CJA2302 The Secrets of Japan in autumn

Tokyo’s skyline at night

Japan – a mix of ancient traditions with modern technology, fantasy and creativity.

We start by riding the elevated highways of Tokyo leaving the frenzy metropolis behind, heading to the peninsula of Izu and its breath-taking skyline roads, followed by a visit to Japan’s highest and most famous majestic peak: Mount Fuji. Up next is the Ise Bay, the ancient pilgrimage city of Koya and Kyoto, before we discover Himeji and its unique castle architecture. We continue riding North through the most beautiful roads like the “Mikata Five Lakes Rainbow Line” and the Chirihama Beach Driveway. Crossing the mountains of the Japanese Alps takes us to the spiritual world heritage city: Nikko.

This motorcycle tour through Japan will broaden your horizon, give you an insight into thousands of years of history and ensure a riding experience like no other!

Day 2 – Tokyo to Shimoda

Everyone in our international group of riders is very excited to finally get the tour started. On our first riding day, we are cruising the highways out of Tokyo towards the coastline near Yokohama, combining the visit of the shrine and the temple on Enoshima island with an icecream. Later a row of skyline drives, such as Mazda, Izu, Ashinoko, and Hakone offer us curves galore and great views of the Japanese countryside. We round up our day in a cliff hotel in Shimoda on Izu Peninsula.

Day 3 – Shimoda to Yamanakako

Ohaio gosei mas – or good morning in Japanese! And this is exactly what it is, the sun is already shining here in Japan and sends us out of bed early. That’s a good thing, because we have a lot planned for today. We spiral up the two-storey road on our motorcycles and then continue on the smallest and most winding roads through the Japanese forests. During our first break this morning, we get to see Japan’s sacred mountain. Wow, what a great view! Mixed with anticipation, because after the following drive over the Ashinoko skyline, we will end this day with a drive up Mount Fuji.

Day 4 – Yamanakako to Hamamatsu

Today’s riding day will be for fans of narrow and winding mountain roads. Generally, most people think of a lot of traffic when they think of Japan and motorcycling. This may certainly be true for some areas of Japan. However, the reality of our tour is that for a large part of the day we disappear with our motorcycles into the forested mountains of the country, which virtually run through the center of Japan from north to south. This is where the real fun of riding in Japan can be found!

Day 5 – Hamamatsu to Kumano

We had to get up early this morning. The reason for it is the distance we need to cover from Hammamatsu to Cape Irago. Our plan is to catch the ferry that takes us from there to the other side to Tobe.

From Tobe, we first take the Pearl Road Drive along the coast. Our lunch in this typical Japanese restaurant delights us all. It tastes simply delicious.

Unfortunately, it starts to rain more heavily in the afternoon, so we have to switch from the small side roads back to the main road and then take the shortest route directly to our hotel today. But this doesn’t really bother anyone, as a very nice hotel with a wonderful Onsen awaits us there.

Day 6 – Kumano to Kyoto

Our main topic of the day is dedicated to the religion in Japan. Shinto and Buddhism dominate in the country. We leave Kumano and the south-east coast of Japan in the morning, travelling first along the winding Koya-Ryujin skyline to Koyasan. Koyasan is one of the largest spiritual centres in Japan. However, it is not overcrowded as it is located quite high up in the mountains and only those who are really interested find their way here.

After visiting some of the temples and having lunch, we take the motorway to Kyoto. When you let your eyes wander, you realise what you couldn’t have imagined before: the two cities of Osaka and Kyoto are so big that you can’t tell the beginning from the end.

Day 7 – Restday in Kyoto

It always pays to be open-minded when traveling. Today, on our rest day here in Kyoto, we were able to prove that this is true.

We left our hotel in northern Kyoto shortly after breakfast. The sights here are all new to our guests. But this time we also wanted to discover something new for us.

Kyoto is home to the Golden Temple. As we discovered, there is actually also a Silver Temple. And of course, we wanted to get to know it too. Starting from the Silver Temple, you can walk along the ‘Philosopher’s Path’ towards the city center.

After a short cab ride, we arrive at the Ryozen Kannon, a gigantic budda, and at the Kōdai-ji Temple. The latter is bordered by a small bamboo forest, which we of course also strolled through.

The biggest highlight of today’s sightseeing program was our visit to the Nishiki market, to which we walked via the Gion district, the district where the geishas are at home. By accident we ran into a pet café, a quite unique experience 

In the evening most of the group chose a teppanyaki restaurant for dinner.

Day 8 – Kyoto to Himeji

After our rest day in Kyoto, we are well rested and ready to move on. Our next destination will be Himeji and the reason we want to arrive there early is our visit to the Castle of Himeji, also called “The White Heron”.

But still, we also want to get in some good riding along the way. We found a good compromise by first riding north of Kyoto on some remote and narrow roads in the forests before we continued our way on the mainroads to our hotel in Himeji city.

Day 9 – Himeji to Awara

We’re getting ready for a long day of riding, with mainly riding highlights to experience. We quickly leave Himeji and take the fastest route from Japan’s south-east coast to its north-west coast.

