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From ancient Kyoto we ride along quiet roads on the Noto Peninsula into the highlands around Shirakawa-go historic village, taking us firmly off the beaten track. Along the way we will see one of the finest Japanese gardens in Kanazawa, stay in ryokan and enjoy varied mountain scenery and coastal paths. Bullet train to Tokyo where we end our journey.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple guesthouse
9 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights simple ryokan
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
This incredible journey begins in the old Imperial capital of Kyoto, regarded by many as the country's loveliest city. Lying at the heart of Japanese culture and influence for over 1,000 years, Kyoto sat at the centre of events that helped to shape the destiny and history of this most fascinating of cultures. One of the only major cities to survive the extensive bombing of WWII, Kyoto can boast more than 2000 temples and shrines, many set in manicured landscaped gardens, making this captivating city the cradle of all things uniquely Japanese.
Our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Kyoto at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you will need to arrive into Kansai International Airport (KIX) which is approximately 2 hours away, or Osaka International Airport (ITM) which takes around an hour. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, we recommend visiting one of Kyoto's many Unesco World Heritage Sites. The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is perhaps the most spectacular but you will have to battle the crowds to get that perfect photo. If you prefer somewhere a bit less known and with fewer fellow travellers we would recommend Toji Temple with its towering pagoda and great gardens. For impressive buildings, Nishi-Honganji Temple is hard to beat and its convenient location puts it within easy walking distance from our hotel. Slightly further afield, but still an easy train ride away, is the Arashiyama district. Here you can enjoy beautiful mountain scenery, a punt on the river, great food, beautiful gardens and even hike up to see wild monkeys. Trains leave regularly from Kyoto train station.
Hotel Elcient Kyoto (or similar)
This incredible city can boast no fewer than 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites including 13 temples, three Shinto shrines and a 17th century castle. We will pick up our bikes and set out cycling to the Heian Jingu Shrine, before taking in the scenic Philosopher's Path, Eikando Temple and and the 15th Century Ginkaku-ji Temple. After lunch we will cycle south along the Kamo river to Tofukuji Temple's rock gardens and the 1001 statues of Kannon Bodhisattva (the goddess of mercy) located at the Sanjusangendo temple on the eastern edge of the city. This evening is free. Please note that there is no vehicle support for today's ride and we will be using simple local style bikes.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 17 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 60 metres).
This morning we travel by train (2hrs+) to Kanazawa, a city that once rivalled Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) in cultural importance. Once home to the powerful Maeda Clan, today it serves as the capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture and boasts the stunning setting of the Kenrokuen Gardens, considered to be one of Japan's most beautiful landscape gardens. This afternoon we will pick up our bikes and meet our guide, before heading off to visit the gardens. Taking nearly two centuries to complete and translating from their original Japanese as the 'Garden of the Six Sublimities', Kenrouken was begun by the Maedas in 1632 and covers over 11 hectares of land on the outskirts of Kanazawa Castle.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 8 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 60 metres), no support vehicle today.
Route Inn Kanazawa Eki-mae (or similar)
Our main bags will be sent on to Wakura Onsen today as, over the next four days we make do with smaller bags as we cycle north, following the coast on to the Noto Peninsula. The smaller bags are still transported in the support van, leaving you free to enjoy the rides. Our destination today is Chirihama Beach in Hakui, lying to the north of Kahoku. The eight kilometre beach is famous for its unique tightly compacted sand which, at a quarter of the size of normal sand, makes it firm enough to actually cycle on.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 60 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 220 metres).
Noto Royal Hotel (or similar)
Keeping the Sea of Japan on our left we continue following the coast north today, heading for the city of Wajima in the northern half of the Noto Peninsula. One of the most scenic coastal landscapes in Japan, the Noto Peninsula extends into the Sea of Japan for some 100 kilometres, providing us with a beautifully secluded journey north. We travel by way of the Ganmon National Park and stop off to visit the Sojiji Temple and Gardens, once one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Japan. Founded in 1321, it was the head temple of the Soto sect, before a great fire in 1898 saw its functions transferred to a sister temple in Yokohama.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 66 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 680 metres).
