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7 Days | 6 Nights
BOOK THIS TOUR
Bike the heritage-rich sights of Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino and Mount Koya on this self-guided cycle tour of Japan. Balance the independence of self-guided bicycle touring with the seamless planning of a Grasshopper experience. Comfortable, achievable distances, great food, hotels with comfort and style, all topped off with quality bikes.
E-bikes and carbon frame bikes available on this tour as an optional upgrade.
Cannondale Quick 1 Disc | E-Bike & Carbon Bike Upgrades Available
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Ryokans, Shukubos and Traditional Fusion Hotels
Grasshopper's first self-guided cycle tour of Japan! Kyoto is the historic home of Japanese culture and one of our favorite cities in which to tour by bicycle. Explore by bike the ancient capital, then ride through another heritage city Nara, a beautiful hilltop village Yoshino and the spiritual Mount Koya, before descending to the coast at Wakayama.
Enjoy the freedom of setting your own pace, but with the seamless logistical support that Grasshopper is famous for. Luggage transfers, hotels booked in advance, navigational aids, audio commentary and lots of information on food to help you make the most of Japanese cuisine on your ride. Great bikes, maintained to a Japanese level of precision are the icing on the self-guided Japan tour cake.
256 Km riding. This self-guided bike tour is ridden on smooth sealed roads. You mostly ride rural lanes, backroads and dedicated cycleways. Once or twice for short distances you will cycle A-roads, but traffic is light. There are some hill climbs to challenge you along the way, but these are all achievable if you take your time. We recommend some pre-tour preparation to make sure you’re comfortable with the distances and climbs. There are multiple options to cut rides short or cut out hill climbs with some interesting public transport solutions to adapt your ride.
Pedal-assist E-bikes are an available option on this tour from $150.
Find out more about our e-fleet in Japan.
Single room option: $1,150 USD
Deposit: $700 USD
Solo rider option: $2,150 USD
Due to festivities surrounding the Golden Week in 2021, which runs from April 29 to May 5, no bookings can be made for departures between April 24th, 2021 and May 10th, 2021. The high volume of traffic, along with major changes to traffic organization, make it impossible to organize the tour in this period.
Explore the many UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kyoto as you cycle this cultural capital.
Along the journey, stay in traditional Ryokan accommodations for a flavor of Japanese culture.
Pedal through the ancient city of Nara before riding to Yoshino in the forested Kii Mountains.
Climb the sacred Mount Koya, the home of Shingon Buddhism, and stay in a traditional monks accommodation.
Japan's cultural epicenter encompasses more than just history, temples and tradition, which it has plenty of with the mighty Imperial Palace and the Golden Pavilion shimmering against the lake on which it sits. The UNESCO world heritage site is also a hub for Japan's dynamic modern art scene. On this arrival day, nothing is planned until the late afternoon briefing, so you are free to explore this fascinating city on your own. Our briefing is arranged at your convenience, designed to run through the practicalities of the trip and introduce you to your bikes and equipment.
Kyoto is such a great city to explore by bike. Wide roads and shared pathways everywhere, considerate and careful drivers and little alleyways along canals, this is typically fun riding in this cycling-friendly country. The city was the capital of Japan for so long (at two separate times), that it is very much the heritage and cultural capital still.
The ride starts out along the river and takes you up to the north of the city where you can visit the Bamboo Forest and at certain times of the year the iconic cherry blossom gardens. There is a stop at the Tenryuji Temple which is typical of the ancient architecture that has endured the passage of time.
You then ride onto Ryoanji in the east, famous for its UNESCO favorite zen-style garden. On the way, you can stop at Kinkakuji and take in a great view out over the city.
There are lots of traditional sweets available on the route, so you can stop and graze on these before rolling back into town along the Kamo River. The stops you make are up to you, so take the route and our audio guide and decide for yourself. This evening is free for you to explore the incredible dining options, but we have plenty of suggestions for the best local eateries.
