Have you ever dreamed about cycling in Japan, exploring the beautiful countryside?
We are often asked what a typical day on tour looks like; to answer that question, we will relive a page from our daily journal during one of many days cycling in Japan. Our bikes and legs take us from river paths, to hot springs, and to the clouds. This is day 6 of our Bicycle Tour of the North Alps in Japan–come along with us as we explore the stunning Caldera Lakes and the Inaka Countryside of Mt Akagi.
7:00am – Sunrise and Shine
Wake up to the fresh smell of tatami and bamboo floors, which blend perfectly with the sweet mountain air. Slide open your shoji windows to reveal a bold red sun rising from clouds in the distance. Breath in deep, taking a moment to take in the tranquility of the surrounding nature.
7:30am – A Quick Soak
It only makes sense to wake your mind and muscles by relaxing in an onsen hot-spring. Step out of your yukata robe, enjoy a shower, and step into the iron-rich bath. The water and minerals from this onsen come from the local volcano, Mt Akagi! Absorb the energy of the volcano and get ready for a splendid day of cycling.
8:00am – Just the Right Amount
Once you’re back in your traditional yukata robe and slippers, start walking towards our private breakfast room. You can hear your road crew chatting about the different items offered for breakfast already.
Reach out and slide the door open to reveal a simple, yet unique, table set. Like all things in Japan, each dish is prepared with purpose, intention, and beauty in mind. Every ingredient holds regional, seasonal, and historical importance. Today’s breakfast includes: just-picked persimmon salad, local fruits from the market, fresh fish, roasted sweet potatoes, wild mountain ferns, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet), miso soup, and more. It’s a rainbow of colors and flavors presented in perfect portions to provide just the right amount to fuel us for our adventures ahead. It’s a truly artful presentation–eat first with your eyes, then with your mouth!
9:30am – Let’s Ride!
After breakfast, head back to your room to change into cycling gear. Your guides meet you out front with bikes ready, and we gather for morning route meeting to discuss the journey ahead. Get ready for today’s amazing biking tour!
Today, we’ll climb the nortorious Mt Akagi (The Red Fortress Mountain) to explore the floating shrine within its caldera lake. Though little-known outside of Japan, cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts from all around Japan travel to Gunma Prefecture to explore this sacred volcano. Our final challenge of the day will provide us with breath-taking views of the Tone Valley around every corner.
11:00am – The Summit, The Views!
No image can do this view justice, so you will just have to come see it for yourself! Continue pushing your pedals, and you’ll see the end in sight as the road relents to a flat straightaway. It’s a tough climb, but it will be worth it once you’ve reached the summit of the volcano.
Through the field of knee-high bamboo and scraggly birch trees, we’ll find a break in the foliage ahead. Just a few more meters down the road you break from the canopy to reveal the magic of Mt Akagi’s caldera. Nestled deep inside the caldera’s walls is a large lake with a bold red bridge leading to the shrine to the gods of Mt Akagi. Behind, a palisade of alpine peaks dusted in snow cut through the skies like jagged teeth.
12:00pm – Lunch by the Lake
Dive down into the caldera to the loop road around the lake before cycling to the shrine. Hop off your bicycle to take a walk across the large red bridge. Walking under the massive stone gate, enter the land of the gods to visit this sacred shrine. It’s customary to offer a prayer or a wish, so take a moment to reflect. Soak in the energy and quiet ambiance. Then, we are off to enjoy lunch. A collection of local-only shops sits on sandy shores. We will enjoy delicious soba, ramen, and rice bowls, while soaking in views of the lake.
1:00pm – Lake Loop and Flying down the Mountainside
As we depart, we’ll take a lap around the lake to shake out our lunch-legs and soak in the views from every angle. On a nice clear day, you can see the mountain and its neighbors reflected in the water. As we exit the caldera, begin the amazing descent down the side of Akagi back to the Tone Valley. A fantastically smooth road will give us views of the surrounding mountains, and the massive valley. On clear days, you can even catch sight of Mt Fuji, over 100mi away! See the breath-taking backdrop change as we ride down a this sacred volcano.
2:00pm – Cycling through Inaka, Peaceful Countryside
After the descent, we find ourselves in the town of Kiryu, historically known for its silk production. Begin riding north into a picturesque Inaka (Japanese countryside). Small backcountry roads take us gently up along the river to the hidden Lake Ume (Plum Lake). Our ryokan hotel for the night is nestled in the hillside. Experience this Japan countryside tour for 8 full days.
4:00pm – Check In and Soak In
A wonderful day on the bike comes to a close as we arrived at our ryokan for the night. Pass your bike to your guides and meet the ryokan staff to be shown around your new charming home for tonight. Enter your room to find your yukata robe, inviting you to relax and take another hot-spring soak. Head down to the onsen baths in your robe and, again, absorb the healing waters of the mountainside.
5:00pm – A Light Stroll
When in Japan, it’s typical to see locals walking around ryokans in yukata robes. You decide to do the same, strolling around the ryokan’s beautifully-designed exterior. You think about how architecture and wilderness manage to co-exist symbiotically in the Japanese countryside. As you explore nearby, pause for a few moments to take in the calming aesthetic of this peaceful countryside town.
8:00pm – Dinner, A Feast For Your Eyes and Stomach
As you open the door to the dining hall, you are greeted by the smells of stewing vegetables and meat. A quick survey of the table reveals each place setting with its own small pot of boiling stew. Professionally curated dishes of sushi, salad, grilled fish, and roasted kabocha squash with ginkgo nuts also appear. As we share stories of the day, small plates are removed and replaced with new dishes that seem to show no end.
We celebrate our climb with regional sake, made from the rice fields we biked through earlier this week. Raise a toast: “here’s to today, and here’s to all we’ll discover tomorrow!”
Head back to your room, where your futons will welcome you to a great night of restful sleep.
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