Hotel Route Inn Wajima (or similar)
This morning we pay a visit to Wajima's famous Morning Market, one of the city's most famous attractions. Believed to date back over 1,000 years, it brings together vendors selling all manner of goods, from fresh fish and produce, to handicrafts and lacquerware, Wajima's most celebrated export. Renowned throughout Japan, Wajima lacquerware is famed for its durability, with each piece requiring the skills of several craftsmen and dozens of processes. Following our visit we then continue on our journey, heading towards the northeastern tip of the peninsula and the waters of Iida Bay. Tonight we sleep in a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 47 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 690 metres).
Rokko Ryokan (or similar)
We complete our ride around the Noto Peninsula today as we follow its eastern edge towards the town of Noto Ushitsu. The very remoteness of this landscape has been one of its most enduring features for centuries and much of this stunning peninsula has been granted a Quasi-National Park status. Tonight we sleep in a hotel in traditional Japanese style rooms.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 49 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 690 metres).
Noto Kinpura (or similar)
The waters of Nanao Bay and the famous hot springs of Wakura Onsen beckon today. One of the oldest resort towns in Japan, legend has it that these hot springs were discovered over 1,200 years ago, when a local fisherman found a white heron curing its wounds in the steaming waters. Today its healing waters are said to cure everything from muscle aches and stiff joints, to chronic skin disease and frail children! The town is also famed for its seafood, with a number of its traditional inns serving up a mouthwatering choice of oysters, crabs, deep-water shrimps and abalones. The perfect cure for body and soul after our four days of cycling. Tonight we sleep in a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse with en suite facilities.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 71 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 870 metres).
Kimpa-so (or similar)
This morning our journey turns inland as we leave Ishikawa Prefecture for neighbouring Toyama. As before, our large bags go on ahead and we will be using small bags for the next two nights, carried with us in our support vehicle. Our ride today includes the biggest hill of our entire trip, but also takes in a rural landscape of rice paddies and mountain peaks, finishing at the mountain village of Shogawa Onsen. 'Onsens' are dotted all across rural Japan, hot springs that were traditionally used as public bathing places, they make the most of Japan's active volcanic landscapes. There is a distinct etiquette to bathing, with cleanliness and social niceties being observed by participants, whilst rowdiness and tattoos are particularly frowned upon (tattoos in Japan have long been associated with criminal Yakuza gangs).
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 71 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 860 metres).
Royal Hotel Toyama Tonami (or similar)
Today we head into the remote countryside of the Shogawa River Valley on our final ride, where we will find a number of beautifully preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses. With their steep thatched roofs, constructed to resemble the praying hands of Buddhist monks, some of these houses are over 250 years old. Developed over many generations and designed to withstand the heavy falls of snow that regularly envelope the region in winter, these roofs are constructed without nails and the large attics were traditionally used to cultivate silkworms. Our final destination today is the historic village of Shirakawa-go which, along with neighbouring Gokayama, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Please note that we will be cycling through several tunnels today.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 57 kilometres (total accumulated ascent 820 metres).
Toyota Shirakawa Go Eco Institute (or similar)
We plan to visit one of the traditional farmhouses of Shirakawa-go this morning, before we travel by bus (1hr30) back to Kanazawa. It is from here that we take the iconic Shinkansen bullet train (2hrs30) to Japan's capital city, Tokyo, most likely arriving late afternoon. Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, home to more than 26 million people including the Japanese imperial family. The city holds a lot of history as well as modern shopping centres and the neon illuminated signs it's famous for. Half of the city was rebuilt after being destroyed in the war but there are still many historic temples and gardens that remain and await exploration. On arrival to Tokyo we have the chance to explore this fascinating city.
No cycling today.
Sunroute Asakusa Hotel (or similar)
Today is left free for you to explore, wander and shop at leisure or take an optional guided tour of Tokyo. Your Tour Leader will be on hand to assist and give guidance today. A typical itinerary would be to visit the Asakusa Sensoji-temple followed by a river cruise to the the Hama-rikyu gardens, Meiji shrine and finally the Shinjuku Government Building for great views over Tokyo. It is also possible to rent a bike locally and explore - your Tour Leader will be able to provide details.
Optional cycling today.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tokyo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Haneda Airport (HND) or Narita Airport (NRT). The city centre is around an hour away from Haneda Airport and an hour and a half from Narita.
