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Japan

The Heart of Hokkaido

Guided Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

12 days

Prices from

$4,290 P.P.
Japan

The Heart of Hokkaido

Guided Bike Tour

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

12 days

Prices from

$4,290 P.P.
BOOK NOW
Much more than just a cycling vacation in Japan, this is an opportunity to experience the unique Ainu culture of Hokkaido and meet people ready to share their wonderful cuisine and traditions.
Join us as we enjoy the peace and tranquility of Japan’s most northern island during a tour that has been carefully crafted to ensure you get the very best of this unique part of the country.
This is a land of incredible lakes, steaming volcanic mountains and soothing natural hot springs, all of which can be explored via a myriad of quiet country lanes that are just perfect for cycling.
Hokkaido is the best place in Japan to enjoy onsens (hot-spring baths) which are invariably part of your accommodation and there is nothing better to end your cycling day.
Food plays an integral part of Japanese life so be prepared for some truly delicious cuisine along the way. For the adventurous there is a new food adventure around each and every corner.
Accommodation is of a high standard throughout and varies from modern hotels to comfortable traditional minshuku and ryokan.

Highlights

  • Soaking in an outdoor onsen after a day on the bike
  • Sampling sushi with a smooth sake
  • Lake Mashu and Iozan Sulphur Mountain
  • Searching for Siberian Cranes at Teshigawa
  • Relaxed rural riding and scenic coastal routes
  • Ainu culture and friendly fishing communities

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Itinerary

Day 1
Departure for Japan

Depart from home to arrive into Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) the following morning.

Day 2
Arrival in Japan - Tokyo e-bike tour - Sights of Shinjuku
9 Miles / 15 Kms

Following arrival into Japan’s main international airport Narita (NRT) and clearing customs it’s time to take the Express Shuttle bus to the bustling Shinjuku area of the city, a journey of around one hour. Our hotel is situated a very short distance away and has been chosen for its close proximity to transportation links.

Once checked-in we head to Tokyo Station from where we take a fun e-bike tour of Tokyo. Starting at the Imperial Palace and ending at Higashi Ginza, it’s a fun way to shake off the jet-lag.

Following the ride we head back to our hotel from where we’ll head out for a wander around the small streets and alleys that spiral around Shinjuku. These narrow lanes are filled with numerous interesting shops and tiny eateries serving ramen, soba and sushi. We’ll take our evening meal, before returning via the neon glitz of of its electronics stores to our hotel.

Day 3
Tokyo to Hokkaido / Transfer to Yamahana
6 Miles / 10 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Following breakfast we head to the nearby Express Bus Terminal for the journey (1 hour) to Japan’s domestic airport Haneda (HND). From here it’s just a short flight to Kushiro (KUH) on Japan’s northern island Hokkaido.

Known as the ‘Town of Mist’ Kushiro sits on the southeastern part of Hokkaido and is where we’ll be staying for the evening. Our modern hotel is situated in Yamahana in the countryside on the edge of Kushiro and makes for a great place to base ourselves in preparation for the cycling to come.

Following a late lunch it’s time for bike fitting before taking an easy warm-up ride straight from the hotel (around 10kms) to stretch out the legs.

Pre-dinner and it’s time to enjoy the hotel’s onsen facilities and soothe away any post-travel tiredness. Taking an onsen is very much part of Japanese culture and something we’ll be doing regularly during our time here and we’ll have a briefing about onsen / bathing etiquette before you take the plunge.

Day 4
Yamahana to Teshikaga
43 Miles / 70 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Our cycling begins today as we explore the Kushiro wetlands during a rolling / undulating ride. The lush wetlands that cover much of the Kushiro Plain awake after their Winter slumber with their vibrant greens contrasting dramatically with the blues of its meandering waters. Later in the year the red and orange hues of the autumn leaves help create an entirely different palate.

The area is renowned for the breeding population of one of the world’s rarest birds; the Tancho /Japanese Red-Crowned Crane. The best consistent place to see these majestic birds is close to the tiny village of Tsurui. It’s certainly a place not to missed and we’ll make sure we spend some time here in search of the cranes. It’s roughly mid-way and so makes the ideal place for lunch.

