Help Going to cycle around Japan for 2 months straight, have a lot of questions. ;)

Aryll

Warming-Up
Apr 7, 2010
3
0
0
Belfast
#1
Hello,

My girlfriend and myself (age 23 and 25) have planned a very cool trip across japan during the two beautiful months of... summer. (1st July > 31st August.) I know about the heat issue but well, those were the only months we could free up so... no point complaining about that.

The plan is to go down from Tokyo all the way down to Kagoshima on the pacific side passing by Kamakura, Izu peninsula etc.

On the way up, we swould follow the "Length of Japan route" with a side-trip to Kanazawa because i've always wanted to go there.

We never plan to spend more than 2 or three days in one place.

I have quite a few questions, both technical and practical. I thank you in advance for enlightening me.


1: Our bicycles are Giant CRS models, do you think they are suitable?

2: How is the heat and humidity in those months? Are we actually crazy to attempt this ?

3: How many hours a day do you think is reasonable to cycle? We actually decided to get up at around 6 every day to make the most of our days.

4: What about the creepy insects while camping? My girlfriend hates spiders and she heard that they were legions in japan...

5: How many kilometers can you hope to cover in one day? We have been going to the gym to train and we are quite fit, have no problem cycling for hours at a quick enough speed..

6: What is your experience of free camping in Japan?

7: What roads are you NOT ALLOWED TO CYCLE ON? I've heard it was legal to cycle on highways... (Not expressways)

8: How long do people take to cover the Length of Japan? We believe we can easily cycle 100 km on one day. (please tell us how wrong we are. )

9: Is it okay to go to Onsen if you're all sweaty from all this tough travelling?

10: About the bridges linking Shikoku to Honshuu and Kyushuu, i've heard many of them are forbidden to cyclists. Can someone tell me which ones are okay? I would hate to have to trackback because of this.

11: Do most convenience stores have toilets?

12: Is it safe to leave your bikes unattended (Still locked) with your tent and crap clothes in your bike's satchels?

13: (Because there had to be a thirteenth question) ARE WE CRAZY? More seriously, if you have any tips that might be beneficial to our survival, they are most welcome

Edit: 14: Is it possible to buy a Rinko Bag in every bicycle shop in Tokyo? (For instance, i was looking at this :http://fixedgearbikes.blogspot.com/2009/01/inside-punch-cycle-tokyo.html Punch Cycle in Asakusa since it's close to where i'll be staying for my first night.

I thank you for answering my questions and reassuring me about the fact that we are not going to meet our death in japan.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,656
475
103
Japan
#2
Welcome and that is quite an adventure you're planning. Bikes look fine, are you doing front and rear panniers? Looking at a 2 month expedition you'll need them. That part of Japan is out of my knowledge base, I live north so route details I will leave for someone else.
It is hot and humid but that is summer in Japan no way around it, there will be plenty of other folk cycling during those months, as long as you are well hydrated and protect your selves from the sun you'll be fine. Bring a few pair of shorts cause crotch rot sucks halfway through a long journey.
Hours cycling a day very much depends on conditions beyond your control e.g. wind, rain, bike troubles , road construction and traffic. It sounds like you're fit but start riding with laden bikes up and down some hilly patches to see if your gearing is low enough. I typically wake up at day break and get on the road as soon as I have heated up the left overs from the night before and had a coffee.
As soon as early afternoon would approach I would look for digs, camp sites rider houses e.t.c. were best and free camping is usually okay but it only takes a local official with a bee in his arse to cause a problem. Keeping a low profile and leaving things as you found them is the secret I have found. That and a smile at all and sundry. You should look at an average of about 100kms a day with the odd day off for sight seeing, resting or just refreshing. Remember you both want to actually enjoy the experience as a traveling holiday not just an arduous challenge.
Insects are mostly harmless but if you can name a country without creepy crawlies in the outdoors (camping) I would suggest to much DDT. Get a good screened tent and good insect repellent and you'll be good. Tell her that the snakes are much worse than spiders if that helps.
Expressways are no go. Most public roads are good but they can be very narrow with large trucks on them and the tunnels are even narrower. Read Travis's Kyushu trip notes for more about roads and coppers insisting you ride on the footpath for your own safety. https://tokyocycle.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=232

Quickly; onsens are fine if you follow protocol. It doesn't hurt to try and make yourself a little presentable before you enter. Toilets are in all convenience stores and generally a light lock is more than sufficient to deter anyone from stealing a fully loaded quad pannier touring rig. Rinko bag, why you are flying into the country, use that case to ride the train after that you just pedal your way around in the extreme worst case go to a home center (DIY) and buy the largest trash bags and some duct tape and use that to throw your bike on a train.
Are you crazy? No but you both better be a little outside the box. You will meet challenges and unless the both of you are tight, they could mean neither of you will have a good time.
Finally Japan is a great place to cycle with great sights, friendly locals and a ton of new experiences just waiting for you. Wish I could give more advice about your intended route but have never cycled that way, I prefer cooler climes.
Good luck and keep asking questions.
 

