Cycling Japan

Why cycling round Japan might be a good idea.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for years. I have Japanese friends who returned to live there a few years ago and visiting them gives me even more of a reason to go to Japan. Why haven’t I gone already?

  • When I’ve had time to go on holiday I’ve been busy visiting other places instead
  • I’d like to go for long(ish) time and so haven’t had long enough holidays off work
  • It’s very expensive
  • It’s difficult to get around and really do anything without knowing the language and a lot about the culture.

So, if I’m going to get around to ticking this one off my list I have to get over these four main issues.

The first one isn’t so major. I’ll make time for it at some point. I have plenty of time to get to all the main places I want to visit before I’m 60 and still have time to visit others as well.

Now I’m a teacher I have 6 weeks holiday in the summer. Spring and autumn are meant to be the nicest times to go as I’d get to see either the blossoms or the autumn leaves. But I could cope with missing out on those as long as I got to see the country. I’m not sure if even 6 weeks would be long enough, but I may get even more time in the future if my hostel and freelancing life plans work out. So issue no.2 is fast disappearing. 

The expense is a problem I still have to really deal with. Some people say it’s not as expensive as I think especially if I’m not staying in luxury hotels. Which I definitely wouldn’t be. I recently read an article in a travel magazine about cycling round part of Japan. Now that would be a really cheap way to get about. I could camp (hopefully – I don’t know much about the camping situtation in Japan), carry lots of packets of instant noodles, and get to out of the way places without it costing me anything.

The problem with the cycling solution is I’ve never ridden really long distances before and never carried all my gear on a bike. I would like to do this though, which is why doing a long distance cycle tour is also on my list of things to do. By doing my cycle tour in Japan I could tick off 2 challenges in one go. So now, I need to think about practising and training. I bought a cycle rack for my car at Christmas so I can take my bike out to the Peak District and cycle some of the converted railway track trails. I do want to cover these as they are very scenic, but they make for boring walking. They will make a good start for my cycle training though. As I’m too busy to even get out walking or go to the gym at the moment I don’t know when this will happen, but hopefully before the summer.

The fourth issue with my going to Japan is the culture and language. I have a friend who is a Japanophile (is there a proper word for that?) and has studied the language for years. Even she had lots of difficulties when she visited. The language is written in a mix of Japanese, Western and Chinese characters. Although she knew the Japanese and Western characters, all the Chinese characters made things very hard to read. Also there are so many rules for every little thing you do. Because foreigners don’t know the etiquette it makes it very difficult to achieve even half of what a Japanese person can in the time, and there are many things you miss out on completely.

Starting my visit by staying with my Japanese friends may be a good move as I can learn a lot from them. Akiko is pretty adventurous and not your typical Japanese woman so she may even be persuaded to do a bit of travelling with me. I’ll need to learn a bit of the language, though I have no plans for that just now. I’m studying a couple of other things at the moment and need to get them out of the way before I take anything else on. I can make a start on the culture though. I’m not starting from zero as I already know quite a bit (not nearly enough, but more than your average British person). I’ve just bought The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture which is a bit out of date but still a good place to start according to the reviews on Amazon. I must also read my Josie Dew books about her cycle tours of Japan. I like her books but I’ve never got round to reading these two even though I’ve owned them for years.

And still on the cycling theme – I’ve just come back from the Netherlands which is the world’s most cycle friendly country. As I go there most years, I could do a bit cycle tour training there. There are plenty of places it would be great to cycle round for a few days and I could carry all my gear to practice. I’ve done some cycling there in the past (including this visit) so I know how easy it is. A great place to start.

So these are my Japan visiting and cycle touring plans so far. When I start writing them down like this I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. When they are just ideas swimming around in my head it doesn’t feel like I’m actually doing anything towards my goals. But actually, they are all ticking over all the time in the back of my mind.

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time.
Author of the forthcoming book ‘Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman’s Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic’.

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