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Best route from Tokyo to Kyoto

gwilym

Warming-Up
Jan 6, 2024
6
3
Hi,

We are a family from New Zealand (two adults and two young teenagers). Our plan is to stop in Japan on the way to Europe and do a 2 week cycle tour, we'll have all our gear with us as we intend to ride from Italy up to Denmark in Europe. We are very excited to go to Japan for the first time.

We are wondering what the best route is from Tokyo to Kyoto, via the south coast like the attached image from bikemap.net or further north? We will be warming up so probably doing 40-55km a day.

Any advice avidly appreciated - I have read quite a few threads on here but have not seen this specific question addressed.
 

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my preference would be doing the Nakasendo(中山道) which starts going North-west through Saitama and Gunma before veering south to Kyoto through Nagano Gifu and Shiga. You'll see more variation of landscape and appreciate ancient Japan more. Tokkaido(東海道) (your route) is mostly SSDD IMO. If you really want to see Mt Fuji up close take an eastern route but for mine the 30km longer Nakasendo is more interesting.
You may need to plan accommodation a touch more judiciously as options would be less. As Tim asked,When?
 
Hiya - thanks for the replies! We're looking at getting to Japan about the 6th April, spend a couple of days adjusting then get pedaling. @kiwisimon do you have a .gpx or similar for that route you suggest?
 
This video route here not Nakasendo but an option.
Busy today but will update tomorrow

How much riding are you doing ATM? And are you on tandems or regular bikes?
 
This video route here not Nakasendo but an option.
Busy today but will update tomorrow

How much riding are you doing ATM? And are you on tandems or regular bikes?
We're on bikepacking/mtb style bikes. We'll have a bit of fitness but don't expect to do over 50-60km a day ... we'll have a tent etc and prefer to camp
 
Up through Hakone is a tough ride if you're not used to climbing that much.

An alternative route is to go via the Izu peninsula, then up and over from Ito on Route 59, onto Route 12 that takes you into Shuzenji, and then follow the Kano River up to Numazu then join back onto Route 1.
 
This is an ancient site (can be slow loading), but it does show one routing and its sections. Hover your cursor over sections of the map, click, and you can see some details for that section, and be sure to then scroll down for the details (the initial maps seem poor).


It skips the hard climb out of Hakone, but in going north/inland there would still be climbing up to the Mt Fuji lakes area. As @BeerTengoku suggests, an alternative is to go south and cross the Izu peninsula, and rejoin this JCN route around the Fuji River/Fujinomiya.

Here's another site, also older, that's an alternative write up on a section of the same:

 
We'll have a bit of fitness but don't expect to do over 50-60km a day ... we'll have a tent etc and prefer to camp
In that case I would scratch Nakasendo and stick near Tokaido.The camping options and less climbing make it a better route. Izu peninsular is okay but depending on where you are from in NZ it could be a bit ho hum.Think Wellington bays. Maybe a detour around the base of a still snow covered Fuji would be a better highlight. Temps will be in high teens and low 20s so camping a good option with plenty of bailout hard roof accommodation options if the weather goes to custard.
 
In that case I would scratch Nakasendo and stick near Tokaido.The camping options and less climbing make it a better route. Izu peninsular is okay but depending on where you are from in NZ it could be a bit ho hum.Think Wellington bays. Maybe a detour around the base of a still snow covered Fuji would be a better highlight. Temps will be in high teens and low 20s so camping a good option with plenty of bailout hard roof accommodation options if the weather goes to custard.
Thanks! We're from near Wānaka. I just read somewhere that prevailing winds are W -> E, if we had a choice do you think we'd be better off going Kyoto to Tokyo rather than the other way around?
 
I lived in Cromwell for a while. Did the Lake Dunstan ride/race a few times.
Are you flying into Tokyo or Osaka? And I guess you are leaving from Tokyo?
Probably Kyoto to Tokyo has a better chance of tail winds. The appeal of Kyoto is it being the ancient capital?
 
I lived in Cromwell for a while. Did the Lake Dunstan ride/race a few times.
Are you flying into Tokyo or Osaka? And I guess you are leaving from Tokyo?
Probably Kyoto to Tokyo has a better chance of tail winds. The appeal of Kyoto is it being the ancient capital?
Central Otago is great huh, so much to do. We're flying in and out of Tokyo and had thought Kyoto because it was about the right range for our time. Buuuuut, if you think we should go elsewhere (somewhere we can train back to Tokyo from) we're into that too.

Did our first overnight training ride last couple of days. Last time we went touring (2 months Germany-Spain) the kids were 8 and 10 years old and we did a max of 45km a day, this time I reckon we'll go way better and it'll be hard for me to keep up.
 
These are in Japanese, but I have really enjoyed the video log posted by "Fujico", half of a duo who bicycled from Tokyo to Fukuoka. Each video is one day of their journey, and Fujico (her pen name taken from her Fuji bike) maps out their route for that day in detail at the end of each video. They took six days to go from Tokyo to Osaka (they did not head up to Kyoto City). The first video is here:

 
This Youtube video reminds me of Japanese TV programming, which in turn reminds me of why I neither have a TV nor want one. It also makes me not want to ride my bike from Tokyo to Hadano or thereabouts -- the ride looks so dull (and even unpleasant) that I'd much rather carry my bike in the train. (Which indeed is what I routinely do. Thanks to the Odakyū Odawara line, this is easily accomplished.)

I skim-viewed the second installment --



-- whose route has less traffic than the first has, but which also looks pretty charmless.

Very likely there's something wrong with me.
 
This Youtube video reminds me of Japanese TV programming, which in turn reminds me of why I neither have a TV nor want one. It also makes me not want to ride my bike from Tokyo to Hadano or thereabouts -- the ride looks so dull (and even unpleasant) that I'd much rather carry my bike in the train. (Which indeed is what I routinely do. Thanks to the Odakyū Odawara line, this is easily accomplished.)

I skim-viewed the second installment --



-- whose route has less traffic than the first has, but which also looks pretty charmless.

Very likely there's something wrong with me.

I guess we are all looking for different things :) We live rurally and seeing something radically different than where we live is pretty exciting.
 
Yeah,I think your 50 to 60 kms a day is a little conservative.That's just 3~4 hours on the bike. Have you thought about taking a train south of Kyoto and doing a ride from Hiroshima up through the inland sea doing the famous Shimanami cycling course back to Osaka or you could take a ferry part of the way from Tokushima back to Osaka or even Tokyo? It's an area I haven't toured but it will be different from anything in NZ or Europe. But like you said,everything is going to be new and interesting. Cycling campsites I think you can find resources elsewhere on the net. That might be the biggest challenge in built up areas as people escape to the mountains and beaches to camp.
 
We live rurally and seeing something radically different than where we live is pretty exciting.
Good. Though if I lived in the countryside where cars were few, one experience that wouldn't thrill me is being squeezed to the edge of the road by cars and trucks.

I've never been to NZ but I'd guess that rural Japan would be very different from rural NZ.

What makes me feel slightly sick as I view the video is all the simpering by the two co-stars, who look to be not under 12 but over 20. (This is utterly normal for Japanese TV, so presumably many viewers enjoy it.)
 
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