Aryll

Warming-Up
Apr 7, 2010
3
0
0
Belfast
#3
First of all thanks a lot for answering my post.

Yes we will be using a set of panniers but haven't decided on a particular brand/model yet, any suggestions? We intend to travel very lightly with only the bare minimum.

About the temperature i think we should be alright, i am from morrocco where it is very often 45 degrees celsius in the shade in mid summer. We'll make sure we are careful about hydration.

I am not too worried about the fitness levels as i used to do long sessions of free running of about 50 kilometers, i think if anything, it should be more pleasant on a bike. ;)

I've contacted a few contacts on Couchsurf.com and i've been very lucky so far, i have accomodation from Tokyo to Nagoya covered already.



About Travis' travel notes about Kyushuu
https://tokyocycle.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=232

Wow, that is madness, a cop telling you to go on a walking way? Haha. We'll make sure to play the dumb gaijin card with that one.

About the Rinko bag, the thing is we decided to take the train to Kamakura as we don't exactly enjoy cycling out of one of the largest agglomeration in the world right after a 30 hours trip. ;) Also in case we have an unforeseen event that would make us take a train (injury etc)

Thanks for all the insight anyways, that's greatly appreciated.
I simply had one more question :I speak quite a bit of Japanese but i have yet yo find a good website about camping sites in Japan... Would anyone know of one?

Thanks a lot
 

Ludwig

Speeding Up
Oct 9, 2008
871
0
36
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
#4
About the temperature i think we should be alright, i am from morrocco where it is very often 45 degrees celsius in the shade in mid summer. We'll make sure we are careful about hydration.
The climate here is very different from Morrocco as you probably already know. The top temperature is "only" 38 degrees, usually only for a day after a typhoon. But the humidity makes even 33 degrees feel much worse than 45 degrees in dry air. You lose less water though, so if you know how to prevent dehydration in dry heat, you should be fine here. Also note that the temperature does not fall much at night, so you will be sleeping in a humid 25-30 degrees in your tent! Or rather outside the tent because you can't bear the heat. So an insect net will do you well.

Actually the thing I would worry about most is rain, and the occasional typhoon. You would probably want to plan for not riding when it is raining, unless you really like cycling in warm water! Unlike Morrocco, there is plenty of rain in Japan in summer.

About Travis' travel notes about Kyushuu
https://tokyocycle.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=232

Wow, that is madness, a cop telling you to go on a walking way? Haha. We'll make sure to play the dumb gaijin card with that one.
This has never happened to me, but I have been told off for turning right at a traffic light, which is strictly speaking not allowed for cyclists (you are meant to use the pedestrian crossing). Most of my annoying encounters are with trucks and coaches (not buses) cutting me, and that happens just about anywhere in Japan.

I cannot quite related to Travis's experience in Kyushu. I have cycled there and found it very nice. I think it is just a matter of which roads one takes. We tend to avoid the worst ones where we live because we know them, but take them when away because we don't know which are bad and how to avoid them.

This will also be your main challenge for the trip: how to plan your route through the most interesting areas and on the safest and most pleasant roads. Taking the nicest roads will involve quite a bit of hill-climbing (which is what I like about cycling in Japan) - you'd better plan for that. The climbing is much more than you would be used to from Ireland.

I would recommend buying prefectural maps in advance, studying them well and comparing with google maps, searching for places to stay on the internet. Googe maps also shows most major convenience stores (but not smaller ones or rural supermarkets which come in handy).

About the Rinko bag, the thing is we decided to take the train to Kamakura as we don't exactly enjoy cycling out of one of the largest agglomeration in the world right after a 30 hours trip. ;) Also in case we have an unforeseen event that would make us take a train (injury etc)
It is really quite easy just buying a 75l or 90l rubbish bag and some tape in just about any convenience store and taking your bike onto the train wrapped up. Saves you weight of carrying around something you rarely need.

