Looking for advice: the best 3.5 week budget bike tour in Japan in June; Hokkaido to Osaka?

kshimota

Warming-Up
May 19, 2014
18
6
3
30
Seattle, Washington
#1
Hi, I have 3.5 weeks to bike around Japan starting June 3rd. I am starting from Tokyo and need to be in Osaka by July 3rd to take a ferry to Shanghai. Any advice on what kind of route/tour I should do? I'll have a solid 2010ish Raleigh touring bike, a 1-man tent, sleeping bag and pad, two Ortlieb rear saddle bags, and the other essentials.

I have been studying Japanese in Tokyo since late April so I won't be totally lost, and I can understand most Kanji because I know Chinese.

1) My current best idea is to avoid the expensive trains and stick to the romantic boat theme and take a ferry from 大洗(Oarai) to Hokkaido. I just found out about this ferry and seems to be only around 9,000yen in June.
http://www.sunflower.co.jp/ferry/tariff/201404.shtml
Then bike a little around Hokkaido for a week and then bike down the Japan West coast to Osaka. It would look ind of something like this;

2) I could also just bike around Hokkaido for 3 weeks and then take a ferry down toward Osaka and skip the West Coast. I am thinking I may like the West coast more because it might give me more chances to practice my Japanese. But I don't know too much about either route.
3) I can also skip out on the ferry and just bike up north from Tokyo to Aomori and then bike down the West Coast. But this route may be too much urban riding to enjoy and I keep hearing Hokkaido in late Spring is amazing with no rain.

Would be happy to meet up with anyone to discuss biking in Japan, especially long touring. Also, I am free the next two weekends if anyone wants to bike around. I live a little Northeast of SkyTree and go to school in Akihabara.

Cheers,
Kevin
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,519
650
133
Kanazawa
#2
Rather than following the coast, I'd suggest that you come down the center of Honshu--more interesting than just keeping the ocean on your right.

Also, being in Kanazawa, your route completely ignores the Noto Peninsula. Google that, missing it on a trip like yours would be a mistake.
 

Wozza

Speeding Up
Aug 31, 2013
37
10
28
43
#4
Wow, the No to peninsular looks great. That's my summer cycle trip sorted.
I cycled up to Aomori last year, if you go directly north through the mountains you can certainly avoid very much urban riding. Might be a bad time weather wise though.

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kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,681
494
103
Japan
#5
But this route may be too much urban riding to enjoy and I keep hearing Hokkaido in late Spring is amazing with no rain.
it might give me more chances to practice my Japanese.
If you want to meet people don't worry Hokkaido has plenty to go around. If you want to just cycle and have a lesser chance of rain I would do the Hokkaido route, but (a) your ferry charges will be higher (b) not a great diversity of food, dialects, or scenery. I would probably do Oarai -Tomokomai, cycle to Hakkodate on the Pacific coast taking in the onsens and such Noboribetsu has a choice selection. Cross to Oma and then head down the center of the Island to Yamagata swing right to Niigata over either Zao or Bandai. Definitely take in Noto and if you get pinched for time hop a train to Osaka. Cycling along the coast is (a) easier as there are less undulations (b) busier due to being main arterial routes, often more trucks at higher speeds (c) boring due to being concrete on all sides. You often cant see the ocean due to concrete barriers and it'll be waaayy over there on the right when you are riding, but nice to camp near. Hilly centre or flat coastal it's your choice but remember you can always jump on a train if something isn't floating your boat.Sounds like a fun trip.
 
Nov 16, 2009
35
3
18
Vancouver, Canada
#7
I did a tour of Japan in October last year and created a blog of it here: http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/velojim-japan/1/tpod.html
I also did a tour up the west coast of Tohoku in 2010. I much prefer last year's tour as I concentrated on routes around the mountains. Highlights were Matsumoto, Kusatsuonsen, Mt. Shirane, Mt. Norikura and the Izu Hanto.
If you do go up the west coast of Tohoku, be sure to stop in at Mt. Haguro and climb the 2,000+ steps through a cedar lined path to the shrine at the top.
 
Likes: kiwisimon

kshimota

Warming-Up
May 19, 2014
18
6
3
30
Seattle, Washington
#8
Hi, thanks so much for all the advice everyone. I read through a good deal of the content on the Japan Bike Navigator. That was really helpful because it gives advice on road etiquette, OnSens and living out of a tent which I plan on doing, also combined with some CouchSurfing/WarmShowers if possible.

