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.
Duration: 7 days / 8 nights.
Season: From 1 September til 31 May.
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. Self-guided tours are possible anytime from 1 September til 31 May.
Start & End: Hotel Toko in Izumi, Kagoshima, a 5 min walk from Izumi Station. You fly in/out via Kagoshima Airport or you arrive at/leave from Izumi Station by shinkansen.
Level 3: Riding distances of 70-100 km with steep climbs. For riders in good physical condition.
Set out from Izumi via Nagashima Island to Amakusa Island. Across Amakusa to Kumamoto and its Castle. Climb Mt. Aso volcano (1140m). Back to Izumi via the inland route over Nihonsugi Pass (1106m ) and Kyushichitoge Pass (735m).
Rental Bike Details
- Enjoy exquisite Japanese cuisine
- Picnic under cherry blossom trees
- Slow down to an island pace on Amakusa
- Peek into a volcano crater at Mt. Aso, the world’s largest caldera
- Stroll in noble Hitoyoshi
- Soak in onsen hot spring baths
- Hear the ocean crash on rugged shores
- See the sun set in the Land of the Rising Sun
1 – 0 km: Welcome to Izumi !
2 – 80 km: Izumi – Kawaura
In Izumi we visit the samurai neighborhood and the Crane Park Museum as Izumi is famous winter home of Siberian Cranes. A stretch of coastal road and Kuranoseto Bridge brings us to Nagashima Island. Along the sea we further enjoy the tranquility of Japan’s small islands. People fish or farm here, main crop is sweet potato. To kill the long winter evenings the islanders have developed a unique art of making giant statues out of straw, cans or styrofoam. Try to spot as many as you can! We catch a ferry enjoying the beautiful views as Nagashima shrinks and Amakusa grows bigger. The setting sun accompanies us on our last winds before we reach our hot bath for the night.
3 – 80 km: Kawaura – Maejima
Amakusa is known as the former hideaway of persecuted Christians. In the early 17th century, when the then rulers began their crackdown on Christianity many Christian converts were thrown into the boiling Unzen Hell, forcing them to escape to Amakusa.
Two beautiful gentle climbs on the morning menu, with a little break in between to admire the spectacular straw doll scenes in Miyajidakemachi. We arrive in the island capital of Hondo in time for a hearty curry lunch. Our own private highway across the spine of Kami-Amakusa takes us above the tiny shiny cars down below on the coastal highway along Ariake Sea. Shimabara Bay and Mount Unzen loom on the horizon. You’ll find yourself wanting to slow down even more to take in the marvellous sights, but we try to make it to our overnight at Maejima before dusk. We hit Matsushimabashi, the first bridge of the Amakusa Pearl Line linking Amakusa with mainland Kyushu and the rest of Japan. Constructed in the hope of attracting more tourists to the poorer islands, it turned out the opposite. Young people discovered life across the sea and soon Amakusa suffered another drain of people.
4 – 64 km: Maejima – Kumamoto
We start the day with some island hopping. From tiny Maejima (500m in diameter), across Maeshimahashi bridge to almost invisible Ikeshima, then an unnamed island, just big enough for yet another bridge support, same with Oikejima. This is the Amakusa Pearl Line at its best. After crossing Nakanohashi, Nagaurajima looks like a kilometer long dragon. By now, you guessed that shima/jima means island in Japanese and hashi/bashi is bridge. We cross the 4th big bridge, Oyanobashi to Oyanoshima. Here we explore the north coast before we reach the last bridge, Tenmonbashi, connecting Amakusa with mainland Kyushu. Tenmonbashi means “Gate to Heaven”, unclear in which direction it is meant.
Then follows a leisurely ride on the shores of the Uto Peninsula, though the road can be quite busy at times. We ride along Midorikawa River for a short stretch. Rice paddies and igusa, the grass used to make tatami mats soon give way for the proud city of Kumamoto. We 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 to see a mini Mount Fuji.
5 – 67 km: Kumamoto – Mount Aso
Have a hearty breakfast because today we will climb a volcano. We slowly warm up through Kumamoto’s suburbs. After a break at Sogoundo Park we leave the city behind and join the banks of Shirakawa river. Mount Aso, the world’s largest caldera is looming ahead. 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 sneak through the break into the caldera and cross the impressive bridge at the confluence of Kurokawa and Shirakawa rivers. The rubble of old road beneath us testimonial of hydro power.
We join the Aso Panorama Line. Now it is 500 more altimeters to the top, the last 100 of which optionally by cable car. We pass by the curious looking Komezuka Hill, the Volcano Museum and the Kusasenri grasslands with great views on Aso plain and surrounding caldera rim. If the volcano is not too active, we are allowed a peek across the rim into the bubbling cauldron of primordial soup.
Then the descent: we simply whoosh down the Panorama Line pulling up just before the bottom to arrive at our base camp for the night.
6 – 67 km: Mount Aso – Samata-yu
We cross Minami-aso Plain and start climbing the rim of the caldera. You could take the tunnel but then you miss the last majestic views of Mount Aso. Soon we descend into the Kumamoto plain and we skirt the mountains until heading back up to our onsen for the night.
7 – 78 km: Samata-yu – Hitoyoshi
Today you’ll be riding in the Gokanosho prefectural park, famed for its autumn foliage. It’s quite a hilly day and you’ll be happy when you reach Hitoyoshi.
Hitoyoshi is a castle town once prosperous as a river port, where lumber was collected and distributed. But now it is time to relax in one of the 80 onsen. We stay at the superb Hitoyoshi Ryokan.
8 – 72 km: Hitoyoshi – Izumi
Up and over the Kyushichitoge Pass (735m) or cutting short through the Kyushichi tunnel to Isa. Then scenic Rte 118 to the Uwaba highlands and back down into the Izumi Plain.
9 – 0 km: 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.
- 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 Chuo Station or Kagoshima Airport.