guesthouses are sometimes more basic with shared washing and toilet facilities.

Transport

All transport listed is included in the trip price: all vehicles whilst cycling (one or two depending on the group size) and the vehicle transfer between Onomichi and Hiroshima at the end of the cycling component. You will only need to pay for any transport taken during free time.

Inclusions

  • 11 nights accommodation (2 nights hotel, 1 night superior ryokan, 7 nights in standard ryokans, 1 night in a monastery)
  • All transport en route, support vehicle, vehicle transport from Koya san to Wakayama, Ferry to Tokushima, Train Onomichi – Hiroshima
  • Good Quality Road Bike (different sizes available)
  • Meals; Breakfasts (10), Lunches (8), Dinners (8)
  • All morning tea and afternoon teas (snack food, hot drinks) whilst cycling
  • All water (whilst cycling)
  • Cycling Leader/ mechanic
  • Bike tools and spare parts
  • Support vehicle

Bikes

Bikes are included in the trip cost. Our road bikes are medium-level standard. We keep them well maintained and we travel with all necessary tools and spare parts. We use Cannondale bikes with the following specifications:

  • Shimano Alivio 21 speed gears
  • Shimano Alivio v-brakes
  • Slick road tyres
  • One bottle cage
  • Ergonomic seat
  • A range of sizes

  • You may wish to bring your own pedals, clips, seat and handle extensions, as we can easily fit them to our bikes. You are of course welcome to bring your own bike. Keep in mind though, that while we offer maintenance and spares for the bikes we provide, we can’t guarantee that we can cater to your particular bicycle needs so it would be best to bring your own. If you are unsure we recommend that you speak to your local bike shop about what parts to bring.

    Food

    Food is a very important part of any travel experience and Japan is no exception. Most of the meals on this trip are included in the trip cost, with a few exceptions like free days. To see which meals are included, read the inclusions list or the itinerary. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for and should you have any other dietary restrictions, you just need to inform us. Many of our meals will be local food and at local eateries: noodles, pickled vegetables and fruit for breakfast, noodles, pancakes filled with vegetables, seafood or fish cooked on a hot plate in front of you for lunch and an assortment of sushi, California rolls, tofu, soup, vegetables (deep fried in a light batter and served with a dressing) for dinner. Snack food like fruit, biscuits, cakes and nuts will be available for our break stops on cycling days with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. There are always convenience stores where you can buy chocolate, sandwiches and lollies if you need a sugar fix.

    Money

    You will need to bring money on the trip to pay for the following; some meals, drinks, activities in the free time, departure tax and of course shopping. We suggest you utilise a variety of methods for payment. There are:

    • ATMs where you can access money using your Maestro, Cirrus, Visa and Mastercard.
    • Designated banks to exchange all foreign currencies and Traveller’s Cheques.

    The amount you bring is going to depend on how much you plan to spend. To give you an indication of prices
    Beer JPY 300 – JPY 1000
    Dinner at local restaurant JPY 800
    Dinner at foreign restaurant JPY 4500
    Small bottle of water JPY 150

    The Japanese currency is the Japanese Yen (JPY). Exchange rates at the time of writing are:
    1 AUD = 82 JPY
    1 USD = 83 JPY
    1 EUR = 111 JPY
    1 GBP = 132 JPY
    1 CAD = 83 JPY
    1 NZD = 63 JPY

    We also recommend that you bring US $200 in emergency funds, to be used when circumstances beyond the control of Bike Asia necessitate a change in itinerary.

    Insurance

    Obtaining your own travel insurance is required in order to participate on a Bike Asia tour. It will need to include a minimum coverage of medical expenses with emergency evacuation, personal liability and accident insurance. Your group leader will need to see a copy of your insurance at the group meeting on the first day.

    Two well known travel insurance providers are: World Nomads and Covermore.

