Monday 12 February 2018 16:22
Cycling through Shiroyone Senmaida requires you to get off and push. Not because the terrain is tough, but because you’ll want to pause and admire these 1,004 ancient rice terraces that snake up the hillside. It’s quite a sight to behold – and is just one of many fascinating pit stops on Intrepid’s new 14-day Cycle Japan trip.
Blending moderate exercise with cultural visits, this guided tour sees you pedal between 10km and 75km per day, crossing some of Honshu’s most varied landscapes. The route starts in Osaka and ends in Tokyo, with a four-day section in the rural Noto Peninsula in between. A few train journeys – including one bullet train – mean you cover more ground.
Leaving Osaka with its canals and castle, we cycle north beside the Yodo and Katsura rivers. Arriving at the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Kyoto, we hop off to walk a path made of thousands of vermilion torii, traditional gates that usually mark the entrance to Shinto shrines.
The following day we push our bikes through the majestic Bamboo Grove at Arashiyama. In Nara we dodge deer (once considered sacred messengers of the gods) that roam the gardens of Tōdai-ji, a Buddhist temple housing the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.
We leave the bikes to explore the pagodas and stone lanterns of Kenrokuen Gardens, in Kanazawa, on foot. Then we trace the Sea of Japan, pedalling on sand at Chirihama Beach Driveway.
The Noto Peninsula – a scenic section including stops in Togi, Wajima, Suzu and Anamizu – is a peaceful escape from Japan’s urban sprawl. Here we encounter few tourists, though we do face steep climbs through lush forest.
Riding into Tokyo, I push through the crowd at the Shibuya Crossing, crane my neck to see Tokyo Skytree and freewheel through Ueno Park, one of the busiest spots for Hanami, the ancient cherry blossom-viewing festival.
Air France (airfrance.co.uk) offers return flights from London Heathrow to Osaka with a stopover in Paris, from £478 return.
Intrepid Travel’s (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com) 14-day Cycle Japan trip takes travellers from the bright lights of Tokyo and Osaka to the serene Noto Peninsula. From £3,104 per person, including bike hire, accommodation in hotels and ryokans, transport, most meals, activities and the services of a local guide.