Over the last two years, as a result of half of the world being locked inside, people have reached out for exercise more than ever. Perhaps the most popular of all of these sports to take up is cycling. Cycling in Japanis an experience like no other. Due to the endless coastlines across Japan’s many, many islands, cycling in Japan is an amazing experience in all seasons.
This article will feature three brilliant routes for cycling in Japan. These include Shimanami Kaido cycling, Lake Biwa cycling, and Awaji cycling. We will also list convenient bicycle rental shops to make planning a trip even easier.
Shimanami Kaido cycling
Shimanami Kaido cycling is one of the most popular cycling routes in Japan, and for good reason! Spanning the islands of Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, cyclists will be met with sublime views of beautiful tree-lined islands and sparking, gin-clear seawater.
If your legs need a rest, there are plenty of attractions to visit along the way. On Innoshima island, visit Innoshima Suigun Castle, or the Innoshima Flower Center!
On Ikuchijima visit famous lemon groves, of two beautiful temples: the traditional Kojo-Ji Temple, or the spectacular white marble Kosan-Ji Temple! There is nothing else like the white rock of Kosan-Ji, this is yet another reason why cycling in Japan is so great!
On the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, you can mix exercise, culture, and … food! Yes, make sure to visit the famous gelato shop ‘Dolce Ice Cream,’ conveniently located on the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, looking out to the sea.
This route is outlined by a blue path from beginning to end – it is quite hard to get lost! Just make sure to plan your trip so that you will be home before nightfall. The main Shimanami Kaido cycling route is seventy kilometers in length, and you can begin at either end.
Most begin in Onomichi, Hiroshima. Onomichi is easy to access via a JR line and Shinkansen. You can also begin at the other end, Imabari in Ehime, although getting to Imabari on the mostly-wild island of Shikoku can be difficult and will take a long time. We recommend you begin at Onomichi. There is a ferry in Imabari that will take you and your bike back to Onomichi.
Interested? There are many bicycle rental shops to choose from in Onomichi. We recommend the Onomichi Port Bicycle Rental Terminal. It is very close to the starting point and has many ‘check points’ along the Shimanami Kaido cycling route where they can take the bike off of your hands and you can take a ferry back to Onomichi. So, do not fear, you do not have to ride the entire 70km route if it’s not for you. This makes Shimanami Kaido cycling suitable for all levels of cyclists, from novice to expert.
Awaji is a beautiful island just off Akashi Maiko, connecting Hyogo with Shikoku. Similar to the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, the Awaji cycling route follows the coastline of Awaji island, so you will have Japan’s crystal-clear coastline beside you the entire time! Another benefit of this is that Awaji’s coastal roads are quite flat, making this route suitable for most cyclists.
Unlike the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, the Awaji cycling route does not have convenient ‘exit points’ that can ferry you back to the beginning. Once you start the Awaji cycling route, there is only one way back – by bike! Again, if you need to rest there are plenty of shrines, temples, beaches, and food stops along the way. Our recommendation is ‘Circolo’ for a great burger – enjoy it whilst sitting on the balcony, overlooking Japan’s beautiful sea.
The beginning of the Awaji cycling route is also at the island’s main bicycle rental shop. For those of you who can drive, this is easily accessible by crossing the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge, if you are coming from Kansai.
For those who cannot drive, there is a ferry in Akashi for 520 yen that can take you across to Awaji – it will drop you off beside the bicycle rental shop. Akashi is easily accessible by both JR and Shinkansen lines.
Lake Biwa cycling
This brings us to Lake Biwa cycling, Japan’s greatest lake! Overlapping both Shiga and Kyoto prefectures, Lake Biwa’s coastline is around two hundred kilometers, so the entire distance may be suitable for the more experienced cyclist. However, there are many hotels and campsites around Lake Biwa, making Lake Biwa cycling accessible to novice cyclists who can stay a night or two.
Lake Biwa cycling has become so popular that there is even a word for it: ‘Biwako isshu (びわ湖一周)’ which means ‘to go around lake Biwa.’ Most might go around Biwa by car, but second, to the are cyclists. Many are drawn to the picturesque views surrounding Japan’s greatest lake, the wooded groves, and the ease of getting back into the cities to find some food!
Most people will want to plan for three days to get around Lake Biwa, staying at a hotel or camping for two nights. However, it can be done in two days by using the Biwako Ohashi Bridge shortcut. Like the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, and the Awaji cycling route, the Lake Biwa cycling route is easily found and followed – just keep an eye on the blue arrows!
You can technically start at any point around the lake, the Lake Biwa cycling route runs around its entirety, however, we recommend starting and ending at Maibara. Maibara is easily accessible by both Shinkansen and JR lines, and there are quite a few bicycle rental shops there. We recommend Biwaichi rental cycle.
Please get out there and enjoy Japan’s beautiful countryside when can! Remember, be safe!