Looking for advice: Tokyo - Kyoto

Ahtomic

Warming-Up
Feb 25, 2014
3
0
1
24
#1
Hello all!

Very new to the forum, but was pointed in this direction from a person of reddit. I hope this is an appropriate first post!

On June 12 a group of friends and I are landing in Narita airport and are planning to head to Kyoto. So far this is the only route we have been looking at, a 510km ride one way. We are relying on phones in case we get lost, and I have a basic college level of Japanese and a Japanese girlfriend as a language base. Our flight back home is June 23, effectively giving us 10 days to complete our goal. My bike is the GT Attack 2.0, but my friends have more expensive(pay to play?) bikes than I do, and we ride frequently. We did Oakland to San Jose in 5 hours(pre-Japan training) which is a distance of 41miles or 66km. So that would be our slowest rate, hopefully. We want to devote 8hours to biking 8hours of sleep and 8hours of sightseeing/eating/crying.
My questions:
  • Is this a feasible goal?
  • Are there better/faster routes?
  • How hard/expensive will it be to find room to sleep on the road. Is camping a better idea?
  • Are locals bike/gaijin friendly?
  • My girlfriend said it will rain alot, accurate?
  • Should I be expecting to spend a lot on food?
  • Are local bike shops friendly towards gaijin?

    I would really appreciate any response! Thanks for reading.
 

Trek DJ

Maximum Pace
Jan 27, 2009
213
75
48
117
Kobe
#2
1) Yes. 66km a day is honestly not much.
2) There are many better routes. Its hillier, but I would take the Japan Sea side. Your route is taking you through the busiest parts of Japan. Much better riding on the left side. Head up to Fukui, down to Obama, then cut south through some of the best riding in Japan.
3) Not sure, I do see campers out there.
4) locals are friendly
5) Yes, it could rain a lot. But last couple years the rainy season hasnt been to bad (at least in Kansai).
6) You could probably spend as little as Y1500 day...on up.
7) Make sure your bike works so you dont have to visit a bike shop.
 
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rommelgc

Maximum Pace
Sep 3, 2009
362
101
73
Setagaya
#5
Everything is feasible. You just have to grit your teeth sometimes. A link to a post containing possible routes. Hostels, business hotels and camping are all good candidates. There are also 24 hour family restaurants (make sure you order) that could be used in cases of emergency. Anywhere you go (any country) you will see/meet 1 or 2 bad apples, so don't let it discourage you and deflate your enthusiasm.

Food is your fuel, don't skimp on it! You can find 100yen trift stores in some places. You can also find discounted stuff, the ones with special stickers. These are discounted because the expiration is near, so watch out if you have a picky stomach. I get these stuff all the time but I'm still alive and kicking. Some long stretches of road might not have any convenience stores.

Bring as much spares/tools as you possibly can (small manual pump instead of CO2s, patches). The local bike shops, that deal with mamachri, might not be able to properly service your 10,000$ bike. Finding shops along rural areas might be difficult. Another problem is communication, but some people are good with the use of common sense just show them the problem and they will probably figure out what you want.
 
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mxs

Speeding Up
May 14, 2010
65
13
28
Tokyo, Japan
#6
I believe that is the same route I took 4 years back, basically Route 1 all the way. It's essentially flat almost the entire way except for around Hakone and in between Nagoya/Kyoto and not all that exciting of a route. The only reason I chose that route was because I did the ride sans-map and smart phone.

I'd say just about anyone could do this route. I did the ride on my single-speed Bianchi Pista and prior to heading out the furthest I had ever ridden in one sitting was 30km. It took me 4.5 days (Tokyo>Hakone>Hamamatsu>Nagoya>Kyoto>Osaka) and I would basically be on the road by 10AM, stop for lunch around 12 or 1, and stop around 5 or 6PM. I believe I did the ride during the first week of June and got lucky with sunny skies the whole way.

On to your questions
I'll try and dig up the list of the places I staid, but short of Hamamatsu I stayed in hostels (always chose the private room option) and think I spent roughly 6,000 yen, usually with a meal included. I believe the guys that did the Tokyo2Osaka fixed geared trip a couple years back camped along the way and didn't have problems, but you better it doesn't rain. If you do decide to camp just don't make a scene, be noisy/messy, and I'm sure you'll be fine.

Locals were extremely friendly. Any time I got a bit off course people were more than happy to stop and help me get back on trap. Same goes for all hostel/restaurant staff. Once they found out I spoke Japanese they were almost always curious to find out what I was up to. The only problem you may run into is if any of you have tattoos and try to get into onsen/sent I along the way.

For lunch I basically ate the biggest meal I could at whatever family restaurant I happened upon, figure 1,200 yen. For dinner I would try to get something local or different and usually spent similar. My only other expense was topping up on water every few hours. I don't tend to eat a lot so depending on your own eating habits, adjust accordingly.

I didn't happen upon any bike shops along the way and even if I did, I'm sure they'd just be a local mamachari shop and not have anything I'd need. I'd definitely bring along a spare tub, patches, tire boot, and small pump.

Hope that helps and let me know if you have any additional questions.
 

Ahtomic

Warming-Up
Feb 25, 2014
3
0
1
24
#7
You said an expense was topping off your water? Is water hard to find free? I guess there will be a lot of vending machines.Oh I didn't mention this in the original post, but how hard is it to find wifi? Yeah some two of us have tattoos, but we were thinking off just wrapping them up for any baths/showers we needed. Is that still too sketch? Also, are there any Bank of America's in Japan, typing it out seems painfully obvious that the answer is no... but maybe! The gf said a cheap place to sleep are internet cafes, but she's not sure how prevalent they will be on the in-between major towns. Thanks so much for the reply!
 

mxs

Speeding Up
May 14, 2010
65
13
28
Tokyo, Japan
#8
Two important things I forgot. If you plan on using the train at all you'll need some sort of bag to put your bike in. You can either pick up a proper bike bag at most bike shops in Tokyo or carry along a pack of extra large trash bags at any convenience store.

