Explore Japan on Two Wheels
Zoom across the Japanese archipelago like an Olympic cyclist! Japan offers a rich variety of routes for outdoor enthusiasts, with views of shimmering blue seas, majestic mountains, and rustic villages. Cycling gives you chance to explore off-the-beaten paths, meet locals, and get familiar with your destination. There’s something to see in every season—from cherry blossoms in the spring to the rich colors of fall. Hop on a bicycle and encounter a different side of Japan!
Bike rental shops can be found near most of Japan’s popular cycling routes. You’ll be able to pick up the right two-wheeler for the local terrain, whether it’s a city bike, road bike, mountain bike, or even a motorized e-bike.
Guided cycling tours are also available at many major spots and urban areas, giving visitors a great opportunity to learn more about the local history and nature, and meet new people.
If you’re planning to bring your own bicycle, note that most airlines will let you load it as checked baggage. However, you may have to pay an additional fee depending on the size and weight, so make sure to check with your airline beforehand. While bicycles are allowed on bullet trains, local trains, and buses, they usually need to be covered, so bring a bike bag with you. It’s best to avoid urban train lines during the rush hours.
Featured on CNN’s “7 best bike routes in the world,” the Shimanami Kaido cycling road is a mecca for cyclists. This 70-km route runs from Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture and straddles the Seto Inland Sea. The seven bridges that you will cross connect six islands and offer stunning views of the surroundings. The recommended paths are clearly marked on the road and you can choose to complete part of the course by bus or boat, depending on your stamina. This makes the Shimanami Kaido cycling road a great option for visitors of all levels.
Highlights include views of the archipelago from the bridges, the citrus groves, and the pastoral backdrop. You’ll also find many art sites along the way. Opt to stay at one of the unique bed and breakfasts and enjoy local fare. You’ll find plenty of bike rental shops and, thanks to the mild climate, you can cycle in the area throughout the year.
The Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road, a 180-km cycling course in Ibaraki Prefecture, is packed with highlights. Visitors can enjoy cultural sites such as Kashima Shrine as well as beautiful views of Mount Tsukuba and Lake Kasumigaura—the second largest lake in Japan.
The course is divided into two main areas. The Mount Tsukuba area has a bicycle and pedestrian path converted from an abandoned railroad line. Old station buildings have been turned into rest stops, making this an ideal course for beginners. Alternatively, the Mountain Tsukuba Hillclimb course, with a steep gradient of over 10% , is a great option for more seasoned cyclists. The Kasumigaura route runs along the shores of Lake Kasumigaura, and on clear days, it provides views of Mount Tsukuba and the giant Ushiku Buddha. There are plenty of local eateries nearby. Both courses have almost no elevation difference and there’s not need to worry about cars getting in the way.
Located just an hour from Tokyo by train, the area is easy to access. The Ring Ring Square Tsuchiura* cycling base is connected directly to JR Tsuchiura Station, and you can use it as the starting point.
Cyclists flock to Aomori, located in the northern part of Japan, for the nature-packed Towada-Oirase cycling course. It stretches for 24 kilometers through a lush national park. Oirase Stream is known for its verdant forests and fall colors. Pedal along route 102, which runs parallel to the stream, through a tunnel of lush greenery, making stops at the stunning Ashura Current and Kumoi Falls. It’s the perfect place to get rejuvenated.
Make your way to Lake Towada, a 200,000-year old caldera lake that straddles Aomori and Akita Prefecture. On clear days, its mirror-like surface beautifully reflects the surrounding mountains. Once you arrive, treat yourself to grilled kokanee or other traditional fare.
There are plenty of other cycling routes in Aomori which allow you to enjoy spectacular views and local specialities such as apples and scallops.
The Ise-Shima area is packed with wonders such as the Ise Shrine complex, a stunning rias coastline, and fresh seafood. Cycling is the perfect way to see the best of the region.
