I spent four weeks bike touring on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido for less than $1000 including airfare. I enjoyed good food, met great people, and immersed myself in amazing scenery as well as numerous hot springs.

Here are some tips on how I did it, and how you can too.

Step 1: Plan Your Trip

I picked a good area and time to visit-
Hokkaido in September was a good choice, in spite of the fact that it rains (a lot). Campsites are plentiful and cheap, and there are loads of natural hot springs, mountains and good roads. August would have been crowded, and October would have been cold. I rented out my apartment, which gave me a $1000 credit toward my plane ticket. That was $1230 RT from San Francisco, CA to Asahikawa, Hokkaido.

Asahikawa is well situated. My plane was late, but I still had time to assemble my bike and gear, and ride the 14 km to a free urban campsite, where I bought fuel and food for my trip.

I brought my own bike-
ANA still flies your bike for free, and will guarantee that policy on connecting flights- even if you have to spend a night in Tokyo and switch airports. They are nice, the food is good and they even allowed me to return with overweight bags. Twice - no charge.

I packed light-
I put my bike in a Japanese bike bag for the flight, and used compression sacks to get it all in there, tent, bags stove- the works. I can carry it by myself, even with the bike packed up. This means I can take a bus or train should I break down on the road. You might use a bike box, or consider buying a "rinkyou bukuro" bag for your return trip. That way, you can ride back to the airport and pack your bags.

I flew to my start and endpoints-
JapanRail passes are a great deal, but it's very hard to pack and carry your full sized bike and get it on and off trains. Perhaps you should save it for another trip or a trip- or use it with your folding bike.

You might take a Japanese Class-
Or go to a local Japanese restaurant with a phrase book or dictionary and chat up the staff. It was easy for me to find and trade language skills in San Francisco, but I got so much out of a conversational language class that I really have to encourage you to do it. People will really want to talk to you if you show some interest in learning Japanese.

Get hold of a Touring Mapple-
The Lonely Planet guide is fine, sure, but you want to travel Japanese style and meet Japanese people, right? You might want to cut out some pages, and leave it at home. The Touring Mapple is an amazing tool- if a bit mystifying at first. Find your next campsite, hot bath and ATM. Convenience stores have 1000yen maps by Mapple, and are adequate in a pinch. Your new Japanese friend can help you order one on line, and tell you what the symbols mean, or you can take your chances and try to buy one when you get there. Many large department stores have book shops (as well as supermarkets!) There is also a magazine called 0Yen Mapple, and if you can get it for your region, you should.

<p>Hi Diane,</p><p>Found this as the top hit in <a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=bike+touring+in++japan" rel="nofollow">https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-insta...</a> . Congrats on being the #1 top hit...well deserved.</p><p>I've just finished my first tour, 12 weeks around eastern/northern europe. I'm considering Japan for my next trip (would be ~4 weeks). This was fascinating and informative. </p><p>FWIW, I've ended up using smart phone exclusively for navigation, which is probably more doable now than 5 years ago. I couldn't imagine not having it for mp3s and working around language barriers. But you have me persuaded, learning some conversational amount of Japanese would be well worth it. Also, I'm a little embarrassed to admit I had to look up 'compact crank puller', and don't know how to use one (compact or otherwise). I probably should learn before the next trip (and more about tending to bikes in general). :)</p><p>Anyways, thanks so much for writing this up!</p>
<p>How difficult would it be for a person who speaks no Japanese at all? At my age, I can't easily learn new languages and I never had an aptitude towards learning languages. But I would like to summer with my bike in a part of Japan and if Hokkaido is not too rigorous for riding, it can be a great choice, having no preset destination requirements for such a trip. Thank You for the article! </p>
<p>Hi John,</p><p>Without any language- on a scale of 1 to difficult, I would say that it would be difficult. </p><p>You don't have to become fluent, but you should probably put some time into trying if you don't want to be too frustrated. Also- Hokkaido is a place with a lot of mountains. The terrain is challenging, and the small towns are getting smaller, with even fewer people able to speak English. </p>
<p>Great report. Things are somewhat more expensive now, of course. If one is doing upwards of 125 km a day, there won't be much time for foraging, etc. I'd budget at least 1000 yen a day for food alone if cycling such distances. Cycling outside of Hokkaido is quite different, too, as was alluded to regarding the cost of camp sites. Altogether, I'd take at least 2000 US for a trip of this duration. </p>
Very impressed - even more so after realizing only around slide 8 'ish that you were/are female. More impressed. Nice job, thank you!
<p>Not sure where you're going with that (female comment), but thanks for the kudos anyway. </p>
Hi,<br><br>I would like to know how much should I budget each day for a trip like this?<br><br>Thanks
<p>I would say- budget $50/day and spend $20. That way you're covered in case stuff goes wrong. This was my second trip, and I'm a pretty advanced budgetter with some language skills. On your first trip, and especially without language skills- you'll want some comforts and some cushions. </p>
Thank you for all that advice. I went to some onsens last year on a Japanrail trip but bike camping on a shoestring sound's like a great way to do it. There's a great book called touring Californias hot springs that came in handy for a recent car camping hot springs trip i did in November last year.
Thanks for Sharing! I can understand you really enjoyed your trip in Hokkaido.
Japans an awesome PLace.<br>Its really nice no need to be scared. my cousin and his friends, when they are bored they take a train to any random destination and work their way back home. My cousin got free meals as well :D
Nice Instructable!
thank you very much. you make me want to travel (after I learn the language)...
A link to a video might be helpful in showing the hand signals you mentioned. And also how to pronounce the Japanese words you have here. Great 'ible.<br>
I was stationed at Yokosuka in the earlr 60's. I would take off on the weekends on a little 200cc Honda and travel thru Japan. Japan is a very easy and safe country to travel in. The people are great and will go out of there way to help you.
Tottally awesome...
awesome! did the same thing with my dad during this past holiday... only in china, we left shanghai and just kept going! we had planned on just sleeping in our backpacking hammocks but it turns out that's illegal in china. What isn't? however, we got bailed out by a local who told the cop we were his house guests. so overall bike-camping in Asia= great idea! as long as you hang your hammock in a discreet place. haha
Wow. Bicycle tourist? You are cool. Really cool. I cant even bike down to the local grocery. Nice job, I love this! Now I want to bike over to Japan..
You F'n rock! Keep it up and do not stop........... you animal you!
it was a fantastic write up, especially for women. thanks!
Nice write up. We live in Aomori prefecture and you are correct camping is not cheap on the main island. Being in rual Japan is nice &amp; the people are friendly.
Cool adventure, thanks for sharing!<br>You might want to include where your trip originated (guessing San Fran from Step 1), as flight cost can vary depending on location.
Done. Thanks for catching the oversight!
What a tremenous writeup! Thank you for putting this together, and for including all of the personal photos!

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