Our afternoon ride continues through the wetlands area, with our accommodation situated at the small town of Teshikaga. Situated in part of the Kussharo Caldero (the biggest caldera in Japan). It’s another hot springs hotel and as we’ll be staying here for two nights you’ll be able to unpack just that little bit more.

Day 5
Lake Mashu - Iozan - Lake Kussharo
37 Miles / 60 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast

A little challenge to start the day as we head from the hotel and soon begin the gradual climb of the caldera. It’s around 10kms to the viewpoint from where you should be able to see mystical Lake Mashu below. The climate here does mean it can be misty in the caldera, but it’s said that if you are able to see the lake clearly that you’ll always be happy.

From here we’ve a lovely ridge ride, with great panoramas for a few kms before a smooth zig-zagging descent down to Kawayu-Onsen (reached after 25kms) and its lovely train station. Opened in 1930 and still functioning today, the Station Master’s office has now been tastefully transformed into a small cafe and it makes for a nice place to take a coffee or lunch.

Back on the bikes and our next stop is the active volcanic mountain of Iozan (see photo below). Translated as Sulphur Mountain it’s easy to see why. You’ll have seen the mountain in the morning during your ride, but it’s at close quarters when it comes into its own. It’s sulphurous vents can be viewed here and you‘re free to walk around the steaming, smoking area. If you are still hungry then eggs cooked by the natural heat are available from the visitor centre!

Our route then heads alongside Lake Kussharo, where we stop at the beach at Sumayu. Here if we dig a little in the sand we’ll reveal hot water…though don’t dig too deep! From here we head inland a little following the Kussharo River as it leads us back to Teshikaga, in time for another hot soak before dinner.

Day 6
Teshikaga to Naka Shibetsu
36 Miles / 58 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Changing direction we’ll be heading eastwards today. The scenery will also change, with the lush mountainsides and forests replaced by verdant dairy pasture.

A rolling ride today, with no major hills to encounter during our initial kms that sees us cycling close to the Mashu River.

Depending on our progress, lunch will be taken mid-point of the ride at one of the small villages or at the viewpoint of Kaiyodai Observatory, which is reached after 43kms. Like most viewpoints it means a gain in height, and whilst this one isn’t a long climb it certainly has a ‘kick in the tail’ to reach its summit.

Needless to say it’s worth the effort as you’ll be greeted with 360 degree views of the surrounding area and in the distance you should be able to see the island of Kunashiri.

Meaning Black Island in Ainu (the language of the original inhabitants of Hokkaido) the island has been under Russian control since the end of World War II.

What comes up must come down and after an initial downwards ride our final kms of the day are pretty flat as we make our way to Naka Shibetsu and another onsen awaits our arrival.

Day 7
Naka Shibetsu to Shibetsu
37 Miles / 60 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Following the exertions of yesterday today is an easier day on the bike and we’ve also a boat ride and walk on the cards too.

In an area in which there are more cows than people, it’s not surprising that you’ll see a few of these along the way this morning as we head to the small fishing port of Odaito. It’s here we plan to take a small boat over to the peninsula of Notsuke. It’s a nice 30 minute journey and along the way you might be able to see seals if you are lucky. Once disembarked it’s time to take a gentle amble (30 minutes) along the boardwalks to the Nature Centre, where once again you’ll be re-united with your bikes and perhaps take lunch after checking out the exhibitions and quirky shop.

Back on the bikes we head along the peninsula and set our sights on Shibetsu. Our accommodation tonight is very traditional and is at a local fisherman’s minshuku. It’s a fun and friendly place to stay with our evening meal (see above photo) prepared by the owner and his wife.

Day 8
Shibetsu to Rausu
30 Miles / 48 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Fuelled by fish from the previous evening’s festivities our target today is the the small town of Rausu. The word Rausu originates from the Ainu word meaning ‘Place of men with beast like spirit’ and lies around 48kms away. It’s a nice ride that undulates along the coast and we will be flanked by forests of Aspen trees as we get closer to to the town.

