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Cycle Japan

Tanigawa Glacier

"So I was up on the mountain the other day, and we're going to have to alter one of our rides due to deep snow" explained Adam during our final Skype conversation prior to our departure for Cycle Japan.

Bike packing 101

A few days later and there we were, loading eleven bike bags into a small van at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Thankfully our Melbourne-based riders (Jade & Scott ... soon to be Mr & Mrs) had arrived two days earlier, as our Tetris expertise was certainly put to the test. Unlike Paul McCartney's 1980 visit, we were here to ride our bikes and enjoy a cultural experience.

Blue Monkey menu

Cycle Japan consisted of two nights sampling Tokyo, then four days of solid riding, with an optional fifth day to ride and/or explore the local area (i.e. sightseeing, shopping, bungy, rafting, onsen, etc.). Our incredible hosts at the Blue Monkey Lodge and Lounge (Adam, Ruth, Pete and Ami) spoilt us with delicious food, comfortable lodgings, and daily soaks in their rejuvenating onsen (natural hot springs bathing area).


As expected from an area renown for it's skiing, all roads led skywards. Adam was true to his word when he described the tour as "honest riding". What goes up must certainly come down, and so our daily climbing adventures also included a regular dose of adrenaline pumping descents down roads, singletrack, ski-fields, and through back streets. One particular ski-field descent had us stopping three-quarters of the way down to cool our brakes (and cleanse our nostrils of the pungent burning aroma generated).

Fresh mountain scenery

For all it was a challenging and rewarding few days on the bike, with the unique opportunity to experience a Hors Categorie climb (a first - and possibly last - for most). Another interesting feature of the rides were the countless tunnels scattered throughout; some being several hundred metres long, very dark, and chillingly cold (for me anyway).

Hors Categorie climbing

I have ridden in many places around the world and this tour certainly contained some of my best memories on the bike ever. Whilst this particular tour had been designed to cater for the high fitness and skill level of the riders attending, there is enormous flexibility available to cater for many different requirements. With so much breathtaking scenery on offer, Scott (Melbourne) described some days as "beautiful suffering" (#beautifulsuffering).

More climbing!

For all the long months of planning, our time in Japan seemed to go by so fast; from our short visit to Tokyo exploring the Tsukiji fish market, Harajuku and the thousands of restaurants and bars dotted throughout the city, to our ride retreat at the Blue Monkey.

Vending machines

Japan truly is a sensory overload; sights, sounds, smell, feel and taste. Everywhere we turned there was something different to marvel at. Even selecting drinks from a vending machine (which were on almost every street corner) was an educational experience - I personally wouldn't recommend the fruit flavoured jelly drinks with marshmellows, but that's just my opinion.

Making tracks in the snow

Following-on from the riding tour I had planned an extra few days of travel and sightseeing to include Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. After all, I hadn't traveled all this way just to ride my bike.

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto

In Osaka I booked three nights in a capsule hotel, which turned out to be very spacious and comfortable. If the thought of wandering around in your pyjamas whilst inside doesn't interest you, then look elsewhere. I took full advantage of my stay and enjoyed dinner in their restaurant whilst dressed in my bathrobe ... only in Japan!

Capsule Hotel, Osaka

After the hectic pace of Tokyo and Osaka, Hiroshima seemed quiet (by Japanese standards anyway). As a youth I had read and heard so much about Hiroshima (the atomic bomb, Sudako and the Thousand Paper Cranes). Visiting the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima's Peace Park was definitely a sombre and humbling experience.

A-bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Across the Onoseto Strait, a brief ten minute ferry trip from the mainland near Hiroshima, lies Miyajima Island - home of the World Heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine and O-torii Gate. Miyajima is also famous for it's oyster farming and wild deer (which will eat your tourist map right out of your hand if you're not careful). Needless to say, oysters were the choice for lunch along with grilled eel and an assortment of other seafood side-dishes.

Looking through Itsukushima Shrine towards O-torii Gate

After a relaxing overnight stay in Hiroshima I was back aboard the shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Osaka. Getting around Japan is such a breeze with their efficient and effective rail and metro system. Once you learn how to navigate the Japanese subways the country becomes much smaller, until you take the wrong exit and become lost again. One particular afternoon I decided to do just that (get lost). I jumped off the train at an unknown stop and went walking. After an enjoyable few hours of losing myself in the sea of people, I found my way home to my capsule again. Phew!


With so much left to see, eat and enjoy in Japan I am already planning my return in September to appreciate Autumn and the changing of the leaves from green to golden brown. Hopefully this time I won't need to pack my thermals and winter clothing (more room for souvenirs).

Llew enjoying the snow

Quotes from the tour:

Normie - "I don't think that red meat was beef".

Colleen - "The snow really does turn yellow".

Adam - "It's a gentle climb back up to the lodge from here"

Kerrod - "It's okay for you {expletive} whippets".

Scott - "I have good sensations in my legs today".

Me - "Chicken gizzards? I would never have picked it".


Did you miss the inaugural Cycle Japan Tour? Blue Monkey Lodge & Lounge are offering cyclists an exclusive Autumn Adventure Tour from 25 September - 3 October 2015. This tour will be strictly limited to ten riders, so register your interest early to avoid missing out again.

What: Cycle Japan - Autumn Adventure*

Where: Blue Monkey Lodge & Lounge

When: 25 September - 3 October 2015

*** Strictly limited to 10 riders ***

* This tour is designed for MTB's only.

Register Now

Email us today:

ready to roll

Arigato Nihon!

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