Why Cycle Japan?

So you want to cycle tour Japan? Well it must be stated that it is one of my personal favourite locations for a bicycle tour. Beautiful scenery, clean streets, highly advanced technology and infrastructure, humble and friendly locals, well maintained and pathed roads. Truely a cycle tourers dream to explore.

If you get the chance to visit Japan, trust me it will be worth it. The Iconic, ancient culture, stunning landscapes, the many volcanoes, and often beautiful coastline with epic sunsets and sunrises ensure an unforgettable experience to any traveller.

But as for bike touring Japan it is one of the best cycle-friendly locations. Ideal for beginner bike travellers. Really suited to experienced bike tourers and bikepackers too.

In this article I have compiled all the most helpful information I could muster from my personal experience from bike touring around Japan. We spent around a month exploring mostly the southern part of Japan. Wild and Urban camping most of the time.

Right to Left – Eric (The College Picker), Nick (cylingelsewhere.com) and Me

It was a unforgettable experience and as we left we came to realise how much “we love Japan”.

Just quick…..

How travel ruined my life!

There’s a profound revelation I’ve stumbled upon in my lifelong romance with travel, one that’s pushed me to question if this love has a darker side. 

In my latest video, I take you on a personal journey, sharing an unexpected struggle I’m experiencing – the tug of war between an insatiable wanderlust and an imposed static existence.

In this raw and unscripted narrative, I walk you through my inner battles – the constant wrestling between routine and adventure, the strange ‘travel blues’ that seem to descend when I’m not constantly on the move.

Is there a downside to the exploratory freedom we often laud? Could this relentless pursuit of the new and the unknown have unintended consequences? 

I invite you to join me in this introspective journey as we navigate these perplexing questions together. 

Are you ready? Click here to watch the video now. Let’s traverse this uncharted territory together.

Let’s get back to Japan!

If you have not already watched our adventure I suggest you check them out. We vlogged every single day of out journey on YouTube. If you are planning to cycle tour Japan it is a great insight to what you can expect. Watch my mates (The College Picker) Japan Playlist HERE and my own perspective HERE. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more upcoming travel videos and films about bicycle touring and bikepacking all over the world if you like.


So where do you ride when you get to Japan? How easy is it to navigate? What are you route options like? Terrain, and expected route conditions? First of all I highly suggest you use the helpful mapping resource over at Japancyling.org

The link above is a detailed route of the Trans Japan Cycle Route Network. Broken up in to multiple sections; Fukuoka(福岡)-Tokyo(東京)(1930 km), Nikko(日光)-Ooma(大間)(1048 km), Hakodate(函館)-Wakkanai(稚内)(1014 km) and Tokyo(東京)-Kyoto(京都)(560 km). Totalling 4552 km of epic Japan bicycle touring.

I would suggest you download these GPS Files as they will be the a great cycling Japan guide showing many of Japans highlights.

Eric’s Salsa Fargo in front of some cherry blossoms

The Japan Odyssey is a yearly, cycling event which as cyclist follow set checkpoints around Japan making up their own routes as they go along. It is in the best interest to plot this event on some of Japans best cycling roads. It might be a good idea to check out the plans for the 2019 route.

If you are planning to explore the Northern Island of Hokkaido then Hokkaidowilds.org is a helpful free resource for finding amazing routes that crisscross all over. And you should be okay using this to plan and connect routes together to create the most ultimate Japan bicycle touring route.

If you use these resources you should be fine as they will direct you off busier roads and onto more cyclist friendly, quieter back roads. Be prepared to cycle up hills as Japan is completely covered with mountains and on this back roads is where most of the climbing is. But it is all part of the adventure.

Getting Food When Touring

Depending on how you prefer to eat and your budget on a bicycle tour, restaurants and eating out for most meals, buying food from supermarkets (also means cooking and preparing your own food).

The most common place to get food when cycle touring is at supermarkets and convenience stores.

Convenience stores in Japan are almost like mini supermarkets offering huge options for food.

Convenience store culture is huge in Japan, they are great places to buy a huge variety of ready made foods, that are relatively healthy and nutritious. The people of Japan don’t necessarily make breakfast or dine out that often at restaurants (still do), but it is more of a thing to go to convenience stores get your food and eat it on the go.

