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Explore ancient trails, spiritual sights, and natural wonders
Embarking on a cycling adventure through Japan's incredible landscapes and cultural sites allows you to uncover the country's fascinating history. From Lake Biwa to Kumano in the Kii Peninsula discover a mythical journey into Japanese folklore. Kumano's awe-inspiring landscapes and revered shrines tell stories of ancient beliefs and the ascetic lives of mountain priests.
Along the ancient trails, discover the secrets of the Koga Ninja clan and witness the craftsmanship at Shigaraki Pottery Village. Throughout the journey, you'll pass through tea fields, follow mountain trails leading to ancient temples, and unwind in serene hot springs. Encountering picturesque spots like Mitarai Gorge and traditional Japanese villages adds to the experience. The tour ends on the Pacific Coast, where you'll discover Japan's tallest waterfall, Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine, and coastal vistas.
This cycling expedition isn't just an active bike vacation; it's a chance to deeply connect with Japan's diverse culture and stunning natural beauty.
- Lake Biwa: Japan's largest freshwater lake
- Historic villages: Omihachiman, Koga, Shigaraki, and Yagyu
- Diverse cycling paths: lakeshores, countryside, mountains, and valleys.
- Cultural Sites: Hachimanyama Castle, Shigaraki Pottery Village, and Kumano Nachi Taisha Shrine.
- Natural Landscapes: Forested mountains, tea fields, rice terraces, and hot springs
- Traditional Japanese Experiences: Ryokan stays, green tea tasting, and rural life experiences
In the event of heavy rain, strong wind, or other challenging cycling weather conditions, alternative activities like hiking and sightseeing may be provided as options.
Day 1: Arrival - Omihachiman
Omihachiman, located near Lake Biwa in Japan's Shiga Prefecture, features a well-preserved old town showcasing classic architecture from the Edo period. If time allows, you might wander through the historic streets, take a boat tour, explore Hachimanyama Castle, and sample the local specialty, Omi beef.
The tour commences today at your hotel with a welcome meeting and an introduction to your guides. After a bike fitting, indulge in a traditional Japanese dinner.
Day 2: Omihachiman - Koka (40 mi. / 65 km)
Today’s easy route follows the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater lake in the Shiga Prefecture. The lake holds historical and cultural significance, inspiring art and literature throughout the country's history. Spanning approximately 670 square kilometers, it looks more like the sea and has a rich ecosystem, serving as a habitat for diverse wildlife.
From the lake, continue cycling towards the town of Koga. Situated in Ibaraki Prefecture, it’s renowned for ties to the Koga Ninja clan, showcasing their secretive techniques and espionage during feudal Japan. This afternoon, you’ll visit the Koga Ninja Village museum, offering insights into ninja history and practices.
Day 3: Koka - Kasagi (37 mi. / 60 km)
Starting on tranquil country roads, the route gradually climbs towards drier, sandy landscapes. Cycle along peaceful paths to reach the Shigaraki Pottery Village celebrated for its unglazed, coarse-textured pottery. The village streets are lined with kilns, workshops, and galleries.
Continuing the journey, the trail ascends through lesser-traveled roads to Wakuza town, unveiling expansive views of horizontally ridged tea fields. The carefully tended Japanese green tea bushes glisten in the sunlight, creating a captivating sight. Amidst the tea fields, there are opportunities to taste green tea soft ice cream, sample green tea, and partake in guided tours of the tea plantations.
The day's route ends in Kasagi, where you will stay at a Japanese Ryokan with historical significance.
Day 4: Kasagi - Yoshino (42 mi. / 68 km)
Today's journey leads along country roads, passing through quintessential Japanese farm villages, traditional Japanese houses, and Yagyu, known for its history with a legendary swordsman.
Continuing on rural roads, cycle towards the Murojo Temple village. The mystical atmosphere of Murou Temple is home to a significant five-storied pagoda and an eleven-faced Buddha, both designated national treasures. Nestled amidst mountains and forests, the temple grounds offer tranquility and seclusion.
Before reaching Yoshino along the Yoshino River, observe the historical importance of the Kii Peninsula through the traditional architecture of the villages.
The day concludes at a Japanese Ryokan, featuring natural hot spring baths, preparing you for tomorrow's adventure: the ascent up Yoshino Mountain.
Day 5: Yoshino - Dorogawa Onsen (39 mi. / 62 km)
This morning, begin at Yoshino Station and cycle the winding road leading to Yoshino Mountain's main ridge.
Appreciate the views at the top as you continue along a narrow street lined with shops selling various items like incense, Japanese sweets, and noodles. The street ends at Kinpusenji Temple, the primary temple of Shugendo, a mountain-centered religion.
Continuing along the route, descend steeply into a quiet forest area with minimal traffic. After multiple ups and downs, you'll reach Kurotaki Village. A steep incline from here leads to Dorogawa Onsen, a hot spring spa tucked away in the foothills of Mt. Oomine, an important UNESCO-designated mountain along the World Heritage Kumano Pilgrimage Routes.
Day 6: Dorogawa Onsen - Shimokitayama (34 mi. / 55 km)
After leaving Dorogawa Onsen, arrive at the scenic Mitarai Gorge with its river filled with boulders. A pathway runs along the riverbank. Once you reach the first bridge, take in the gorge's view while noticing a higher walking trail leading into a crevasse-like opening of a tributary. Secure your bike and stroll to view the impressive waterfalls.
