An active cultural tour covering Tokyo, Nikko, Matsumoto, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka

  • Guided
  • Tokyo / Osaka
  • 11 Days, 10 night
  • ★★☆☆☆
  • ★★☆☆☆

An active cultural tour covering Tokyo, Nikko, Matsumoto, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka

11 Days

A Michelin highly rated course! Experience Japan with a twist: a neo-classic route that combines big cities and rural areas, allowing you to get a three-dimensional view of the country. Cycling tours are combined with experiences, such as a pleasure boat ride or a visit to a miso brewery, for a unique experience that goes beyond mere sightseeing.

Overview

Tokyo and Kyoto are must-see spots for any visitor to Japan. Tokyo is a modern city with skyscrapers, pop culture, and nightlife, while Kyoto has been the setting of many Japanese historical events. This tour is designed for those who are not satisfied with merely seeing Tokyo and Kyoto, and who want to know more about Japan both actively and intellectually.

The route from Tokyo to Kyoto takes you through Matsumoto and Kanazawa, cities popular among Japanese. This tour also includes a visit to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers a glimpse into the rural culture and lifestyle of Japan’s ancient countryside.

The route connecting Matsumoto, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, and Kanazawa has been listed as a three-star destination in the “Michelin Green Guide Japon” and is now attracting attention in Japan.

Cycling

Enjoy Japan’s historic cityscapes and nature at moderate speed and effort with e-bike tours conducted by Japan’s leading cyclists.

One of these tours takes place in Nikko, home of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the last champion of the Warring States Period, which ended about 400 years ago. Nikko was
the site of a samurai invasion.

Another cycling area is the Kiso area in Nagano Prefecture where you can enjoy cycling along the post towns on the Nakasendo, the old road that connected Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. Also visit the Ina Valley where rice cultivation flourished in the olden days.

Required Equipment

We recommend you wear comfortable clothes that are easy to move in. Shoes of any type that are easy to walk in, such as sneakers, are acceptable. Gloves (especially in cold weather), a towel or handkerchief, and sunglasses are recommended. Helmets and bicycles are provided.

What is an e-bike?

An e-bike is a sports bicycle equipped with an electric power-assist function allowing you to ride with less physical effort. E-bikes account for differences in physical ability and allow everyone to proceed at the same general pace by reducing the physical and psychological burden of long-distance rides and mountain crossings and by allowing for riders of different ages, physical strengths, and experience. E-bikes can run more than 100 km on a single charge.

Cycling guide for this tour


Tetsuya Yamamoto and his team.

Mr Yamamoto’s passion for cycling ranges from competitive cycling to leisurely rides in daily life. He communicates through his social media and website about the new encounters and discoveries he makes through cycling. He is also passionate about bicycle-related events, and is involved in planning and producing events that bring new ideas to life in order to convey the fun and appeal of cycling. For this tour, Mr Yamamoto or his local team member will be your guide.

His cycling tours have become some of the most popular in Japan, with many participants from overseas. He is very knowledgeable about bicycle maintenance and equipment, and provides a safe and secure cycling experience.


Ryohei Oguchi

Ryohei Oguchi is an adventurer who spent 9 years crossing 5 continents while traveling around the world. He is legendary in his hometown of Nagano, having racked up 160,000 kilometers through more than 157 countries, and written several books about his adventures. He is ranked third in the world in terms of the number of countries he has visited (as of 2023). “I wanted to accomplish something only I could do,” says the adventurer about his round-the-world cycling pursuit. Participants find his soft and gentle personality captivating.

*Note: Navigators of our cycling tours in Kyoto are unspecified. Guides vary depending on the date of the tour.

Highlights

  • Tokyo: Enjoy Tokyo's nightlife in the traditional yakatabune pleasure boats (dinner included). Enjoy the excitement of Tokyo's popular tourist destinations via the underground trains (metro/subway)
  • Nikko: Enjoy an e-bike tour in Nikko, a city of history, nature and hot springs.
  • Matsumoto: Visit Matsumoto Castle (a national treasure), and a miso factory.
  • Nakasendo Road: Take an e-bike tour with a local adventurer in Narai, an old post town along the Nakasendo Road. Visit a local morning market in Takayama, a city with a beautiful historical landscape.
  • Shirakawa-go UNESCO World Heritage Site: Glimpse the old Japanese rural lifestyle and the architecture and steep thatched roofs of the traditional houses.
  • Kanazawa: Walk around Japanese gardens and lively shopping streets in Kanazawa
  • Kyoto: Enjoy a different kind of cycling experience around the city.

