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 wonders. If you're searching for the ultimate guided bicycle adventure through Japan, then look no further than our flagship tour of the Land of the Rising Sun - Stunning Shikoku.
This bike tour runs from Kyoto to Onomichi.
Introducing our most comprehensive bike tour in Japan! Discover how this bike-friendly country beautifully blends its ancient cultures and traditions with its vibrant modern world. Visit Japan's former feudal capital, Kyoto: one of the most enchanting cities in Asia and a beautiful location to tour by bike.
Cycle among Japan's iconic swaying Sakura trees and zen out in the famous rock gardens.
Explore the intriguing island of Shikoku, where only a short trip away from industrial Japan lies a natural wonderland full to the brim of culture. This island is famous for its stunning scenery, great cycling on beautiful, well made back roads, and white coated Buddhist pilgrims following the holy 88 temple Shikoku Pilgrimage.
Pedal down narrow, almost deserted roads through evergreen forests, over wild rivers and through tiny towns, then enjoy panoramic views as you ride huge span bridges over the scattered archipelago in the Seto Inland Sea on your way to Hiroshima. The cycling is incredible and Japan well accommodated for bike touring!
This cycle tour explores everything you know as Japan, while at the same time, introducing you to hidden wonders that fuel intrigue.
Peak Season: For tours commencing from March 18 (2020) to 24 April (2020) there is a peak season surcharge of 10% on the price of this tour due to hotel rate increases at this time of year.
10 days duration
323 km distance
Difficulty: Somewhat challenging
Tour Features & Inclusions
What makes a Grasshopper bike tour so special?
Find out how your next cycle adventure goes the extra mile.
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Grasshopper's Japan tours are run with our new fleet of Cannondale Quick 1 Disc bikes (see our 'Top Bikes' feature for more on these), but depending on availability and for additional fee, our Premium Self-guided offering in Japan includes Cannondale Synapse Ultegra SE bikes.
Synapse Ultegra SE is a durable carbon-frame proposition from Cannondale. This most reliable all-rounder will make every road feel like tarmac. For those who are accustomed to riding on drop bars, these bikes will be a lasting memory of the touring experience.
Upgrade availability is limited at busy times so please contact our support team about availability and your bicycle preference (Cannondale Synapse Ultegra or regular).
A pleasure to ride, the Yamaha e-bike is a unique offer for tours in Japan, available from October 2019. The pedal-assist feature of this lightweight aluminium build expands touring possibilities for all riders and to explore more of the world by bike is a great thing in our books! Find out more about our E-Bikes here.
Yamaha e-bike is an upgrade that can be purchased for this trip, availability is limited and on a first-in basis. After making your online booking our support team will follow-up requesting your bicycle preference (E-bike or regular).
Hotels in Japan are compact, but generally comfortable and convenient. We have a mixture of accommodation on this tour from conventional 3-4 star hotels, to small traditional Ryokan Inns, some with attached onsen (thermal hot spring) baths. These are atmospheric, family run guesthouses with, tatami matted floors, paper walls, futon beds, Yukata gowns and a traditional Japanese feast that awaits you at each one. We have selected these properties for their character, location and comfort. Note, double beds are not available in the Ryokan's as they are single futon mattresses on the floor.
Japan has such well-maintained roads that we venture onto hybrid bikes for this tour. The Cannondale Quick 1 Disc bikes are fixed fork (no suspension), flat handlebar hybrid bikes with mid-width fast rolling tyres and hydraulic discs for braking confidence. A reliable and performance geared Shimano 105 drivetrain and class-leading weight make this a great bike for lightweight cycle touring and perfectly suited to the Japanese conditions.
Your Tour Leader is a Japanese national who has lived abroad at various stages, but is now back in Japan doing what he truly loves, riding bikes with friendly visitors. Our leaders are often cited as being the highlight of the tour and this we believe will be true of your experience in Japan. We have searched far and wide to find someone who can really tell you the story of Japan and we believe we have found him.
We provide a support vehicle driven by a skilled bike mechanic. You can be well assured that our great team are right behind you with support and they can keep your bike humming along like a swiss watch.
An air-conditioned support van is provided and will be within 15 minutes reach maximum when needed. Bulky luggage is transferred by courier to the endpoint of the ride, so it is a good idea to pack in two parts, one part that you need daily and one part that you don't need until we reach the next hotel. This makes your daily routine a lot easier.
