japan epic

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Day 1

Remember, you may take the entire Japan Epic (Tokyo to Sapporo) or you could well be participating on one of the constituent parts, which could start anywhere along the route. Japan's extensive rail and air network mean starting anywhere along the route is simple.


If starting in Tokyo, the Mad Dogs check into the hotel in the very traditional Tokyo district Asakusa which is home to the magnificent Asakusa Kannon Temple. The hotel is conveniently close to a limousine airport bus drop off point, and is also easily reachable by rail from the airport. Private transfers can be arranged on request. There will be an evening briefing and the excitement builds.



Day 2



The Mad Dogs bid farewell to Tokyo, but it is difficult to escape this metropolis quickly. Our early start is a great way to avoid the traffic here. The city’s urban sprawl is significant, but once you have escaped the traffic lights, you will be surrounded by green rice fields. Into the afternoon, it will be hard to believe you started in Tokyo!

Elevation:+ 1140 / - 763 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 2-370m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

If you're joining the ride in Shirakawa, this is easily reached from Tokyo by a short bullet train ride! Bikes are fine on the train so long as they are packaged.

Day 3

180 km

Shirakawa Sendai

An early start sees the sun reflecting off the distant mountains and the surroundings become more and more rural. You'll head deep into the fruit-growing countryside today and cycle along some beauticul rivers. Lunch is likely to be sushi! You’ll pass through small Japanese towns and take in some lovely views before coming into Sendai.


Elevation:+ 927 / - 1264 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 4-346m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

If you're joining the ride in Sendai, this is easily reached from Tokyo in a couple of hours by bullet train! Bikes are fine on the train so long as they are packaged. There are also regular flights from Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports.

Day 4



The route leads you into and out of many Japanese villages and you’ll even notice people working the land by hand - which can be rather startling in this most developed of Asian lands. Why does everything in Japan just seem so perfect? It’s lovely to see Japanese rural homes and farmhouses built in the timeless traditional style, with upturned eaves - not so very different from temples. Those who arrive early enough may like to explore Morioka Castle.


Elevation: + 1276 / - 1195 m

Don't be startled - the scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 1-119m! To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

Morioka is a couple of hours from Tokyo on the bullet train, therefore it's very convenient to start or end the ride here.

Day 5



Mount Iwate, a majestic stratovolcano similar in appearance to Mount Fuji, dominates the view for the first half of the day, appearing and disappearing as the road turns its course. The route heads past a river of raging white water (or at least it was when we were there, with the snow melt) and through many rural villages. It can be surprising to find vending machines in the middle of nowhere, but this is very convenient. Watch out for deer!

Elevation:+ 1681 / - 1796 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 9-418m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

Noheji has a convenient local train station (linking with the bullet train from Tokyo), and it is also convenient to Aomori airport from where we can also arrange convenient transfers.

Day 6



The route follows a coastal road for the most of this day, through sleepy forgotten fishing villages. Workers gather seaweed and shellfish in wicker baskets. We noticed huge birds of prey and curious cage traps baited with cut apples! The ferry leaves at 2.10pm sharp, but there is plenty of time to make it given your early start. When you arrive at the tiny port of Oma, you can already see Hokkaido’s mountains rising in the distance. A Japanese ferry is an experience in itself - remove your shoes before venturing onto the clean carpet where you can stretch out and nap. On arrival 90 minutes later, there is only another 4-5km before arriving at our hotel in the Yunakowa Onsen where a long, warm soak awaits. The feeling of going to bed after a day in the saddle and an onsen (Japanese bath) is the very definition of “snug” … when your head touches the pillow you will drift away into an almost instant and well-deserved slumber.



Elevation:+ 651 / - 659 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from -2-94m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

If joining or leaving in Hakodate, it is convenient by aeroplane at both its own airport and that of Sapporo (2-3 hours by train). You can also use the train from Tokyo (6 hours). 

Day 7



First thing, you’ll head inland from Hakodate, past the volcano Mount Komagatake, before for most of the day making a grand circle of Uchiura Bay, or “Volcano Bay” as it was named by an English ship captain in the Meji period. The bay is nearly circular with a diameter of 50km, and is surrounded by volcanic mountains - one of which, Mount Usu, erupted in 2000. The most impressive, however, is the Fuji-lookalike, Mount Yotei which dominates the view for the first half of the day. If you've ever skiied in (or seen people's photos from) Niseko you will recognise this immense sight.  The route then heads inland to Toyakoonsen, which is hosted by an utterly stunning volcanic lake. There should be another opportunity to soak your aches away in an onsen.


Elevation:+ 1572 / - 1492 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 0-300m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

Trains from Tokyo to Hakodate take approx 6 hours, but there is of course Hakodate airport which is the most convenient option for getting in or out! Some may find it convenient to fly to Sapporo airport, especially there are direct international flights - and it's a couple of hours from Hakodate by train.

Day 8



We may start marginally later this morning, to enjoy a hotel breakfast. The day begins with a ride around the stunning, volcanic Toya Lake (the backdrop to the 2008 G8 Summit) before heading into breathtaking mountain scenery. This then opens up into a second caldera lake, Lake Shikotsu, of which you pass around the edge. We'll take lunch on the banks of the lake, on a pebble, where you can enjoy the unbelievable tranquility of this heavenly place.  It’s sometimes difficult to keep going and resist the temptation to stop and marvel, such is the beauty of the lake, which reflects like glass the surrounding active volcanoes. You'll stare in wonder at the smoke coming from Mount Tarumae. Then there’s a final climb up the slopes of Mount Iwate before a triumphal and glorious coast down into Sapporo. What a finish!


