Self-Guided Cycling Adventure

Seasons
🌸 Spring Flowers
April – May
🌈 Summer Splendor
June – September
🍁 Fall Colors
October – December
☀️ Winter Sun
January – March
Difficulty
⛰-⛰⛰⛰⛰⛰
Levels 1-5
20-150km/day
300-3,500m gain/day

See FAQ for Route Levels
Accommodations
Standard or Premium Ryokan Hotel
Single Base Location


Learn more about the ryokan experience
Regions
North Alps
Mt Akagi
Mt Haruna
Ashikaga
Kiryu
Gunma Prefecture
Tochigi Prefecture
Ikaho Onsen Town
Price per Rider
Standard Ryokan: $348 USD per day
+ $52 USD per day Single Supplement
*includes breakfasts

Premium Ryokan: $448-$562 USD per day
+152 USD per day Single Supplement
*includes kaiseki breakfasts and dinners

Groups of 6 or more, please inquire for discounts

Unforgettable Cycling Through Japan’s countryside

This self-guided tour is specifically designed to show off the best road cycling routes of Japan’s North Alps from one central location. Unpack your bags and set off on endless adventures covering the amazing hills, mountains, lakes, and shrines of this region. Climb to the top of ancient volcanoes, ride around hidden calderas, and roll through valleys on roads that are still undiscovered. Welcome to the mystical foothills of Japan’s North Alps!

An Adventure for Every Rider

Traveling by bike means something different to every rider. For some, it’s about grinding up the steepest roads and pushing the limits. For others, it’s a mode of travel that allows you to stop and enjoy the scenery. It’s a vehicle to enjoy local cuisine, tea, coffee, or sake, at every possible moment.

We have spent years on the bike, exploring all the best places to ride in Central Japan to bring you these must-do routes for every level. Ride on roads rarely visited by cars, explore unforgettable landscapes, and experience incredible scenery around every switchback.

At Bike Tour Japan, we attempt to capture the entire spectrum of experiences, whether it’s a morning of zen river paths followed by hot-springs and off-bike exploration, or a full day of epic volcano climbs. Your BTJ support team is always just a call or message away should you need help navigating Japan’s traditions, from ryokans to kaiseki meals, hot spring onsens to sacred temples. We can’t wait to share our home and wild backyard with you!

Join us on an unforgettable self-guided cycling tour of Japan. We’ll take care of all the details so you can ride, relax, and repeat.

Japanese Temple

Itinerary Samples

Choose your adventure from more than 35 GPS route options! We offer rides for all levels so you can pick your journey each day.

The itineraries below are all samples of a single day’s route for each ride level.

Level 1 (10-25mi | 100-1000ft)

After a relaxing morning, enjoy a soak in the hot spring before you head to the dining hall for breakfast. A beautiful set of small plates greet you as you sit down with your yukata robes. Today’s selection of miso soup, fish, pickles, rice, and salad makes for a traditional Japanese breakfast.

After a relaxing morning, set off on the bikes and head out north of the ryokan. Winding country roads lead you through traditional towns that allow you to step back in time to a slower pace of life. Our route eventually comes to a town park with an incredible garden and row of sakura cherry blossom trees, which are in full bloom during spring hanami season. If you’re here in the fall season, incredible red and orange hues cover the mountains around you. Hop off the bikes and wander around the park as you take in the peaceful tranquility of the surrounding area and enjoy amazing colors of the beautiful cherry blossoms.

Next, roll down the neighboring valley to stop at a local soba shop for a delicious local delicacy of buckwheat noodles and locally grown vegetable tempura! The roads wind back towards town and you come across a small local temple that is marked on the map. Hop off the bikes again and head up to the main shrine. Ring the bell, make an offering, and send a wish to the gods. Finally, head back into town back to the ryokan for a shower and the perfect post-ride treat: a soak in the hot springs!

If your legs feel up for it, take a stroll through the rice fields behind your ryokan. Reconvene for dinner and head out for the local sushi joint, a short walk on the canal path. Interact with friendly locals and raise a glass to a fantastic day exploring the Japanese countryside.

Level 2 (25-40mi | 1000-2000ft)

Wake to the rising sun and sounds of birds chirping outside your window. Wearing your traditional yukata robe, head down for a lovely western breakfast of sunny-side up eggs and bacon with toast and jam. After breakfast, kit up and set off for today’s cycling adventure, to Lake Umeda, Plum Lake.

