Duration: 13 days/13 nights
Season: Guided tours from September til May. Private guided tours upon request. Self-guided tours all year round.
Level 3: There is four climbs of around 800m. Gradients are never above 10% and feasible with the gears on the bikes.
Start: Kyoto Heianbo Ryokan, a 5 min walk from JR Kyoto Station on JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. From Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, take JR train “Haruka” (Ltd Exo) to JR Kyoto station (75 minutes). From Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Nagoya’s Centrair Airport, take JR Tokaido. We arrange station and airport transfer upon request.
End: Japan Biking in Izumi, Kagoshima. You fly in/out via Kagoshima Airport or you arrive at/leave from Izumi shinkansen station. We arrange station and airport transfer upon request.
- Cycle around temples, palaces and geisha quarters in Kyoto
- Feed the deer in Nara’s palace grounds
- Visit the Hells in Beppu
- Hike around Mount Aso’s vulcano crater
- Watch the sun set in the Land of the Rising Sun
- Visit a tea farm and miso factory
- Soak in outdoor onsen hot springs
- Enjoy exquisite Japanese cuisine
Day 1 Sunday: Welcome to Kyoto!
You arrive in the course of the day at Heianbo Ryokan. Please note that your room may not be available until check-in time at 2pm, however if you arrive early the ryokan will keep your luggage secure if you want to do some exploration.
The Japan Highlights tour officially starts with a group meeting at 6pm followed by our first true Japanese meal. If you are arriving at the ryokan later at night, please check yourselves in and note instructions about tomorrow’s meeting. Heianbo Ryokan. Check-in after 2pm. Includes (D).
Day 2 Monday – 25 km: Kyoto city tour
In the event of late arrivals we will have a full briefing about our trip this morning after breakfast. Then it is time to get the rental bikes fitted and test ridden. After that we head out for a bike tour around Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Heianbo Ryokan. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 3 Tuesday – 55 km: Kyoto – Nara
Cycle to Nara. The road winds through green tea fields. In the afternoon we skip cycling all together and visit Nara on foot.
We spend the night in Aoba Chaya, which has been nestled away in Nara Park since 1907. This historical, foreigner-friendly establishment is the perfect place to end your sightseeing day. When first noticed it has an almost fairytale air about it. Aoba Chaya. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 4 Wednesday – 80 km: Nara – Koyasan
Cycle through the rich rice fields of Nara. Then it is a tough climb to 900m to reach Koyasan. Our temple stay at Ekouin makes it all worthwile. Here you can glimpse the daily lives of Buddhist monks by participating in religious services and eating the traditional vegetarian food. Koyasan was founded 1,200 years ago by Kukai as the main temple of Shingon Buddhism. It is designated as UNESCO World Heritage. Ekouin temple stay. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 5 Thursday – 70 km: Koyasan – Tokushima (Shikoku)
Downhill to Wakayama, Ferry to Shikoku Island. This morning you have an option to take part in the Buddhist service before breakfast. On leaving our temple lodging we will visit Kongobuji Temple, which is the main temple of the 3600 Shingon temples throughout Japan. Our cycling journey is a pleasurable downhill ride to the ferry terminal near Wakayama City to sail across the Seto Inland Sea. The comfortable 2-hour ferry takes us to Tokushima in Shikoku Island. Shikoku Island is noted for 88-temple Pilgrimage, and here you can expect to see a number of ‘ohenro’ pilgrims in white clothing.
Hyper Inn Tokushima Higashisenba. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 6 Friday - 0 km: Transfer by van from Tokushima to Tsuchigoya
Today we give our legs a rest and take a van from Tokushima 200km westward. A fantastic drive through Shikoku’s wild and mountainous inland. In the morning we pay a visit to the Chiiori house of Mr Alex Kerr of Lost Japan fame. Our lodgings in the shadow of Mt. Ishizushi offer plenty of opportunities for an afternoon walk.