Leaving a city the size of Kyoto by bike may sound daunting, but in reality it is not. The roads are well planned and the drivers are courteous. After only a few kilometers on the roads, you will connect to the bike path and then it is smooth sailing as you ride a levy by the river. There are some junctions and some road intersections that you need to negotiate, but for the most part, you are on an uninterrupted path past Bamboo forests, corn crops and green tea plantations. A small cafe that is welcoming to cyclists can be found for morning tea and there is a viewing tower with a spotless bathroom about halfway through the ride. These recommendations and more will be on the Grasshopper Self-Guided app.
You will now be staying in a cross between a hotel and a Ryokan. It features beds rather than futons, but from reception throughout the property you’ll find Tatami matting. You will be staying right in Nara, just next to the main train station. The Nara Park and the key temple sites of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji are just a short ride away (3km), but there is also a shuttle bus that runs a circular route through the area.
You stayed on the northern edge of Nara last night, so this morning you get to ride through the remnants of the ancient city. To be fair, there is not much left of it but there is an impressive replica of the palace that you will ride past.
The Nara period was from AD 710-794, during that time the city was modeled after Chang'an, the Tang Capital of China. The upper class at the time adopted the Chinese system of writing and also adopted Buddhism as their religion.
As you pass through Nara you will see that it is a city of some size. The cycling route takes you on a somewhat complex, but navigable route to avoid riding with any heavy traffic. Once you clear the city, the riding turns to very pleasant little backroads through the countryside. You will start to encounter hills, but most are not significant in length. You will find yourself pedaling among more agriculture and smaller villages.
As the day wears on, the hills start to increase until you reach the foot of the climb up to Yoshino. This is only about 6km, though, and the gradient is not severe. Yoshino is a picturesque location set on a ridge with a collection of temples atop. Tonight you will stay in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn. This means a room with tatami matting that you can sit on and which you must be careful not to wear shoes, there is also a thermal onsen on site so you can soak your sore legs and your dinner will be served in traditional style. This is a fantastic opportunity for cultural immersion.
After another delicious Japanese breakfast that must be enjoyed at a slow pace, it's time to saddle up and glide down the hill. The second third of the day will have you cycling undulating terrain with some sharp little uphills at times. Lunch is available at a great location at a red iron bridge or the ubiquitous convenience stores. You can then push on towards the big hill of Japan’s holiest mountain. The climb is in two parts, the first is around 4km long, then there is a 3km descent and some undulations before you get into the main climb of 8km. The road is very narrow, but there are few vehicles, if any, and the views are spectacular. As you reach the top, there is a section that undulates all the way into your accommodation.
If you feel like taking it easy on this day then there is a picturesque alternative to the climb. After the initial 35km of cycling, just before the foot of the hill, you can jump on the Nankai Koya train line to the top of Mount Koya where your Shukubo awaits.
The Shukubo is a style of accommodation, somewhat unique to Koyasan. These were originally accommodation for the novice and traveling monks who were studying nearby at the monastery, but these days they accept paying guests. On arrival, a staff member will take you around to explain the workings of the property, including the Onsen. Your room is a traditional Japanese one with Tatami matting and futons, with a special style of dinner included.
By rising early and getting out on your bikes, you will be able to see Koyosan almost deserted of people.
Koyasan is actually a modification of the original name of the mountain Kong-Obb Ji, but the town that has developed around this site is called Koya. The mountaintop is the worldwide center of Shingon Buddhism and considered an extremely sacred place.
The deserted town of the early morning is postcard perfect. Depending on the time of year, you will see moss and lush greenery spilling out from behind rock walls. Small lanes and winding streets are lined by small houses and businesses and you will probably see processions of monks walking to their meditation session. There are a couple of main sites to visit including the 45-meter tall orange colored, Konpon Daito Pagoda and the memorial grounds. You can choose which sites you explore today based on what strikes your fancy.
Back at the Shukubo, breakfast has been prepared for you in your room. This meal consists of a selection of vegetarian delicacies as eaten by the monks themselves. Perhaps you fancy an Onsen dip before starting your ride, but a ride start of 10 am is recommended at the latest.