Head out on the car-free Watarase River Path, and you’ll be greeted by the massive stratovolcano Mt Akagi in front of you. Say good morning to the massive Red Fortress mountain and turn east at the lovely historic silk town of Kiryu. Stop to visit the silk mills and take a turn working the weaving machines yourself! Then, head off to the local bakery, a former silk mill converted into a local hangout spot for the pastry lovers. We recommend trying something familiar (croissant or muffin) and something new (curry pan). After you fuel up, a steady climb takes you to Lake Umeda, a tranquil local lake known for its fishing and satoyama traditional Japanese countryside scenery.

Cross the bridge that bisects the lake and head up a tiny forested road to what looks like a small path to the right. That’s right, that is your turn! You are in for a real adventure as the road turns into a magical path that takes you up to the summit of Mt Akayuki, red snow mountain, named for the azalea flowers that seem to snow off the mountainside in late spring.

At the top, you see a clearing in the trees. On the clearest of days this is an incredible view of the whole of the Tone Valley that is home to the Tokyo Metropolitan as well as even seeing the massive Tokyo Skytree in the distant and if you are lucky, Mt Fuji at over 150km away!

Finally, descend into a thick pine forest as you stumble upon a hidden shrine built atop a rock garden of massive rounded boulders. Hop off the bikes and take to exploring this amazing hidden wonder. Head back to the ryokan for a rinse up and soak in the onsen hot springs healing mineral waters before headed out for dinner tonight of Japanese grilled meat and veggies at a local restaurant!

Level 3 (40-60mi | 2000-5000 ft)

Wake up after a restful night in the quiet Ashikaga countryside. After a soak in the hot springs and a delicious breakfast, kit up and head out for the day of exploring and riding the foothills of the North Alps.

The route today starts along the car free river paths that show equal parts small town Japan and equal parts massive volcanoes. After a few kilometers, turn north and begin heading up the hidden old road of the Watarase Valley. Small towns, beautiful forests, and in two seasons, vivid colors (spring flowers or fall leaves)! After an amazing hour of seemingly endless fall colors and beautiful traditional towns and rice fields you come upon the massive Lake Kusagi. Home to the Tomihiro Art Museum, the Kusagi local produce stores, and a delicious soba shop in an old wooden Japanese house. Choose your adventure.

Take the afternoon exploring this wonderful area, visit the museum, try some local treats, and slurp a few bowls of soba. Then, pass over the massive red bridge that bisects the lake for an unforgettable view before pointing the handlebars up for the final climb to the hidden pass east of the lake. From here, it’s all downhill. Fly down a string of seemingly car free mountain roads all the way back to the ryokan.

Rinse up, soak in the hot springs, relax with a good book, or take a nap all before heading out for dinner tonight on the town. Many options nearby: sushi, ramen, curry, or Japanese-Italian fusion!

Level 4 (60-90mi | 5000-8000ft)

Set an early alarm to make the most of the day on the bike; there are many miles ahead! Roll out of bed and kit up, grab a quick breakfast, then hit road. Today’s route? 100+km of backroads and small town valleys out to the top-rated Soba Restaurant in Central Japan. Because you know it’s about the destination (and the food) as much as it’s about the riding.

Once you leave town, it’s just a few kilometers before you’re transported into another world. Crest over the second small mountain pass and enjoy the serenity and zen of these incredible roads! The route winds past small towns, rows of terraced rice fields, traditional temples, even a local ice creamery?! A stop is in order, because really, where else are you going to have a chance to enjoy purple sweet potato and black sesame ice cream?

You ride hard, and after a few more small passes, reach the soba restaurant. Hop off the bike and head indoors for a well deserved lunch of rich buckwheat noodles and crispy veggie tempura. Once you are replenished, get back on the bike and head over the final climb of the day. A long winding road grows as rivers turn into switchbacks and finally the trees give-way to Japanese bamboo forest. Dig in and push your legs to their limits, but don’t forget to hop off the bike every once in a while for an obligatory photo of the amazing scenery.

Finally, reach the summit and get your reward: a breathtaking view of endless strings of valleys and huge snow caps in the distance. Turn your handlebars downwards and get ready for over two hours of descent as you wind your way back to the ryokan!

Head to the showers, soak in the hot springs, and take a much needed nap. Then, refreshed head out to the local Ramen Shop for a big hearty bowl of noodles, gyoza, and celebratory beer. Another amazing day on the bike awaits tomorrow!

Level 5 (80-120mi | 8000-15000 ft)

The sun is up, and so are you. You kit up and head to the local conbini store for a morning cup of joe and some onigiri breakfast before hitting the road. You have a big day ahead!