Japanese cuisine is world famous. We aim to deliver a wide ranging food experience on this tour from some simple meals up to the more ornate and gourmet experiences in the larger towns. Most meals are included on the tour, except for rest days.
Granola bars, fruit, and electrolyte drinks, as well as delicious local snacks will be provided to keep your energy up for riding.
A beautiful, limited edition, memento Grasshopper cycling jersey is yours to wear and take home as well as our trademark bottle.
4 to 14
This tour is guaranteed for a minimum of 4 travellers. And we limit the group size to only 14 travellers so that you get all the attention you want in an intimate group.
There is no surcharge for single travellers - we will match you with another same sex single traveller. If you want a single room there is a an optional upgrade that you can book.
for Stunning Shikoku bike tour
Welcome to Kyoto
Welcome to Kyoto: Japan’s cultural capital and an excellent place to explore by bike. This city encompasses more than just history, temples and tradition, which it has plenty of. Check out the Imperial Palace and the Golden Pavilion shimmering against the lake on which they sit. In addition to its 17 UNESCO world heritage sites, Kyoto is also known to be the hub for Japan's dynamic modern art scene.
We’ll start with a morning bike fitting to get ourselves ready for our first ride out to the mystical bamboo forest. From there we will switch gears and pedal to Tenryuji temple to soak up its picturesque tranquility and then to 11th century Ryoanji (also known as The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) for a look at its zen garden. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch some spectacular cherry blossoms there. We return to the city for the first of many delicious dinners.
Train & Ferry to Naoshima Art Island
All aboard the train (a classic example of sophisticated Japanese infrastructure) for a ride to the ferry that will take us to Naoshima Art Island. We’ll discover some of the highlights of Naoshima on a walking tour of the island, including the droplet-shaped Teshima Art Museum, a pop art pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama, and the dynamic architecture of Tadao Ando. In the late afternoon, we will board another ferry for the port city Takamatsu where we spend the night.
Cycle to Shishikui
Hop on the train again this morning for a short ride to the city of Tokushima, where we’ll transfer outside of the center of town and begin our scenic ride to Shishikui. Enjoy the striking stretch of coastline as we pedal along an undulating river road to an elevated road with nice views down towards the water. As we brake for a lunch stop, we’ll see Yakuo-ji: the 23rd of 88 temples of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. We often glimpse a number of ‘ohenro’ pilgrims in their distinctive white clothing making the trek- an interesting cultural experience! The rest of the day is quite flat, manageable cycling.
Transfer & Cycle to Kochi
Today we will transfer to the starting point of our ride, and anyone wishing to rest their tired legs is welcome to take the train part of the way rather than cycle. Today’s cycling route hugs the beautiful shorelines. Along the way, we encounter Shinshouji: the 25th temple of the Shikoku 88. We also see the old townscapes of Kiragawa, which retain a number of heritage architectural features including stone walls and tiled roofs. Thanks to the typhoon-proof architecture, these heritage buildings have survived well and been kept in good condition.
On the last 15km to Kochi, we will enjoy riding on the designated cycling path that used to be a railway. Situated in the inner city, the 400-year-old Kochi Castle rises gloriously above the city skyline, symbolising the spirit and heritage of the place.
Free Day in Kochi
Today is a day to recharge and rest your tired legs in the beautiful coastal city of Kochi. Explore Kochi Castle or the preserved residence of Yamauchi Samurai, or make your way through the depths of the Ryuga Cave. Take a leisurely stroll around one of Kochi's many walking paths through parks and by beaches, or make your way to the famous Sunday Market. You may also choose to relax and take a soak in the onsen to prepare to hit the road again tomorrow.
Transfer & Cycle to Yusuhara
On fresher legs, we are prepared for a challenging ride. After leaving the city by car to a nice park where the bikes are set up, we rejoin the river landscapes that Kochi is renowned for. Today we cycle along the Niyodo River, popular among the local people for fishing, camping, and canoeing.
When we steer our bikes from the river, the road begins to gain height and we get into more and more remote territory. This road was likely one of those built around 300 years ago to connect the pilgrimage sites. The climb is in three stages. We ease into the first and then after climbing around 8km, descend a little before taking on the next 8km rise. The last climb is only 6km and takes us through some of the most beautiful forests so far.