Getting out of Tokyo by bicycle is quite easy and the roads aren't necessary worse than what you will encounter outside of Tokyo. Many of us could advise you.

Cheers, Ludwig
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,512
639
133
Kanazawa
#5
Hello,

My girlfriend and myself (age 23 and 25) have planned a very cool trip across japan during the two beautiful months of... summer. (1st July > 31st August.) I know about the heat issue but well, those were the only months we could free up so... no point complaining about that.

The plan is to go down from Tokyo all the way down to Kagoshima on the pacific side passing by Kamakura, Izu peninsula etc.

On the way up, we swould follow the "Length of Japan route" with a side-trip to Kanazawa because i've always wanted to go there.

I'M IN KANAZAWA, LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU'L BE THRU.

We never plan to spend more than 2 or three days in one place.

I have quite a few questions, both technical and practical. I thank you in advance for enlightening me.


1: Our bicycles are Giant CRS models, do you think they are suitable?

2: How is the heat and humidity in those months? Are we actually crazy to attempt this ?

3: How many hours a day do you think is reasonable to cycle? We actually decided to get up at around 6 every day to make the most of our days.

CYCLE AT 6, REST AT 10, DO A LITTLE MORE LATER IN THE DAY (BUT BUGS ARE OUT LATER IN THE AFTERNOON...

4: What about the creepy insects while camping? My girlfriend hates spiders and she heard that they were legions in japan...

I'M TEMPTED TO PLAY WITH YOU ON THIS ONE, BUT REALLY, THO THERE ARE SOME BIG SPIDERS AROUND, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THEM.

5: How many kilometers can you hope to cover in one day? We have been going to the gym to train and we are quite fit, have no problem cycling for hours at a quick enough speed..

50 TO 100+, DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING ON THAT PARTICULAR DAY.

6: What is your experience of free camping in Japan?

7: What roads are you NOT ALLOWED TO CYCLE ON? I've heard it was legal to cycle on highways... (Not expressways)

MOST ANY ROAD IS OKAY, THO PERHAPS NOT SAFE... OF COURSE YOU CANNOT USE MOST TOLL ROADS OR EXPRESSWAYS.

8: How long do people take to cover the Length of Japan? We believe we can easily cycle 100 km on one day. (please tell us how wrong we are. )

9: Is it okay to go to Onsen if you're all sweaty from all this tough travelling?

SURE, JUST WASH OFF A LOT BEFORE GETTING INTO THE BIG BATH.

10: About the bridges linking Shikoku to Honshuu and Kyushuu, i've heard many of them are forbidden to cyclists. Can someone tell me which ones are okay? I would hate to have to trackback because of this.

11: Do most convenience stores have toilets?

SOME, YES, MAYBE MOST...?

12: Is it safe to leave your bikes unattended (Still locked) with your tent and crap clothes in your bike's satchels?

PROBABLY, ESPECIALLY SO OUTSIDE OF MAJOR CITIES.

13: (Because there had to be a thirteenth question) ARE WE CRAZY? More seriously, if you have any tips that might be beneficial to our survival, they are most welcome

STOP BY, HAVE A BEER OR TWO, AND I'LL LET YOU KNOW.

OR MAYBE NOT.

Edit: 14: Is it possible to buy a Rinko Bag in every bicycle shop in Tokyo? (For instance, i was looking at this :http://fixedgearbikes.blogspot.com/2009/01/inside-punch-cycle-tokyo.html Punch Cycle in Asakusa since it's close to where i'll be staying for my first night.

GENERALLY, NO. THEY MIGHT HAVE ONE OR TWO ON HAND, BUT PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT NEED.... YOU CAN ALWAYS SUBSTITUTE GARBAGE BAGS OR SOME SUCH.

I thank you for answering my questions and reassuring me about the fact that we are not going to meet our death in japan.
NAW, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MEET YOUR DEATH. PLEASE FEEL REASSURED.
 

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#6
"TIJ" (This is Japan) I've cycled nearly everwhere in the world except Africa and I can assure you that this is one of the most cycle friendly countries.