For those looking to join the locals for a spot of outdoor bathing there is a rustic hot spring very close to the accommodation with our guides happy to take those interested for a dip in its re-energising waters. Of course there’s one in the hotel too should you prefer.

Optional Ride – For those with a few miles left in their legs we have the option of continuing along to the end of peninsula. Its another 23kms there and of course 23kms back, but if the tides work in our favour we’ve the option of a hot spring in the sea once we reach the end.

Optional Whale Watching – The area between Shibetsu and Rausu is a good place to do whale watching. For those interested this can be arranged and will mean a slightly later start to the day’s cycling. Please note that this activity is only possible in favourable conditions and is dependant on sufficient participant take-up.

Day 9
Rausu to Utoro
27 Miles / 44 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Our most challenging day as we’ll be climbing around 700 metres in order to re-cross the mountains and return once more to the coast. Once again we head off straight from the hotel and from here the climbing begins. Whilst steep in places, there are plenty of options to take a break, with the top reached after around 15kms. From here we are treated with some great views of the Kunashiri Mountains and we can marvel at our morning cycling achievement.

We are now deep in Brown Bear country and our next port of call is the Shiretoko Nature Centre (http://center.shiretoko.or.jp/en) which we reach after a smooth winding descent. It’s a great place to learn a little more about the bear conservation projects in the area and more about these rare creatures.

It’s here that we switch out of our cycling shoes and enjoy a leisurely hike through the Shiretoko Five Lakes area where we can experience the natural beauty of this primeval forest whilst and keep an eye our for Brown bears.

From here the ride continues downhill and ends at Utoro where we’ll once more be back at sea-level with our accommodation a small coastal hotel with its own hot spring bath.

Day 10
Utoro to Kiyosato
34 Miles / 55 Kms - Optional 19 Miles / 30 Kms to Cherry Blossom Falls
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

During today’s cycling we’ll be combining both coastal and rural riding as we head to Kiyosato. There will be a few small ups and downs along the way, but the route has no major hills and makes for a nice cycling day. Along the way you’ll be able to see the Shiretoko Mountains which you crossed yesterday and the impressive Shari-dake and Okhotsk Fuji one of Japan’s most famous mountains

After 7kms (4 miles) we’ll stop by the impressive waterfalls of Oshinkoshin where we will visit the impressive shrine. The Ainu called this place Raikunai (Dead Creek) and was worshipped as a sacred place. with the surrounding forest untouched and some of its trees estimated at over 1,000 years it makes for a serene setting.

From Oshinkoshin we soon head inland and finish the day with a relatively flat section alongside the vegetable fields to Shari and then Kiyosato where we stay for the evening.

The distance to here is 55kms but with those with the legs there is the option to do another 30 Kms (total) and visit the Sakura Falls (Cherry Blossom Falls) where from June to August you are able to see trout ‘jumping’ the waterfall.

Day 11
Kiyosato to Memanbetsu
30 Miles / 48 Kms
  • Meals: Breakfast, dinner

On our final day of cycling our route takes us through the fertile agricultural area this region renowned for, before a straight flat section leads us to the town of Hama Koshimizu and the coast of the Ohotsuku Sea.

After skirting beside Tofutsu Lake we head back inland once more and begin weaving our way between the numerous wheat and potato fields with our backdrop once more the Shiretoko Mountains.

We arrive at our Ryokan Onsen accommodation after around 48kms of cycling. This is our last night in Hokkaido and we’ll make sure that there is time for one last spot of relaxation Japanese style in the accommodation’s onsen. Our final meal is taken at the Ryokan and is a fitting place to raise a glass or two of Sake and say Kampai!

Day 12
Departure
  • Meals: Breakfast

Following an early breakfast we take the 15 minute journey to Memanbetsu Airport (MMB) for your return flight (1.5 hours) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND).

Following arrival it’s time to link up with your international flight connections or should you be planning to stay on in Tokyo the Express Shuttle bus will return you to Shinjuku from where other destinations such as Kyoto are just a bullet train away.