A fun descent then awaits as we dip into the tiny and tidy town of Yusuhara where we stay in a contemporary hotel with an interesting modern design. Check out Kengo Kuma’s architecture in this mountainous town, such as the intriguing wooden town office and wooden bridge shaped art gallery. You’ll sleep well tonight, feeling proud of the day’s accomplishments.
Craft Day in Yusuhara
35km cycling (optional ride)
Test your creativity this morning with a traditional washi paper making activity. Washi is commonly made from the fibres of tree bark and plants, and often seen used for shoji screens and origami papers. Dutch national Rogier and his Japanese wife have been at this for 25 years, and their paper art has been exhibited numerous times in Tokyo and beyond. You may get to take away a lampshade or some such item if your efforts permit. Spend the afternoon exploring the produce market built into our thatch-covered hotel or exploring this charming town. For those itching to get back on the bikes, there is a 35 km loop ride available as an option today.
Transfer, Cycle & Train to Imabari
Today we will pedal past impressively clean rivers through small riverside communities before a short uphill climb. As we draw nearer to the coast, we’ll pass some stretches of rice paddies and other agricultural areas. We arrive at the coast just in time for a delicious lunch of fresh sashimi and tempura. Once we’ve refuelled, we have a short ride to the train station for a quick commute through the countryside along the coast to the city of Imabari where we’ll rest for the night.
Shimanami Kaido & Ferry to Onomichi
Today the Shimanami Kaido awaits! After a short ride through town, we arrive at the visitor's centre that marks the start of this epic cycling route. The visitor’s centre looks out over the first bridge we will encounter, spanning a strait filled with clear blue water and islands dotting the distant horizon.
Today’s ride is a cyclist’s heaven, with a mixture of dedicated cycleway and roads with bike lanes. There are a series of bridges to cross that provide spectacular views out over this archipelago and there are spiral-shaped paths leading up to and down from each one of these bridges. We conclude the ride on a special ferry for cyclists that helps to keep the distance achievable.
We pass around the last couple of islands and into the seaside town of Onomichi, home to a special variety of Udon and the endpoint of our journey. We’ll arrive mid-afternoon, and you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon free to seek out a tasty Udon or just explore a little, before meeting for our farewell dinner.
Our tour concludes today in Onomichi. Your guide can assist you with your further travelling arrangements. Many destinations in Japan are just a few hours away by Bullet Train.
What's the Riding Like?
Some hilly terrain
7 days riding
On this bike tour we will enjoy cycling on excellent roads for the duration of the trip. For the most part, traffic is only light and drivers are courteous towards cyclists. In terms of gradient, we have a bit of everything, but the steepest parts of the climb are not long and the longest parts of the climb are not steep. The cycling is some of the best in Asia and we will be using hybrid bikes fitted with touring tires. These bikes strike the perfect balance of comfort and efficiency on this terrain and are ideal for this type of bike touring. We also offer a road bike upgrade for this tour.
What our guests tell us...
Just a selection of reviews from some of our cycle tours.
can't say that I've ever had a ride quite like this one. Every day I experienced great cycling, exquisite food, and scenery that just made me want to move to Japan. But above all, I became intrigued about how this place got to be the way it is. Thus it surely will have been my first of many rides in Japan with Grasshopper
Kenji's time abroad and varied career within Japan enables him to explain Japan in such great context and in such a personal manner. When someone said "Japan", it would invoke the image of the Wave off Kanagawa, but now I think it will will invoke an image of Kanji's smiling. The service from Grasshopper before, during and after the trip was truly outstanding
If you like windy and fresh ocean rides, with lots of kilometers of water and rocks and waves and stunning views; if you're fond of speedy road bike rides on excellent road surfaces; If you enjoy the look of aquamarine mountain rivers and brooks; if you love the challenges of climbing the exhausting hills which later fill you with pride of yourself that you just have made another achievement; if you find the small fishermen villages enchanting, if you find those temples and ashrams fascinating; if you feel like riding huge endless magnificent bridges and finally, in case you are a big fan of Japanese cuisine and simply can not have enough - that would be a great trip for you to make! I just did and I loved it!
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