If you do end up going along route 1 it isn't actually a completely straight route. There are sections where the road will fork in two, one of which becomes a highway that only cars are allowed on and another for everything else. The two roads will then rejoin and you're all good again, but I remember there being a couple sections that aren't so straight forward and it took me a while to find my way back on course.
 
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joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,429
874
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#9
You said an expense was topping off your water? Is water hard to find free?
Depends on the area. Many public parks / kids' playgrounds have either taps or public toilets where you can top up your water bottle, but far more frequently you will pass convenience stores. If you are going to pick up some food anyway, that's a good place to get tap water.

I guess there will be a lot of vending machines.
Yes, you will find those even where there are no supermarkets, no convenience stores and sometimes not even any houses.

Oh I didn't mention this in the original post, but how hard is it to find wifi?
Not as easy as in the US. Sometimes you may pass homes with open WiFi routers, but not a lot of shops offer WiFi.

Also, are there any Bank of America's in Japan, typing it out seems painfully obvious that the answer is no... but maybe!
The answer is as you suspect ;)

A lot of convenience stores have ATMs and some foreign debit or credit cards may be usable with their system, but I wouldn't rely on it. Your best bet is to carry cash, which is quite safe. I wouldn't be worried about walking around with even thousands of dollars, not that I do ;)

The gf said a cheap place to sleep are internet cafes, but she's not sure how prevalent they will be on the in-between major towns. Thanks so much for the reply!
Yes, internet cafes and also "manga cafes" here offer some big comfy chairs whose backrest you can lower for sleeping and some people use them for emergency / low budget accomodation. In fact, my son also did that when he cycled from Tokyo to Nagoya with his friends a few years ago.
 
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Apr 3, 2012
401
98
48
Tama Center <-> Otemachi
#10
http://positivo-espresso.blogspot.jp/ has a good selection of information for foreign travelers.

A skin colored bandage over any tattoos may let you past any gatekeepers. The rule is an attempt to stop the yaks from intimidating the patrons.

For money, 7-11 convenience stores, post offices, and Citibank have ATMs that accept non-Japanese cards. It's a cash and carry society.
 
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baribari

Maximum Pace
May 28, 2010
432
80
48
Fukushima
#12
If you're going to try to sleep in a manga kissa, you had better bring a sleep mask and ear plugs or you will never fall asleep. Over-the-counter sleep aids (or benadryl) also help. I would personally suggest looking for a ryokan... Even the tiniest towns will have at least one ryokan. At least, more often than they will have manga kissa, which they won't.
 
Apr 22, 2014
41
8
18
Shibuya
#13
More than real but you would better stay in a ryokans and hotels by the street and not torture yourself by manga kissa n stuff - price difference is not significant, the comfort difference is 1000$. Hotels and yadoya (cheap private hotel-like places) are very cheap in Japanese countryside. No one really pays attention at tatoos in most cheapy ryokans, by the way.

I took this route once using even less fancy bicycle and 0 experience and completed it in 4 days, so 10 days is much more than enough.

Recommendations regarding the route - I'd avoid going through Nagoya and Gifu->Shiga route. Shiga is ok, but Nagoya is extremely crowded and huge city. Gifu are simply very mountainous and unless you enjoy climbing barely any fun. On the other side, that's nice chance to look at Japanese countryside, but I am sure you will get plenty of it on the way.

The recommended route, especially for beginner, is to go straight west (not north-west) after Bentenjima, which is border of Shizuoka and Aichi prefecture and you will get onto long and beautiful beach road which will end in the port. Take the ferry (some 1.5 hours and 3000 yen) to the opposite side and you are in Mie. It will take some time, but going north-north-west to Kyoto from there is much more fun than passing Nagoya.

Uh, forgot to add.
You are going during the rainy season so I wish you luck and a lot of it. It rains a lot during this time and especially at evenings and nights. I am sure you will see more rain than during the whole life in Bay Area. :D And it gets gradually very-very hot and humid. Not really the best season for touring, but if you enjoy sauna it may be OK.
Bike shops are friendly as are most people in japan (unless you go to Shikoku), but there are not so much of them by the road, so I would not count on them at all.
 
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Cactaur

Speeding Up
Feb 3, 2014
97
23
28
#14
If you really need data on-the-go get a bmobile sim. Not sure about the docomo coverage on the way tho.

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/

The only atm i found to take Visa+ reliably is citibank. Also some places my foreign debit card wouldn't work. Yodobashi Camera was fine but the restaurants upstairs couldn't process it. Credit might work better.
 

WhiteGiant

Maximum Pace
Nov 4, 2006
1,192
240
93
Kita-Ueno
#18
I rode from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2005, over 4 1/2 days - Averaging roughly 120 ~ 140km per day.
I took the most direct route, and one that a few members have said is quite busy with traffic. This is true - there are a lot of more scenic, less congested routes you might take.
If you plan to ride as a large group, and want to get in as much sightseeing as possible, without burning yourselves out, I'd recommend an average of 80 ~ 100km per day. Given your 10-day limit, that should still be enough to get you there in plenty of time without burning yourselves out.
It would probably be good if you could all (as a group) do some more practice rides together, of at least 80km a day to see what the group dynamic is like too.
Have a great ride!
 
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