1) Your bikes and gear are safe.
2) Convenience stores have EVERYTHING - just dont eat in them. (Including CLEAN, Washlet toilets)
3) Learn some basic Japanese. (Can't be stressed enough. Outside main city practically NO ONE speaks, reads or understands any other language)
4) Except for the major expressways or tolls - you can ride anywhere. If its not allowed, dont worry the police will notify and escort you off.
5) Weather sucks in the summer (high heat and humidity) so just plan your main rides early in the morning - its beautiful and the roads are clear, too. Spend the rest of the day at your location eating and enjoying the spot. I'd suggest no later than 7am kick off.
6) Bikes are fine. GIANT use everything standard that is available in Japan.
7) Reduce the 'take along' as much as possible. Live out of the conbini and onsens rather than your panniers. You'll enjoy the lighter travel.
8) Learn about sentos (public bath) nearly every city has them and quite a few. You can get nice hot bath, meet people and relax. Much cheaper than an onsen - and again - ubiquitous in Japan.
9) You can sleep anywhere. Even Japanese salarymen are found crashed out on bits of cardboard in the stations. Don't be shy - if you're tired, just crash out.
10) Consider a GPS. Like a Garmin or perhaps at least an iPhone. It will really help! Especially on the smaller circuitous routes.
11) Advise about using garbage bag for 'rinko' is great. It will do the job temporarily (I've done it several times) and the worst case is the station master might sneer at you.
12) Make sure you have a Japanese mobile phone or roaming here. In case you really get in trouble, you want to be able to talk to someone.
13) Consider basic travel insurance. If you require medical care, you need to pay cash. Or have very reliable proof of insurance valid in Japan.
14) If you need any special pharmaceutical items then bring them from home. You're not likely to find them easily here - pharmacies don't carry drugs in Japan. You have to get them from doctor or hospital.
15) Make sure your bank card is accepted in Japan. Convenience stores and ATM abound, but perhaps 90% won't work with International banks. Exception is 7-11 which has International acceptance ATM and the Post Office ATM (Never forget this).

Japan is one of the few countries you could easily just jump on your bike, wearing the clothes you have, and travel end-to-end with minimal packing and prep. Of course you need $$$, but any necessity will be quite close at hand.
 

Aryll

Warming-Up
Apr 7, 2010
3
0
0
Belfast
#7
Alright well this has been very useful, thanks for the feedback.

As regards the language, i've been studying japanese for 5 years so i think i should be able to cope with the most basic situations. Probably not with the accents and old people speaking to me 5000miles an hour like it happened to me last year in Kyoto...

About the sento, they're just communals baths right? where you shower yourself and go in a heated tub? Any particular etiquette required like it is the case in the Onsen?

I was definitely considering a GPS for the obvious convenience, but i've hear dmany things about the lack of decent maps for japan...

Could you advise me about a certain model and tell me more about the GPS maps i would need to purchase? I've seen countless testimonials on the net about disappointed customers who found out they mostly only listed the main roads... which i'd like to avoid since i want to be able to enjoy the scenery a nice mountain trail would provide.

Again thanks a lot for the advice.
 
May 22, 2007
3,573
1,396
143
Kawasaki
halffastcycling.com
#10
I was definitely considering a GPS for the obvious convenience, but i've hear dmany things about the lack of decent maps for japan... Could you advise me about a certain model and tell me more about the GPS maps i would need to purchase?
I've only used Garmin products so far. But I've been using them for several years now for cycling in Japan and elsewhere.

Briefly, if you want full coverage of the roads in Japan, you need a Japanese map, i.e., the Garmin City Navigator or Japan Topo. Cost is around 20,000 yen. In order to see the Kanji for place names, you also need a kanji-enabled GPS unit, typically around twice the price of the equivalent English language model GPS unit.

There is a map of Japan with place names etc. in English from UpUpDown. This is probably the one you've heard about. It works great on those English language GPS units, but there is far less road information - I think about one tenth, based on the data size.

But for the adventurous, or the well-prepared, there's a solution. Even on the English-only units the lines on the map appear OK. All text in Japanese is illegible. But it's possible to swap the maps, using multiple MicroSD cards. So one may follow roads between saved waypoints, or tracks, using the details road maps. And one may create waypoints etc. using the less-detailed but readable English map.

I now use a Japanese version Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. I plan routes on Bikely or MapMyRide, and transfer them as tracks. It works well for me. But I've test the ol' switcheroo described above on a US-bought Edge 705 and it worked fine.

If you just want to see the map, and log your trails, but not plan routes on the GPS, and you can read enough Kanji to work out where you're going, the new Yupiteru series from Atlas seems adequate. But I've never used one myself.

Hope this helps.

--Mike--
 

kickteeth

Warming-Up
Apr 12, 2010
9
0
0
Shinjuku
#11
couchsurfing

If you're going through fukuoka and you need a place to crash, let me know. My girlfriend lives there and is on both couchsurfing.com and hospitalityclub.org.