As BikePackingJapan.com is based in the Tokai region this brief introduction will be based only on the central area at the present time. As this website grows we hope to include other areas of Japan. Nevertheless it should be a useful introduction as a plenty of cyclists start their tours or bike packing trips in Tokyo, head west past Mt. Fuji, over the Japanese Alps to Takayama or elsewhere, before heading southwest towards Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, and on towards Kyoto and Osaka in the west.
For information about the weather take a look here.
Tokyo (東京) is part of the eastern area known as the Kanto region (関東地方). Kanto also includes Mt. Fuji to the west of Tokyo, Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島) to the south, and Yokohama (横浜).
Nagoya (名古屋), Gifu (岐阜), Takayama (高山), and Kanazawa (金沢) are in the central region known as Tokai. (東海地方).
To the west is Kansai (関西地方) which includes Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), Kyoto (京都), Nara (奈良), and Osaka (大阪).
The mountains in central Japan are known as the Japanese Alps (日本アルプス) and are divided into three regions; the Southern Alps (Minami Alps / 南アルプス), the Central Alps (Chuo Alps / 中央アルプス), and the Northern Alps (Kita Alps / 北アルプス).
The Southern Alps stretch from Shizuoka (静岡), Yamanashi (山梨), and Saitama (埼玉), north into Gunma (群馬) and Nagano (長野).
The Central Alps start near Iida (飯田) in southern Nagano and stretch north past Matsumoto (松本) and Takayama (高山) in Gifu.
Woman attending to her vegetable patch, Iida, central Japan
The Northern Alps stretch from north of Matsumoto into Gifu and Nagano, as well as Niigata (新潟) and Toyama (富山) on the Sea of Japan coast.
The Nakasendo (中山道) is an old route that runs from Tokyo up to Shiojiri before heading southwest towards southern Nagano and Gifu through the Kiso Valley (木曽谷).
Magome in winter on the Nakasendo
Lake Biwa is to the east of Kyoto and is Japan’s largest lake. It’s popular among cyclist as there are two basic courses if you want to circumnavigate the lake. The shorter one is roughly 150kms and the full course is 200kms.
Torii Gate, Lake Biwa
Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Osaka are the big cities and combined are home to the majority of the Japanese population. Be warned however, they can be daunting to navigate by bicycle.
More to follow shortly…