Although the narrow road is tree-lined, enjoy the sight of rushing waters cascading over massive rocks amidst lush vegetation. Ensure your bike has reliable front and rear lights as the Gyojakaeshi Tunnel is pitch dark, adding adventure to the route. End the day in Shimokitayama, offering a beautiful glimpse into rural Japanese life.
Day 7: Shimokitayama - Totsukawa (41 mi. / 66 km)
Today's journey winds through a deep valley to a pass that connects Shimokitayama and Totsukawa. Although seldom frequented, the path is a hidden gem along the old pilgrimage route. This area is sparsely populated and experiences minimal traffic, making it a pleasant ride.
The highlight of today's excursion is the verdant valleys surrounding the Totsukawa hot spring spa, where accommodation awaits for the night.
Day 8: Totsugawa - Kawayu Onsen (25 mi. / 40 km)
As the path crosses the valley, this morning’s route showcases breathtaking scenery from elevated bridges spanning the Totsukawa River. Stop to visit the impressive Kumano Hongu. With centuries of history, it’s dedicated to ancient Shinto beliefs and deities residing in the revered Kumano Mountains.
Continue to cycle through Yunomine, a hot spring spa, before arriving at Kawayu Onsen. Here you might consider stopping for a swim in the Daito River. At 70 degrees, these hot springs emerge from the riverbed, offering the chance to create an open-air bath.
Day 9: Kawayu Onsen
Time for a break from the bike! Spend the day soaking in the warm spa waters or explore one of the Kumano pilgrimage trails with various optional hikes.
Day 10: Kawayu Onsen - Koguchi (40 mi. / 65 km)
Cycle from Kawayu to the Kumano River to enter the Kiwa region. This area is known for its historic copper mine dating back a millennium, which supplied copper for the Great Buddha of Nara. A visit to the Kiwa Mining Museum is recommended for insights into the mining community's history, including a descent into the former shafts.
Near the museum turnoff stands a railway station offering trolley train rides to Yunokuchi hot spring spa. A quick stop here can be pleasant, particularly for a dip in a local inn's baths, which usually welcome bathers for a nominal fee.
The highlight of the day awaits about 6 km from the museum: terraced rice fields ascend uphill, totaling 1350 fields across a 160-meter elevation.
From here, the path continues along the old Kumano pilgrimage route, winding through forests, and crossing the Kumano River again until the final stop for the day in Koguchi.
Day 11: Koguchi - Nachi-Katsuura (34 mi. / 54 km)
Follow the route towards Nachi-Katsuura on the Pacific coast, renowned for its hot springs and tuna fishing. Along the way, you'll discover Kumano Nachi Taisha, one of the area's three major shrines. This site hosts Japan's tallest waterfall, standing at an impressive 133 meters. Additionally, you’ll pass through many beautiful hill-perched villages amidst steep, terraced rice fields.
Although the terrain may be demanding, the varied scenery along the way offers a sense of accomplishment, and the sight of the Pacific Ocean at the tour's conclusion promises to be a rewarding finale.
Day 12: Nachi-Katsuura
The tour concludes after breakfast. If time allows, consider spending additional time in Nachi-Katsura to explore the coastal town's hot springs, indulge in local cuisine, or wander through beautiful hill-perched villages amidst steep, terraced rice fields.
Surface and terrain
The cycle route covers a mix of paved roads and dirt paths, navigating through occasional challenging climbs and steep descents in the hilly terrain of the Kii Peninsula.
Ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, are the preferred choice to support local tourism and the regional economy. Typically family-run, these accommodations often feature Onsen, natural hot springs, on-site. They offer an authentic Japanese experience, with Tatami straw weaving floors and Futon mats instead of beds. While staying in a Ryokan, guests usually receive a Yukata, a traditional night robe, suitable for visits to the onsen and onsite restaurants, reducing the need to carry additional clothing. It's essential to note that some Ryokan might have shared hot springs, and certain rooms may lack private showers or baths, using communal onsen facilities with designated washing areas. Additionally, in remote areas, some Ryokans may not have individual toilets in each room, providing public facilities instead.
How to get there
The closest international airports are Osaka and Tokyo.
To reach Omihachiman from Osaka, you can opt for a convenient train journey that takes approximately 1 hour. The train ride offers picturesque views along the way.
If arriving from Tokyo, the fastest option is to take a Shinkansen (Bullet Train). The journey lasts approximately 2.5 to 3 hours
May 26 - Jun 6, 2024 (minimum of 4 participants)
Per person, double occupancy ¥695,000 Single-use room (1 person / 1 room) ¥783,000
Electrically-assisted bike ¥30,000
- 11-nights accommodation
- Daily breakfasts
- 7 dinners
- Standard touring bike rental
- Guided cycling routes with English-speaking guide
- Luggage transfers
- Support vehicle on all cycling routes (supplying water and snacks)
Bike options included on this tour:
Standard touring bike: ESCAPE RX3
- Frame: Aluminum
- Brakes: V brakes
- Tire: 700x28C
- Gears: 27 Speed Shimano
Electrically- assisted bike: ESCAPE R E+
- Frame: Aluminum
- Brakes: Disc brakes
- Tires: 700x38C
- Gears: 9 Speed Shimano
- Motor: GIANT SyncDrive Core, maximum 50Nm, max cadence 100rpm
Bike protection can be purchased at the time of booking. You can read more about that HERE.
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