Thinking about going on a cycling holiday in Japan? If you are not then re-route your mind to this incredible island - Japan is one of the best places to cycle in the world.
Japan just seems to get everything right - it’s clean, safe, friendly, the roads are well maintained, the food is to die for and it is one of the most picturesque countries I've ever visited.
On top of this, cycling holidays are made even easier through their incredibly efficient baggage mailing service, meaning you can set up your own self guided tour but don't need to worry about lugging your stuff around.
We visited Kyushu in the south in April 2015. We booked a 7 day self guided cycling tour around Mount Aso (before it erupted - take a look at my blog post on climbing an erupting Mount Aso here). The company we booked our tour through didn’t offer a baggage transfer service, so we were initially at a loss of what to do. This was before we bought our touring bikes and we would be cycling the whole way on road bikes with no way to carry our luggage, let alone the bike boxes we had flown in with.
The tour company promptly told us not to worry as we could simply post our bags to our next hotel each night. As Japan is generally quite expensive we thought we’d be paying through the nose for this service, but we discovered that if we sent the bags overnight to arrive the following day it was only about $5-10AUD. Crazy! There is no way this would happen if we were travelling in Europe or Australia. Japan rocks!
It is possible to send your bags in the morning to arrive the same evening at your next hotel, however this did cost quite a bit more, particularly as we were in a rural area of Japan. So we simply packed two bags and alternated the days they would arrive so we’d always have a bag on arrival.
So how does it work?
All you have to do is take your bag to the reception desk at your hotel and ask them to send it to your next hotel. Give them the address and the date you want it to arrive and they will simply attach a form to your bags and off it goes.
As our Japanese language skills were non existent, our tour company gave us instructions written in Japanese for the reception desk which we carried with us. We showed it to them each day with the address and it worked every time.
We even stayed with a family one night in a home stay accommodation on a farm, and they did the same thing. I guess they took it to the post office...we couldn’t ask so we had to trust our bags would arrive! It was a bit nerve wracking each day wondering if we would have something to wear and wouldn’t be cycling in dirty or wet lycra the following day.
The one hitch we had was working out what to do with our bike boxes at the start of our trip. The tour company had assured us that we could store them at the hotel in Kumamoto where we would start and finish our trip. However, when we arrived we were told that there was no room at the hotel to store our two large boxes. I freaked out as was no way we could carry the boxes on our trip (they weren’t cardboard, they were large sturdy hard cases) and it seemed crazy and cumbersome to post them on each day.
So after much fretting about this, the very lovely and patient hotel manager came up with a solution. We would post the boxes to ourselves.
Umm, what? I thought.
The manager asked us to fill out a transfer form that sent our boxes to the same location, to arrive 7 days later. Basically they just went to a postal storage location for a week and came back again. Genius! I think it cost us about $50AUD or so to send them. A small price to pay to avoid lugging two big boxes all over Japan.
Did I mention Japan is awesome?
One thing to note - if you are going on a cycling holiday in Japan and intend on staying in traditional ryokans, which I highly recommend, then pack light. The ryokans give you slippers, socks and a robe to wear to dinner and around the hotel - people even wear them around the town. They also provide a toothbrush and comb, shampoo, conditioner etc so you don’t really need to carry much unless you really feel you need your own toiletries. I’d suggest ditching them and getting into the Japanese spirit.
If you are interested in doing a cycling tour through southern Japan, this is the company we booked through - www.japanbiking.com. I highly recommend them!