I also downloaded the Touring Maple app onto my iPhone. It's 1.2 GBs! I'll need to get a Japanese friend to show me how to use it. I've made a new route and tried to incorporate the advice. I've been using this app Footpath because it is the only app I have found which supports route planning from a handheld device, specifically iPhone 5s. I'm not going to bring my computer on my trip to save weight/less to worry about. Anyone know of any good apps for route planning/keeping track of?
http://footpathapp.com/routes/38ad552f08c442b58ba53124b05c1915

Oh, one more question, I need to get a good rain jacket and maybe rain pants since I'll be in the rainy season. Anyone know of any good brands/places to buy where I won't break the bank? If I buy Used will the waterproofing have worn off?

Thanks for all the advice everyone! :) I'm feeling much more comfortable about my trip after your help.
 

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kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,681
494
103
Japan
#9
Oh, one more question, I need to get a good rain jacket and maybe rain pants since I'll be in the rainy season. Anyone know of any good brands/places to buy where I won't break the bank? If I buy Used will the waterproofing have worn off?
You might get people giving you recommendations but my recommendation is forget waterproofs. They don't breathe so your sweat (remember humidity in the high 80s and 90s) will make you just as wet as the rain and it certainly smells a lot worse. If you are worried about the rain get some fenders but again you will get wet. Better to ride in seamless shorts and tops, if you get cold then put on more layers, not cotton. The mountain passes will be cooler but not that cold. YMMV.
 

kshimota

Warming-Up
May 19, 2014
18
6
3
30
Seattle, Washington
#10
Great advice Kiwisimon, I'll be sure I have extra layers, I've heard merino wool is the way to go. I suppose the most important thing will probably be having an Onsen at the end of my daily ride ^.^ . Also, I had a lot of fun reading through your and others' comments today on "The Helpful Thread". A lot of top blokes on this forum :) . I know I have greatly benefited from the help.
 
Apr 22, 2014
41
8
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Shibuya
#11
I would find a way to run inside Hokkaido to the Tokachi mountains - in June sceneries there are breathtaking and absolutely terrific. Vividly green fields, blue skies and white snowy mountains. Worth climbing to Taisetsuzan, leaving bike next to the ropeway (there are no people, only foxes, no one will take it), and skip closer to the top. Then there is great climb on foot through rocks and snow which never really melts to the very top of some 2 kilometers above the sea.
On the other hand, in my opinion skipping most of Niigata coast would be good idea as it is incredibly boring... Interesting things suddenly start happening on approaching Uonuma area with Hakkaisan mountain next to it which is extreme south of Niigata.
 

jdd

Maximum Pace
Hardest Crash
Jul 26, 2008
2,519
650
133
Kanazawa
#12
One minor heads up. On that map the section between about 940 and 950 is an unavoidable hard/dangerous stretch. The mountains there run right up to the coast and there is really no room for the roads (or trains) that go thru there. There are no alternatives. Check your mapple or google maps to see.

The trains all go thru tunnels, as does the kosokudoro/expressway. All 'regular' traffic uses the one, sometimes two, non-toll roads along this stretch, still with tunnels.

I have not ridden this, but have driven it several times, of course with cycling in mind. I did meet and talk to one rider who rode this (Phil Harris, who doesn't post here anymore), and he didn't think it was all that bad.

So maybe I'm overblowing it, But there are some local trains along there, and I mean very local. Personally, I'd try to bag/wrap my bike and gear and talk my way onto one of those trains. It'd only be a few hundred yen.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,681
494
103
Japan
#13
I would find a way to run inside Hokkaido to the Tokachi mountains - in June sceneries there are breathtaking and absolutely terrific. Vividly green fields, blue skies and white snowy mountains. Worth climbing to Taisetsuzan, leaving bike next to the ropeway (there are no people, only foxes, no one will take it), and skip closer to the top. Then there is great climb on foot through rocks and snow which never really melts to the very top of some 2 kilometers above the sea.
If you were just doing Hokkaido I would second this but three weeks starting from Tomokomae, time will be against you if you want to do the spine of Honshu. Quite a bit of climbing on your second route. Have a back up plan in case you overestimate your stamina or climbing abilities.
 

kshimota

Warming-Up
May 19, 2014
18
6
3
30
Seattle, Washington
#14
Hey all, thanks again for all the advice. I am now at lake Towada about to head South. I leave from Osaka on July 4th. Id like to show my next route plans so if anyone knows of any hazards or cool things to visit you can let me know. One aspect is that I am a weaker cycled than I anticipated; yesterday did a 1000 meter incline and was able to only cycle a total of 60km. Also, I itd be nice to get to Kyoto Osaka area as quickly as possible because the more I read about the area the more I want to visit, eg. Himeji, Oku-no-in at Koya, Kyoto temples, Arashiyama, Minami-za theatre etc. Therefore, considering my waker cycling abilities, I've tried to choose a relatively flat path to save on time.

