Recommend this pageContact us

CJA2302 The Secrets of Japan in autumn

Monday, November 20, 2023 | Angela | Asia

At the paddock, Motegi Twin Ring
Dragons in Buddhism are connected to the element water
Mitsuke Island
Foot bath with a view on Mikatagoko
Himeji Castle
Japanese colour explosion
Impressive Mt. Fuji
Tokyo's skyline at night

Travelling Japan is a fantastic experience during the time of the cherry blossom in spring. And personally I thought the beauty of this country cannot be topped. Travelling Japan during the Momiji, the season of the changing of the leaves, however, turns out to be just as beautiful. While you feel like riding through a fairytale story during spring, now, in autumn you feel like riding through a painter's color palette.

For the next 14 days we will be riding a big loop on Honshū, Japan's largest island. From Tokyo, we start a clockwise loop to cities like Himeji, Kyoto, Kusatsu and Nikko.

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. 

Dimitrio und Panos, the Greek brothers in our tour group.
We were supporting each other huffing and puffing those many steps up to the temple.
Ice cream, of course, is also available in Japan. Most wanted, though, is the green tea ice cream
The ice cream fuelled our ride up the Mazda Skyline.
Panos in full swing
The group in front of Mt. Fuji (from left to right): Panos and Dimitrio (Greece), Mike (USA), Jens (Germany), Francesca and Scott (USA), Salome (Germany), Patti and Steve (USA)
At the end of the day, we took the chairlift up Mt. Omuro. While walking around the rim of the long-time extinct volcano you can enjoy magnificent views of the ocean and the mountains.
These monk statues are made out of stone and can be found all over Japan
Salome and Jens had great fun riding the old-fashioned chairlift
With a view like this we call it a day. See you back tomorrow

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.

I think this sign says "stop here for a picture"
Along the Izu road which is winding along on the Izu Peninsula, again and again Mount Fuji pops up after every other curve.
There are countless photo opportunities along the route. You could literally stop at every bend.
The trees along the road slow us down with their colorful splendor. And each of us uttered a devout "Ohhhh wow".
The road up Mount Fuji runs about halfway up the mountain.

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!

Early morning sunrise at Fuji's foothills
At our first coffee stop, Panos already got into contact with some Japanese motorcyclists
They say, if you ring the bell, love will find you. We thought more love can't hurt
Unbelievable but true: one of the most interesting things to talk about in Japan is the place where you meet with "Mr. Toto"
Places with larger facilities even have a site plan, on which you can see, which toilet is available.
Our tonight's hotel hosted an anniversary dinner, and therefore the chef "painted" this Dragon with whisked egg white

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.

We are waiting for the ferry to Toba.
Ready to roll on
The sign says "this direction"
On the most narrow roads we continue along the coast towards the Toba Observation Deck
We take our lunch in this cute little restaurant. Delicious food here.
The lady owner is happy to see us back again.
We continue our ride to Kumano, passing by numerous rice fields
A Japanese bus stop
Mike is having a blast riding on these hidden small country roads.
In a typical Japanese hotel, which is called Ryokan, they offer you to wear a Yukata, a traditional type of dress. It either looks similar to a kimono or (as in our case here) to a pyjama. But this is perfectly fine and accepted here in Japan. It is super comfortable.

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.

Again and again, we are passing by theses beautiful Japanese Maple trees. The colours are simply stunning!
Die route from Riujin to Koyasan is a perfect motorcycle eldorado.
We are in Koyasan for lunch and for sightseeing. There are so many temples hidden in the woods, that you could spend days here to see them all
Foot path to one of the shrines
A Ginko tree turning yellow
Filling up a motorcycle can be so convenient. In Japan you are still being served at the pump

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.

The Silver Temple is not plated in silver like the Golden Temple is plated in gold. The Shogun who had built the temple back then planned to have it coated in a silver foil, but it never happened. Still it is a very beautiful temple surrounded by a pristine garden, which offers great views of the temple and the city of Kyoto
Moss is omnipresent in Japan. Especially in gardens like that of the Silver Pavilion.
There are also many Japanese maple trees here in the temple garden, which are currently showing their colourful side.
Big Buddha - the correct name of it here in this place is "Ryozen Kannon"
Inside the Buddha there are various statues representing the respective zodiac signs according to the Chinese system
Next-door to the Bhudda we found the peaceful Kodai-ji Temple. It is located a little further south of the Silver Temple.
Kodai-ji Tempel
And here too, of course, there are countless Kodak moments in all shades of color.
It would be nice to meet and talk to a real geisha. However, this is a goal which is hard to achieve. But these beautiful young ladies, who just rented the geisha outfit, still made it look very real and worthwhile the picture.
Naturally, every temple with an attached garden attracts people to throw a coin for good wishes.
There is also a small bamboo grove attached to the temple complex.
Jens and Salome enjoy the bamboo forest as well, the day and the whole tour and all of Japan
After quite a bit of walking, we are taking a break, having a cup of matcha green tea.
On the way to the Nishiki-Market, we saw more "fake" geishas
Slightly different than at home, ey?
I've always wanted to try out what these Japanese pet cafés are all about.
Here in the Nishiki market we found what we were looking for. To us pretty unusual this pig café.
As many Japanese people are unable to keep pets due to their very small flats, but would still like to have some, they have solved this shortcoming with the pet cafés. A great thing, we think. The cafés themselves are very small and only have a few animals. So you change every half hour to an hour or so.
In the evening, the group went to eat Teppanyaki

