Japan Cycle Touring – Planning & Packing

Japan Pack list

It still seems crazy to me that we’re actually going cycle touring in Japan – I’ve wanted to go ever since I was a teenager. I always thought I’d end up visiting there, either when I was working as a model, or on a snowboarding trip, but somehow it never quite happened.

Sometime last year, Dave and I decided to take the plunge and book flights to Tokyo, without any grand plan; I guess we were bored of just talking about it so decided to just go for it. The cycle touring bit, well what better way to see of much as the country as possible, whilst being fully immersed in an incredible landscape. Oh, and of course there’s the money side of it – cycling and camping are free, yay!

Anyway, after a very vague start with no particular plan, I’ve assembled a loose one. It’s been tweaked and changed a large number of times; sometimes I’ve gone back and looked at what I’d pencilled in and realised it’s stupid and unworkable, other times I’ve had a tip that the road I’ve chosen is chock-a-block full of lorries and tunnels. Other times, I’ve looked through my emails and noticed I’ve booked two hotels in Tokyo for the same nights. DUR.

So here’s the plan:

Fly into Tokyo, catch a train down the Izu Peninsular.

Fart about down there and go surfing, then ride up towards Mt. Fuji and Lake Yamanaka, probably staying at a Ryokan one night.

Once in Fuji Five Lakes, we’ll camp out some more, ride up and down the mountain.

Then we head down to Shizuoka before following the coastline to Irago where we’ll catch a boat.

From there, we’ll head up to Kyoto via Nara, then check into a hotel for a couple of days.

After seeing some of Kyoto, we’ll ride the Shiminami Kaido, camp out a bit more then get the bullet train back to Tokyo where we’ll spend our final few days.

Planning the route has been a lot of work, as has learning Japanese, but I think what’s fun about both those things is actually the blasé attitude we’ve had towards it, and how hilarious that is going to make things in Japan. We’re really looking forward to being really quite baffled and thrown in at the deep end; surely that’s part of the excitement of visiting somewhere new, feeling like a fish out of water?

We’ve plumped for a mixture of camping (wild camping and campsites) and hotels, just so we can have a proper wash and sleep in a bed from time to time. We’ll mainly be camping, as our itinerary is somewhat vague, we’re skint, and we like being outside! Ideally, we’ll wash up and bathe in ‘onsen’ or Japanese baths en route, but I’ve heard they take a dim view of tattoos, and they’re banned in many places.

Japan Pack

As for gear, well we’ll both be riding Charge Plugs – I’ll be on the stealth Plug 5, whilst Dave has got the luxuriously pearlescent Plug 4, and we’ve got some cracking Brooks panniers and saddles. Our accommodation comes chiefly courtesy of Decathlon, whose ‘QuickHiker Ultralight II Hiking tent’ we’ve yet to test.

But apart from that, we’re ready to rock. The photo above what I’m taking, which is not very much considering I’ll be wearing the helmet, shoes and one set of clothes…. But in my experience, the less stuff you have to carry, the more fun you can have. Now, what have I forgotten?


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9 responses to “Japan Cycle Touring – Planning & Packing

    • ha, lucky you! I was really conscientiously learning Japanese about six months ago, then for some reason I stopped trying so hard, so I’m stuck with a very basic level – hopefully just enough to get by. Hope you make it over there!

    • thanks, I’m looking forward to sharing it! I’m going to post up lots of info about the route in case people are interested in doing something similar. It’s been quite hard to plan without having been there. Hope you get there someday

  1. I’ve visited JP last year with my polobike and I’m going back for 3 weeks this summer to do a bike trip as well. I’ll be heading north up to Akita.
    If you haven’t booked anything in Kyoto, consider staying with Shea:
    He’s got a beautiful place and a traditional onsen just down the road :)
    If you need any tips, just shoot me an e-mail!

  2. Good times ahead! Are you guys familiar with the Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage? It’s a circular pilgrimage route around the island of Shikoku, many people walk, bus, train and a few bike. I’ve biked it twice now, it’s a great route and takes you down to the Kochi coast where there’s some great surf. Looks like you guys might be pretty planned out, but if you make it down to Shikoku or Kyushuu (another bike trip there, up to Mt. Aso, a volcano), I can pass on some good finds! Excited for you!

    • I’ve read about it, but we don’t really have time to do it this trip, which is a shame. But we have lots of other great places to visit!
      We will go to Shikoku along the Shiminami Kaido, but we’re literally just riding that, camping out and then riding back again. It was so hard to decide where to go. Do you think the route I’ve got planned sounds ok?

  3. The Shimanami Kaido will be great. The route you have planned sounds good. I haven’t done much biking in Honshu, though I have hiked Fuji and spent a lot of time in Kyoto, both beautiful areas. Also, a great part about biking in Japan is that many people (students, grandmas, grandpas) use bicycles as their main mode of transportation, meaning most motorists know how to handle bikers on the road.

    What I’m most excited for you is all the eating you’ll inevitably be doing! I lived there for three years and then spent a few months biking around and working on a book.

    Love to hear about everything you’ll soon be finding.

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