From Mountains to Sea: Japan’s Best Cycling Routes and When to Go

Japan’s diverse landscapes and well-maintained cycling routes make it a fantastic destination for bike tours.

 Unsplash (David Edelstein)

Japan, a country known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, offers a plethora of opportunities for cyclists. From coastal paths to mountainous terrain, there is something for every level of rider. Here, we explore some of the best bike routes in Japan and the optimal times of year to enjoy them.

Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido is arguably the most famous cycling route in Japan. This 70 km (43.5 miles) road connects the main island of Honshu to Shikoku, crossing six smaller islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The route offers spectacular views of the sea, bridges, and islands, with plenty of opportunities to explore local attractions and taste regional delicacies.

Best Time to Visit: Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are ideal for cycling the Shimanami Kaido. The weather is mild, and you can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in autumn.

Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa, located in Shiga Prefecture, is Japan’s largest freshwater lake and provides a scenic 200 km (124 miles) cycling route around its perimeter. The path is mostly flat, making it accessible for cyclists of all levels. Highlights include historic sites, hot springs, and picturesque lakeside views.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and autumn are the best times for this route due to the pleasant temperatures and beautiful natural scenery. Summer can be quite hot and humid, while winter may bring cold winds and snow.

Kibi Plain

The Kibi Plain, located in Okayama Prefecture, offers a more leisurely cycling experience through Japan’s rural heartland. This 17 km (10.5 miles) route passes through rice paddies, ancient burial mounds, and historic shrines. It’s perfect for those who want a short, culturally immersive ride.

Best Time to Visit: Spring, with its blooming cherry blossoms, and autumn, with its rice harvest and clear skies, provide the best conditions for cycling the Kibi Plain.

Noto Peninsula

For more experienced cyclists, the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture offers a challenging but rewarding experience. The 360 km (224 miles) route around the peninsula features rugged coastlines, fishing villages, and stunning sea views. The terrain is varied, with some steep climbs and descents.

Best Time to Visit: Autumn is the best time for this route, as the weather is cooler and more stable. Spring is also a good option, but the weather can be more unpredictable.

Mount Fuji Area

Cycling around the Mount Fuji area offers breathtaking views of Japan’s iconic peak. There are several routes to choose from, ranging in difficulty. The Fuji Five Lakes area is particularly popular, providing a mix of flat and hilly terrain, and numerous scenic spots.

Best Time to Visit: The best times to cycle around Mount Fuji are in late spring (May to June) and early autumn (September to October) when the weather is clear, and the views of the mountain are at their best. Summer can be crowded with tourists, and winter can be harsh due to snow.


Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, is a paradise for cyclists seeking natural beauty and wide-open spaces. The island features numerous cycling routes that take you through rolling hills, farmlands, and along dramatic coastlines. Notable routes include the scenic paths around Lake Toya and the challenging climbs in the Shiretoko Peninsula.

Best Time to Visit: Summer (June to August) is the prime time for cycling in Hokkaido. The weather is pleasantly warm, and the region is less humid than the rest of Japan. Early autumn (September) is also a good time, offering cooler temperatures and stunning fall foliage.

Japan’s diverse landscapes and well-maintained cycling routes make it a fantastic destination for bike tours. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing ride through the countryside or a challenging adventure along the coast, Japan has something to offer. Remember to plan your trip according to the best seasons for cycling to fully enjoy the beautiful scenery and pleasant weather.

Relevant articles:
Cycling through Japan: My Three-part Adventure
Exploring Tokyo Bay

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