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.

Steve and Pati from USA on their Ducati Multistrada V4
Of course, we see a lot of mind-blowing colourful trees.
Our lunch stop offers numerous little things to see and admire
Panos from Greece, Salome from Germany, and Mike and Francesca from USA are enjoying the sun in front of our small restaurant.
Japan has many older inhabitants which are still working. We frequent the restaurant of this wonderful couple every time we are in Japan. They own such a unique place.
We made it. The visit of the Himeji Castle worked out well for us.
After our visit of the castle, we take a walk back to our hotel by walking through the covered market.
Looking what kind of things the Japanese sell seems to have become a sport among this group. No surprise, it is so interesting to see all theses practical things.

Here though, you can see fruits in Moji, a kind of rice jelly.
The typical Japanese paper lamps

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.

The group's lady power: Salome, Francesca, Patti and Angela
Jens and Salome
Panos, Dimitrios and Mike entering the chair lift
The chairlift looks a little old-fashioned. For those who prefer a less antique ride, there is also a modern gondola next to it.
Patti is always in good spirits
Panos also made it to the top
The panoramic view from the top over the ocean and the Mikata 5 Lakes
Many sights are dedicated to love. At the summit of the Mikata 5 Lakes, for example, there is another Love Bell.
And also this small praying temple is designed that you can pray together with your partner - one on either side
Along the coastal road, we come across snow crab fishermen selling their fresh produce.
A typical picture of the coastal road.
We couldn't drive past this viewing boat without taking a photo at sunset.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we dressed up again in the yukata provided. The garden, which is typically well-tended down to the last detail, provided Mike, Salome and Jens with the perfect setting for the perfect Japanese photo
We may as well leave Mike here in Japan. No one could tell the difference

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

In Japan, it is not uncommon to be seen off personally on departure.
Today's highlight is a visit to the Eiheiji Temple.
The form of Zen Buddhism, which is widespread in Japan, is taught and practised here
The fact that Zen Buddhism is practised here in Eiheiji becomes evident watching this gentleman: it's hard to believe, but he really cuts each noodle individually! Fortunately, it's not mass production. He "only" cuts the noodles for the soba in the restaurant next door.
Japanese construction sites are "secured" with these brightly coloured figures
It's pretty obvious which room is occupied by Japanese and which by non-Japanese, isn't it?

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'.

At the laquer place in Wajima. These rice bowls are only half finished
This guitar sure will look nice once it will be finished with the laquer
This is a piece of the tree of which they take the sap
And here is the rwsult: A beautifully finished lacquer rice bowl
Almost anything can be coated with lacquer.
Our ride along the coast to the rice terraces
Senmaida rice terraces
All the riders in our group are so excited to discover as much as possible of Japan, that the whole group went on the rest day's ride.
Mike is 'loving every minute of it' (his own words)
Steven, trying to take a Japanese bus. It never came, so he returned to the bike eventually
Steve and ...
... Adrian with their new hairdo
This group seems to be drawn to these Japanese vending machines. Admittedly, trying to find out what it all is that you can get out of it, is one of the most exciting "sports" for us in Japan.
The route over the small Noto Island takes us back to Nanao, after another great riding day.

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.

The houses with their thatched roofs are beautiful to look at, especially in autumn.
This house is home to a typical restaurant in the region. We have lunch here.
This staircase leading to our restaurant is certainly "as old as the hills"
Motorbike parking in Japanese. If it wasn't for the motorbike and the "P" - nobody would know what was going on

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.