Favourite selections

  • Soy bean products: tofu, miso, soy sauce, natto (not a fan)
  • Snacks: Japanese sweets, international candies, rice crackers, potato chips
  • Pre-made deli dishes: salads, yakitori, deep fried dishes
  • Others: rice, bread, noodles, cereals, canned and frozen foods, sauces, condiments

Must Try Foods That I really Enjoyed (before I went vegan :/)

  • Origini Sushi (triangular seaweed sensations)
  • Bento portable lunches. Many options to choose from!
  • Bean Jam Filled Bread Buns – these are cream filled buns but the bean ones where my favourite.

Eric my mate was consistent throughout the trip in updating in his videos a segment called, Snack of the Day. Where he purchased interesting and uniquely Japanese snacks to share with you.

The Vending Machines

In Japan there are around 2.4 million vending machines, it was a crazy surprise to realise just how many there was on almost every corner. Even in some places that you would consider more remote, there was a vending machine on the top of a hill.

The vending machines sell mostly liquid drinks (red meaning hot and blue is cold drinks). So yes you can buy hot coffees from vending machines. For only like 100 yen which is about $1.

Not only that but there are some vending machines that sell foods like noodles and snacks and other convenience foods.

Half Price or higher discounted food

If you look out for the kanji characters 半額 (hangaku), meaning halfprice, stickers on most foods. In the super markets you can get 50% to 70% or more off on the price. More on that below, in the money saving tips section.

Staying at Warmshowers

We go the opportunity to stay at a Warmshowers hosts house, and get to truely experience Japanese home culture. Our host was very accomodating, preparing us a home cooked Japanese dinner.

Getting Access To Water

Drinking Water

Drinking water was generally pretty good to find, not like in the UK (very different). You can find taps in parks and other public areas.

Keeping Clean

Onsens and Hot Springs

Onsens are the best for bike travellers, you get dirty then you need a onsen. I mentioned more about them in the tips section of this article.

All Japanese Onsen seem to have some rules that must be followed to insure the utmost respect. We could get into the detail of how the onsen operates. But the number one rule is to make sure you have a pre-wash or rinse down in the shower at the beginning. This is essentially a thorough scrub down to get rid of any dirt and sweat.

There is no way around this but you got to get in the nude. Yes completely naked! You are not allowed to bring any towels or other clothing into a onsen as they are considered dirty. Which means you have to get in the nude. There is no big deal with this. I guess I have had practice showering with the boys at footy and it is something you just get use to. Plus look on the bright side at least there will be no towel slapping.

Don’t get too crazy, staying modest in these environments is recommended. It is appreciated that you cover your nether regions with a small towel as you move from shower to onsen and back again.

Unfortunately if you have ink you are not allowed in. Tattoos are considered unacceptable for entry in a onsen as most people associate tattoos with the Japanese mafia. If you have small tattoos you can cover them with a waterproof bandage. But if you are dripping with ink. You might have to miss out. I have heard that some places who are geared toward mostly foreign customers are more lenient.

Stay for a while and relax after you have finished in the onsen. Most places have a relaxation area. Which is perfect for a big day of riding. I was out like a light and nearly got locked in there when they were closing up. OOPS.

When To Travel

Weather and Seasons

Public Transport With A Bike In Japan

If you are catching a train with your bike you must pack it in a plastic bag or have your own bike bag. It is appreciated if you make your bike as compact as possible.

Factoring in Japans cleanliness, they like to keep their country clean, and a filthy bike is not something they want contacting the trains.


Connecting to the internet and getting access to free wifi in Japan is fairly easy going. And it is fast enough. Fast enough to upload YouTube videos so that is more then enough for general surfing on the internet.

Most accessible at almost all convenience stores like (especially most 7Eleven’s and some but not all Lawson, and Family Mart’s). You can connect for a hour or subscribe and get unlimited. They typically have good wifi connections.

Charging Our Devices

Depending on your priorities when touring charging devices is typically important for us as content creators. As we film everyday of out adventures we need somewhere to charge our devices regularly. If you choose to go on a bicycle tour just to relax and rejuvenate then this is not the most important aspect of your trip.

But we found that most restaurants and stores we passed by did have charging points to quickly charge devices when we needed to. It was very common for use to stop by at a McDonalds for a few hours to charge. There was even a time when we spent a entire 24 hours in one.

Some public buildings gave us the opportunity to plug in our laptops and work directly on the ground and we worked away.

Another option that would work is to use the Onsens and once you get a nice clean you can connect up your devices as you sit around.