    Travel to the start point

    This trip starts and finishes in the city of Kyoto. The closest airport to Kyoto is Kansai Airport, which also services the city of Osaka. However, train travel in Japan in very convenient and efficient. If you prefer to come in from one of the other cities/airports such as Tokyo, we recommend using the trains to get to Kyoto.

    Joining Point Instructions

    Heianbo Ryokan is a 5 minute walk from Kyoto station. From Osaka airport (Kansai airport) please take the Haruka (express train, 1 hour 10 minutes, one per hour) to Kyoto station. Take the north exit. Once you have exited the station and are facing north you will see Kyoto Tower in front of you. To your left will be Kyoto central post office. To the north next to that is a Lawson convenience store. Cross the street across from Lawson’s and then turn left. The first right is Shinmachi dori. Take this north for two streets, past the fire station and supermarket until you reach the corner with the primary school. Turn right and Heianbo Ryokan is 100 meters down on the left side. Take the phone number with you to call and ask the helpful English speaking staff if you become lost or print out this map to show someone (there is a helpful Tourist Office in the station);
    There will be a note from your group leader about plans for a meeting and welcome dinner on the evening of day 1.

    Ryokan Heianbo

    725 Heian – cho, JR Kyoto-ekimae, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
    Phone: +81 75 351-0650
    Fax: +81 75 371-1173

    Heianbo's Address

    There is a map included in the print version (PDF).

    Fitness

    You will need to a good level of fitness to participate in this trip. There are eight cycling days in total, with most days cycling up to 80km on sealed roads. This trip involves some very steep and long mountain climbs, with one lasting for 25kms on a steep gradient... up! The first half is very hilly, whilst the latter part of the trip is more gently undulating. The cycling is done at an altitude between sea level and 1500 metres.

    Cycling Conditions

    The cycling terrain is all sealed surfaces, with some sections of the trip on cycling paths! On the roads we will encounter few cars, but you still need to be constantly alert for vehicles.

    Health

    In order to make the most of your holiday, the healthier you are the more you will enjoy it! For a list of vaccinations we recommend that you seek advice at a travel clinic at least six weeks prior to departure. Our group leader will have Senior’s Level first aid training and will travel with a first-aid kit, however it is also recommended that individual travellers have a basic first aid kit with any personal medical requirements. Our group leader is not authorised, for legal reasons, to administer any kind of drugs, including pain relief tablets, antibiotics etc so be sure to pack a supply of your favourite pain-killers. Pharmacy products vary in different countries and you may not be able to buy products that are widely available at home. Include the following: plasters, dressings, bandage, calamine lotion (a must for soothing sunburn), oral re-hydration treatment (in case of bouts of diarrhoea), insect repellent, insect sting relief, antiseptic cream and antiseptic wipes.

    For more information on travel health, you can click on the links below:

    Australia - United States - United Kingdom

    Visas

    Most participants will need to obtain a Japanese visa, either through a travel agent or directly from the Japanese embassy/consulate. For the latest information, see your travel agent.

    Luggage / Packing List (Guide Only)

    We advise against using a hard shell suitcase for this trip. A soft backpack would be the most suitable, and the easiest to transfer in/out of the support vehicle in the morning and evening. Keep in mind when you are packing that often our local crew are lifting our bags everyday so try to pack as lightly as possible. Please check our climate charts to assess your clothing requirements, or contact us if you are unsure.

