Japan cycling vacations guide

Thinking of seeing Japan? Three words: on yer bike! Cycling is one of the best ways to explore this complex, beguiling country. Jumping on a bike is about more than the physical challenge and fresh air. It’s a way to jump into the culture, the history and the rural landscapes. Follow undulating routes past remote fishing villages and lonely temples, then spend the night in a traditional inn, relaxing in a simple yukata kimono, soaking in the hot waters of an onsen and feasting on seafood.
No cycling vacation to Japan will place racking up the miles over soaking up the sights, so expect regular stops to dip into temples and poke around villages, plus time in Tokyo and Kyoto.
On guided tours, a local guide will turn observing local life into understanding it. As well as ensuring your tyres stay pumped, a guide can steer you through Tokyo’s metro system, explain the differences between Shinto and Buddhism, fill you in on the flora and translate a chat with the women selling grilled fish, hamayaki, on the beach. You’ll be in the saddle and in the know, combining active discovery with in-depth insights.

Is a cycling vacation in Japan for you?

Go on a Japan cycling vacation if…

…you are pretty fit. The routes are typically on smooth, well maintained roads, lanes and cycle paths, but you can expect to cover between 50km and 60km on average per day. You’re far from the pancake-flat Kanto plain that stretches out beyond Tokyo now, where cycling is so easy that local residents hold an umbrella while pedalling through summer showers. Expect some tough ascents, especially in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. …you’re curious about Japanese life. Stay with a farmer in a historical gassho-zukuri farmhouse, sleep in a traditional ryokan inn, shop at markets, snap up some street food and chat to local people as you soak in an onsen. Cycling vacations pedal you to meet local people and on guided small group tours, your guide is on hand to translate and elucidate. …you don’t want to pedal non-stop. No problem. Cycling vacations typically include days for exploring on foot in historical hotspots including Tokyo, Kyoto and the UNESCO listed village of Shirakawa-go. …you want to travel responsibly. Traveling by bike is of course a completely carbon neutral way to go, and in Japan, a cycling vacation will combine this with using excellent public transport, including riding the fast and efficient Shinkansen Bullet Train.

Don’t  go on a Japan cycling vacation if…

…cycling is your only passion. Although cycling vacations in Japan involve plenty of pedalling, they are designed more as an immersive and unusual way to discover the country, not as a bike-centric extended adrenaline rush. It’s the journey, not just the destination, that counts here, and speeding through the landscape in a blur of Lycra is never the point. …you’re a meat and two veg kind of person. Japanese food is delicious, fresh and healthy, and it’s a huge part of any cycling vacation, with wonderful dishes of locally sourced ingredients served up at traditional inns at the end of each day. But…it’s not terribly meaty. Think fresh fish in sushi and sashimi form, noodles of all persuasions, miso soup and plenty of rice. …you want leisurely sightseeing. Hardly needs spelling out but let’s do it anyway – this is an active vacation. On a two week trip you will be cycling for nine days, following the coast of the Noto Peninsula, exploring in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, or following the Nagara River and the Hida Seseragi Highway. You can also get around Kyoto by bike and in between cycling days you’ll be on foot, hiking and walking to explore.

Our top Japan cycling Vacation

Biking vacation in Japan

Biking vacation in Japan

Sociable cycling tour of Japan's culture and nature

From US $6199 to US $7079 14 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 9 Nov
2020: 28 Mar, 11 Apr, 30 May, 3 Oct, 17 Oct, 7 Nov
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Japan cycling or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go cycling in Japan

The Japanese cycle in all weathers, even holding an umbrella as they pedal through a summer shower, but cycling vacations stick to the mild and mostly dry spring and autumn.
Spring and autumn are hands-down the best time to go cycling in Japan, avoiding winter’s freeze and summer’s humidity and rain. Most cycling vacations run in March, April and May, and October and November. Expect chilly temperatures and battering winds in early spring and November, particularly on the Noto Peninsula, but in April, May and October temperatures are comfortably into the teens centigrade. Late March to April is sakura season, when the cherry trees are in blossom and people party beneath their pink canopy, showered in petal confetti. Equally impressive are the changing autumn colours, the koyo, making mountainsides blush in late October and November.

Tokyo Weather Chart

 
MIN °C
MAX °C
RAIN (mm)
JAN
0
10
43
FEB
1
10
58
MAR
4
13
94
APR
9
19
119
MAY
14
23
132
JUN
18
25
181
JUL
22
29
128
AUG
24
31
147
SEP
20
27
181
OCT
14
21
158
NOV
8
17
84
DEC
3
12
44
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Robert Thomson] [Is a cycling vacation in Japan for you?: Robert Thomson] [Best time to go cycling in Japan : Robert Thomson]
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