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Authored by Daniele Giannotta

Japan could easily be considered to be among the world’s most desired destinations. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of watching the sun set over a tori gate, visit the thousands of shrines in Kyoto, or witness dawn from the top of Mt. Fuji?

And in terms of getting around, the country has one of the safest, cleanest, fastest, most efficient, punctual and convenient public transportation networks in the world. But while you might be tempted by the city subways, bullet trains, or even by catching a flight, we opted for an entirely different way of seeing Japan: by bike.

With considerate drivers, great infrastructure, and a well connected network of roads, Japan is a perfect destination for bicycle touring first-timers. We spent 3 months on our bikes exploring Kyushu, Shikoku, and Southern Honsu, but you still can easily cover a wide cross section of Japan in 7 – 10 days.

4 Reasons to Travel Japan by Bicycle

Japan Bicycle Tour

It’s Dirt Cheap 

Japan is certainly one of the most expensive countries in Asia, but what makes it so? Well, most of the expenses of a trip to Japan are accommodation and transportation. A 7-days railway pass costs 250$, the cheaper hostels are about 45$ per person, per night, while an average double room can easily go above 150$.

Traveling by bicycle can cut these costs to almost 0$, nil, free! It’s pretty obvious that you won’t spend any money on transportation since your legs will be your engine, and your food will be your fuel, but what about accommodation? The answer is pretty simple, wild camping!

Japan is one of safest countries in the world and it’s also incredibly camp friendly. You can camp everywhere in Japan; in public areas, on Shinto shrines grounds, and even in the center of Osaka! If you want to know more, check our full guide on how to travel Japan with less than 10$ per day.

Camping tent RF

Enjoy Japans Incredible Nature

Japan is mostly famous for its big cities. Tokyo is still the biggest urban area in the world and certainly has its fascination, and Kyoto is one of the most visited cities in the world, miraculously spared by the WWII bombing, a unique World Heritage site.

But what if I told you that the best of Japan lies beyond its iconic cities, that the real soul of Japan is in its beautiful nature. Well, I can guarantee it’s true; Japan has stunning landscapes, rich in volcanoes, waterfalls alpine forests, and jaw-dropping gorges. All of which you miss when traveling by train, bus, or plane. At best, you might catch a quick glimpse through a window.

Traveling by bicycle means diving into these landscapes with your whole self, enjoying every inch, and often sleeping in incredibly beautiful locations. You can have a look at our 2-months bicycle touring itinerary in Japan and get some inspiration, even for shorter trips.

Cycling in Japan

Japan landscape rice terrace RF

Experience Japan Like a Local

The average tourist to Japan tends to stick to the classic triangle Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto, maybe adding a day-trip to Hakone to see the Fujiyama. Few venture beyond that, and as a result, most of Japan is still very authentic.

Bicycle touring Japan allows you to see a lot of this beautiful country, and its off-the-beaten-path areas are those which truly left an impression on us.

In these destinations you can see the real Japanese culture, locals going about their daily life, and join in one of the many colorful festivals that constantly animate even the smallest of the rural villages (we caught the Sakè Festival in Shirakawa-go).

Take in a traditional Japanese dance show at Gofukuza.

Make a Lot of Friends

In my experience, Japanese people have three layers: the first one is politeness; that constant smile on their face that can be quite irritating sometimes! The second is a layer is diffidence, a mix of shyness and inclination to preserve their private space. But the third layer uncovers their true nature; an authentic friendliness, a willingness to give and receive love, and to create a relationship based on truth.

It’s not easy to get through the first two layers, but if you do manage to, you’ll make some real lifetime friends. Despite the language barrier, there’s no other country where we made as many great friends as in Japan, and that’s mainly thanks to our bikes!

When traveling by bicycle you’re perceived as something quite different from the usual tourist, people are curious about you, they want to ask you questions and hear your stories, you will be invited for a meal, and even hosted for the night. What better way to experience the local culture than making local friends?!

OUR FAVORITE GUIDES TO JAPAN: CLICK PHOTO TO LOOK INSIDE↓

Japan travel guide

Lonely Planet Japan

Japan travel guide

DK Eyewitness Japan

Japan travel guide

National Geographic

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Daniele Giannotta is the co-founder of Cycloscope.net, a blog about bicycle touring and adventure travel that aims to inspire people to fulfill their crazier dreams.

Together with his partner Elena Stefanin, they set off from Italy in 2014, cycling 25 countries and 25,000km before finishing their funds in Vietnam in late 2016. Since then they are living in China, working as ESL teachers and blogging. They’ll be on the road again in June 2018 for the next leg of their around-the-world bicycle tour.

Follow their bicycle tour by connecting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.

    11 Comments

  1. Nice post ♥. Thanks you. Happy Valentine Day & Happy Mahashivratri to you & your family.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Navya. Happy valentines day to your family too!

  2. Yes, true it is a great bike touring destination!
    I loved it when I was there…
    Cheers from the road, Heike

    • So glad you had a fabulous time touring Japan by bike too Heike! Hope you’re having an amazing adventure where-ever the road has now taken you 🙂

  3. I’d love to join a bike tour on some of my next getaways. But first, have to practice at home. hehe nice post! <3

    • I was super impressed, I watched a documentary of this guy in London, who biked around Europe for a year, but hadn’t ridden much before hand, and got his bike the day before his trip! Lol. Proves I guess that you don’t need much experience which is nice 🙂

  4. I would love to cycle around in Japan instead of taking those super fast trains between cities. Then I would get to see the small communites and hopefully a slower pace of life. 😀 But it has been on my list for a while since I read about my friend cycling from Japan to London via SE Asia, around Australia and then back to Asia via Turkey and Europe. Crazy man! Loved reading his experiences of cycling through Japan and sleeping in bus shelters in the winter months!

    • Definitely gives you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the countryside and culture of Japan at a much slower pace. Oh wow, cycling to Japan from London sounds like quite the journey – what an epic trip!

      I hope you have the opportunity to bike Japan too 🙂

  5. I want to first give you credit for biking for a whole 3 months. I am not sure I could handle a bike seat even for 7-10 days. I was glad to hear that Japan is bike friendly with good bike infrastructure and a good attitude. Great if we want to rent for a day! I am sure that being on a bike let you visit so many interesting spots off the beaten path. That alone makes you much different than the usual tourist!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Linda, yes, they definitely deserve kudos for their journey – quite inspirational!

      If a long distance bike tour doesn’t sound like something you want to do, cycling between attractions on a day to day basis is a great way to get the feel for it. And who knows, maybe you’ll find you love it :D!

  6. I loved Japan, but never thought before about seeing it by bike… until now. You make such a great point that Japan has so much to offer in terms of nature, and bicycles are ideal to explore those rural gems. I also adore the idea of making friends better due to the slower, more open nature of bikes!

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