Islands of Japan
24 September to 5 October 2018
Hilly but with support vehicle
E-bike (extra cost)
Japan is a country of islands so what better way to explore the country than cycling three of the islands - Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu - to discover the diversity and beauty that few people realise Japan holds.
A visit to Japan is pure indulgence for the senses, so come prepared to experience a rich history that dates back centuries and to soak after a day of cycling in zen-like onsen spas, visit beautiful forests, mountains and sea coasts as well as futuristic architecture and transportation, sample delicious regional cuisine, and meet the polite and candid locals as well as lovers of Hello Kitty and karaoke.
Japan is a hilly country so there will be plenty of hills to pedal up and role down. We will use ferries to cross from island to island, stay one night in a temple in the spiritual centre of Koyasan as well as riding up a volcano - incredible variety!
Our local team will include from one to three cycling guides, a lead vehicle to carry luggage and one vehicle at the back to lend a hand for anyone who wants to skip out some of the cycling or decides to stop riding. The number of guides will depend on how many participants we have on the ride.
Being a semi-guided trip you will have the option to ride on your own following the gps navigation information that we will provide, or you can choose to ride with a guide. Guides will depart at different times to allow you to choose what time you would like to set off each morning. We will have cut off times throughout the day with the back vehicle picking you up if you fall behind the pace.
There is little flat land in Japan so this trip will include lots of climbing on reasonably long days so the fitter you are the better you will cope. There is, of course, a support vehicle with the group so it is easy enough to skip the hard bits and ride the easier sections each day. The route is all sealed roads with some bike tracks, almost all on quiet back roads.
You will be supplied with detailed gps navigation data which can be loaded onto your phone. The information will include route navigation, places to eat and sites of interest seen along the way.
As a semi-guided trip you will be free to travel at your own pace. Usually small groups of similarly paced cyclists form and ride together throughout the day so while you are travelling with a large group it never feels like a crowd.
PRICING & PAYMENT
AU$4500 per person, twin share
A $500 deposit is required to confirm places on the trip. The deposit is non-refundable but we will refund providing we can find a replacement person to fill your place on the tour.
All bookings and payments are handled through our partners at Nexus Travel in Monbulk, Victoria.
Day 1 - Arrive Izumi
Day 2 - Cycle Izumi to Hinagu Onsen (80km)
Day 3 - Cycle Hinagu Onsen to Yamato (76km)
Day 4 - Cycle Yamoto to Taketa (77km)
Day 5 - Cycle Taketa to Usuki (62km)
Day 6 - Ferry Usuki to Yawatahama, Cycle to Uchiko (45km)
Day 7 - Cycle Uchiko to Matsuyama (62km)
Day 8 - Transfer Matsuyama to Tokushima
Day 9 - Ferry Tokushima to Wakayama, Cycle to Koyasan (70km)
Day 10 - Cycle Koyasan to Nara (97km)
Day 11 - Cycle Nara to Kyoto (63km)
Day 12 - end
See below for the detailed itinerary
DAY 1 - ARRIVAL IZUMI
Izumi, the starting point of our trip, is a small city in the south of Kyushu. Shinkansen fast trains can bring you to Izumi from most parts of Japan. The nearest airport is the domestic airport at Kumamoto which is 100km north of Izumi. There are good transport links from Kumamoto to Izumi.
Arrive during the course of the day at Hotel Toko. The tour officially starts with a group meeting at 6pm followed by our delicious Japanese meal (included).
DAY 2 - Cycle Izumi to Hinagu Onsen (80km)
Let the ride begin! We set out amid citrus groves along the orange road to Minamata. A harrowing museum dedicated to the victims of the Minamata disease merits a stop. You'll be tracking the coastline today so take the opportunity to stop at Mitachimisaki and Ashikita Beaches. We enjoy the quiet Ashikita Natural Park, continuing along the Shiranui Sea to Hinagu Onsen.
This hot spring dates back approximately 600 years. From the Hinagu Onsen Jinja, a shrine where the god of the hot spring is enshrined, a sweeping view of the hot spring resort and the Shiranui Sea as well as the islands of Amakusa and Shimabara in the distance can be seen. There are still many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. Our ryokan dating from 1909 with its exquisite wooden interior is just one example.