Another way to get some extra charge is to use portable solar panels when camping and bike touring. Best to charge a portable power bank and then charge your phone and other device from that.

Not recommended but worth mentioning, you could unplug the toilets in the 7 eleven and plug in your phone while you take care of business, if you really had to.

Favourite Things To Do In Japan and Places We Visited

Shimanami Kaido – (しまなみ海道, Shimanami Kaidō) Is a stunning cycling route that journeys kms through Japan’s main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku, passing over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Making for exception views as you cross over the many bridges and breathtaking coastal sights.

Kurushima kaikyo bridge in Ehime, Japan – Source : https://travel.gaijinpot.com

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – Although it was not great what happened during those times. It was fascinating to learn about the history of Hiroshima.

A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial … – flickr.com

Also the Nagasaki Peace Park was also very interesting to check out.

Nagasaki Travel: Nagasaki Peace Park – japan-guide.com

Himeji Castle

Himeji Travel: Himeji Castlejapan-guide.com

Most popular Cycling Location in Japan

Hokkaido – We unfortunately didn’t get the pleasure of exploring this amazing island. But I have heard such wonderful things about it. It is said to be a ‘pure paradise for cycle touring’. Make sure if you decide to go, the best time is around June to September. From October and May it starts to get chilly and is risky with sudden temperature drops. The summer is around 25 and not humid, natural hot springs, free campsites, shops and toilets everywhere.

Route 229 in Hokkaido – Source : http://www.worldbiking.info

The Tunnels

Be prepared to ride through many tunnels, darks and scary they may seem. Remember to bring some front and rear lights for safety.

As Japan is very mountains, there are many tunnels built through the ground.

Stove Fuel Accessibility From My Experience

Don’t Speak Japanese, How Did We Communicate?

English is not that commonly spoken in Japan obviously. They have a sense of pride in their culture that it seems they know part english but will only speak to you in Japanese. I believe the youth are taught English in schools. They seem shy and don’t want to make any mistakes, so Japanese is all you will get.

I would recommend to learn the basics. And if you can learn as much as you can, but it is no stress. The Japanese will appreciate it if you make an attempt to learn the very basics, and as you travel try and pick up and learn some more words.

In terms of ordering food from restaurants and such it was challenging. We used the Google Translate App. It has a handy visual translating option where you hover your phones camera over a menu and it will translate almost perfectly back in your language.

Also communicating to locals was hard, they would speak to use in fluent Japanese and we would just nod and laugh, crossing out hands ‘saying no Japanese’. I am certain we missed out on hearing some great stories and having some great conversions. They were probably asking where we are from and where we have travelled. Which we eventually figured out what that meant in Japanese and could communicate a little further, which is alway good.

We use google translate also to audio translate out voice, playing back and visualising show the translated text to who we were communicating to. And they would responded back in their language and it would translate. Which also work pretty well.

How To Cycle Japan On A Budget – Money Saving Tips

  • Camp for free! You can camp at free campsites. Or choose many public locations, like parks, road side stations and many other places. To set up your tent for the night and be gone in the morning without paying a dime to camp. One of the things that was great about bicycle touring Japan was the large opportunity to free camp and wild camp pretty much anywhere. Japan is without a doubt a expensive country and one way to off set the costs is having a go at camping. If one is able to express frugality and resourcefulness it can be a huge money saver. And also give you many memories and stories to tell from your adventures.
  • 100 Yen Shops. As soon as you get to Japan get to a 100 yen shop and get all the things you need. The major two stores found in Japan are Daiso and Seria.
  • Most supermarkets will heavily discount food nearing the end of opening hours. Depending if the store is 24 hours. Generally around 2 to 3 hours before closing you will notice discounts on food and as closing time approaches these discounts can go to 50% even 70% off. It is known as hangaku.
Look for this sticker on food
  • Buy Secondhand. This is just a life tip in general, always buy second hand is a great way to save cash. But when buying gifts and souvenirs consider buying secondhand. We visited a ‘Hardoff’ store before we left for home.

Budget Places to stay from Okinawa to Hokkaido

If you have some extra yen to spend or you don’t want to camp for free! There are many cheap accomodation options in Japan. The map below is a great resource.

This map shows a detailed range of budget friendly locations to stay. Ranging in prices from Y1000 to Y5000, with no meals. It is made up of Guesthouses, Hostels, Minshuku, Rider Houses and even some Henro houses.