Descending off the mountain is exhilarating. The road surface is superb the road is a lot wider than the one on which we climbed the day before. You do need to watch the oncoming vehicles of which there will be a few, but the traffic in your direction is insignificant as most people are making the trip up rather than down.
About halfway down the hill, you leave the main route and cycle smaller backroads usually almost deserted by cars. You’ll encounter a climb of around 3km to get the blood moving, then an undulating ride with a downwards trend, through shady Cedar forests and then along a fast moving river. Around the 30km mark, you leave the hills behind and things start to become more built up. After pedaling your way through a relatively busy little junction town, you'll find the trailhead of the bike path that takes you all the way into Wakayama along the river. This is flat, open riding and because there are no vehicles, you can slip into that meditative state that one gets when pedaling away. Wakayama is a surprisingly interesting port city with a deep history for you to explore this evening with our recommendations.
Wakayama could actually keep you busy for a morning. There is the castle, an Art Museum and a Train Museum, all within walking distance of the hotel.
Checkout time at the hotel is 10 am, but it is possible to request an 11 or 12 pm checkout, depending on how busy the hotel is. Once you are ready to leave, it is just a short taxi ride to the train station. From here you can easily take a train to Osaka Airport (KIX), Osaka City, or Kyoto.
Our dedicated Grasshopper Self-guided Adventures app combines navigating technology with visual and audio descriptions of points of interest along your routes, and can be hosted on all Android and iOS devices. The app contains your detailed tour route, podcasts with background information on the regions you will pass through, plus an audio commentary describing points of interest along the way. It also provides dining suggestions along your routes as well in destination locations, with translated menu recommendations. Furthermore, it will provide voiced glossaries of common phrases and words in the local language, which you can use to connect with locals.
On request, we can provide iPads if you don’t wish to use your own mobile device.
Grasshopper Self-guided tours are run with our reliable fleet of all-purpose hybrids and mountain bikes, but depending on availability, and for an 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, after making your online booking our support team will follow-up requesting your bicycle preference (Cannondale Synapse Ultegra or regular).
We make use of the traditional Ryokan Inns on four nights of this tour, 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.
Exclusively to self-guided tours, our bikes come fitted with top of the range GPS navigation units. These biking computers have remarkable customization capabilities and can easily be ported with all major biking software, such as Strava, RidewithGPS or Kamoot, for all fans of cycling data. Never fear if you are not technically minded, as we've made them accessible to all riders. The device will be customized for you and we will upload the most accurate maps and routes. Furthermore, you will be well briefed on putting it to good use. You can download a free companion app and play around with its setup, download results of a day’s ride, or set yourself daily workout goals.
Before you ride out on your Self-guided adventure, you will be given a set of essential tools to handle all the possible minor repairs, or you can turn to local mechanics for help. However, in the unlikely event of a breakdown, you just need to reach out to our representative who will either talk you through basic repairs or organize support in your location or will help you handle a transfer to your destination.
On request, and for an additional fee, we provide a premium transfer service, to pick you up anywhere on the road if you feel you can’t make it to your ride’s destination.
Depending on availability, and for an additional fee, our Premium Self-guided offering in Japan includes Yamaha Cross Core e-bike. You still pedal, stop and start as you would on any normal bike, but the Yamaha e-bike gives you a bit of extra juice with three levels of pedal assist, allowing you to approach your riding day in a more leisurely fashion. All our e-bikes are of the highest quality, fitted with dependable all-weather hydraulic disc brakes and are as lovingly maintained as our regular bike fleet. Read more about our e-bike fleet in Japan.
Availability is limited and on a first-in basis.
We provide secure luggage transfers between each of your hotels. This way you can enjoy the ride knowing that when you arrive, your bags will already be waiting in your room. We will also call ahead to ensure that everything is ready for your arrival.
A beautiful souvenir Grasshopper cycling jersey is yours to wear and take home. We also provide a Grasshopper drink bottle as an extra memento.