You can opt to pedal across the Shima Peninsula*. Start from JR Ugata Station and make your way to the Daio-Saki Lighthouse in Daio, a town that has attracted artists for its scenic beauty. Cross the Shima Pearl Bridge and stop by at the Kirigaki Observatory to watch the sun set over Ago Bay. Don’t forget to try some local treats along the way. Ama huts, places where ama divers rest after diving for seafood, serve fresh catch to visitors.
There are plenty of other cycling routes* in Ise-Shima. You can choose to routes that take you to spots like the Kou Shirahama beach, a popular surfing destination characterized by its white sandy beaches, and the Yokoyama Observatory in Kashikojima Island, which hosted the 2016 Ise-Shima Summit.
The Nanao Bay cycling route is a great way to explore the Noto Peninsula. Close to the popular tourist site of Kanazawa, it offers pastoral scenery, traditional crafts, delicious meals, and hot springs.
Start your journey from Nanao Station and do a loop along the Noto coastline. Enjoy beautiful views of the calm and clear Nanao Bay, crossing two bridges along the way. You can opt to take a side trip to observe bottlenose dolphins from a sea kayak. At the Noto Shokusai Market*, you’ll find a variety of fresh seafood and can sample sushi, sashimi, and grilled fish. Along the way is Wakura Onsen, a luxurious hot spring resort overlooking the sea. Take a dip or soak your feet in a foot bath after a day of cycling. The entire route runs for about 70 km, but it’s mostly flat, making it appropriate for beginners and families. Opt to stay in a nearby hot spring inn or campgrounds to make the most of your visit.
There are plenty of other fun cycling courses in the Noto area.
The Aso area, home to one of the biggest calderas in the world as well as an ancient highway from the 16th century, is an ideal destination for cyclists. It has a unique terrain—the enormous cauldron-shaped Aso caldera is encircled by mountains, while the flat areas are covered by grasslands.
The breathtaking 60-km cycling route that runs across the five peaks of Aso is recommended for experienced cyclists. Start at JR Aso Station and make your way to the Hakoishi Pass where you can take in panoramic views of Mount Nekodake and the Aso Valley. Pedal uphill through the Aso Panorama Line, pass by the steamy Nakadake Crater before you head to the Kusasenri grasslands, where you can enjoy an idyllic landscape with grazing cows and horses. The grassland actually sits above 30,000-year-old volcanic craters. You’ll pass by the Komezuka volcanic cone before you zoom downhill against a dynamic backdrop. The elevation difference is about 680 meters, so it’s best suited for advanced cyclists.
You will find plenty of other cycling routes in Aso packed with local cuisine, hot springs, and spectacular sights.
Bike sharing services are growing in major urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka. Many of these bikes can be rented in 30-minute increments, and you usually don’t have to return the bicycle to the same place you rented it from. This makes them perfect for sightseeing around town.
Docomo’s bike sharing service has over 800 service areas around Tokyo. You’ll also find it in places like Yokohama, Kawasaki, Sendai, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara, and Oita. Once you’ve registered on their app, you can rent a bike at any of their service areas and pay by credit card. It costs about 165 to 200 yen to rent one for 30 minutes. They’re e-bikes, so you’ll get an extra boost when you’re cycling. The app will also help you find nearby spots where you can return the bicycle.
You’ll often spot mothers or fathers carrying their children on small-wheeled electric bikes in Japan. Parking spaces tend to be limited in cities, so e-bikes offer a flexible and eco-friendly form of transportation. These two-wheeled wonders are used by people of all ages, from young working parents to senior citizens.
Bikes are growing even more in popularity now, with people looking to avoid crowds and engage in more sustainable lifestyles. Leading domestic manufacturers like Yamaha, Panasonic, and MIYATA have all been releasing lines of stylish and functional e-bikes. You’ll find a large variety from hybrid, MTB, and road-types to compact minivelos with small wheels. They’ve have become more accessible for those who are wary of cycling for long distances or on slopes.