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The Cycling

Terrain

During our time in Hokkaido we will be cycling on well surfaced roads throughout the tour. For the vast majority of the time you will be on tranquil side roads where there is little or no traffic. Whilst on the coastal roads the traffic will increase a little, though is rarely heavy or too onerous.

Our initial riding sees us enjoying the rolling countryside of the Kushiro Plains, wetlands and the Kussharo Caldera. From here we head to Lake Mashu and Kussaro on routes that are rolling with some more challenging sections.

From Naka Shibetsu the terrain flattens until the coast at Odaito from where it’s an undulating coastal ride to Rausu.

Our most challenging day is the Shiretoko Pass and our final day takes in both coastal and rural riding to reach Memanbetsu where our journey ends.

sulphur-mountain-japan-cycling-holiday-hokkaido.JPG

Cycling Adventures Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 2 - 3: Moderate/ Active

Aspects of both our grade 2 and 3 holidays

Suitable for those looking for some cycle friendly routes

Some modest climbs and possibly sections of varying terrain (eg. forest tracks, gravel paths etc).

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

Holidays that are graded as a 2-3, will have aspects of both our grade 2 and 3 holidays. These tours are still suitable for those perhaps who have recently got into cycling, and offer an array of accessible, cycle friendly routes, cycle paths and quiet roads, however there will be some days / sections where you may have to tackle some ups and downs, the occasional steeper climb and perhaps some varying terrain (forest tracks, gravel paths etc). Suitable for those with a decent level of physical fitness, looking for some leisurely rides with occasional (achievable!) challenges along the way.  

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Dates & Prices

Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
19/06/2021
Return Date
30/06/2021
Duration
12 days
Price
$4,290.00
Start Date
28/08/2021
Return Date
08/09/2021
Duration
12 days
Price
$4,290.00

Whats Included Tick

A) Accommodation (shared twin rooms).

B) Meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner).

C) Full tour service including bilingual Japanese guide, support vehicle etc.

D) Fully Guided e-bike tour Tokyo – Day 2

E) Airport transfer from Kushiro Airport (KUH) – Day 3

F) Airport transfer to Memanbetsu Airport (MMB) – Day 12

G) Boat journey from Odaito to Notsuke – Day 7

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike hire (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike

C) Meals not stated in the itinerary

D) Travel insurance

E) Personal clothing and equipment

F) Personal expenditure – souvenirs, bar bills etc.

G) Entrance fees to temples, shrines and other attractions

H) Airport transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days

I) Airport transfers from Narita or Haneda Airport to Tokyo – Day 2 – ¥3000

J) International Tourist Tax on departure from Japan – ¥100

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The Essentials

Travel Options

For this holiday you will need to arrive and depart from Tokyo’s Narita Airport (NRT) or Haneda Airport (HND). Direct flights are available with ANA and Japan Airways to both Narita and Haneda.

Japan Airlines and ANA fly regularly to Kushiro (Day 3) and Memanbetsu (Day 11) for the domestic flights.

Please do not book any flights without contacting us.

Accommodation

In order to fully appreciate your time in Japan we will stay in a variety of both modern and traditional accommodation.

Minshuku: Japanese style bed and breakfasts. Usually family run and offer visitors the opportunity to meet a local family and experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle. Guests stay in Japanese style rooms, sleep on a futon on tatami floor and have the opportunity to take a Japanese style bath.

Ryokan: A typical Ryokan is usually an old-fashioned Japanese-style inn, maintaining the traditional atmosphere and appearance is more important than providing the latest modern convenience. A Ryokan is for travellers who wish to experience traditional Japanese culture and enjoy the comforts of true Japanese hospitality and service.

Onsens: Many of the accommodations we will be staying in have their very own onsens – hot spring bathing facilities. Onsens by definition use naturally hot water from geothermally heated springs. They can be both indoor or outdoor and taking them is very much an important part of the Japanese experience.

*Please note that on Day 6 only single rooms are available.

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire.

These bikes are typically Specialized Sirrus a hybrid bike featuring v-brakes and good quality components.

If you do decide to hire we will provide all the necessary spares for the trip, with a limited amount of helmets available on request.

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