      Personal
    • Long trousers
    • Shorts
    • Shirts
    • Warm jacket
    • Thermals
    • Woollen socks
    • Jumper
    • Hat
    • Sandals/light shoes
    • Swimming costume
    • Light rain coat
    • Toiletries
    • Tampons (hard to get in China)
    • Small towel
    • First aid kit
    • Mosquito Repellent
    • Camera and film
    • Contact solution
    • Gloves/scarf
      Travel
    • Passport with 6 months validity and spare pages
    • Japan Visa
    • Passport photo
    • Travel insurance details
    • Flight tickets
    • Money - travellers cheques / cash / credit card
    • Guide/phrase book
    • Money pouch
    • Medication (eg. cold tablets, headache tablets, sleeping tablets)
    • Main / Day pack
    • Alarm clock
    • Plastic bags
    • Pocket knife
    • Torch
      Cycling
    • Optional daypack, bumbag or handlebar bag.
    • Helmet
    • Cycling gloves
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Water bottle/bladder
    • 2 x Padded bike shorts with something to put on over the top when off the bike
    • Your own seat, pedals, cleats (optional)
    • Light wind-proof jacket for cycling
    • Cycle shoes (with cleat attachment if you use them)
    • Optional gel seat cover and or handlebar extensions

    Pre/post trip accommodation

    If you would like us to organise some extra nights accommodation either before or after the trip at our start or finish point hotel, just let us know when you book the trip. Prices are:

    City
    Hotel
    Price p/p single
    Price p/p twin
    Kyoto
    Heianbo Ryokan
    100 USD
    200USD

    Tipping

    Tipping is not complusory in Japan. It is meant to be a reward for good service. One of the reasons that our trips run so well and are so much fun is the effort and energy put in by our local crew. On this trip, we will have a driver, who you may wish to tip at the end of the trip.

    Safety

    Our cycling tour leader has the authority to change or cancel all or part of this trip if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. This decision would not be taken lightly, and where possible it would be made in consultation with our local crew, local operator and Bike Asia management. Your leader will be present on all included activities, staying at all the same hotels, guesthouses and of course cycling with you. During free time, should you choose to participate in any optional activities that are not part of our itinerary, please note that we cannot give any representations or guarantees about the safety of the activity, the standard of the operators running them or the equipment that they use.

    In the group meeting on day 1, your tour leader will run a session on cycling safety. Whilst some travellers will have had years of touring experience, for others this might be their first cycling trip. We need to cater for a range of abilities and experience and it is in everyone’s interest to learn about the particulars of cycling in this region from someone who has already done it. It goes without saying that by running and participating in a cycling trip, both parties accept an inherent level of risk. However, we take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we ask that you cycle in a safe and responsible manner and that you look out for the well-being of your fellow travellers. Cycling helmets must be worn by all cyclists at all times whilst cycling.

    Most national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information before departure. The links for some major travel advisories and updates are listed below

    Australia - United Kingdom - Canada - New Zealand - United States

    We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling in the cities, for the safe keeping of your passport, money, credit cards and traveller's cheques. Utilise the hotel's safety boxes or safe where these are available.

    Communication

    Internet, phone, mail, video conferencing, wi-fi - communication is not going to be an issue in this country. You should leave your family or friends the Bike Asia contact details. Our office staff will be able to get in touch with us in an emergency.

    Bike Asia Tour Leader

    Our leaders are passionate about Asia and cycling... phew! They love what they do and take their job seriously. They will make every effort to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable trip with as much fun as possible. They bring many qualities and skills to this role; knowledge of group cycling, safety, management, and liasing between you and the local crew. In working for us, they have made a commitment to learning as much about the culture, language and customs of Japan as possible, and they are happy to share any of this knowledge with you. However, please keep in mind that they are not local and will not know everything.

    Rules

    We don't have many, but the ones we do have are important. We always abide by the laws of the country that we are travelling through. This means you are not to use any illegal drugs or use prostitutes. Any passenger who does so will be asked to leave the tour immediately.

    Feedback

    After you have completed the trip, we want to know what you thought about it. This is important to us, as it is through your feedback that we monitor our trips and make improvements for the future. Log on to our website and click on the feedback link. It will take you a minimum of 3 minutes, or should you feel like writing in more detail, then a little longer. If you fill in the feedback form, we’ll give you an automatic 5% discount on any of our trips in any other region.

    Photos

    We are always looking for good photos of the regions which we travel through. If you have some that you would like to send us, we would love to have a look

    Newsletter

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