One of the best ways to explore of Japan is on two wheels: hopping aboard a bicycle and pedalling your way through the gorgeous countryside, hidden gems and golden coastlines of this beautiful country. This active, family-friendly holiday lets you weave off the beaten tourist path – while allowing you to guiltlessly indulge in all the delicious cuisine you can handle.
Still not convinced? Let us describe some of the magic behind a Japanese cycling adventure.
See the sea on two wheels
Our 11-day journey around Japan’s gorgeous coastlines by bike is the perfect choice if you’re looking for an active adventure that will take you to some of the finest coastal beauty spots in the country. Hop in the saddle at Takaoka from where you can enjoy a leisurely cruise down ocean roads to see the Ganmon Sea Cave, where the persistent pummeling of waves have carved a natural cavern out of the rock. Skirt the rugged coast of Sekinohana on the Noto peninsula coastline towards Wajima and its remarkable rock formations. Enjoy a lovely view over to Mitsuke Island on the ride to peaceful Tsukumo Bay, and freewheel your way across to Notojima Island, where you can explore the paths and trails, overlooked by the snow-capped peaks of the Hida Mountains.
Besides the stunning sea views, your winding journey takes you to ancient shrines, through terraced rice paddies and past traditional Japanese country dwellings. From the tranquility of the countryside, roll into the pretty city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture – home to the futuristic train station with its impressive glass roof, not to mention Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjiken Longhouse. Here you can explore the stunning flora at Kenroku-en Garden, considered among the top three gardens in Japan thanks to its exquisite use of the six essential attributes of a perfect garden.
Kanazawa Castle, meanwhile, has been fully restored to all its former glory and visitors can wonder afresh at its marvels. Ride to Shirakawa village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see its fascinating, earthquake-proof gassho-zukuri houses and hit the surrounding trails on foot for some excellent mountain hikes. See the Old Town at Takayama, packed with wooden shophouses and little streets, buzzing with local life.
After days spent cruising the coastal trails, spend your nights in these charming towns and mountain villages, many of which boast traditional ryokans where you can enjoy a relaxing soak in soothing onsen waters and sample local delicacies like soba.
Cool rides and hot springs
If those onsens sound like your kind of antidote to any muscles aching from a day of cycling, why not head to beautiful Kyushu for a week spent cycling round the island’s hot springs and much more?
The dramatic volcanic landscape is a draw for hikers and sightseers from all over the world, but perhaps the best way to make the most of it is by bike. Explore the mountain trails around Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, and cycle right up to the rim to see the churning lava below.
Bike to the natural spring at Shirakawa, where you can quench your thirst with cool, refreshing water straight from the bubbling source. Take invigorating dips in mountain streams and languish in warm natural rock pools where the steam envelops your head. Enjoy the mountainous skyline as you cycle across the Kuju highlands, through colorful fields of flowers, and into the forest to discover ancient Oka Castle, almost lost in the undergrowth. Cruise Sobo Katamuki’s lush green hills to find the beautiful Harajiri Waterfall and, in scenic Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture, cut through maple forest to find the jaw-dropping ravine and its turquoise lagoon.
As dusk falls and you tire of the tyres, retire to traditional outdoor onsens to restore your strength in the health-giving waters and sample classic, freshly prepared Japanese food.
Either of these two-wheeled adventures can be bookended with stops in Japan’s stunning cities where you can enjoy 5-star luxury and world-class cuisine. Touch down in the bustling modern capital of Tokyo for the chance to shop for souvenirs and explore its ultra-modern museums and fly out of the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto, to meet the geishas and get a glimpse of classic Japanese arts.