I have posted photos of the path and a link as well.

First leg (today) http://footpathapp.com/routes/dba038b9e99c44ba845a0d690a1d9af8



proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.tapatalk.com%2Fd%2F14%2F06%2F19%2Feqemama3.jpg&hash=41c5cdb1cb82486ad6528d4daea934ac


Second leg- http://footpathapp.com/routes/98e3d0f4dc44446eb186c8f31d0d6547

proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.tapatalk.com%2Fd%2F14%2F06%2F19%2F2edudede.jpg&hash=10c40b1188503a74aa6572aa19986661


From Niigata to save time I could take a ferry to Tsuruga. If not, this would be my path.
http://footpathapp.com/routes/f39febac3787419bb871d5f83e2084a5
proxy.php?image=http%3A%2F%2Fimg.tapatalk.com%2Fd%2F14%2F06%2F19%2Fupareguh.jpg&hash=1daaf524205bc668779b8b96b3e2bb5f


Best!


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kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,681
494
103
Japan
#15
Looking at your bike setup it looks like you are pretty heavy. If it were me I would head to the sea of Japan asap , turn right at Kazuno and follow the Yoneshiro river down to Noshiro.( preferably early in the morning :p) and then ride the coast down. Less spectacular scenery but you will be taking flatter courses and there will be tunnels that save climbing. Have a light on the back of your bike flashing all day long and you can switch on the headlight when needed. If you haven't used something in your gear thus far it might be worth while sending it back to your host mother and get it forwarded on (Weight). Things will be warmer on the coast and as you head farther south, (cold weather gear not needed?). Sunny here on the pacific coast of Aomori as I write this. Ride safe and remember it's not a race, enjoy the experience but you really need to hit the road earlier and then relax at the end of the day. Beautiful women in Akita as well. I'm envious of your adventures.
 

kshimota

Warming-Up
May 19, 2014
18
6
3
30
Seattle, Washington
#17
Thanks kiwisimon, glad you are enjoying my blog! It's kind of like a what-not-to-do-guide. :)
I went through Kakunodate today. I saw your message too late to change course but I have enjoyed the scenery. I did ship another load of unnecessary stuff. Post offices are so convenient here.


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kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,681
494
103
Japan
#18
No worries, advice is like shopping at a supermarket, take what you want. Glad to read you have lightened things up a bit. You'll also find your stamina increasing so you'll be able to make better time each day. Do you know that it gets light up here from about 4am:p? Anyways have fun, ride safe and take care of the two most important things (1) the engine (2) the bike. Do that and everything will go swimmingly. Cheers. BTW you should be on the road by now:sleep:?:)
 
#19
Late to the conversation, I know.
I did two tours in Tohoku, both in late summer and my favorite parts are Towada lake, Mutsu peninsula (north west corner), and by reputation Oga peninsula near Akita (I wasn't able to go because a typhoon hit). I would agree the coast line from Akita south seemed kind more boring than other places. I'd also agree with Half Fast Mike that Shikoku and the inland sea is one of the most beautiful places hands down (even touring there in January...). I've only done bits and peices of Japan's Romantic road, but it is on my bucket list: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7450.html
and Hokkaido. you can't go wrong with Hokkaido.

Have a wonderful time. It's an incredible place to tour, where ever you go. And how ever light you've packed, pack lighter. (Or if you do mail stuff home to yourself because you don't want the heavy nonsense you packed, don't accidentally mail your house key too. not that that's happened to me....)
 
Likes: kiwisimon
#20
Two other thoughts:
the tunnels in Japan are no joke. The longest I've been through was over 3 km. Be well lit, have good tires, make your peace with your god. Go for it. And seriously: lights. Have lights on your bike and a head light so you can look around at the junk/slime/rubble in the tunnels, or sasquach in the bushes... without needing to move your handle bars.
I've also done a few Pacific Northwest tours where rain/drizzle/wet is to be expected and most people feel choose to be wet and warm, meaning a breathable waterproof jacket might be nice, but wool socks, wool sweater, warm toe covers, etc are the way to go. Having raingear that doesn't make you sweaty is kind of impossible, unfortunately.