Having been lucky enough to have ridden in countless countries, I can say that nothing compares to the sheer joy of riding in Japan since I moved here after my career ended. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience.
In Japan, cycling can take you through a beautiful mix of landscapes, culture, and history. From the busy streets of Tokyo to the majestic mountainside and scenic coastal roads, cycling offers a unique way to experience Japan’s natural wonders and rich cultural heritage.
During spring, cyclists can ride along riverside streets lined with cherry blossom trees and food stalls, giving them a chance to see the pink petals and unique cuisine that only Japan can offer.
In summer, you can explore the lush greenery of the rice fields and discover hidden temples nestled amidst the mountains. And, in autumn? Enjoy the vibrant colors of the maple leaves and the breathtaking seasonal landscapes.
What I love about cycling here is that Japan has well-maintained cycling paths that wind not only through city parks and riversides but past historical landmarks, sometimes thousands of years old.
Whether navigating the iconic Hakone Turnpike or conquering the twisting roads of the Japanese Alps, cyclists can enjoy stunning views of majestic peaks, pristine lakes, and the refreshing scent of cedar forests.
Today, we look at one of the most iconic cycling routes in all of Japan, Lake Biwako.
Lake Biwako, Shiga Prefecture
Cycling around Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, is an exciting journey offering cyclists a tapestry of scenic beauty, cultural richness, and a profound sense of tranquility.
Located in the heart of Shiga Prefecture, just northeast of Kyoto, Lake Biwa is not only a geographical marvel but also a cultural and historical treasure trove.
As you cycle around Lake Biwa, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful scenery that changes from small, bustling cities like Nagahama to peaceful lakeside campsites. The 160-kilometer relatively flat route (185km for me as I live in the mountains) offers stunning views of quiet fishing villages, age-old temples, and lakeside cafes.
One of the best parts of riding around Lake Biwa is the views. The lake’s waters reflect the changing colors of the sky, creating a fascinating display of light and shadow.
As you ride along the shoreline, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of distant mountains, picturesque islands, and even historic temples and shrines near the water.
The cycling path around Lake Biwa is carefully designed, offering a mix of cycling lanes, promenades, and scenic detours that take you to cultural and natural landmarks. You can take a break at places like Chikubushima, a beautiful island with a sacred shrine and gardens, or Hikone Castle, a well-preserved feudal castle that shows Japan’s rich history.
Cycling around Lake Biwa is a truly immersive experience that engages your senses and soul. You’ll enjoy the gentle breeze off the lake, the sound of the waves, and the delicious Japanese cuisine along the way.
As you ride, you’ll meet friendly locals who will welcome you with open arms. You can stop at charming lakeside cafes and traditional ryokans to try local foods and learn more about the area’s culture. Once you complete the circuit, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the beauty of Japan’s landscapes and culture.
Cycling around Lake Biwa is more than just a physical activity; it’s an experience that celebrates the natural wonders and cultural richness of my adopted homeland.
The Lake Biwako Cycling Route
Lake Biwa, located in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan, is surrounded by a popular cycling route known as the “Biwaichi” or “Biwako Cycling Road”.
This cycling path encircles the entire lake and offers cyclists a beautiful journey with scenic views, cultural attractions, and a mix of urban and rural landscapes. Here are some key points about the cycling route around Lake Biwa:
If you plan to explore Lake Biwa in Japan, you might be interested to know that the entire circuit around the lake is 160 kilometers, give or take a few. It’s an excellent route for those who love cycling, but if you’re short on time, you can choose to complete only specific sections.
The course is primarily flat, with only 560 meters of climbing on the main route. You’ll have the chance to experience the beauty of the largest freshwater lake in Japan, and see some of the surrounding towns and villages.
There are tons of places to stop and take in the views, so bring a camera.
Dedicated Cycling Lanes
The Lake Biwa route has been specially designed for cyclists, with dedicated lanes that ensure your safety while you enjoy the beautiful surroundings. The cycling lanes are clearly marked in blue and well-maintained.
Note: Before leaving, check for updated information, including any closures, events, or changes to the route. Local tourism offices, cycling associations, or online resources in the Shiga Prefecture can provide details.
That’s a Wrap
Cycling around Lake Biwa is a beautiful adventure that combines natural scenery, cultural richness, and the joy of two wheels.
You can ride on dedicated cycling lanes, enjoy breathtaking views of Japan’s biggest freshwater lake, and discover hidden cultural treasures along the way. Oh, and my favorite part is devouring the local Japanese food along the way.
Brenton is an Australian with 20 years of experience working with professional athletes. These athletes have combined to win more than 15 international events. He holds a Degree in Sports Coaching and was the Head Advisor to the Japanese Government Sports Institute and was the former Manager & Head Coach to Australia’s Governing Sporting Body. Brenton currently consults with several professional athletes and clients from varying backgrounds and sports. Check out Brenton’s ride on STRAVA.