DAY 3 - Cycle Hinagu Onsen to Yamato (76km)
Tall chimneys beckon us to Yatsushiro, Kumamoto prefecture’s second city and industrial hub at the mouth of emerald Kuma River. We visit an old sword maker, now mainly making kitchen knives. Then the brave ones can climb the 777 steps to Higashikata Park for the views on Yatsushiro, city and sea and Amakusa beyond. We head inland along Hikata River. Lunch can be had in Misatomachi with its beautiful terraced rice fields. It is fun riding on the winding road parallel to Midorikawa Dam Lake. A last section crosses the Midorikawa River from where it is a short way to our hotel in Yamato, located next to picturesque Tsujun Bridge.
DAY 4 - Yamoto to Taketa (77KM)
Setting out from Yamato we soon see a siphon system to fairly distribute irrigation water - industrial heritage at work. We slowly climb the rim of the Mount Aso volcanic caldera. The magnificent views offer distraction from the hard work in the saddle. Leaving Aso behind and riding on a ridge we can see the big mountains of Kyushu all around us: massive Mount Kuju and Mount Yufu’s twin peaks to the left and rugged Mount Sobo to the right. Then it is a downhill freewheel all the way to Taketa. We admire the strange rock formations on the Onogawa River bank in front of our home stay. Taketa has a fair amount of feudal architecture, most notably Taketa Manse built in 1818.
DAY 5 - Taketa to Usuki (62km)
A scenic detour leads us around Oka Castle, then to Harajiri waterfalls. The beautiful countryside roads of Bungoono – some parts of the historic Himuka highway, bring us gradually back to sea level. Before arriving in Usuki we visit the Stone Buddhas. A group of Buddha figures carved out of the natural rock wall of a cliff, known as "Usuki Sekibutsu", was the first of its kind designated as a National Treasure. With more than 60 figures, it is the largest in Japan and is believed to have been carved during the 12th and 14th centuries. Nearby, Kihara stone guardians keep Mangatsuji temple safe. Usuki was prosperous under the rule of the Feudal Lord Sorin Otomo in the 16th century who built the Usuki Castle there. Many remains of those day are still present in the city. Nioza is a historic street lined with white stone walls.
DAY 6 - Ferry Usuki to Yawatahama, Cycle to Uchiko (45km)
We hop on the ferry to Yawatahama on Shikoku Island ( 1 hour 20 mins) and cycle to Ozu with its magnificent castle. Shikoku Island is noted for the 88-temple Pilgrimage, and here you can expect to see a number of ‘ohenro’ pilgrims in white clothing. The region is also well known for mandarin oranges. Uchiko is a photographer’s dream. Part of the town is a typical small modern mountain town but sections have been perfectly preserved as a living museum, where people still reside and where traditional crafts are still alive. The candle shop may be the only place where Japanese candles are still made using the traditional method. Some of you stay in the residence once owned and renovated by Mr. Takahashi, Japan’s beer king. The others stay in an old merchant house in quaint Yokaichi Street.
DAY 7 - Cycle Uchiko to Matsuyama (62km)
We have breakfast in Mr. Takahashi’s living room and are sad to leave this gorgeous place. On the cycling menu today are two 300m climbs before we reach the shores of the Seto Inland Sea. On the banks of Ishitegawa River we roll into Dogo Onsen, Japan’s oldest and most famous hot spring. Legend says that an egret who injured his shin found a hot spring at Dogo. He soaked his shin every day in the hot water. Eventually the egret healed and flew away.
DAY 8 - Transfer Matsuyama to Tokushima
Today we give our legs a rest and take a transfer in the afternoon from Matsuyama 200km eastward (3 hours). You might want to end the day with a stroll along Shinmachigawa River.
DAY 9 - Ferry Tokushima to Wakayama, Cycle to Koyasan (70km)
Ferry to sail across the Seto Inland Sea. The comfortable 2-hour ferry takes us to Wakayama on Honshu Island. From the ferry terminal in Wakayama City we bike alongside the Kinokawa River until we start the climb up Mt Koyasan. Following the Zakurogawa and Makunigawa rivers upstream to Nashinokitoge Pass (503m), then deeper into the Narukogawa valley to finally reach our sacred destination.