Itinerary

The tour begins in Tokyo. You will be transferred from the airport to your hotel where your guide will be waiting for you from 10:00 am. Check-in is from 4:00 pm, so if you arrive early, feel free to go start exploring Tokyo by yourself. Your guide will give you an IC card that can be used for public transportation.

At 4:00 p.m., check in to the hotel, then use your IC card to board public transportation to get to the welcome dinner held on a yakatabune pleasure boat.

Pleasure boats in Japan are said to have originated with the aristocrats in the 8th century, but were later used as a pastime for samurai during the Edo period (1603-1868). Yakatabune, with Japanese-style rooms and halls, are still loved by Japanese people today and are used for river cruises, parties and banquets. The night view from a yakatabune is very beautiful, especially the view of Tokyo Bay. The dinner served on board is Japanese banquet food.

Accommodation Type:
Sunroute Plaza (Hotel) Shinjuku or similar (see list below)

Dinner

In the morning, you will experience Tokyo’s well-developed urban transport system by riding its modern subway/metro to popular Tokyo tourist destinations such as Shinjuku, Ueno, Akihabara, Asakusa, or Tsukiji. Tokyo is a unique metropolis with a mix of historical neighborhoods, business districts, pop culture attractions, and parks. We will experience these as if we were Tokyoites.

Afternoon: Free time.

Accommodation Type:
Same accommodation as previous night.

Breakfast

To make the most of this day, we will depart early at 7:00 AM.

Today, we will take a cycling tour on e-bikes around the Nikko area, located east of Tokyo. We’ll visit the Nikko Toshogu Shrine a registered World Heritage site. The shrine was built to worship Tokugawa Ieyasu, a samurai who in 1603, ended 200 years of domestic warfare and established the shogunate in Edo (present-day Tokyo). This marked the beginning of the Edo Period, during which peace and the culture of the common people flourished for 260 years. Ieyasu is also called “Mr. Tokyo” because created the prototype for the world-class city of Tokyo.

Each structure at Toshogu Shrine is wonderfully carved and decorated with images such as “The Three Monkeys (“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”), the Yomei Gate, and the Sleeping Cat. Witness the hidden spiritual culture of Japanese architecture and art while enjoying the area’s abundant nature at bicycle speed while learning about Nikko.

For lunch, we will eat soba noodles, a traditional Japanese cuisine.

Cycling
Distance: Approx. 25 km
Time required: About 5 hours
Altitude gain: N/A

Accommodation Type:
Same accommodation as previous night.

Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel Check-out, train to Matsumoto
The symbol of Matsumoto city is Matsumoto Castle, a beautiful 500-year-old original wooden structure and a designated National Treasure. We will also visit a miso warehouse, to experience Japanese fermentation culture. Miso soup, made from this fermented base, is a soul food of the Japanese people and is eaten on a daily basis. It is known for having a distinct flavor depending on the kitchen in which it is cooked. Each family cultivates its own, unique miso taste.

Accommodation Type:
Premier Hotel Cabin Matsumoto or similar (see list below)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We take a short train ride from Matsumoto to join an e-bike tour based in the Nagano town of Tatsuno, a mecca of Japanese outdoor culture. Ride around Naraijuku post town on the Nakasendo, a route the samurai used to move between Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. In Japan, where modern cities have been developed over forested areas, it is rare to find the old preserved streets and historical landscape reminiscent of the samurai days.

We will ride our ebikes from Tatsuno to Onojuku and Naraijuku along a section of the Nakasendo road while enjoying the traditional scenery called satoyama. This cycling tour will be navigated by Ryohei Oguchi, a local bicycle adventurer known for having cycled around the world.

Cycling Tour
Distance: Approx. 39 km
Time required: About 4 hours
Altitude gain: 671m

Accommodation type:
Same accommodation as previous night.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Put aside a small bag or backpack of what you’ll need to take with you for two nights and we’ll send your larger suitcase(s) ahead to Kyoto. We’ll take the first train from Matsumoto to the town of Nakatsugawa, which prospered as a post town (with inns and services for travelers) along the Nakasendo trail. At Ochiai-juku, we will have lunch at a restored 160-year-old mansion owned and run by a woman who has turned it into a cafe. We will then walk 6.6 km along the gentle preserved historical path from Magome to Tsumago, the most popular stretch of hiking route on the Nakasendo.

The Nakasendo is one of the five major roads developed during the Edo period (1603-1867) for foot traffic to travel between the 530 kilometers or so between Tokyo (formerly Edo) and Kyoto. The Tokaido, one of the other routes, crossed several rivers along the way, sometimes requiring travelers to board a boat to float long distances downstream. Thus, travelers could be stranded for days if the rivers were high due to heavy rains. Although the Nakasendo route was 40 km longer than the Tokaido, the mountains were unaffected by the condition of the rivers and did not require boats, so it was also less expensive to travel this route.