You saw the massive stratovolcano Mt Akagi when you took the train in yesterday, and ever since you have been dreaming about the 100 switchbacks to the top. Road cyclists travel from all over Asia to this part of Japan to ride its storied volcanoes, and Akagi tops the. list! Take on a steady pace as the flat river path gives way to gentle climbs on small backroads. Finally, reach the base of the climb… start counting! Today’s ride is 100 miles with 100 switchbacks of dense forest full of flowers in spring and vivid colors in fall. At the top of Akagi, take a lap around the caldera lake and visit the shrine and restaurants beside its sandy shores. Take in the beauty of this mile-high mountain, enjoy some local eats, and then hit the road again before your legs have too much time to cool down. Down the backside you go! Arriving at the bottom of the mountain, hook a sharp right to start your second climb for the day. This time a totally different scene is set before you. Where the last climb was a string of winding narrow roads deep in forests of pine this climb is taking you past towns deep in the mountains that seem frozen in time. As you climb higher the trees give way to high alpine bamboo. Keep an eye out for monkeys, deer, foxes, and other mystical creatures!
Once you find the crest of the road you, it’s a thrilling car free descent, this time all the way back down over 5,000ft to your hotel! Hit the onsen for a long soak in the hot spring. Allow the mineral-rich waters to heal your tired legs before heading out for a delicious dinner in town. Choose traditional Japanese, or try out some Japanese fusion food in the local neighborhood. Take your pick, and be sure to stop by at the conbini for an ice cream on the way back!

Navigate with ease

Our goal is to provide you with the tools to not only ride amazing roads, but also to dive deep into the local area and culture. Our self-guided packages include multiple routes and itineraries for each day, as well as an interactive map of the region with English translations and descriptions of each shrine, restaurant, cafe, snack stop, and more. Head out on one of our pre-built routes and hit all the sights and bites on the way. Or open your custom map of the area and spend the day exploring what excites you most.

Resources Provided

  • Garmin with preloaded routes
  • Custom map of the area with English translations and our top recommendations for sights, bites, and things to do
  • Pre-trip call to help go over all resources and make sure you are ready to have an amazing time in Ashikaga

about our ryokanS

Standard Ryokan

Standard Ryokan Room

Our standard ryokan partners are amazing hosts who will welcome you to simple Japanese style rooms, a quaint dining room with traditional Japanese breakfast, and amazing hot spring baths!

These are no-fuss accommodations with all of the amenities you need, a beautiful setting on the edge of town, and a walk away from a local grocery, where you can stock up on ride snacks. Based on the edge of town, it’s an easy ride to get into nature. It’s the perfect base for your countryside cycling adventure.

Bathing – Japanese ryokans are 1/2 ensuite, meaning they will have a toilet and wash basin with mirror in each room, but all bathing is done in the public ofuro bath area. This area is open to all guests staying at the ryokan. The tradition of public bathing is an essential part of Japanese culture. Please see our guide on bathing etiquette if you are unfamiliar with this, or send us a message and we would be happy to give you more info on onsen etiquette.

If you prefer a private bath area, there are options with our premium ryokan option.

Outdoor Bath (Rotemburo) – Perfect for an after ride soak!

Premium Ryokan

Some Premium Ryokan Rooms come with Private Bath

Our premium ryokan partners are top of their class in the area. Located on serene roads in the countryside, this is the perfect place for weary travelers to escape the hectic cities to relax in the beauty of the Japanese countryside. We have ryokan partners located in the depths of dense forests, on the side of volcanoes with views of massive mountains, and beside unique Japanese gardens. They all include freshly-prepared kaiseki breakfasts and dinners, as well as beautifully-crafted hot spring baths.

Premium Ryokan Kaiseki Dinner

Bathing – Japanese ryokans are 1/2 ensuite, meaning they will have a toilet and wash basin with mirror in each room, but all bathing is done in the ofuro bath area. This area is open to all guests staying at the ryokan. the tradition of public bathing is an essential part of Japanese culture. Please see our guide on bathing etiquette if you are unfamiliar with this, or send us a message and we would be happy to give you more info on onsen etiquette. If you would like your own private bath, please ask us about room upgrades.

