3. Tour De Noto (Ishikawa—Toyama)
If you’re looking to really indulge in Japan’s rural side, the Tour De Noto is a great way to start. Beginning in Kanazawa City and finishing in Toyama City, this route takes you around one of Japan’s largest peninsulas: the Noto Hanto (Noto Peninsula).
You’ll be able to enjoy Ishikawa Prefecture’s beautiful seascapes and countryside during the entirety of this trip. Be aware: this course is not for the faint of heart. Experienced riders can expect to dedicate three to four full days to finish all 400 kilometers (249 miles) of the ride. If you prefer to ride in a large group, you can take part in the annual Tour De Noto every September, which involves hundreds—if not thousands—of riders.
2. Northern Kyushu—Usa to Beppu (Oita)
If you’re the type to take the road less traveled, make your way down to Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. This route takes you from the charming city of Usa to the famous hot spring resort town of Beppu. Before leaving Usa, be sure to check out Usa shrine—it’s the head shrine dedicated to Hachiman, the god of archery and war, who's also identified with the deified form of Japan's legendary 15th emperor, Ojin. Established in the eighth century, it's considered by some to be the second-most important shrine in Japan after Ise Grand Shrine.
After leaving Usa, you have about 40 kilometers (25 miles) of scenic riding before you get to Beppu. Be sure to arrive early enough to thoroughly enjoy the city. You’ll want to first check out the Eight Hells of Beppu (stunning hot springs for viewing only), then relax in one of the numerous hot water baths, sand baths or steam baths that the city offers.
1. Shimanami Kaido (Hiroshima—Ehime)
Acknowledged by many cycle enthusiasts to be the most spectacular bike route in Japan, the Shimanami Kaido should be at the top of any bicycle lover’s list. This 70-kilometer (44-mile) course takes you from Hiroshima Prefecture to Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan’s fourth-largest island.
If you’ve ever cycled in Japan, you already know there's very little room for cyclists on the road. The Shimanami Kaido, however, offers a dedicated network of roads and bridges solely for cyclists or pedestrians, crossing six smaller islands along the way. So feel free to take a break at any time and snap some pictures of the incredible views of Seto Inland Sea National Park or the Tatara Bridge, one of the world’s longest cable-stayed bridges.
Don’t want to pack your own bicycle all the way to Japan? Then rent a bike from one of the 14 cycle rental terminals along the way. If you want to take your time, you can stay at one of the many campsites and inns en route, or if you’re a more experienced rider, you can cover the entire course in just a few hours.