Japan Highlights (8 days)

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 up after a day of cycling in zenlike onsen spas; visit beautiful forests, mountains and sea coasts as well as futuristic architecture and transportation; sample delicious regional cuisine; meet polite and candid locals as well as lovers of Hello Kitty and karaoke.

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Duration: 8 days / 9 nights.
Season: From 1 September til 31 May. Private guided tours upon request.
Calendar. If the tour is not scheduled or the dates in the calendar don’t suit your travel schedule, please contact us for a private or custom tour for you and your group.
Start: Kyoto – Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae, a 5 min walk from JR Kyoto Station on JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line. From Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, take JR train “Haruka” (Ltd Exo) to JR Kyoto station (75 minutes). From Tokyo’s Narita & Haneda Airports and Nagoya’s Centrair Airport, take JR Tokaido.
End: Hotel Toko in Izumi, Kagoshima, a 5 min walk from Izumi Station. Arrive by JR Kyushu Shinkansen Line or by 80 minutes shuttle bus from Kagoshima Airport.
Level 2. The climb up Mount Aso is 700m elevation gain.
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HIGHLIGHTS

  • Soak in outdoor onsen hot springs
  • Enjoy exquisite Japanese cuisine
  • Feed the deer in Nara Park
  • Ride the magnificent Shimanami Kaido Cycle Road
  • Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima
  • Hike around Mount Aso’s vulcano crater

ITINERARY

1:  Welcome to Kyoto !

You arrive in the course of the day at the hotel. Please note that your room may not be available until check-in time at 3pm, however if you arrive early the hotel will keep your luggage secure if you want to do some exploration. Tonight’s dinner is not included. There are plenty of nice restaurants nearby to have your pick.

2 – 61 km: Kyoto – Nara

Your Japan Highlights tour officially starts at 9am in the lobby of the hotel: you will meet your guide and fellow Japan Bikers. Please be dressed in cycling gear and have your luggage (suitcase and daypack) ready for the van. After bike fitting it is a short ride to Fushimi Inari shrine with its picturesque rows of red tori gates. After lunch we cycle to Nara. The road winds through green tea fields. In the afternoon we visit the Big Buddha in Todaiji – the biggest wooden structure in the world.

3 – 48 km: Nara – Onomichi – Omishima Island

After an early morning visit to the Big Buddha in Todaiji – the biggest wooden structure in the world, we transfer to Onomichi. Onomichi marks the Honshu start of the famous Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road connecting Honshu and Shikoku island. After lunch we set out on this dedicated cycling road. And dedicated means dedicated in Japan: purpose-made ramps with smooth grades lead us up to the bridges with their separate bike lanes offering splendid views of the surrounding islands and the Seto Inland Sea.

4 – 42 km: Omishima Island – Hiroshima

We veer off the Shimanami Kaido to take a ferry to Okamura island and the start of the Tobishima Kaido, another fantastic string of islands. In the afternoon we transfer to Hiroshima. Hiroshima (広島) is the principal city of the Chugoku Region and home to over a million inhabitants. When the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the city became known worldwide. The destructive power of the bomb was tremendous and obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius. After the war, great efforts were taken to rebuild the city.

5: Hiroshima – Hita

A free morning in Hiroshima to visit the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park and then another transfer to Hita. Hita prospered as Tenryo (direct controlled territory of Edo Shogunate) during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is called “Little Kyoto”, and still has many old merchant residences left.

6 – 72 km: Hita – Aso

Today it is all ups and downs in the shadow of Kyushu’s highest mountain, Mt Kuju (1791m). We are on our way to Mount Aso, the world’s largest caldera. Crossing the rim of the vulcano crater we finally get a glimpse of the impressive Aso plain. Legend is that the outer crater was once a lake, but one day the god of the mountain kicked open the only break (through which rail and bus pass) emptying the water and leaving the plain fit for cultivation. We stay at the foot of the climb to Nakadake.

7 – 69 km: Aso – Kumamoto

Have a hearty breakfast because the day starts with the climb up Nakadake. If the vulcano is not too active, we are allowed a peak accross the rim. After the descent we sneak through the hole in the caldera and follow the Shirakawa river to the west. The city of Kumamoto is nearing quickly. We stop to visit Kumamoto castle set amid fragrant ancient camphor trees. The castle dates back to 1467 and is considered one of Japan’s top 3 castles (三名城 Sanmeijō) together with Osaka and Nagoya. If we have time we’ll ride on to Suizenji garden and visit the replica of Mount Fuji.

8 – 59 km: Kumamoto – Hinagu Onsen

A leisurely ride on the fertile Yatsushiro plain, crossing the big rivers of Kyushu. Soon we arrive in Hinagu Onsen. This hot spring dates approximately 600 years back. During the Edo era (17th-19 centuries), it was designated as a hot spring run by the Hosokawa domain of Kumamoto. This historic hot spring was even loved by the lord of the Yashiro Castle as well as the lord of Shimazu who temporarily resided in the area. Even today, there are many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. 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. Even today, there are many buildings here that continue to depict the days long past. Such as our ryokan from 1909 with its exquisite wooden interior.

9 – 80 km: Hinagu Onsen – Izumi

We dance a tango with the little railroad and continue along the Shiranui Sea. Mitachimisaki and Ashikita Beach merit a stop. As well as Minamata with its harrowing museum dedicated to the victims of the Minamata disease. Without noticing we arrive in Izumi, winter resting grounds for Siberian cranes and home to Japan Biking. And the end point of our trip.

10: Sayonara !

Then it is time for final goodbyes… after breakfast you don’t have to climb in the saddle any longer. Now you are freed from the chores of the road. Check-out before 10am.

Onwards…

  • Explore the sultry city of Kagoshima and do some souvenir hunting.
  • Set out to UNESCO world heritage Yakushima, a subtropical island 4 ferry hours south of Kagoshima. Yakushima makes for some great hiking or biking.
  • Transfer to Kagoshima Airport.
  • Head straight to Izumi shinkansen station to continue your travels.