Cultural ACTIVITIES AND SIGHTS

  • Ashikaga Flower Park – No. 1 Rated Flower Park and Winter Illuminations in Japan! Home to the largest wisteria trees, and wisteria infused ice cream, this is a must stop for flower lovers.
  • Ashikaga Gakko – The first school ever built in Japan. Next to the beautiful central park and temple in Ashikaga, visit the origins of education and see the traditional buildings of this ancient school yard.
  • Kiryu Silk Museum – Come explore the home of some of Japan’s finest silk. Learn about the history of the silk industry and weave your own silk fabric with the interactive loom exhibits!
  • Watarase River – a winding gentile river with amazing roads and river paths, car free and full of cherry and plum blossoms in the spring, giving way to incredible fall colors on the mountains in the fall.
  • CoCo Farm Winery – Local winery situated on the foothills of the North Alps featuring local sweet wines.
  • Orihime Shrine – The central shrine in town of star crossed lovers. The story goes that once a year in July the milky-way aligns across the great Tone Valley. If the sky is clear then Princess Orihime and her lover Hikoboshi on the other side travel across the starry night to be reunited for the evening. But if the skies are cloudy they must wait another year!
  • Shimaoka Sake Brewery – Local small batch family run for generations sake brewery offering tours and tastings.
  • Senbonzakura (1,000 Cherry Blossoms Park) – A scene straight out of an anime, this park in April becomes a springtime wonderland of thousands of cherry blossoms on the side of a massive volcano with views of the massive Tone Valley below.
  • Gunma Insect World – Home to the largest collection of insects in Japan. With both pinned insects and living, a treat for any insect lovers, as well as kids/teens!
  • Nagusai Shrine – Secluded shrine hidden deep in a quiet zen pine forest built atop massive boulders.
  • Miyozawa Shrine – Towering ancient pines engulf this magical shinto shrine that is home to the mighty kami (god) of the mighty Mt Akagi volcano upon which it is built.

A Different Dining Experience

Standard Ryokans

Breakfasts – In our standard ryokan option you will have a breakfast provided each morning at the ryokan. You will have a choice of Japanese or western breakfasts. You can mix and match, just be sure to let the staff know your preferences the night before.

Lunches & Dinners – We leave the lunches and dinners up to you, but don’t worry! We will provide an interactive BTJ Map that you can download and access on your phone. You’ll find our top recommendations, English translations, and descriptions of what they are known for.

There are 10+ restaurants within 1km of the hotel, and over 50 within a short bike ride or taxi. Also, the hotel has full service restaurant inside with a wide selection of delicious Japanese fare.

Snacks – Our goal is to have you covered every step of the way. We are there when you want us, and out of the way when you don’t. On this self-guided tour we have labeled all of the best stops for snacks on our interactive BTJ Map.

On The Bike – While riding, our interactive map has all of our top choices for restaurants in the countryside. Also, we have made sure to mark all of the convenience stores, perfect for quick snack stop or a mid-ride ice cream!

Premium Ryokans

Breakfasts – In our premium ryokan option you will have a breakfast provided each morning at the ryokan. An amazing selection of the freshest seasonal ingredients artfully prepared by the onsite chef. A wonderful way to start of the day with a selection of small bites you will first eat with your eyes.

Lunches – We leave the lunches up to you, but don’t worry! We will provide an interactive BTJ Google Map that you can download and access on your phone. You’ll find our top recommendations, English translations, and descriptions of what they are known for.

Dinners – Arguably the quintessential Japanese travel experience. Don your traditional yukata robes and head down to the dining area for an unforgettable meal of the finest Japanese cooking. Local regionally sourced ingredients from the very farms and lakes you are riding by. Spring dishes typically include fresh fish, bamboo shoots, and cherry blossom-inspired foods. Summer dishes are rich in fresh veggies and fruits. In fall, you’ll find hearty mushrooms, fish, soups, and persimmons. And in winter, warm stews and fresh citrus.

Snacks – Our goal is to have you covered every step of the way. We are there when you want us, and out of the way when you don’t. On this self-guided tour we have labeled all of the best stops for snacks on our interactive BTJ Map.

On The Bike – While riding, our interactive map has all of our top choices for restaurants in the countryside. Also, we have made sure to mark all of the convenience stores, perfect for quick snack stop or a mid-ride ice cream!

Included

  • Fully-serviced, quality road bike, plus helmet and accessories
  • All accommodations: traditional Japanese Ryokan Hotels
  • Breakfast each morning (Japanese and Western options)
  • Emergency pickup support
  • BTJ guide chat throughout the tour for basic questions and assistance
  • Pickup and drop off at Ashikagashi Station or Shin-Kiryu Station

Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Transportation to and from the tour.
  • Pre- and post-tour planning (please inquire if you would like assistance in planning your travels in Japan outside of the tour)
  • Meals not listed above
  • Pickup for non emergencies