Thinking of a cycling trip with a small group of friends? How about cycling along the Tokaido Road in Japan? As an introduction, the “Tokaido Road” is the road which the Japanese have used ever since the olden days. During the “Edo Period”, this road was ‘the’ connection between the 2 capitals, Edo (now known as Tokyo) and Kyoto. The Japanese citizens during that time used to walk back and forth along this approximately 560km road. Now part of this road has become a highway for cars to travel. This highway is also commonly known as “Route 1” in Japan. Along this highway, they also have provided a walkway for pedestrians or for cyclists.
Firstly, it is highly recommended that you yourself are physically and mentally ready for a long journey on a bicycle. Secondly, do you plan to go though this trip without getting off your bicycles despite rainy days or do you plan on getting on the trains to cover some distances? The “Hon-Tokaido” 「本東海道」 train line runs nearby along “Route 1”. Depending on your decision, you might want to consider what kind of bicycles you bring on your trip.
If you plan on going on bike all the way, then you wouldn’t have to worry too much. However, if you plan on going on the trains at some point of the trip, then you might want to consider getting a fold-able bicycle. However, it doesn’t end there. In Japan, carrying a fold-able bicycle wrapped up in a bag is a ‘must’. Therefore, do consider the weight of the fold-able bicycle when purchasing one. As for the equipment, if you are carrying a bag pack on your travels, do consider installing a rack on your bicycle or just have a basket which is able to fit it or just have both. Remember, if you have a fold-able bicycle and intend to carry it, do consider the weight for the rack.
Have a good look at the map of the Tokaido road. Setting up camps randomly in Japan is a no-no as well. If you have a budget concern, then I would highly recommend booking your accommodations ahead of time. Due to the 2020 Japan Olympics approaching, tourism has become one of Japan’s focus and the number of tourists have indeed been increasing from the year 2015 itself. If you do not have a strict budget, then I think you wouldn’t have to worry about needing to book in advance as there will be options. In Japan, there are more and more people who are using AirBnB and also there are many cheap hotels (cheaper than capsule hotels) in the Japanese Rakuten Travel site. Or you may even rough it out by attempting to stay the night in a Manga Cafe as most of them in Japan do come equipped with showers and a little personal cubicles where you can rest in and use the internet.
Please be careful as there may be sections of “Route 1” which does not have a proper path, especially when reaching the coastal areas in Tokyo until past Fuji mountain area. There will be uphills so be sure that you are fit enough and you have gears on your bicycle that can help you with the slopes. Otherwise, you will be greeted by nature, hidden gems, lush green fields or just simply indescribable views which you would not be able to experience in a train or in a car. If you have the luxury of more time, occasionally take the time to make some random detours into little streets or towns as you may even get pleasant surprises!
To sum it all up, do lots and lots of research, plan this as detailed as you can and most importantly, keep an open mind and enjoy every moment. You get to see so much more than what a normal Japanese person would have and you even get to enjoy all the local cuisines along the way! Make sure you have your cameras ready too! It will definitely be a trip with no regrets.