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cycling Japan in July?


May 28, 2008
Hi folks,

I am a Canadian planning a bike trip this July and I am very pulled to Japan but heard many comments about the unbearable heat. I'm not as interested in Hokkaido so was wondering if the heat would be too much to enjoy biking in Honshu.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

My other option is to do the Manali-Leh highway in India; very different kind of trip.
You could head to Nagano....Matsumoto offers great riding, and is close to Tokyo. Its a 2-3 hour train ride from Shinjuku on the Azusa Express train, which is a beautiful trainride in itself. Heat wouldnt be too bad, only concern would be rain. But being from Oregon....it seems to never rain here!





Like Spec DJ said Nagano is good in the valleys. You might also look at doing the Japan sea coast up to Aomori and down the east coast. Rainy season can be a bummer though which Hokkaido seems to avoid a great deal of.
My generalizations:

The further north (and into the mtns) you go, the better chance (tho maybe not a whole lot) you have of avoiding the seasonal rain front (which is a stationary front that gets established and kind of hangs over Japan, and moves north, or not, faster or slower, more or less, throughout the "rainy" season). Sometimes this front disperses early, or sometimes later. Lots of TV stations trying to make the call for the 'end of the rainy season'.

If you can ride strong and cover your km early, and the earlier the better, the wx is acceptably cool--okay for riding.

The positive side of the rainy season (most of July) is that it is often overcast, and tho humid, and probably hot, at least you are not being fried by direct sun.

The rains can be finicky--some years/seasons (in some places and not others) can be heavier or not. And if you're not pushing too hard, avoid the heaviest rain could be done.

Sometimes that seasonal front gets disrupted or blown away early (mid-July). By a passing typhoon, which usually means clear, hotter wx, lots of sun.

All of which would make Nagano-Aomori look good.

My recommend is Shimanami-Kaido("Sea road above a lot of islands).
This is the place I(Japanese) think "this is Japan"
You can see a lot of small islands from many bridges by bike,
and climb a steep hill has beautiful view.
Descending winding road of "Kirousan",highest hill in Shimanami,is like dive to sea.

Yeah,I think temperature is gonna be problem in July.
Over 30C is usual.
(Data of Omishima island,Ehime pref,from official)
Average of highest temperature in a day July 2009; 28.9c
Hottest day in July 2009; 32.6c
And as everybody say,Japanese rainy season is a problem too.

Please see also;
Photos taken by me September 2007
I hadn't heard of the Shimanami-Kaido. It's a 60km bridge for pedestrians and cyclist only? For real? It sounds fabulous! Would the heat be sorchingly brutal there in the summer?

About the rain: is it like a tropical downpour a few hours a day, or endless rain? Would it be much better if I did this in late July-early August?

I find it hard to imagine what people mean by "really hot and humid". I suppose it's relative to where you're from. Is it like a north-east American summer heat wave, which can be quite suffocating, or worse, or not as bad?
Personally, the heat doesn't bother me as long as I don't have to show up clean anywhere and I have enough water... but I'm in the minority. I'm also from Oregon, but would avoid the rain. It doesn't seem to be the afternoon downpour time but rather, a few days just pour at a time. But the weather is so screwy these last couple of years, who knows? The standard rainy season could shift, so though, personally, I'd recommend late July, early August, there's no guarantees, naturally.

I did Sendai, up the coast around the Aomori peninsula back to Hachinohe in about 10 days. It was more up and down than I expected but much cooler than Tokyo and BEAUTIFUL.

I'm at work and can't find the link but there are pictures and a probably too long report on my blog
under the tag 'the great Tohoku adventure' or something like that.

If you are an experienced cyclist, you could cover more ground than I did. I had only one hill climb experience before I threw myself in...

Have fun, it's beautiful here!
The humidity/heat in the day is one thing: some hate it/can`t function; others love it/thrive. I`m the latter. What I think might throw you even more, being Canadian like me, and if you are planning to camp, is the heat at night. Tents can be brutal here in July-Aug - go full mesh if you can. This will be less of an issue in the mountains, but near any coasts, be prepared to stretch out in your own private sweat lodge each night.

That said, don`t hold back on cycling in Japan this summer. It`s awesome. And remember when you look at maps that you can cover lots of area with ferries, which go all over the place.

Have you thought of Kyushu? (I can hear everyone groaning: Oh no, he`s going to start going on about Kyushu again....)
I don't know much about Kyushu. Aren't the mountains lower there, and thence the weather hotter?

JDD, are you saying that there's less rain in the mountains? From what I gather, the rainy season ends sooner the more south you go, so I guess it might be drier by mid-July there. Is it pretty dry all over by early August?

What I would like is to land in Narita and ride straight from there. I don't want to pack my bike again so would avoid trains. For ferries you can just bring your bike as is, right?

Any suggestions of good itineraries do-able in 4-5 weeks as a loop from Narita? I definitely want to include mountainous regions, for the weather and the scenery both. My initial thought was to go up to Tohoku, maybe taking a ferry from somewhere a little north of Narita, and then coming back via Nagano and exploring the mountains there. Is that region what they refer to as the "japanese alps"?
"...less rain in the mountains..."

No, sorry for that impression.

The 'rainy season' is a produced by a seasonal stationary front that develops every summer. Early on, this front forms to the south of Japan (and a little west, it sometimes reaches into coastal china). Over the course of the rainy season it slowly drifts north up across the main islands.

This northerly move can happen a little faster or slower, depending on the year. Sometimes it takes 3-4 weeks, sometimes 6 weeks or so. Sometimes it stops its northerly movement for a while, meaning more rain in that area.