On this tour we provide Wahoo ELEMNT for navigational support. These are the latest in user-friendly navigation tech from Wahoo Fitness. With Wahoo devices you will be able to track your progress and monitor your route. Beyond their basic setup, the geek-cyclists will find Wahoo ELEMNTs to be excellent data mining devices allowing to measure almost any aspect of the ride.
Our itineraries are carefully crafted to make the best of your time while touring and to balance out cycling and off-the-saddle activities. However, on this tour, there are locations which are ideal to spend an additional day to go on a trek of a mountain range, enjoy a dip in a ryokan's onsen bath, or just to slack around while taking in tranquil sights of one of Japan's most charming valleys.
Reach out to our expert team to learn more about extending your adventure in Japan.
Take it Easy!
This tour takes you through the valleys and small hills that Kansai region of Japan is famous for. There is only one demanding climb throughout the route (Day 5), but if you'd like to skip this challenge you may choose to enjoy a scenic train ride up to Mount Koya instead.
Our Representative will meet you at the train station and show you how to buy the affordable tickets and board the correct train.
We are proud of the skills of our mechanics and put our full trust in the quality of our bikes, but we are always ready to act if something goes wrong. Self-guided touring requires that you can perform minor repairs yourself, but for any tough repairs you can count on our staff to provide assistance.
Your safety on a self-guided tour is our top concern as you ride without a local guide to offer immediate help. For this reason we provide means of contacting our Representative anytime, so if an urgent situation arises they can assist with translation, arranging transportation to medical facilities, or obtaining documentation required by your insurer.
We provide the technology, travel planning and attention to detail so that you can just focus on enjoying the ride. You'll have your pick of great places to eat plus endless opportunities for local interaction as you cycle through regional communities. This is true independent touring without the hassle. It will take you to places you'd never reach any other way and allow you to explore new locations at your own pace.
Quality, well maintained Cannondale Quick 1 Disc bikes in a full range of sizes are included in the price of your tour.
The Cannondale Quick 1 Disc bikes are fixed fork (no suspension), flat handlebar hybrid bikes with mid-width fast rolling tires and hydraulic discs for braking confidence. The Quick provides a smooth ride, with a lightweight frame and a reliable and performance geared Shimano 105 drivetrain.
This hotel in Kyoto by the Takase River embodies peace and relaxation, with simple architecture and top-quality beds. You are sure to experience the tradition of Japanese hospitality at this beautiful hotel.
Get a taste of classic Japanese culture and architecture at this modern ryokan inn. Traditional tatami matting covers all the floors of the hotel, and a natural hot spring awaits to melt all of your cares away.
Welcome to this homey ryokan located on the UNESCO World Heritage Mount Yoshino. Simple Japanese architecture and culture await as you take in the serenity of the mountains.
We loved everything, especially how different each day was. We loved staying in the Koyasan and participating in the Buddhist ceremony.
Everyone of us are very happy with the tour. The routes are carefully selected, same as the lodging, which offered us an opportunity to learn about Japanese minimalistic style and also was a culinary experience. Bikes and equipment are high quality.
The Grasshopper team are very friendly and ready to help. Takuro is a masterpiece in the team, he managed to appear discreetly in the correct moment. Norman is very kind and encourages the group when initiating the adventure.
This was a very well organized and supported tour. The staff was very helpful, responsive and accommodating. When problems arose they promptly dealt with them.
We really had a lovely time.
This was our first self-guided tour. Grasshopper created a challenging but highly-rewarding adventure with great scenery, tasty food, fantastic cycling, and the occasional cheeky monkey.
-Dan and Virginia
Take a moment to look at our blog: Is Self-guided for you? You can also find more answers to your questions on our Self-guided FAQ page.
Follow this link for general information on travel in Japan. Read our blog about travel in Japan.
The beauty of a self-guided tour is that, though the exploration is on your own, we’ve taken care of all the details for you. This means that the route is planned out and programmed into a GPS system and app and your luggage will be waiting for you at one of our chosen accommodations. This bike exploration of Japan combines all the fun of an independent adventure with our expertise and knowledge of the area, the must-see sights and best places to eat in order to make your experience more directed and enjoyable.
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