Koyasan was founded 1,200 years ago by Kukai (aka Kobo Daishi) as the main temple of Shingon Buddhism. At our temple stay at Ekouin you can glimpse the daily lives of Buddhist monks by participating in religious services and eating the traditional vegetarian food.
DAY 10 - Cycle Koyasan to Nara (97km)
This morning you can take part in the Buddhist service before breakfast. On leaving our temple lodging we visit Okunoin, a cemetery and sacred area leading to Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum. The path is lined by hundreds of centuries-old towering cedar trees and over 200,000 gravestones and memorial pagodas. Our cycling journey is a pleasurable downhill ride to join the Kinokawa River again. We cycle through rich rice fields sided by lush green mountains.
DAY 11 - Cycle Nara to Kyoto (63KM)
The river path winds through golden rice paddies on one side and green tea fields on the other. This region is renowned for its matcha green tea. Following the bike path along the Katsura River, we easily approach our final destination Kyoto. A last stop is Fushimiinari Shrine with the famous gallery of red torii gates. Then Kyoto Tower is beckoning us home. We lodge in its shadow near Kyoto Station.
DAY 12 - END
The tour ends with a check-out before 10am. Stay on and explore Kyoto and Japan more or if you are heading home it is an easy train ride to Osaka International Airport.
INCLUSIONS & EXTRAS
This trip uses a range of accommodation including modern 3 star hotels, traditional and historic ryokans, and a night in a Buddhist temple. About half of the hotels don't have an ensuitebath/shower, as there is an onsen hot spring which is the tradition and still common way Japanese bathe. Most rooms do have a toilet and sink.
Some of the hotels we intend to use:
- Hotel Toko in Izumi
- Kinparo Ryokan in Hinagu Onsen
- Tsujun Sanso in Yamato
- Hotel Patio Dogo in Matsuyama
- Toyoko Inn in Tokushima
- Ekoin Temple in Koyasan
- Aoba Chaya in Nara
- Dormy Inn in Kyoto
We will be working on a twin share basis. If you are a single traveller you will be matched with another person of your gender to share a twin room. If you would like a single room throughout the trip there will be a single supplement of AU$700.
All breakfasts are included at our accommodation.
Lunches are not included allowing you to choose where to eat as you ride. There will be restaurant information included in the gps route data.
A welcome dinner on the first night and celebration final night dinner are are included as well as dinners in Hinagu (day 2) and Koyasan (day 9). Other dinners will be free for you to choose your own experience. Of course our guides will be able to offer advice on where to eat.
We will be provided with a range of branded hybrid/flat-bar bikes, which come with a wide range of gears for the terrain we will encounter:
Feel free to bring your own pedals, saddle, handlebar extensions, handlebar bag, helmet and water bottles. Panniers are available on request at no extra charge if you would prefer to carry your daily gear in these rather than a backpack.
Ebikes may be available at a surcharge price yet to be determined. Please let us know if you would like to use an ebike. Our local supplier does not currently own ebikes but is interested in having some in their fleet so we are going help in making sure this happens.
As a semi-guided trip this tour has all the support features of a fully supported bike tour:
Guides - we will have up to 3 local cycling guides with us out on the roads each day. You can choose to ride with a guide or on your own.
Jason from Pedal Pedal will also be on the ride to offer extra support throughout the trip.
Backup Vehicle - we will have a dedicated support vehicle at the back of the group to look after anyone who needs a break from the cycling.
You must have travel insurance as part of the conditions of travel. Your insurance must cover emergency medical and evacuation.
Ebikes may be available at a surcharge price yet to be determined. Please let us know if you would like to use an ebike.
Voluntary Single Supplement AU$700.
You will need to bring your own helmet as they are not supplied locally.
FLIGHTS, STOPOVERS, EXCURSIONS
Our agent partners at Nexus Travel in Monbulk are on hand to help with flight bookings, insurance, extra hotel nights, stopovers and anything else that you might need aside from the bike tour. If you would like any help or advice give Lucy a call on (03) 9756 7566. Lucy works Mon-Thu 9am-4pm.
Want to know more about this trip? Fill in the form below and we'll email you back or if you'd rather chat call:
Lucy de Loryn
(03) 9756 7566