Here’s an idea…
Cycle and hike from Cape Sōya to Cape Sata, the northern and southern extremities of mainland Japan. Alan Booth wrote a book – The Roads to Sata – about walking between the two in 1977. It might be worth digging out. As might the film made by these three Americans who cycled the route in 2011 and here’s a more recent one taking in all the sites.
And here’s a map of a driving route via Tokyo avoiding highways and tolls. 3,000 km or thereabouts so quite short compared to my other endeavours.
David Thomas adds:
“Hi, I see you are planning a trip across Japan, looks fantastic. I would strongly recommend a little detour (or changed route) to take in the Shimanami Kaido between Onomichi and Imabari. Its well known, but it is lovely and certainly dramatic going over the big suspension bridges… here’s a link to the highway and cycle route.
We were in Japan with the kids so I wasn’t cycling, just got that day to do that route, didn’t quite complete it as I had to turn round and get the hire bike back before closing – still I did 100km and got over 5 of the 6 bridges – both ways. I wasn’t too upset, the last one is 4km long, and I must confess to finding out my head for heights wasn’t quite what I thought it was on the others! Apparently though on the last one (into Imabari) you can see whirlpools below, where two seas meet. IF you are interested these are my photos from the ride (quite a few…).
Final thought – Japan was GREAT – the help and assistance we got from strangers (usually in English..) was constant – people taking time out to ask if we needed help, even during rush our on the underground. Cycling it will be fantastic I’m sure, but you’ll miss the trains, which are genuinely awesome. As for hydration they have vending machines for drinks EVERYWHERE, so I didn’t actually have to carry a lot of liquid, despite the heat. Next to these machine are also the only public dustbins you’ll find anywhere in Japan.”
Andrew Marshall, long-time British resident of Japan adds:
“About your proposed trip… from Soya to Sata, what time of year were you planning to do this? Japan has high humidity and high heat from June to September which will really affect your cycling. Another not inconsiderable factor is the typhoon season that also kicks off around the same time.
A bunch of people worthwhile contacting is Half-Fast Cycling as committed a bunch of cycling lunatics as you could hope to meet. Their collective experience will be able to advise on routes etc. – your map on your page takes you along R4 a major route from Tokyo to the north, it’s unpleasant to drive and would be hell to cycle. Single digit roads should mostly be avoided due to heavy traffic. Don’t count on convenient drink vending machines in country areas. Convenience stores are ubiquitous but more sparse in the countryside unless there’s a village, town or other reason for them.
P.S. Try and get hold of Cycling Japan by Bryan Harrell it’s an almost Alan Booth era book of cycling routes in Japan, although dated is a good read and the roads are still there!”
An article about Japanese homestays on the National Geographic website.