Valleys and Volcanoes of the North – Tracing The Watarase River 2019

Bike Tour Japan’s most accessible tour: all of the beauty with a fraction of the climbing! This route will take you on a deep journey into the many small towns that were established in the Watarase River Valley. We will uncover breathtaking mountains, tranquil rivers, beautiful valleys, and natural hot springs of the Japanese countryside. Each day, we will find serene moments in elegant temples rich in Japanese history and stop to visit the hidden treasures of the hillsides. Crisp air and clear skies, peaceful back roads and fall colors. We will savor local meals, skillfully prepared by the region’s best chefs and enjoy local sake from the rice grown in the very towns and mountains we visit.

Bike Tour Japan - Valley Views on the Ride

  • REGION: Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures
  • DESTINATION: The North Alps, Lake Chuzenji, Mt Akagi, Hills of Ashikaga
  • DIFFICULTY: 2/5 (options to add distance each day)
  • PRICE FROM: $3,950 USD


Looking for 2018 Dates? [Click Here]

Private Booking? Want to customize your trip, route, stays? [Contact Us]


Watarase River Tour EDITED.PNG

Watarase River Tour Profile EDITED.png

Bike Tour Japan - Exploring Local Shrines


Want a more zoomed in view of a day on tour with us? Check out our in-depth view of Day 6 from our Tour of the North Alps.

Day One: The Watarase to Lake Ume

Meet our guides in front of the Ashikagashi train station. Our welcome begins with light snacks and introductions as we get your bikes ready on the river path. Then, we are off on our first ride along the scenic Watarase River, where you will see the stacked mountains of the North Alps across the massive Tone Valley. We turn in towards the hills and begin a long gradual climb to the secluded Lake Ume, deep in the hills of Kiryu. A few kilometers more takes us to our Ryokan for the night. Choose to settle in with a relaxing bath in the natural hot springs, or continue riding with our guides for a few bonus miles. We recommend a relaxing stroll by the river before sunset. When you’re ready, meet up with our guides for a beautiful Japanese dinner and a welcoming toast to a great week ahead!

Meals: Lunch / Dinner
Destinations: Watarase River, Lake Ume
The Day: 32km (20mi), 500m (1,600ft) gain
Accommodations: Seifuen Ryokan

Day Two: Nagusaitsukushimi Shrine and the Hills of Kiryu

Today, we will begin our journey into the heart of the Japanese countryside. We will dip back towards Kiryu then ride into the mountains on quiet roads up to the hidden Nagusaitsukushima Shrine. This is a beautiful and secluded shrine in the deep forests. After exploring the Shrine and enjoying a lunch of fresh regional food, we make our way back to the Ryokan for another amazing evening.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Destinations: Matsudagawa Dam, Nagusaitsukushima Shrine, Akayuki-san Hike Option
The Day: 48km (30mi), 700m (2,300ft) gain
Accommodations: Seifuen Ryokan

Day Three: Kanahara Pass and Hill Top Temples

Take on our biggest climb of the trip, the Kanahara Pass. Following the valley, we cut in left to a secluded back road that rewards you with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and small towns below. Meander down to the serene Sano Valley for our step back in time at the Ichinokan, a well preserved piece out of the past.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Destinations: Kanahara Pass
The Day: 45km (28mi), 550m (1,800ft) gain
Accommodations: Ichinokan

Day Four: The First School in Japan

Today, we head over the hills of Ashikaga, a quaint and serene part of the region. We’ll take a stop to visit the Gakko; the first school built in Japan. History, gardens, gates, and more, as we explore the hills through the afternoon before heading back to our Ryokan for the evening.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Ashikaga Gakko School, Ashikaga Shrine & Park, Orihime Shrine
The Day:
38ki (24mi), 460m (1,500ft) gain

Day Five: Down the Watarase River to Kusagi Lake

Our final ride along the Watarase River Path, today is a journey closer to the source as we head up to Lake Kusagi. Our longest day at just under 40mi, we will embark on a long gradual uphill with scenic views. This ride is sure to make for a memorable day on the bike! Arriving at Lake Kusagi, we will settle in at the Ryokan and take a stroll by the lake before sunset. We recommend another wonderful evening soak in the onsen before turning in for the night.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Destinations: The Watarase River, Lake Kusagi
The Day: 61km (38mi), 600m (2,000ft) gain
Accommodations: Sun Kusagi Ryokan

Day Six: Around the Lake and Art Museums

Our last full day offers a few options: choose a simple relaxing lap around the lake, a ride through rolling hills, or a final challenging climb. We will take time to check out the Tomihiro Art Museum across the bridge after lunch. We will gather together for one last dinner together, a beautiful Japanese feast.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Destinations: Ashio, Lake Kusagi, Tomihiro Art Museum
The Day: 35km (22mi), 370m (1,200ft) gain
Accommodations: Sun Kusagi Ryokan

Day Seven: The Watarase One Last Time

On our final day, we head out one last time by bike for a flat/downhill ride through the country back along the Watarase River towards Kiryu. We will roll down the valley to Takatsudo Park for a final exploration, and views of all that we have accomplished. Lunch in Kiryu and farewells until the next time!

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Destinations: Takatsudo Park
The Day: 32km (20mi), 200m (600ft) gain

Bike Tour Japan - Traditional Meal

[Request a Spot]

  • Fully-serviced, quality road bike, plus helmet and accessories
  • All accommodations: traditional Japanese Ryokan Spa Hotels
  • Full meals: breakfasts, bento lunches, and dinners
  • Snacks and beverages between meals. We’ll have snacks/beverages both familiar and new!
  • Nutritional support before, during, and after each ride
  • All gratuities at hotels, onsens, and restaurants
  • Access to relaxing natural hot spring baths (onsens) each day. (Please note: private onsens are booked separately; if interested, inquire in advance)
  • Expert guides, with extensive cycling and local knowledge, who will go above and beyond to cater to your every need
  • SAG Wagon to support a variety of route options
  • Entry fees to museums, shrines, historic sites, parks, and other attractions
  • Baggage transfers and porterage from trip pick up to drop-off
  • Ability to purchase gifts, local snacks, local sake, etc along the way and put them in the van at any time
  • Pick up and drop off before and after your tour (Ashikaga Station and Kiryu Station respectively)
  • Gratuities for BikeTourJapan guides (learn why we don’t ask for tips!)

BikeTourJapan strives for a truly immersive and unique experience. For this reason, each itinerary may be subject to slight modifications. Contact us for the most up-to-date tour inclusions.

Not Included:
  • Airfare
  • Concierge from Tokyo Station, Haneda Airport, or Narita Airport (please inquire)
  • Pre- and post-travel planning advising with optional upgrade to Full Planning  (please inquire)

[Request a Spot]