- Cycle through Japan's remote countryside with breathtaking views, including Norikura Pass (2,700m) Japan's highest road
- Visit Kyoto and other traditional towns such as Takayama and the World Heritage village, Shirakawa-go, with its thatched-roof houses
- Stay in traditional Japanese "onsen" (hot spring) resorts and sample traditional Japanese food
Join this exclusive tour geared towards advanced cyclists and explore the magnificent landscapes along the Nakasendo Trail and across Western Japan. End the tour in Kyoto, and (re)discover its centuries old charm.
Experience the highlights of Japan's culture and nature by bike. We will be exploring the remote, mountainous countryside alongside famous sightseeing spots such as Kyoto, Takayama and Shirakawa-go. On the way we will take time to sample Japanese cuisine and soak in hot springs.
About Peter Link, the lead tour guide:
Peter has a masters degree in Japanology and 30 years' experience as a tour guide. He has lived in Kyoto for 25 years and speaks German, English, Japanese and a bit of French. Peter goes touring in Asia every year for several weeks. Last year he did the Ha Giang loop in Northern Vietnam and before that the Mae Hong Son loop in Northern Thailand, two very tough mountain routes.
Peter's philosophy is that cycling is the best way to experience a country because one can experience the environment with all of your senses.
Peter would like to introduce Japan as a country which has a beautiful environment for cycling.
Sept 1: Nakatsugawa
As the first day of the tour is quite long, we plan on having all tour participants arrive in Nakatsugawa one day before so that we can have a briefing and bike fitting, check our equipment and have a good night's rest prior to the rather demanding start of the tour.
Accommodation: Plaza Hotel Sakae
Sept 2: Nakatsugawa to Nagawa (104 km)
We will ride along the old Nakasendo Trail, a centuries-old route between the imperial capital Kyoto and the shogun's capital Edo (present day Tokyo). The highlight of the day is the section between Magome and Tsumago, two traditional inn towns with especially scenic townscapes.
Elevation gains: (2,000 m) After a 400 m climb and descent at the beginning of the route, we will steadily ascend to 1,400 m before dropping down to 1,000 m at Nagawa, the day's final destination.
Accommodation: Sanso Watari
Meals: Breakfast, dinner
Sept 3: Nagawa to Hirayu via Norikura Pass (58 km)
After breakfast we tackle the long 40 km climb to Norikura Pass at 2,700 m on the Echo Line, a small road through the Japanese countryside. We will start at an altitude of 1,000 m and climb to 2,700 m where you can enjoy breathtaking views over the Japanese Alps from the summit of Japan's highest paved pass. Depending on our arrival time at our destination, Hirayu, there is the possibility for an optional tour to Kamikochi, a spectacular high plateau (25 min by bus).
Elevation gains: (1,800 m) There is about 1,700 m of climbing over 40 km with some steep sections and an average gradient of a little over 4%.
Accommodation: Hirayu no mori, a traditional Japanese "onsen" (hot spring)
Sept 4: Hirayu to Takayama (55 km)
After two rather intensive days, today's ride to Takayama is relatively easy. On the way we can enjoy scenic views over the mountains. Upon arrival in Takayama we will stroll through the historic township, visit a sake brewery and the old residence of the town magistrate (Jinya). In the evening there will be an optional dinner at a Japanese restaurant.
Elevation gains: (1,000 m) An initial 20 km descent to 500 m is followed by a climb back up to 1,100 m, after which the rest of the ride to Takayama is mostly downhill.
Accommodation: Takayama Country Hotel
Sept 5: Takayama to Shirakawa-go (60 km)
Before leaving Takayama, we will visit the traditional morning market. The winding route to Shirakawa-go through the mountains is very picturesque. After arriving in Shirakawa-go, we will stroll through the village, a World Heritage site, and visit one of the thatched-roof farmhouses.
Elevation gains: (1,400 m) The first 30 km are relatively flat, followed by a gradual ascent and then a final 700 m climb to Mt Soreyama, before arriving in Shirakawa-go.
Accommodation: Shirakawa-go no Yu ("onsen" hot spring)
Meals: Japanese-style dinner
Sept 6: Shirakawa-go to Gujo (85 km)
We will ride on small roads through Japan's remote countryside, where you can experience authentic rural Japan far away from the urban sprawl. After arriving in Gujo we will visit the Samurai castle, Gujo Hachiman, which overlooks the town.
Elevation gains: (1,400 m) We start at an altitude of 500 m, climb very gradually to 800 m over the next 35 km and from there to 1,350 m over 10 km, before a 35 km descent to Gujo.