The Nakasendo is still popular among walkers today, and hikers from all over the world visit the area. The most popular route is the section connecting the two post towns of Magome and Tsumago.

After the hike, we will take a private car to Takayama, popular for its old townscape, and where we will stay overnight.

Walking
Distance: 6.6km
Duration: 3 hours
Altitude gain: 253m

Accommodation type:
Hida Hotel Plaza or similar (see the list below)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Takayama is a mountain city where the old streets of the Edo period have been preserved, thus providing another rare townscape of the old samurai. Here, you can visit a morning market and enjoy a glimpse of the Japanese way of life. Seasonal foods, flowers, handicrafts, and folk art are also available for purchase at the market.

After Takayama, we will visit Shirakawa-go, a small village that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shirakawa-go is a photogenic spot, where you can witness Japanese farming culture in the countryside.

We will then take an express bus to Kanazawa, where we will lodge for the night.

Accommodation type:
Dormy Inn Kanazawa or similar (see list below)

Breakfast, Lunch

Kanazawa, one of the most famous castle towns in Japan, is a unique samurai village where the feudal lords of the past tried to revitalize the economy by focusing on cultural activities and handicrafts instead of military might.

Unlike Kyoto, which flourished as the capital of Japan during the Heian Period, and was famous for its court nobility, Kanazawa, facing the Sea of Japan, took pride in the culture of the samurai families. Experience a walk through the town, through Japanese gardens and along local shopping streets.

In the late afternoon, we will take an express train to Kyoto where we will check into our hotel.

Accommodation type:
Hatoya Zuihokaku or similar (see list below)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan, and most Japanese people visit Kyoto at least once. As the capital of Japan before Tokyo, Kyoto has long been the stage of many historical events which are essential for understanding the history of Japan. First, we will visit Nijo Castle, and go from there. A half-day cycling tour is a great way to enjoy the historical city of Kyoto at a slightly more elevated speed than on foot.

Cycling
Distance: 12 km
Duration: 3.5 hours
Altitude gain: N/A

Accommodation type:
Consecutive nights

Breakfast, Lunch

Today we will visit some classic tourist attractions of Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Sanjusangendo, the Gion geisha district, and Yasaka Shrine. We’ll introduce the long history of Japanese shrines and temples of the ancient capital of Kyoto.

We will then visit Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, that is known for its merchant life, comedy theater, and gourmet food. With one of the most energetic and passionate cultures in Japan, Osaka’s long arcade shopping streets and other unique features give the city a different ambiance from that of Tokyo.

Finally, we will say goodbye to our fellow tour participants at a farewell dinner.

Accommodation Type:
Villa Fontaine Umeda or similar (see list below)

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast on your own at the hotel, the tour ends and your guide will take leave.

Breakfast

This itinerary is subject to change

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Personal Information

Start: Tokyo (Day 1, Narita or Haneda airports, or hotel in Tokyo)
End: Osaka (Day 11, disband after breakfast)
Number of days: 10 nights, 11 days
Minimum number of participants: 4

Travel Conditions

  • English-speaking guide (Day 1:14:30 ~ Day 10 9:00 )
  • 10 nights’ accommodation including Japanese-style rooms in hotels and ryokans (including all taxes)
  • 10 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 5 Dinners
  • 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 5dinners
  • Luggage transport for one piece of luggage per person (Tokyo to Matsumoto, Matsumoto to Kyoto) (The total length, width, and height of suitcase should be less than 200cm and the weight should be 30kg or less. )
  • Transportation IC card (worth 5000 yen)
  • Admission fee (Nikko toshogu shrine, Matsumoto castle, Matsumoto city museum, Niko castle, Sanjusangendo temple)
  • All activities listed on the itinerary
  • Shared transfer either from Narita or Haneda airport to the staying hotel on day1 as per your flight
  • Private transportation as listed on the itinerary

NOTES

  • Cycling may be canceled in the event of rain, in which it may be replaced by a walking tour.
  • When transporting luggage, large suitcases will be sent to the next night’s accommodation. When sending luggage ahead, please set aside one night’s worth of things needed to carry separately.
Travel planning and implementation Liberta Co., Ltd.
Address 5-7-25 Akatsuka, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-6265-329
Email info@heartlandjapan.com
Travel business license 2-7699

Price

¥752,000
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From ¥752,000
/ Adult
February 2024
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