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The Japan Epic

September 17 - September 23


The Japan Epic encompasses 7 days of consecutive adventure cycling through the Japan. If you take on the entire “challenge” you will cycle all the way from Tokyo to Sapporo, but you have the option to sign up for any section. Particularly recommended for lesser-experienced would be the final three days. Price given is for the entire 7-day epic.


#Countryside #mountains #rugged #coastlines #cuisine #beer #calderalakes #volcanoes #onsen


Day One


If starting in Tokyo, the Mad Dogs check into the hotel in the very traditional Tokyo district Asakusa which is home to the magnificent Asakusa Kannon Temple. The hotel is conveniently close to a limousine airport bus drop off point, and is also easily reachable by rail from the airport. Private transfers can be arranged on request. There will be an evening briefing and the excitement builds.


Day 2  (175 km, Elevation:+ 1140 / – 763 m, Tokyo to Shirakawa)


The Mad Dogs bid farewell to Tokyo, but it is difficult to escape this metropolis quickly. Our early start is a great way to avoid the traffic here. The city’s urban sprawl is significant, but once you have escaped the traffic lights, you will be surrounded by green rice fields. Into the afternoon, it will be hard to believe you started in Tokyo!


If you’re joining the ride in Shirakawa, this is easily reached from Tokyo by a short bullet train ride! Bikes are fine on the train so long as they are packaged.


Day 3 (180 km, Elevation:+ 927 / – 1264 m, Shirakawa to Sendai)


An early start sees the sun reflecting off the distant mountains and the surroundings become more and more rural. You’ll head deep into the fruit-growing countryside today and cycle along some beauticul rivers. Lunch is likely to be sushi! You’ll pass through small Japanese towns and take in some lovely views before coming into Sendai.


If you’re joining the ride in Sendai, this is easily reached from Tokyo in a couple of hours by bullet train! Bikes are fine on the train so long as they are packaged. There are also regular flights from Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports.


Day 4 (185km, Elevation: + 1276 / – 1195 m, Sendai to Morioka)


The route leads you into and out of many Japanese villages and you’ll even notice people working the land by hand – which can be rather startling in this most developed of Asian lands. Why does everything in Japan just seem so perfect? It’s lovely to see Japanese rural homes and farmhouses built in the timeless traditional style, with upturned eaves – not so very different from temples. Those who arrive early enough may like to explore Morioka Castle.


Morioka is a couple of hours from Tokyo on the bullet train, therefore it’s very convenient to start or end the ride here.


Day 5 (160km, Elevation:+ 1681 / – 1796 m, Morioka to Noheji)


Mount Iwate, a majestic stratovolcano similar in appearance to Mount Fuji, dominates the view for the first half of the day, appearing and disappearing as the road turns its course. The route heads past a river of raging white water (or at least it was when we were there, with the snow melt) and through many rural villages. It can be surprising to find vending machines in the middle of nowhere, but this is very convenient. Watch out for deer!


Noheji has a convenient local train station (linking with the bullet train from Tokyo), and it is also convenient to Aomori airport from where we can also arrange convenient transfers.

Day 6 (106km, Elevation:+ 651 / – 659 m, Noheji to Hakodate)
The route follows a coastal road for the most of this day, through sleepy forgotten fishing villages. Workers gather seaweed and shellfish in wicker baskets. We noticed huge birds of prey and curious cage traps baited with cut apples! The ferry leaves at 2.10pm sharp, but there is plenty of time to make it given your early start. When you arrive at the tiny port of Oma, you can already see Hokkaido’s mountains rising in the distance. A Japanese ferry is an experience in itself – remove your shoes before venturing onto the clean carpet where you can stretch out and nap. On arrival 90 minutes later, there is only another 4-5km before arriving at our hotel in the Yunakowa Onsen where a long, warm soak awaits. The feeling of going to bed after a day in the saddle and an onsen (Japanese bath) is the very definition of “snug” … when your head touches the pillow you will drift away into an almost instant and well-deserved slumber.
If joining or leaving in Hakodate, it is convenient by aeroplane at both its own airport and that of Sapporo (2-3 hours by train). You can also use the train from Tokyo (6 hours).
Day 7 (155km, Hakodate to Toyakoonsen, Elevation:+ 1572 / – 1492 m)
First thing, you’ll head inland from Hakodate, past the volcano Mount Komagatake, before for most of the day making a grand circle of Uchiura Bay, or “Volcano Bay” as it was named by an English ship captain in the Meji period. The bay is nearly circular with a diameter of 50km, and is surrounded by volcanic mountains – one of which, Mount Usu, erupted in 2000. The most impressive, however, is the Fuji-lookalike, Mount Yotei which dominates the view for the first half of the day. If you’ve ever skiied in (or seen people’s photos from) Niseko you will recognise this immense sight. The route then heads inland to Toyakoonsen, which is hosted by an utterly stunning volcanic lake. There should be another opportunity to soak your aches away in an onsen.
Trains from Tokyo to Hakodate take approx 6 hours, but there is of course Hakodate airport which is the most convenient option for getting in or out! Some may find it convenient to fly to Sapporo airport, especially there are direct international flights – and it’s a couple of hours from Hakodate by train.
Day 8 (Toyakoonsen to Sapporo, 140km, Elevation:+ 1619 / – 1680 m)
We may start marginally later this morning, to enjoy a hotel breakfast. The day begins with a ride around the stunning, volcanic Toya Lake (the backdrop to the 2008 G8 Summit) before heading into breathtaking mountain scenery. This then opens up into a second caldera lake, Lake Shikotsu, of which you pass around the edge. We’ll take lunch on the banks of the lake, on a pebble, where you can enjoy the unbelievable tranquility of this heavenly place. It’s sometimes difficult to keep going and resist the temptation to stop and marvel, such is the beauty of the lake, which reflects like glass the surrounding active volcanoes. You’ll stare in wonder at the smoke coming from Mount Tarumae. Then there’s a final climb up the slopes of Mount Iwate before a triumphal and glorious coast down into Sapporo. What a finish!
Toyakoonsen is well connected by shuttle bus and train to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport therefore it’s easy to start or end your ride here.
Day 9 – END
The victorious cyclists wake up wondering “Did I really do that?!” … Either they have requested to spend another night in their hotel and are going to explore and make the most of being in this enchanting part of the world…or they’re headed even further into Hokkaido… perhaps they are heading home now – with a lot of stories and a great deal of pride.


September 17
September 23
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