Travelling from Kyoto’s peaceful gardens to Tokyo’s soaring towers, our moderate grade Cycle Japan tour takes you on an immersive tour of this brilliantly bonkers and beautifully scenic country, visiting historic villages and soothing onsen hot springs along the way.
It’s long been one of our favourite ways to see Japan – and was voted one of National Geographic’s top 50 tours of a lifetime – but what better way to inspire you to try this for yourself than in the words of recent customers? Explore Leader Tyler Palma asked his small group of 16 for their personal highlights on the 450-kilometre route around the Noto Peninsula, and here’s what they had to say.
The journey travels from Kyoto – the city of gardens and geisha – to Tokyo, with the last part of the trip made by Shinkansen bullet train – an experience that no trip to Japan is complete without. The trip incorporates five nights in typical Japanese-style accommodation and showcases the wonderful food. The trip stops at plenty of sights that allow you time to enjoy the scenery and flavours of rural Japan, including Kanazawa and the gardens of Kenrokuen, the coastal region along the Noto Peninsula and the historic villages of Shirakawa-go.
"Riding along the sand (on the eight kilometre stretch of beach at Chirihama) and staying in the beautiful ryokan in Shogawa Onsen” – Steve
“Touring Kyoto Station at night and going over the skywalk" – Sharon “The bathing experience and the houses with the maple trees in front and all of the picnic lunches" – Linda
"The gardens of Heian Jingu. The peacefulness and the variety of this garden was so special. It is such a different culture and they've built in these relatively small areas where one can escape and find peace." – Andrew
Japan is known for its distinctive culture, of graceful geisha and flavoursome cuisine, tranquil gardens and bubbling onsen. In contrast to this is its incredibly modern side, where soaring skyscrapers pierce the sky and anime characters stare down from neon-lit billboards. This trip allows for an in-depth look at Japan’s fascinating culture, travelling through the country at a gentler pace and meeting Japanese people from all walks of life along the way.
"The whole Japan experience: electric lavatory seats, the politeness and manners of the Japanese." – Tony
“The bar; for example, looking out over all of Kanazawa from the Sky Bar, or the cocktails at the old bar on the corner in Tokyo. Aside from these, it was the traditional dish that we had in Kyoto, learning some of the language.” - Jane
“The whole thing! But especially the experience of different cuisines, that was fantastic. Also, the baths and walking around in our yukatas each evening.”– Andy
"Japan and the trip is summed up in the electronic lavatory. It's quiet, efficient, warm and very, very different." – Julian
Indeed. "Flush with success!" – Barry
The route and the bikes
This trip is carefully planned – like all Explore trips – to see as much of the genuine parts of the country as possible, without skimping on the true highlights. Included is a tour of historic Tokyo, the teahouses of Kanazawa, travelling on the Shinkansen bullet train and exploring Tokyo, with other less-visited places such as the coastal roads of Wajima, the unspoilt Noto Peninsula and onsen of Wakura. This offers a well-rounded look at the country. What’s more, the bikes are maintained along the way by a qualified mechanic, so if you do encounter any problems (a very rare occurrence) you’ll have no problems getting sorted.
“The tunnels on the final day of cycling were great fun." – Richard
"The standard of the bikes was a real highlight. It was very nice to get a proper machine and a well-trained mechanic to look after them." - Andy
“The standard of the bikes. The local bike guides and support crew. And the Post Office stop!" – John
“The fact that the cycling was challenging but rewarding gave us a real sense of accomplishment at the end." – Jane
Explore small group trips are famous for bringing people together, from couples to groups of friends – there are still Explore groups who meet up 25 years after first travelling together. Everyone is made to feel included by the Explore Leader, and solo travellers are warmly welcomed; did you know, around 40% of our travellers travel solo? Almost all of them leave having made a new bunch of friends.
“Aside from the cycling, views and all the rest of it, my highlight was seeing how a collection of unknown unknowns becomes a collective group of friends over the course of a mere two weeks." – Barry
"The Tour Leader was so knowledgeable, helpful and competent in every way." – Nicola
And if you asked this Tour Leader why I love this trip so much, I would have to agree with Carol who said that her highlight was simply “the cycling. We got to see the ‘real’ Japan and the contrast between the countryside and the city.”