After lunch, we ride up the short pass road to the Mikata 5 Lakes car park. From here, a small chairlift takes us right up to the top of the mountain. What you wouldn’t expect from the car park: from up here you have a fantastic 360° panoramic view of the 5 differently coloured lakes that give the pass road its name. Due to their different salt content, the colour of the water also varies.

For the rest of the second half of the day, we ride along the beautiful coastal road past Fukui. A film-like sunset accompanies us almost all the way to our hotel in Awara.

Day 10 – Awara to Nanao

Today we saw a lot of rain coming down in the morning. This is why we took it easy, and we left our hotel in Awara a bit later today.

First, the visit of the famous Eiheiji Zen monastery was on the schedule. Later in the afternoon, if the weather allows, we will ride on the only driveable beach in Japan

Day 11 – Rest day in Nanao

We are in Nanao on the Noto Peninsula today. It is our second rest day on tour. We really want to explore this beautiful peninsula by motorbike. First thing in the morning we ride along the west coast to Wajima. There we visit a small traditional business that coats objects such as bowls and chopsticks, tables and much more with the naturally occurring lacquer.

We then travelled further around the island and visited the photogenic rice terraces. We stopped for a delicious lunch almost at the tip of the peninsula.

Today’s rest day ended with an entertaining photo stop at the huge rock ‘Mitsuke Island’.

Day 12 – Nanao to Hirayu

Well rested after our rest day here in Nanao, we saddle up our steel steeds again in the morning and ride on towards the Japanese Alps.

The lower temperatures are accompanied by rain in the morning, so we initially decide to take the shorter route. Today’s highlight is the thatched houses of Shirakawago. The valley that leads to this place can now be reached on a well-maintained road. However, this was not always the case. For a long time, this area was only accessible under difficult conditions and led to migration to larger towns. To prevent this cultural asset from disappearing, the houses of Shirakawago have been declared a World Heritage Site.

Our destination for today, Hirayu, is already located in the Japanese mountains.

Day 13 – Hirayu to Kusatsu

The cool temperatures of the previous day and the weather forecast had already given us an idea. We found confirmation in the morning when we opened the curtains in our room – it had snowed overnight up here in Hierayu. Not an alarming amount, but still so much that we initially thought about postponing our departure time. In the end, however, this wasn’t necessary as all the roads were clear and very easy to drive on.

On the contrary, there were always wonderful views of the snow-covered landscape along the way.

Our route took us relatively quickly through several tunnels down into the valley. Our highlight of the day was a visit to the wasabi farm. Almost everyone knows wasabi. It is a relative of horseradish and, when eaten, brings at least as much pungency to the nose and forehead as horseradish.

Today we take a winding route to Kusatsu, the place in Japan that is famous for its hot springs. Here, the natural volcanic water gushes out of the ground so hot that the place is surrounded by tall columns of steam.

Day 14 – Kusatsu to Nikko

Although the mountains here in Kusatsu are also covered in snow, we don’t think about Christmas at all. Instead, we consider ourselves being blessed to get to spend every day on our motorbikes here in Japan.

First of all, we are travelling to lower regions again this morning. Even the drive up to the two volcanoes Mt Haruna and Mt Akagi no longer takes us to such high altitudes, so the weather of the past two days is literally “water under the bridge”.

As the Japanese panoramic road is also impassable today due to the snowfall, we take the alternative route, which is extremely entertaining, too, with its extremely winding sections.

Today’s ride ends with the winding round course near Lake Chuzenji. The two separate sections running uphill and downhill are every motorcyclist’s dream. Although there are two lanes, the two roads only run in one direction each. This means we can concentrate fully on riding without any worries or oncoming traffic.

Day 15 – Nikko to Tokyo

Our last day of travelling has begun, but of course that doesn’t mean we’re going straight back to Tokyo. Of course, there is still plenty to see and experience on the last day of our fantastic tour of Japan!

It’s hard to believe, but this morning we find ourselves on one of the most beautiful stretches of road lined with Japanese maple trees immediately after leaving our hotel. Although the winding mountain road is inviting, we don’t want to drive that fast. Letting the blaze of colour trickle past us once again is simply too beautiful to not enjoy.

The subsequent unofficial race track, known from the Initial D anime comic, is a treat for motorbike enthusiasts. Good riding skills are required here.

We reach Motegi via side roads. Here we visit the famous Motegi Twin Ring racetrack. A guided tour of the tower and paddocks adds a special touch to our visit. We learn that the teams currently in the paddocks don’t normally let anyone in. But they made an exception for us and we were allowed an exclusive, up-close look at their race cars! What an honour! We were all very impressed!

Finally, of course, we took a look at the Honda Collection Hall, which is also located on the race track grounds.

It gets dark relatively early in Japan in autumn. Who would have thought that this very fact (which we usually avoid) would offer us probably the most spectacular finish you could wish for. Just seeing Tokyo’s skyline at sunset was simply amazing! But that moment when Mount Fuji appeared behind the skyscrapers in the sunset, we were completely blown away! All this while we returned to the world’s largest metropolis in dense but extremely orderly traffic. Unfortunately, we were unable to capture this scene in a photo while riding. So this remains one of the secrets to be discovered for anyone who wants to experience this incredible tour in the future.

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