Touring Japan

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Touring Japan

Postby Swimmer » 8 Feb 2018, 4:14pm

I'm just starting to tentatively put together a plan to cycle tour in Japan in the spring of 2019 ie next year. I won't be able to spend an infinite amount of time but would like to travel along most of the length and both main islands. I've been reading that if you want to travel with your bike on a train or bus you need to bag it. Has any one had any experience of doing this with a touring bike with racks, panniers and mud guards? Do the bags have a maximum size or can you simply wrap plastic around it. At 6ft 2in my bike is obviously on the large size.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby matt2matt2002 » 8 Feb 2018, 4:29pm

Have you checked out crazy guy on a bike?
Usually lots of information there.
2017 Ethiopia.5 weeks.
2018 Marrakech 2 weeks.
Lots more in hot countries.
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Re: Touring Japan

Postby Warin61 » 8 Feb 2018, 9:38pm

Sorry .. don't know.
But I do know that Japaneses Touring Bikes (as sold and used in Japan) have 2 front rings .. a very big one for going down hill and a very small one for climbing uphill. They don't have much flat stuff there.
I would loose the front panniers and stay in local guest houses ... just due to the hills.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby simonhill » 8 Feb 2018, 11:51pm

I've toured 3 times in Japan, covered from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Four plus months in all.

Yes you do need to put your bike in a bag on trains. It's called rinko, you can probably search for it on the web. The locals take off both wheels to get it in the standard bag. You may get away with a bigger bag, but the Japanese can be very strict at times. I never used trains. Generally they don't like you taking a lot of luggage. Locals often have their suitcases shipped to their destination. Ferries are good, also budget airlines take boxed bike and are often cheaper than trains.

I'm on tour at the moment, but I am happy to answer questions by phone when I get home in April.

Try searching this forum for Japan. I have answered a few questions and also posted this short guide. There's not much on crazyguonabike cos not many people tour in Japan.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby Swimmer » 9 Feb 2018, 5:30pm

Thanks for the responses and particularly Simon for his link which was really useful.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby Randy_Butternubs » 11 Feb 2018, 12:12am

If you are looking for information on the whole rinko thing you should look at Jan Heine's blog

I've been around the centre of Japan ~Tokyo, Niigata, Toyama, Nagoya but on a small motorbike, not a bicycle. Some large areas of Japan are pancake flat and pretty much covered with low-density semi-urban sprawl. The rest is mountains which are breath-takingly beautiful but can be crazy steep. One road I went up was so steep that when I was stopped with the front brake on I would slide back down - the tyres didn't have enough grip.

The high mountain roads are incredibly beautiful but also incredibly windy and indirect - I found even doing long days on a motorbike I barely got anywhere using them. This might be an issue if you want to travel the length of Japan. The more direct roads on the flat-lands were not so pleasant. I didn't do any research though so you might find a good route.

Cycling seems pretty popular there and drivers seemed far less rage-y and entitled than they are in Britain which was really nice. On the other hand, the standard of driving was not good - I was tailgated a lot and they didn't seem very attentive. In one instance I pulled in to let past a worryingly swervy driver and when I pulled back out behind him I saw he had a TV propped up on the dashboard. :? They might behave better around cyclists though.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby scottg » 11 Feb 2018, 10:18pm

Direct Rinko info from Heine san.
His ride are usually pass hunting rather than end to end style. ... inko-bike/

Rinko evolved to handle Japanese train travel, so looks quite strange to
airplane oriented travelers.
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Re: Touring Japan

Postby Davidwd » 5 Nov 2018, 9:43am

I was just wondering how far you got organising this trip?

I am intersted in doing something similar but flying out with a brompton (thought it would be easier for trains etc) and staying in ryokans.

Any help suggestions from anyone would be gratefully received as I have not done that many tours on my own.

Thank you

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby simonhill » 5 Nov 2018, 3:10pm

The OP hasn't logged in since Feb 2018, so don't hold your breath for a reply.

Have you read any of the links above, particularly my one which was a mini write up of cycling in Japan after my first trip. Now, 2 trips later, I would change some of that write up. For example, I now try to book the next day's accomodation. The Japanese don't like you just turning up, particularly in the traditional minsku or ryokans. They normally provide food and this is a problem if they have no notice. Also in many of these traditional places you sleep on the floor. Jolly fun for a couple of nights for a tourist, but a pain in (insert option) for a long distance touring cyclist. I tend to stick to the good value business hotels nowadays.

You should be able to take your Brompton on a normal train, but I think you will need to bag it. I'm not so sure about the bullet trains, particularly if you have lots of other luggage. If you are touring on your Brompton, have you thought about how you will carry your luggage.

"Any help suggestions from anyone would be gratefully received as I have not done that many tours on my own."

Its almost impossible to answer a 'tell me all' query. As I said, I have cycled 3 times in Japan and ridden from top to bottom. Happy to answer any specific questions.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby Cyril Haearn » 5 Nov 2018, 3:31pm

I am interested in language, did you learn a bit of Japanese, do people speak a bit of English or other languages?

Never been there but one of my favourite books is Lost Japan by Alex Kerr, an American who settled in Japan, wrote the book in Japanese, it was very popular and he wanted to translate it into English but he got nowhere, I guess he was to close to the Japanese version, had to get someone else to translate

He bought an old farmhouse in the woods and adorned the rooms with art, then he realised the rooms looked best quite empty. Quite a Japanese sentiment?
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Re: Touring Japan

Postby ambodach » 5 Nov 2018, 3:52pm

Josey Dew wrote a couple of books about her adventures in Japan. Might be of interest to you.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby simonhill » 5 Nov 2018, 4:04pm

I started to read relevant chapters in Josie's book a few years ago but it was very dated. Now it is nearly 20 years old. OK as a yarn, but not much use for up to date travel info.

Bryn - as I said above I wrote a long piece on cycling in Japan, the post includes stuff about language there. Seek and ye shall find.

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Re: Touring Japan

Postby mnichols » 5 Nov 2018, 8:34pm

I cycled Cape to Cape of Japan just over a year ago.

I cycled through the Japanese Alps and they are nice, but in my opinion not as nice as the European Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites. Instead the joy (for me) was to be found in the culture.

Language, including written was a challenge, particularly away from the cities. At restaurants I just had to point randomly at squiggles on a page and hope for the best. As a veggie this was more of a challenge. I do eat fish, and if I didn't this would have been problematic

Road signs and maps can be difficult, and I couldn't make myself understood enough to get directions. A garmin was essential for me.

I did get a train into Tokyo because i couldn't figure out a route into the city. I took the wheels off and put it in a cheap bag, and carried that and my panniers

I recommend the Ryokans. These are a must see. A definite highlight for me. But I would recommend a few business hotels as well. Not being understood can be exhausting, so give yourself a break.

I recommend Japan, but it's not wall to wall beauty. It is a small overcrowded island(s) with vast cities, and suffer some of the same issues we do

That said, I've done +20 tours and this would be top 3 as an experience