7 Reasons to cycle Japan

7 Reasons to cycle Japan

Posted 20 Aug 2018 by Noel Tanner in Kyoto

"What immediately comes to mind when you think of Japan...Sushi? Sake? Culture and Tradition? Bullet Trains? Mount Fuji? Samurai Warriors? Asahi Beer? Pokemon Go? ... And for me Cycling"

- Serial traveller, avid cyclist and Grasshopper team member, Noel Tanner, has now visited the Land of the rising Sun several times and reveals why cycling Japan is his favorite bike touring destination.


7 Reasons to cycle Japan

About 19 years ago, I worked out that I love cycling and I love travel. I love lots of activities, but these two top the list. And as anyone who has done both at the same time will know, they are complementary activities. In the saddle, at handlebar height, I’ve experienced the story of hundreds of cities/towns and probably 50 odd countries, but there is a big missing piece to my puzzle, the land of the rising sun.

I’ve had friends regale me with their adventurous tales and I’ve read an endless stream of reviews from Grasshopper customers (blatant plug), but still am yet to set foot there. So I thought it would make an interesting article to explain why it has now reached the top of my travel list.

7 Reasons I want to cycle Japan

1. The scenery

Japan is acclaimed for its large amount of natural beauty, be it Cherry Blossom season, iconic snow capped volcanoes, tall timber forests, diverse coastlines, stunning crystal clear lakes, the calligraphy, exquisitely manicured gardens. Japan is a volcanic place, alongside the molten rock, hot springs burst out of the ground across the country. Should I go on? There is also scenic amazement in the mega cities, neon signs, architecture old and new, pop culture displays everywhere.

7 Reasons I want to cycle Japan

2. The Food

Who doesn’t love Japanese cuisine? The adherence to tradition, the simplicity, the minimalist style and the ritual manner in which it is consumed, are all reasons for its success internationally. Oh to be in the home of this amazing food! Very much hoping that there will be a mix of traditional, modern and hopefully… some wierd.

Anyone who rides daily - as I do - will either ride to eat or eat to ride. I subscribe to the former. I sometimes think that I ride in order to nurture a healthy appetite and I’ve succeeded there. This extends just a little bit to something else that Japan does well, and that’s craft beer.

It started appearing in convenience stores a few years back. An IPA, a Stout, a Red Ale and according to Grasshopper boss, Adam, a Bonito Flake Beer. Apparently each convenience store along the road has a slight variation on the range, so looking forward to sampling these. And then there is Sake, a whole story on its own.


Cycle Kyoto to the Coast - Self-guided

Cycle Kyoto to the Coast - Self-guided

Self-guided cycle tour of Kyoto to the coast
Bike tour the heritage rich areas of Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino and Mount Koya on this iconic cycle tour of Japan, that balances the independence of self guided ...

Save $400 Off the Cycle Kyoto to the Coast - Self-guided tour! 


7 Reasons to cycle Japan

3. The connection with ancient tradition and culture

My standard modus operandi when travelling to new places, is to do the basic, topline research on culture and tradition, then stumble through it on arrival, thereby learning it by being in it.

As I travel I want the know the “WHY” as much as the “WHAT” and while it’s a heap of fun just diving in and working it out, having a guide is a big way of connecting in a meaningful way, with people and culture, learning a great deal about history and national psyche and achieving all that in a compact period of time.

So, as you can guess, when I do make it to Japan, I’m going on a bike tour with Grasshopper, because I know that I’ll leave Japan, satisfied. I’ll have learned more than I would by reading a few guide books and I’ll have experienced connections that just aren’t possible when traveling independently. Only thing is, I ask a LOT of questions, so poor guide.

Reasons to cycle Japan

4. The modern infrastructure

Regular Trains and the Bullet train make covering long distances and extended transfers a breeze. On self guided tours Grasshopper provide bike bags that are more like soft covers. They fold up and whenever you want to board a train, you just take the front wheel off, put the bag over the bike and get on the train. The bags are so small they fit in the bottle cage. If it’s me, I’ll have one of those craft beers in hand as I watch the scenery scoot past at 300km an hour.

When investing in roads the Japanese have often replaced the old one with a new one running in parallel. This leaves the quiet old road (still well maintained) as a perfect route for cyclists.

These almost deserted, well maintained, hotmix roads, take you up climbs over deserted cols (mountains), descents with more switchbacks than Alpe d'Huez. Many of the roads have low-speed limits of 40-60 km/h, so even when there is traffic it goes at a sensible pace. A safe and comfortable riding environment, accessed most easily with the help of Grasshopper Guide or Self-guided tours.

Then there is the Shimanami Kaido, a world famous cycling route taking in a collection of span bridges that connect a scattered archipeligo between Shikoku Island and the Hiroshima area. Stunning views out over the islands and again, great quality roads and bikeways, mostly away from any traffic to speak of.

7 Reasons I want to cycle Japan

5. The diverse landscapes and terrain

As an avid cyclist I love a challenge, conquering mountains, rugged coastlines, epic bridges connecting islands, while also enjoy casually pedalling along stunning coastlines, through World Heritage National Parks, cycle-friendly rural roads; farm lands, caldera lakes, volcanoes. Japan has it all, a true cyclist’s paradise!

7 Reasons I want to cycle Japan

6. The accommodation hospitality and respect

This is an aspect I’ve become far more aware of since my transition into the travel industry, a comfortable bed in anything from modern to historic is a true treat at the end of a rewarding day in the saddle. Japanese modern hotels are short on space, but high on amenities, but the real experience is in the traditional Ryokan accommodation, with tatami mat floors, futon beds, shared natural onsen thermal bathes, and Yukata wearing residence.

Respect in and it’s Japanese culture I feel is an aspect you must experience to fully appreciate, it is felt at all levels of of the community.

7 Reasons I want to cycle Japan

7. The pleasure of bicycle touring

I’m an extremely curious person by nature. I love to experience the authenticity of local life as often possible on my travels. In my mind there is no better way to immerse yourself in a new region than exploring by bicycle. You are travelling on your terms, if you see something of interest you can just stop and explore. The other wonderful benefit is that locals seem so much more open and approachable to a stranger on a bike, often they are as inquisitive as you about the situation, and the uniqueness of the encounter is often shared. You are a traveller not a tourist, you are welcomed and I can imagine this is hugely amplified thanks to Japanese culture.

Perhaps this article should be titled 700 Reasons I want do a bike tour in Japan as within each reason there are an array of ingredients that make this destination so appealing. I can’t wait to get there in the near future and with our growing presence in Japan I’m sure it will be an incredible cycling adventure.

7 Reasons to cycle Japan

Bike Tours in Japan

Stunning Shikoku

Stunning Shikoku

The Ultimate Bike Tour of Japan
Cycle through Japan: a land of ancient castles, Shinto Shrines, Buddhist monasteries and statues, where traditional cultures and etiquette overlap with futuristic modern wonde...

Japan Heritage Cycle - Kyoto & Surrounds

Japan Heritage Cycle - Kyoto & Surrounds

Bike tour through Japan's historic homeland
Explore the intriguing city of Kyoto by bicycle, a place consistently highly rated by visitors. Cycle beyond Kyoto to another ancient capital, Nara, before riding on to ...

Cycle Kyoto to the Coast - Self-guided

Cycle Kyoto to the Coast - Self-guided

Self-guided cycle tour of Kyoto to the coast
Bike tour the heritage rich areas of Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino and Mount Koya on this iconic cycle tour of Japan, that balances the independence of self guided bicycle touring and ...