Elevation:+ 1619 / - 1680 m

The scale of the elevation profile above ranges from 29-547m. To view a larger size, right click on the image and select "Open Image In New Tab."

Toyakoonsen is well connected by shuttle bus and train to Sapporo's New Chitose Airport therefore it's easy to start or end your ride here.

Day 9

The victorious cyclists wake up wondering "Did I really do that?!" … Either they have requested to spend another night in their hotel and are going to explore and make the most of being in this enchanting part of the world…or they’re headed even further into Hokkaido… perhaps they are heading home now – with a lot of stories and a great deal of pride.


How much does it cost to participate?


Registration fee pricing information is available on the >Pricing page.


What is the date for the next edition?


The >Event Calendar page has the dates for all our scheduled rides. Note that you will need to arrive in Tokyo the day before the ride to allow for the early start (hotel accommodation included) and you will check out on the day AFTER the ride (again, accommodation included).


How much is the single room supplement? (Note you will only need to pay this if you do not want to be paired with another rider of the same sex) 

US$600 for the entire epic.


Can Mad Dogs help us to hire bikes?

YES - but only if you start the ride in Tokyo. 40,000 yen for the hire of a nice road bike, and then a transporting fee of 12,000 yen (that’s returning the bike from Sapporo to Tokyo). The returning fee will be less if you return it from a nearer location.


What's the climate like?

Autumn is a special time in Japan - it is not yet cold, but the muggy heat of the summer will be gone. It will be warmer near Tokyo, however it cooler as we head north. Bring some cooler weather gear, but this weather should be ideal for cycling.


My friend or significant other would like to join me as a non-cyclist, is this possible?

Yes, given Japan's extensive and efficient public transport system, this is more than possible, in style! Rather than travel all the way as a passenger in our vehicle, which would be rather dull, a non-cyclist can travel and explore independently each day very easily. We would recommend that they purchase a 7-day Japan rail pass to make the most of their time - which can be used on the shinkansen (bullet train). You will need to share a room, pay the US$600 single room suppplement, and there is also a fee of US$300 which will cover the transportation of baggage each day in our vehicles (one suitcase).


What is the terrain like?

The terrain is varied - the first couple of days are fairly flat, but thereafter there are gentle undulating hills mixed with some long flat coastal sections. The final day involves some climbing, but the excellent quality of the roads means that you’re able to coast magnificently down the other side and you can therefore still make good progress even if you’re not an expert climber. 


What type of bike is appropriate?

We think a lightweight tourer, hybrid or road bike is best. The roads are of a high quality, but if you use the cycling paths which run beside most roads there is the odd rougher patch.


Where does the Epic start?

In the Asakusa district of Tokyo. You can however easily join anywhere along the route.


How do I get to the start in Tokyo and from the finish back to the airport?

You can reach this easily by either taking the limousine bus from the airport, or by train. If you arrive at Narita, you can come easily by Keisei train, because the change at Aoto is just a  shuffle to the other side of the platform. The journey takes approx 90 minutes. You also have the option of arranging a private transfer - please enquire for details.

It's easy to reach Sapporo's airport by a convenient limousine bus service but of course private transfers can also be arranged.


Is the cost of the ferry to Hokkaido included in the registration fee?

YES - it's included!


Which flights should I book?

Tokyo is well connected with international air routes. From Hong Kong, you can fly direct with ANA, JAL, Cathay, Hong Kong Express. From Singapore, you can use ANA,  Delta, JAL, Scoot, Singapore Airlines and United.  Your flights should ideally allow you to get to the hotel in Asakusa, Tokyo by 8pm on the day before the first cycling day. This will allow you to meet the team and other participants as well as sufficient rest before an early start. Flying back from Sapporo, you can either fly back through Tokyo (Air Do, Jetstar, ANA, JAL, Skymark, Vanilla Air - this is the busiest air route in the world and is very inexpensive) or you can fly from Sapporo direct to many destinations, including Beijing (Air China), Hong Kong (Cathay - this is a codeshare with JAL and is sometimes cheaper if booked on the JAL website) and Bangkok (Thai).


Will we travel on large roads?

Due to the very nature of covering so much distance in such a short period of time, it’s sometimes necessary to knuckle down for a few hours on a national road (NOT a highway/motorway), and we do cut off to the backroads wherever possible. In any case, you’ll be able to appreciate the surroundings and there are nearly always pavements for cycling by the side of the road, in addition to hard shoulders.


Do I need a Visa for Japan?

Most nationalities can enter Japan without the need to obtain a visa. https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/essential/visa.html


"A great week, a fantastic adventure, organization was perfect, the route was very scenic, it really was superb. I lived in Japan for 14 years, but never saw what we saw last week, never been to that deep in rural Japan. I loved it." Jérôme Limozin, IT manager, French


"As always, the personal touch and the camaraderie were great, I loved the food and I have become a fan of the onsen." - Daniel Insunza, economist, Swiss 


"Now home, it is a real pleasure to be able to write to you, to say how much we enjoyed ourselves on the recent Tokyo to Sapporo challenge. It was bloody tough, but we got to see so much of the real Japan, and I am now much fitter than I have ever been. I would 100% recommend anyone to undertake this, or your other, similar challenges no matter how daunting they may seem to be. The organisation was just right, not overpowering but well detailed and backed up with excellent interpreting, mechanical expertise, and refreshments never far away. Your use of the local Ryokan hotels gave a great insight of traditional Japanese habits particularly bathing ... the Onsen is a great leveller. I very much hope to take part in further challenges with you in the future. We had a great time and it was a real pleasure, at the age of 63, to prove the Hare and Tortoise adage was nearly correct." - Stephen Collett, retired, British