Nara/Lake Biwa/Kyoto – Relaxed

This tour is perfect if you are interested in Japan’s traditional culture and enjoy relaxed bicycle rides. We explore Japan’s ancient capitals, Nara and Kyoto, and their surrounding areas which are considered to be the best repositories of Japan’s cultural legacy. We ride leisurely, making stops at temples and historical monuments. After two days in Nara we visit a ceramic town of Shigaraki. We spend the second half of the tour riding around Lake Biwa, the largest fresh water lake in Japan. En route we visit old merchant towns of Oumi-Hachiman and Gokasho, as well as the Hikone Castle which is one of the best preserved castles in Japan. Accommodation is varied from moderate western-style hotels to elegant Japanese-style inns (Ryokans). Some of the Japanese inns only have shared baths, and do not have private bath/showers in guest rooms. This itinerary is ideal for guests extending stay in Kyoto before or after the tour.


  • Meet/Depart:  Kyoto/Kyoto
  • Trip Length:  9 days 8 nights
  • Level:  RELAXED
  • Price per Person:  350,000JPY   (for currency converter click HERE)
  • Single Supplement:  30,000JPY
  • Ave. Temperature (High/Low) :  April 19/3C (66/37F)   Nov 17/3C (63/37F)
  • Minimum number of guests required for guaranteed departure: 4
2017  November 8-16

2018  April 11-19  /  November 7-15

  • Enjoy relaxed rides, mostly on flat terrains encompassing a few gentle hills.
  • Visit the ancient capital of Kyoto which has so much to offer to visitors.
  • Explore Nara by bicycle and reveal the rich history and hidden beauty of the city.
  • Visit a variety of historical places, including a ceramic town of Shigaraki and the Hikone Castle.
  • See the old merchant town of Oumi-Hachiman from the water by a traditional Japanese-style boat.
  • Picturesque rides around Lake Biwa.
  • All lodgings on a twin-share basis. A limited number of single-occupancy rooms are available for an additional charge on most tours. If you are a single traveler, please inquire for room availability and a single supplemental charge.
  • Meals (8 breakfasts, and 5 dinners. Lunch is not included.)
  • Guide and van support
  • Rental cross bike
  • Any ground transportations (except for private taxis)
  • Boat ride in Oumi-Hachiman
  • Admissions to temples, museums and historical attractions
  • Oka Tours custom cycling jersey and a water bottle
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Trip Itinerary

We meet at a hotel in Kyoto in the morning and take a local train to the city’s outskirts where our warm-up ride starts. We ride on a quiet bicycle path along the Kizu River towards Nara. Before arriving at our hotel, we stop by the Todai-ji Temple which enshrines a statue of the Great Buddha. We also visit the Todai-ji Museum and enjoy its excellent collection of historical treasures. We stay at a western-style hotel which is conveniently located at the heart of Nara for two nights. (Dinner included)
We continue to explore the ancient capital of Nara on bicycle. We ride through the preserved historic site of Heijo Palace ruins and stop by the Heijo Palace Site Museum. Then we follow quiet bicycle paths to visit one of the most prominent Buddhist temples in Nara – Horyu-ji Temple. Their buildings have all been well preserved in their original style and details since 8th century, and tell us about the culture of that age. We will return to our hotel in late afternoon. The evening is your free time – enjoy exploring the streets of Nara-machi featuring white stucco walls and wooden lattice windows, or stroll around the peaceful Sarusawa-no-ike Pond. (Breakfast included)
We leave Nara in the morning and head out to a ceramic town of Shigaraki. We ride on a gentle and quiet mountain road past a lot of beautiful tea fields, and arrive in Shigaraki in early afternoon. After a lunch break, we take a stroll in Shigaraki making stops at pottery studios and a ‘nobori-gama’ (a step-like kiln constructed on a slope). Shigaraki is known for ceramic tanuki (raccoon dog) dolls – they are everywhere in the town. Tonight we stay in a ryokan (Japanese-style inn), and unwind in a nice onsen (natural hot spring bath). (Breakfast and dinner included)
We cycle on quiet and gently rolling hills into a village of Koka, once home to ninjas around 15th to 18th centuries. After a brief visit to the ninja yashiki (ninja mansion), we continue pedaling leisurely towards Oumi-Hachiman. In Oumi-Hachiman, we explore the town’s merchant quarter on quaint streets with lattice windows and visit the town’s folklore museum as well as some of the former mansions of wealthy merchants. We stay at a western-style hotel in the town and enjoy Oumi beef sukiyaki dinner at a local restaurant. (Breakfast and dinner included)
We spend the morning seeing Oumi-Hachiman by a Japanese-style boat and enjoy views along the water channel like a maze surrounded by reeds. We then ride to Gokasho, another merchant town in the region. After lunch we cycle to Kongorinji Temple which is known for its show of autumnal leaves and variety of flowers throughout the seasons. Our destination today is a castle town of Hikone. We stay at a western-style hotel which offers a magnificent view of the elegant and majestic tower and turrets of the Hikone castle. (Breakfast and dinner included)
After breakfast we visit the Hikone Castle, one of four existing castles designated as a national treasure in Japan. We walk up the castle hill and enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Biwa from the top of the 400 year old main castle tower. By mid-morning we leave Hikone and ride north along the shoreline of Lake Biwa. A majority of the ride is on a bicycle lane, so we can ride comfortably and enjoy views of the beautiful lake. As we continue surroundings become very remote and quiet. We retreat in a Japanese-style inn located at the northern tip of Lake Biwa. (Breakfast and dinner included)
We continue to ride on quiet and scenic roads along Lake Biwa enjoying views of wildfowls and peaceful water. We ride past small villages lined with tile roof houses, shops that are generations old and sake breweries. We finish our ride in Takashima around noon. After lunch in Takashima, we take a local train to Kyoto and arrive there around 4pm. We stay at a casual western-style hotel conveniently located in the city center for two nights. (Breakfast included)
An ancient capital for 1,100 years, Kyoto is a living museum full of history and culture, and it is a must see destination in Japan. We spend the morning touring some of the city’s historic sites that are registered with UNESCO as World Cultural Heritage Sites, including Kinkakuji Temple, Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu-dera temple. The afternoon is your free time – the city has so much to offer so you will never feel that you have had enough time in this city! (Breakfast included)
Following breakfast, we say goodbye. You will be escorted by our guide to Kyoto train station where you can catch a limousine bus to the Kansai International Airport or a bullet train for next destination. If you wish to extend your stay in Kyoto, please ask for room availability when you make a reservation. (Breakfast included)