Total distance : 274 miles
Japan's climate is mostly temperate, with five distinct seasons. Summer is from June to September with temperatures reaching 30°c, although it can vary from warm to very hot. after mid-July. July and August can be humid. Spring and Autumn are mild throughout Japan. Winter, October to April, is cold with snowfall. The main rainy season is June. Japan can be prone to short, tropical cyclones in August to October. October / November although cooler is a great time to see the Autumn colours.
For trips that visit the Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Onsen, you're very likely to see them all year around, aside from in October/November when there is enough food in the forest to prevent them coming down to the baths. You may still see some at this time but not in the numbers found during the rest of the year.
2 Pin Flat
Buddhism, Christian and Shinto
Takaoka - Walking tour to Takaoka Buddha statue & Zuiryoji temple (500 Yen entrance fee) Tokyo - City tour including Asakusa Sensoji-temple, River cruise, Hama-rikyu gardens, Meiji shrine and Shinjuku Government Building (view of Tokyo) GBP 15
When cycling: quick drying cycle tops, padded cycle shorts, lightweight wind and water proof jacket and warmer breathable layers where local conditions require. General: Pack essentially for hot or mild weather depending on the time of the year. Please note that each accommodation provides yukatas (pyjamas), soap, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razors, towels and tooth brushes.
If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.
We recommend you bring a daypack (big enough to carry what you need for a few days) and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. There are a few days on the tour when you will not have your main luggage so will need to pack the day bag with your essentials. On day 4 the main luggage is forwarded to Wakura Onsen which you reach on day 8. On day 9 the main luggage is forwarded to Tokyo which you reach on day 11. For the nights where you are separated from your main piece of luggage please note that each accommodation provides clients with yukatas (pyjamas), soap, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razors, towels and tooth brushes. In fact these amenities are provided for all nights on the tour in each accommodation.
Japan's rail network has a policy that requires passengers with oversized baggage to reserve a specific seat in an oversized baggage area. This relates to baggage with overall dimensions of over 160cm (taken by adding the height+width+depth measurements). These overall dimensions are around the same for which oversized baggage fees are charged on international airlines, so it's unlikely that you will be bringing a suitcase of this size. However, it is worth checking the dimensions and then repacking with a smaller case if necessary. Due to the complexities of booking these seats, if you arrive with an oversized bag, our team in Japan will ship the luggage from one place to the next from the beginning to the end of the tour, at an additional cost.
On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. It is a legal requirement in Japan to wear a helmet that meets current safety criteria. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage.
Bus, Bicycle, Train
On this trip you are able to choose to purchase a single room (please see the dates and prices for the applicable single supplement price). However, this option does not include a single room on days 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of this holiday. We are not able to offer a single room on these nights as the ryokans and hotels we use only have enough rooms to accommodate all the passengers of a full group on a twin share basis. Comfortable - Our mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service. The accommodation we use on this tour doesn't have bars, gardens or swimming pools. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en-suite facilities. Simple - In the more rural and traditional places we stay in Japanese style accommodation (1 night simple, 2 nights comfortable) where you will be in twin share rooms with traditional tatami-mat (woven soft 'igusa' straw) flooring and sleeping on futons. Generally the rooms are simply decorated with a low 'kotatsu' table to sit around, a scroll or picture in an alcove and a Japanese tea set. The two futons are just brought out at night. Shoes are taken off in the entrance way to the room. We refer to these Japanese guesthouses as Ryokans. The simple grade accommodation has shared toilets and traditional same sex communal baths that are used after washing yourself. The comfortable grade accommodation has a private bathroom attached to each guest room.
Arrival transfers - this will be on the regular shuttle bus and stops will be made at other hotels en route. You will be met in the arrivals hall. Look out for a sign with your name, it will not be Explore branded. Departure transfers - the Tour Leader will show you to the bus stop and you will ride on the same shuttle bus to the airport. Private transfers in the days before the tour starts and after it ends will be in a private vehicle. Look out for an Expore sign with your name.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
British passport holder do not require visa to enter Japan for tourism purposes. All visa related issues for other nationalities should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory. We recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, infectious hepatitis and polio. The use or possession of Vicks inhalers and some other common prescription and over-the-counter medicines (e.g. for allergies and sinus problems or even certain mild painkillers, such as those containing certain levels of codeine) are banned under Japan's strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law. Customs officials may not be sympathetic if you claim ignorance about these medicines. If in any doubt about customs procedures for such items, you should check with the nearest Japanese Embassy before visiting Japan. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.