Also, as it drifts up towards northern Japan, the overall/surrounding wx conditions change such that this seasonal front tends to (a) move north a little faster--and also not pause anywhere, and/or (b) break up and dissipate. Because of this, it's not unusual to hear comments to the effect that "hokkaido doesn't really have a rainy season" (or that "it didn't have one this year"). Meaning, the front broke up before it got there. Sometimes you hear the same about northern Honshu not really having had a rainy season (or much of one) in a given year. (Tho some years they do get a good dose!)

There are two ways to call when the rainy season starts and ends. The macro view is that it starts when that front has formed and crosses over southern Japan, and that it ends when it has moved north and disappeared. The local view is "well, it may have started in Kyushu, but it's not here yet," or, when it's still raining in my part of the country, to hear that "the rainy season is (already) over in Kyushu."

So back to the beginning, (mountains in) Northern Honshu will generally have a shorter, later rainy season than the rest of the county, and Hokkaido is obviously on the far side of that.
I don't know much about Kyushu. Aren't the mountains lower there, and thence the weather hotter?

Temperature-wise, the Kyushu areas that I lived in were a couple of degrees hotter than the Tokyo area, however it never seemed to be all that oppressive. The lower mountains along the coasts offer beach-access galore with fresher breezes, and the spectacular parks in the center of the island (Kirishima/Ebino Kogen; Aso-Kuju; Yufuin/Beppu, etc) are up around a thousand meters. Plus on Kyushu you`re looking at about one fifth the number of cars to deal with. In the `Japan Alps` areas like Nagano, the population is squeezed into narrow valleys and even in relatively small-town areas, you`ll find a lot of traffic on narrow roads. In Kyushu, with its gentler moutains, there seem to be more road options and the traffic gets spread out more. And on a trip around Kyushu you have the option of jumping on ferries to places like Yakushima and Amami-Oshima, etc.



"For ferries you can just bring your bike as is, right?"

For the ferries I have seen , this is true.

"Any suggestions of good itineraries do-able in 4-5 weeks as a loop from Narita? I definitely want to include mountainous regions, for the weather and the scenery both."

Japan is basically all mountains, and you can`t get more than 100kms from the ocean. You`ll see a lot, and meet a lot of great people, where ever you go...
So Davad, you make Kyushu very appealing. But is it do-able biking there in late July? Does ANYONE tour there in summer, if it's "a few degrees hotter than Tokyo"? I saw there was a ferry from Tokyo itself going there. Has anyone taken it with a bike?

Is it possible to bike from Narita town to Tokyo? If the rainy season ends sooner in the south, it would make sense to go directly to Kyushu and then move north, maybe towards Nagano, which seems very nice too. Would there be an easy loop including Kyoto and Hiroshima?
So Davad, you make Kyushu very appealing. But is it do-able biking there in late July? Does ANYONE tour there in summer, if it's "a few degrees hotter than Tokyo"?

People from all over Japan go cycle-touring in Kyushu in summer. It`s hot, but listen, the hottest I`ve ever felt in my life was in the center of Tokyo...

All of western/southern Japan is hot in summer, man! It`s tropical here in summer, and the winter is just like Vancouver`s. The reason I suggested Kyushu is that Honshu in general is just too crowded for my tastes, too many cars. There`s something like 100million people on Honshu. I lived in Kyushu for 9 years, then 5 in Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe) and now 4 in Tokyo, and when friends come to visit I take them directly to Kyushu. The scenery is fantastic, the people are warm and friendly. And for big-city experience Fukuoka is great, probably the best big-city in Japan. Tokyo is an obligatory one day adventure - basically shopping. But even the shopping is better in Kansai. If I were you I would avoid Tokyo all together. Fly into Fukuoka airlport (it`s in the center of the city: super convenient), ride the island, then you can jump a ferry to Shikoku, or Hiroshima, or Kansai, see Kyoto, all that. Leave from Kansai International airport. Tokyo is.... well.... other people on this forum have lived here for a long time and love it. They can report. I`m sure some of them can answer this question:

Is it possible to bike from Narita town to Tokyo?

For me, the thought of doing that ride... yeesh.

I just had a graze through the ferry pages and they`re all still running as I remembered. There is indeed a ferry all the way from Tokyo to Miyazaki (I took it about 10 years ago) but that one I don`t recommend: you spend two nights on it and it`s actually possible to find cheaper air tickets! But the other ferries are good. A lot of them leave in the late afternoon or early eve and arrive the next morning. I don`t recommend the cheapest class - a big room with people lined up like felled logs, sleeping side by side. The 2nd class is good value, comfy. But bring earplugs for the snorers. Here`s a link in English:


There are quite a few companies, and this next is one of the bigger Kansai/Kyushu companies, though the site is all Japanese. You can see from their map the cities they cover.


this a different company: all English:


etc. There are a lot of competing companies and overlapping routes. The ferries are easy/fun and cheap. (I`m sure they`re just as good heading to east/north Japan, but I`ve never used them.)

Hope this helps!
Is it possible to bike from Narita town to Tokyo?

Yes, but you almost definitely wouldn't want to, especially jet-lagged off a plane. I live in the next door town and do it occasionally, but use a series of back roads and shortcuts via Chiba City that would be next to impossible to find on your first ride in Japan. My recommendation would be to keep your bike in the box and take the train to where you want to go in the city.
Could I assemble the bike in Tokyo and ride out to the ferry terminal?

Does anyone know of a place to sleep that is affordable and has a safe place to keep a bike?
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