Tsuchigoya Shiraishi Lodge. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 7 Saturday – 85km: Tsuchigoya to Uchiko
Spectacular views on the summit of Mt. Ishizuchi all the way down to Uchiko. Part of the town is a typical small mountain town with shopping arcades and so on. But entire sections of it have been perfectly preserved as a living museum, where people still reside and where traditional crafts are still alive. The candle shop may be the only place where Japanese candles are still made using the traditional method. Uchiko is a photographer’s dream. We stay in an old merchant house run by 5 neighbourhood ladies. Takahashitei. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 8 Sunday – 45 km: Uchiko – ferry to Beppu
Cycle to Ozu with its magnificent castle. On to Yawatahama. Ferry to Beppu on Kyushu island. Relax at Japan’s most famous onsen hot spring town. We take a shot at the local hell-steamed cuisine ( jigoku-mushi). All ingredients are steamed in special cauldrons over the natural fumes evaporating from the earth. Delicious! Miyukiya. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 9 Monday – 24 km: Beppu – Yufuin
After a visit to the Bamboo Museum, a short ride takes us up Mt. Yufu pass (700m). The rest of the day you can spend in the onsen, or make a little ride to the lake. Picturesque Yufuin sits in the shadow of the majestic twin peaks of Yufu-dake. Hotaruoyado Sendou. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 10 Tuesday - 72 km: Yufuin - Aso
Today it is all ups and downs in the shadow of Mt Yufu-dake and Kyushu’s highest mountain, Mt Kuju (1791m). We are on our way to Mount Aso, the world’s largest caldera. Crossing the rim of the vulcano crater we get a glimpse of the impressive Aso plain. Legend is that the outer crater was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break (through which rail and bus pass) emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation. We stay at the foot of the climb to Nakadake. Aso Base Backpackers. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 11 Wednesday – 66 km: Aso – Kumamoto
Have a hearty breakfast because the day starts with the climb up Nakadake. If the vulcano is not too active, we are allowed a peak accross the rim. After the descent we sneak through the hole in the caldera and follow the Shirakawa river to the west. The city of Kumamoto is nearing quickly. We stop to visit Kumamoto castle, which dates back to 1467, and is considered one of Japan’s top 3 castles (三名城 Sanmeijō), together with Osaka and Nagoya. If we have time we’ll ride on to Suizenji garden and visit the replica of Mount Fuji. Tonight we overnight at a traditional Japanese inn where the owner is a dye artist and you can make your own souvenir tenugui towel. Nakashimaya Hostel. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 12 Thursday - 59 km: Kumamoto – Hinagu Onsen
A leisurely ride on the fertile Yatsushiro plain, crossing the big rivers of Kyushu. Soon we arrive in Hinagu Onsen. This hot spring dates approximately 600 years back. During the Edo era (17th-19 centuries), it was designated as a hot spring run by the Hosokawa domain of Kumamoto. This historic hot spring was even loved by the lord of the Yashiro Castle as well as the lord of Shimazu who temporarily resided in the area. Even today, there are many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. From the Hinagu Onsen Jinja, a shrine where the god of the hot spring is enshrined, a sweeping view of the hot spring resort and the Shiranui Sea as well as the islands of Amakusa and Shimabara in the distance can be seen. At our ryokan we enjoy deliciously fresh seafood dishes. Kinparo Ryokan. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 13 Friday - 67 km: Hinagu Onsen – Izumi
We dance a tango with the little railroad and continue along the Shiranui Sea. Mitachimisaki and Ashikita Beach merit a stop. As well as Minamata with its harrowing museum dedicated to the victims of the Minamata disease. Without noticing we arrive in Izumi, winter resting grounds for Siberian cranes and home to Japan Biking. And the end point of our trip. Hotel Tokoh. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 14 Saturday: Sayonara!
Then it is time for final goodbyes… after breakfast you don’t have to climb in the saddle any longer. Now you are freed from the chores of the road.
- Explore the bright city of Kagoshima and do some souvenir hunting.
- Set out to UNESCO world heritage Yakushima, a subtropical island 4 ferry hours south of Kagoshima. Yakushima makes for some great hiking or biking.
- Head straight to the shinkansen station to continue your travels.
- Transfer to the airport for your domestic flight from Kagoshima to Kansai International Airport. Check-out before 10am. Includes (B).
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Japan Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring Cultural Journey