For anyone interested in cycling Japan I have created this FAQ:
Bean Counter? What’s that?
It’s basically slang for accountant.
Beans are a cheap commodity, so to count them is a rather silly thing to do. A “bean counter” is one who nitpicks over small things in order to save costs. It is a derogatory term for accountants
Man 1: Oh wow that Ross guy seems pretty cool cycling all around Japan like that.
Man 2: yeah, but back in his usual life he’s just your average bean counter
Why did you choose to cycle Japan?
I have always had an interest in Japan from a young age, I assume it’s from watching all the Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, etc when I was young. This is my 3rd visit to Japan and I wanted to improve my Japanese mostly, especially the speaking component as it’s the hardest to practice when you study alone. Although I do believe taking actual Japanese classes is a better way to improve… I also enjoy hiking, so with all the mountains in Japan this was easy pick.
But I chose to cycle as I would be able to meet many people and experience many things that you would usually miss if you were to take public transport or a car. Many people I could talk and interact with. I also would gain a massive sense of accomplishment by completing something so seemingly impossible.
What were your best and worst experiences?
See the Best Moments Article. To list them I would say…
For those who have not been to Japan
- Kyoto – Nijo Palace, Inari Shrine, the golden temple and more
- Akihabara – Anime town in Tokyo
- Shimanami Kaido cycling road
For those who have ticked off the big ricket items in Japan
- Shimanami Kaido Cycling
- Milk Road / Road to Laputa Cycling or Hiking
- Iya Valley incl Mount Tsurugi
- Cycle and Snorkel Trip across Kouri Bridge
Where is the best cycling in Japan?
Shikoku, North Western Part, especially Shimanami Kaido.
What is the cheapest and easiest way to sleep around Japan?
Grab a tent and other camping gear, go to the local park (not the biggest or most central, small and on the outskirts is best), wait until night time to set up the tent. They have bubblers / toilets and hopefully grass to sleep on. If you’re lucky there will also be a pergola in case of rain.
Otherwise there are internet cafe’s everywhere. 快活CLUB is my personal favourite due to the all you can eat ice cream which makes it value enough. Try to stick to one as there’s usually a loyalty bonus. They usually have cheap ‘Night Packs’ from around 8pm.
Where did you eat?
Convenience Stores – not proud of it. But you don’ exactly have a choice when you’re cycling all the time. Noodles are cheap and easy, but not healthy… I would usually stop at buffets whenever in the city to try everything and more in 1 hit to make up for missing out all other days.
If you can stop by a Michi no Eki (Road stop thing) and grab veggies there. I think they come directly from local farmers and are also very cheap compared to supermarkets. Curry is good to buy and cook when camping as well as Banana Sangas.
If you could change anything with gained hindsight what would it be?
I wouldn’t have gone from North to South in the Summer, although I hear that this Summer (2018) is particularly hot, it would have been easier to go towards Hokkaido (North and therefore colder) during the hotter parts of Summer.
Tips for other bike tourers in Japan?
Ride on the road. The footpaths are horrible. Tunnels can also be scary if there is not a decent sidepath (rare in any case), be careful.
Put some signage or something on your bike that people can see, they will come talk and be nice to you. You will probably also get free food and drinks.
Beaches are bad to mediocre, don’t go out of your way to sea (haha) them.
Most people can kind of speak english. Talk slowly, use simple grammar and standard questions.
If you are doing it on the cheap: parks are good camp grounds. Set up your tent after dark and try to find a park with a shelter. Bubblers can double for showers. Supermarkets give discounts on ready to eat food after like 6pm.
Would you do it again?
Hmmm probably not to be honest. It was a very long and hard journey. I would consider potentially smaller trips i.e Tasmania with my GF if she’s up for it.