A big shoutout to Paul Evans for sharing this very helpful resource, this is the link to it. I hope it will be of help to any of you touring through Japan or planning to go there.

You should also look into, Capsule Hotels. Add sleeping booths. These are cheap sleeping options where you get a simple capsule space to sleep for about $26 per night.

How Safe Is It To Leave Your Bike and Bags In Major Cities?

It is safe, they crime rate in Japan is almost non-existant. You should be fine leaving your bike out in a public area. Just for good measure make sure to lock your bike and take any valuable items out of your bike bags and panniers.

We left our bikes out as we when into museums and shopping in supermarkets and stores. For our whole trip we had no complains to record of.

A Map Of Bicycle Shops In Japan

Again credit to Paul Evans for supplying detailed information regarding where you can find bicycle shops and outdoor shops in Japan. If you need and repairs or parts for your Japanese bike touring adventure.

Camping in Japan

Urban and Wild Camping Japan

When I travelled to Japan I didn’t take a tent with me! We also had no ambition to stay in hotels or pay for any accommodation for the entire trip. Which I believe we never did.

This simply fact proves just how easy it is to camp in Japan. Most nights we just found some urban area to lay down our mats and bust out the sleeping bag and just sleep on the ground and under the stars. Like this photo above, we slept out the front of a library in the bike parking section. Although not exactly right where they wanted us to park the bikes, whoops!

Another exciting urban camp spot was a kids playground. but not just any playground it was a giant octopus!

Japan are pretty good with people camping in public places we had not one problem with authorities and I time camping was amazing!

We camp in a variety of different settings that would take forever to get through in this article. But we camped at;

  • A ground golf field, where we got woken up by the elderly players who were setting up for the morning game around our sleeping bodies).
  • In a Japanese McDonalds (24 hour challenge)
  • On a park bench out the front of a beautiful castle
  • Under a incredibly made Japanese rotunda
  • Parks and playgrounds, we camped at many public parks, where it is accepted to camp on the ground. As we met other local bike traveller who were doing the same thing. Some of the park were amazing with coastal views.
  • Out the front of public buildings
  • Road side stations

Campsites in Japan

There are many offical campsites in Japan. This is a great resource to find some great camp spots.

Cycle Touring Japan Tips and Hints

You should visit Hokkaido! I never got to go so I cannot say how good it is from my personal experience. But from those bike traveller who have visited they say they loved it and wish they could have stayed longer.

Camping in Japan can be done easily and for free.

Go to some Onsens!

Eric crashing out in the onsen resting room, enjoying some sumo wrestling!

When bike touring you get filthy. Onsens are your go to place to get a thorough body clean. If you are camping at camp sites, most of them have no showers. So you have to visit the hot springs and onsens. We went to a onsen at Roadside station Tsuwano-onsen Nagomi-no-sato. It cost 600 yen per person which is around $7. Anyway the full Onsen experience is a must, nothing beats seeing elderly Japanese men in the nude. In all seriousness those these places are a gem for a bicycle tour. One of things I noticed while in Japan was their attention to cleanliness it goes for there roads and cars. Very minimal litter and the cars are immaculate. But also they seem to like to clean themselves extremely thoroughly. We went to about two or three onsens in out time over there. Here is a video of the day we spent mostly off the bikes and in the Onsen resting.

Visit some of Japans stunning islands! We did the Shimanami Kaido route travelling over islands which was great fun. If you get the chance you should try and make it out to other islands of the coasts of Japan.

Pick the best time to travel considering the weather or Prepare for the weather with the right gear if you plan to travel through the colder and wet months around December and January. But if you can travel around April, May, June as that seems to be the better time of year, in regards to weather.

Enjoy the food! Japanese food is very tasty. I travelled there before I was vegan and had a great time. Not sure what the vegan options are like, but I am sure you would be fine, and still get to try some great food.

If you can avoid urban areas for cycling routes and instead plan your route through country back roads. That is best! You will be climbing high mountains but totally worth it.

Japan Cycling Navigator Facebook page is a great resource

My Recent Japanese Adventure

About The Author



Codey Orgill, a seasoned bicycle adventurer, has been exploring the world on two wheels for over 10 years. Since embarking on his initial cycling journey, Codey Orgill has traversed numerous countries, experiencing a series of epic adventures.