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A cold Spring cycle through the Japanese Alps

Paul Evans's picture
Spring snow on the Japanese Alps. Cycle Traveller

After a cold tour through Japan last year, I moved this year's tour to spring and headed north to Fukushima Prefecture then west to Niigata before heading south to Fukui where I am now. It was still cold. This photo is of the Japanese Alps after a bitterly cold ride to Koriyama with snow trying to fall for about two hours before arrival.

The next leg of my trip was through an area I knew little about except that it had lots of tunnels, mountains and small villages. Aizuwakamatsu was my target for one day and passing Lake Inawashiro in the sunshine was great. The temperatures got up to around 10°C. I did some sightseeing while here and made the side trip to Ouchijuku – an old post town on the road to Edo.

Cycle path tunnel near Niigata, Japan. Cycle Traveller

From Aizu it is a long haul west to Niigata, one I wanted to break into two days as the ride would be mountains and full of urban sprawl.

From Niigata the trip south follows Highway 8 to Kanazawa. This is a main artery for the trucking industry, but fortunately, truckies in Japan rode bicycles as kids and understand how you feel, so they give you a wide berth most times. I also found a number of cycle paths that kept me off the road and out of their way.

One cycleway (Kibuki Path) had scores of tunnels. It was so quiet – I never saw another cyclist or pedestrian for about 20km.

The next two photos are of the route from Niigata. The first above is of a segregated tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians, while the other is a view down to a section of the highway that snaked along the coast – there was no cycle path here.

The coastal road near Niigata, Japan. Cycle TravellerI rode and pushed the bike through tunnels and snow shelters for quite a while along switchbacks with gradients of up to 8%. I could hear the cars and trucks coming, but at times no idea how far away they were.

Fortunately, I made it safe and sound thanks to the courtesy extended by Japan's motorists.

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Hi Paul. Thanks for the article and photos. It sounds like an interesting yet arduous journey. I've heard parts of the Tokaidoo road is open in parts for walking; what about cycling?


Paul62's picture

Mike, highway 1 in Japan is the Tokaido , sort of like the Hume highway. But some of the really old sections that were bypassed with new roads are great to walk. The most popular one is Magome to Tsumago. There are other sections north and south of these towns that you can walk but getting there is not too big a problem. In places the original route remains and bypasses also carry the same name and number. Gets confusing at times.

Paul62's picture

Mike, it depends on time of arrival , with Qantas it is around 6am in the morning. Leaving by bicycle from the airport is difficult, due to security. To date I have used courier companies to deliver my bike and large bag to where I am staying. Kuroneko ( Yamato transport) were my choice for many trips, but they refused the bike box this trip as it was too big! So I used JAL/ ABC , costs about $30 +. That leaves me with just a carry on and then catch either a local train for a long trip to Tokyo or grab one of the super fast ones (NEX) and have breakfast in Tokyo. Normally it can be same day delivery or first thing next morning.There are a number of facilities at Narita from couriers, car hire, phone companies. Express bus might take a bicycle but have heard that it can be 50/50. Never take a taxi the cost is equal to 3 nights at a good hotel and it can take hours if traffic is bad and if they accept a bicycle they charge extra. Trains can be downright difficult with bike box and luggage . On one trip I did take my bike box, on wheels, to my digs at Narita city and left it there till I could book in at 3pm , nowadays I request early book in at wherever I stay it is worth the extra $. The last two times my hostel and apartment kept the box for me, till I came back from my trip.

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