A white surprise in the morning
The Japanese gardens are very peaceful. You would like to stand in front of them and just look. The longer you linger, the more inconspicuous details catch your eye that you wouldn't have noticed if you had just walked past.
Wasabi is added to everything at the wasabi farm. Even this sausage. Of course, wasabi ice cream is also a must.
A wasabi field ready for planting.
A wasabi field almost ready for harvesting.
The Japanese Alps are covered in snow above an altitude of 1200 metres. Unfortunately, because of the snow, it won't be possible for us to drive over the 2000 meter high Mt Shirane Road and to the snow monkeys today.
Our earlier arrival makes perfect sense, as we can go and see the center of Kusatsu before dinner to see the hot springs in the centre of the village. They are the landmark of Kusatsu. Of course, it smells a little sulphurous. The water gushes out of the ground at around 90°C. During the day, you can admire the skilful performance of the "water turners". They cool the water down to lower temperatures.

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.

With this Christmas tree as a backdrop, today's morning briefing in the hotel lobby feels somehow bizarre.
At the crater lake of the long-extinct volcano Mt Haruna
The Japanese penchant for kitsch and their tendency to project the world of comics into reality seems to be almost inexhaustible.
On the crater lake of Mt Akagi, the second, long-extinct volcano today, there is a small island with a bright red temple. The covered fountain is a kind of spiritual washbasin where visitors symbolically cleanse their hands and mouths.
There is already a thin layer of snow on the peaks of the surrounding mountains.
Buddhist stone columns wherever you look.
It's difficult not to want to capture the many moments and things, that are so exotic for us ...
... like this figure of a geisha, which is undoubtedly (albeit kitschy) simply part of our image of Japan.
This is the part of the two-lane one-way bend that leads back down into the valley. A dream motorbike route.

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.

At the top of this mountain pass, lined with maple trees, we discover an unexpected surprise. There is actually a hotel here called Edelweiss - not a biker hotel, though, but a ski resort
In the sunlight, this Japanese maple turned such a bright red that the landscape behind it looked like a coloured silhouette.
We have arrived at the Motegi Twin Ring and are getting a taste of the racing atmosphere
Steve feels right at home at the Motegi Ring
Cameras are installed all around the race track to record the race action in detail. This means that every little scene during a race can be captured and documented on the many monitors in the control centre. They even keep a close eye on the car park where we parked our motorbikes
Our exclusive visit to the paddocks and pit lane.
Steve and Patti are avid Moto GP fans. Visiting the pit lane was the ultimate experience for them.
To get to the Honda Collection Hall, we rode around and through the race track.
The motivated beginnings of Honda
The enthusiasm for racing - both with cars and motorbikes - is clearly noticeable.
The Honda Collection Hall contains all the vehicles that Honda has ever built.
We ended our amazing tour of Japan with a delicious farewell dinner with a view of Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge ...
Play video Download
Filesize: 42 MB
... and a farewell drink in the bar on the 30th floor of our hotel.
In this pre-Christmas atmosphere in front of our hotel in Tokyo, we say goodbye. We didn't know each other a fortnight ago, but we became friends on this tour thanks to the wonderful experiences we shared and the fabulous rides we took together.

Thank you so much for the uniquely wonderful time with you! It was a great pleasure to discover the secrets of Japan with you.
Top of page

Blog search

Add a comment Rate this post
Monday, January 29, 2024 at 00:21

Hi Angela,
Japan was just great and we are still talking a lot about our great group and wonderful time on our ride there. A gorgeous area to travel by motorcycle!!! We still remember the wild ape couple
Monday, January 29, 2024 at 00:19

Hi Angela,
Japan was just great and we are still talking a lot about our great group and wonderful time on our ride there. A gorgeous area to travel by motorcycle!!! We still remember the wild ape couple
Michaela Achatzi
Friday, November 10, 2023 at 06:58

Hallo Angela
Hello Adrian
Oh nice to see you in Japan
Looks amazing
The colors unbelievable.
I think the autumn It’s also nice
Best wishes
Angela de Haan
Friday, November 10, 2023 at 10:43

Hello to New Zealand, Michaela.
Thanks for your message, it is indeed very beautiful in autumn, too.
Safe rides, Angela
Diane & John
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 15:08

Hi Angela,
Arigato for your most excellent blog. Your beautiful photos are making me super excited for next spring's e-bike tour.
Hoping our paths will cross again on another tour. All the best,
Angela de Haan
Wednesday, November 8, 2023 at 15:27

Hi Diane,
Thank you for your lovely message. It is so nice hearing from you. Oh I am sure you will love it here in Japan !!
Best wishes from Himeji, Angela
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 13:09

Kon'nichiwa! Japan at it's best in Fall, thank you for sharing. Best regards to all
Angela de Haan
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 14:20

Konichiwa Suzanne,
Thanks for your lovely comment. It is absolutely stunning here in Japan.
See you soon, best regards from Kyoto.


Sign up now to stay in the loop and receive our e-paper with 10 of the most beautiful motorcycle roads on earth.

Edelweiss Bike Travel