Accommodation: Gujo Hachiman Inter
Sept 7: Gujo to Ibikawa (70 km)
We will further explore the remote Japanese countryside again on small roads with very little traffic. In Ibikawa we will visit Kegonji Temple.
Elevation gains: (1,600 m) After the initial 10 km, there is a 700 m ascent to 1,000 m but no other major climbs.
Accommodation: Yado Matsumotoya
Meals: Breakfast, Japanese-style dinner
Sept 8: Ibikawa to Omi Hachiman (100 km)
The route takes us through tea plantations to the Machu Picchu of Japan, a landscape of rolling hills covered with tea bushes. After a ride through rural areas we will descend to Japan's biggest lake, Biwako and ride along the shoreline. Our destination is the old merchant town of Omi Hachiman, which has a very picturesque historic downtown area. Before checking into our accommodation, we will roll along the canals of the old town.
Elevation gains: (1,200 m) Apart from a short climb to the tea plantations, there is a final 700 m ascent before dropping down to Lake Biwa, the last 70 km being mostly downhill or flat.
Accommodation: Omi Hachiman Green Hotel Yes
Sept 9: Omi Hachiman to Kyoto via Ohara (60 km)
We will begin by cycling along Lake Biwa and then cross the "Biwako Ohashi" bridge to the western side of the lake. After several days in the countryside we are heading back to the urban sprawl, but before getting to Kyoto proper, we will visit the traditional village of Ohara, where we will stroll through the village and visit Sanzen-in Temple.
Elevation gains: (600 m) The big mountains are now behind us, and there will only be two short climbs of 300 m and 200 m elevation gain.
Accommodation: Aranvert Hotel Kyoto
Sept 10: Sightseeing in Kyoto
We will cycle through the area of the Imperial Palace and the temple precincts of Shokokuji and Myoshinji. From there we continue to Ryoanji Temple and Kinkakuji Temple - the Golden Pavilion. Then we follow the Kamogawa River. We will also cycle along the Philosopher's Path to Nanzenji Temple, visit Heian Shrine and continue on to Maruyama Park before returning to our accommodation via Gion, the traditional geisha quarters. A visit to Nijo Castle is also planned.
Elevation gains: There are no outstanding elevation gains as Kyoto city area is relatively flat.
Accommodation: Aranvert Hotel Kyoto
The tour dates are September 1-10, 2018.
Minimum number of participants required for the tour to take place is 6.
Maximum number of participants is 16.
This tour includes:
- All accommodation with breakfast and dinner where indicated
- Entrance fees for sightseeing spots indicated in the itinerary
- Helmets (optionally you can bring your own), tools, tubes, and other spares
- Assistant tour guide
- Backup van and bilingual driver/assistant
- First aid kit
- Walkie-talkies where needed
This tour does NOT include:
- Transportation to/from starting and ending points of the tour
- Activities described as "optional" in the tour itinerary
- Meals other than those indicated in the itinerary
- Any other personal expenses incurred during the tour
Other important information:
This tour is for experienced cyclists who are used to extended days in the saddle and long climbs in the mountains with some steep sections (10-15% gradient). A sufficient level of fitness is essential. If you bring your own bike make sure the gearing is appropriate. As the weather in the mountains can change quickly, proper rainwear is essential. Temperatures in the mountains will be moderate to cool but as soon as we get out of the mountains the weather will be hot and humid. Please bring light clothing and sun screen.
What you need to bring
- Cycling clothing, rainwear, etc.
- Sun screen
- Isotonic drink solution
- Helmets (which we can provide) are compulsory on our tours, as are sturdy cycling or sports shoes
Rental bike information
Tour participants are encouraged to bring their own bikes, although a limited number of bikes are available for rental.
The following rental bikes are available for 5,000 yen per day:
- 1 road bike (54 cm frame) with triple crankset (30t inner chainring), 11-32 cassette
- 5 road bikes (50, 54, 56, 58 and 60 cm frames) with double cranksets, 11-28 cassettes
- 3 touring bikes: 700c wheels, triple cranksets, typical MTB gearing, 56 cm, 18" and 21" frames
*For those renting a bike, feel free to use your own pedals, saddle, etc. if you would prefer.
*A smartphone can be used together with a handlebar mount for navigation purposes.
*Please note that due to unforeseen weather and/or road conditions, there may be changes to the routes outlined in the tour.
*Given the roughness of some roads of the tour, participants bringing their own road bikes are advised to mount 700 x 28 tires.
Know before you book
Cancellation: 2 days prior to the day of your trip – 40 %,
1 day prior – 50 %,
On the day – 100 %,
No-show – 100 %
The meeting point is at Plaza Hotel Sakae in Nakatsugawa. Details regarding the meeting point and the tour itself will be sent out via email several days prior to the start of the tour.