Enjoy the exceptional beauty of Lake Biwa on this 7-day cycling tour starting in Moriyama. Visit unique and historical villages such as Omi-Hachiman, Sugaura, and Harie, where you can sample local cuisine, learn about regional culture, and cycle along picturesque forest and beach paths. Stop at shrines, take a cable car to the top of Mt. Shizugatake, and enjoy a boat ride to the spiritual Chikubujima Island, all while sleeping at traditional guesthouses with onsen, hot spring baths.

Highlights

  • Cycle through breath-taking natural scenery and rural landscapes
  • Explore Omi-Hachiman village with its impressive Hikone Castle
  • Visit the hidden gem of "Mirror Lake", Lake Yogo
  • Discover spiritual energy on the sacred Chikubujima Island
  • Sample the unique, locally-sourced cuisine of Shiga

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Moriyama, Lake Biwa - Explore Moriyama
Day 2 Cycle to Hikone via the merchant town of Omi-Hachiman Hikone
Day 3 Discover "Mirror Lake" on Your Way to Nagahama Nagahama
Day 4 Cable Car to Mt. Shizugatake - Cycle to Sugaura Nishiazai
Day 5 Boat Ride to Chikubushima Island - Cycle to Takashima Takashima
Day 6 Discover Sustainable Villages While Cycling to Omi-Takashima Adogawa
Day 7 Visit Shirahige Shrine - Return to Moriyama  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Moriyama, Lake Biwa - Explore

Ukimido, Lake Biwa
Ukimido, Lake Biwa

Welcome to Japan! Your tour begins near Lake Biwa in Moriyama, Shiga, which is easily accessible by many major airports and cities in Japan. The closest airports are Osaka’s Kansai International Airport and Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport, which are both about two hours by train. However, Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport and Narita Airport are also accessible at just about  4 hours by train.

After settling into your accommodation, you are free to explore the area on your own. Check out the Sagawa Art Museum or cycle to Ukimido Temple Hall along the lakeshore. Known as the “floating temple” on Lake Biwa, it's one of the remaining 'Eight Views of Omi', originally drawn by renowned Ukiyo-e Japanese print maker Utagawa Hiroshige in the early 19th century.

Day 2: Cycle to Hikone via the merchant town of Omi-Hachiman

Hikone Castle in the Springtime
Hikone Castle in the Springtime

After breakfast, you'll collect your bike and equipment for your cycling journey. The first ride of the trip starts in Moriyama at the southwest end of Lake Biwa. You'll cycle north to Omi-Hachiman, a picturesque old merchant town with a historical district lined with wonderfully-preserved old houses, some of which operate as museums.

You'll then continue along Hachiman-bori Canal where you can opt for an extended coastal loop to Lake Nishinoko. Nearby are the ruins of Azuchi Castle, another historically significant spot and a primary castle of Oda Nobunaga—the first of Japan’s three great unifiers—during the turbulent 16th century.

Further on the journey, you'll pass vast rice fields and scenic Japanese beaches as you continue along Lake Biwa to Hikone, your destination for tonight. The town is home to Hikone Castle, one of the country’s best-preserved castles. It features a tranquil Genkyu-en Japanese landscape garden within its walls.

Spend the night at a family-run ryokan inn, or at a wonderfully preserved traditional Japanese folk house.

Cycling Details:

  • Distance: 35 miles (56 km)
  • Elevation gain: 305 feet (93 m)
  • Cycling time required: 3 - 4 hours
    • Extended Option: 45 miles (72 km) with approximately 1,099 feet (335 m) elevation gain

Day 3: Discover "Mirror Lake" on Your Way to Nagahama

Exploring Traditional Towns of Japan
Exploring Traditional Towns of Japan

In the morning, you'll start your ride along the lakeshore as you make your way to Nagahama. Enjoy the scenery through the old merchant district and stop by the Hikiyama Float Museum to learn about the local Hikiyama Festival. The exhibit features colorful floats that display fine examples of traditional Japanese metalwork, woodcarvings, and lacquer, all common in the Edo Period.
 
As you leave the town, the route passes by the lakeside Nagahama Castle with its wonderful views across Lake Biwa. You'll then turn north and follow scenic, coastal paths and rural backroads, passing small villages and the local's secret of Lake Yogo. This picturesque lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides, earning it the name “Kagami-ko” or "Mirror Lake". After a gentle loop around Lake Yogo, enjoy a nearby café to soak up fine views of the area.

Today’s ride finishes in Kinomoto, an old post town along the ancient Hokkoku Road, which was once a main trade route connecting Kyoto with ports on the Sea of Japan. Here you can see remnants of the old merchant townscape. Kinomoto is also home to Japan's third-oldest sake brewery with over 450 years of history.

Your accommodation tonight is a charming traditional ryokan inn. Fresh seasonal delicacies sourced from the lake and surrounding mountains are a highlight of tonight’s dinner.

Cycle Details:

  • Distance: 33 miles (53 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,341 feet (409 m)
  • Cycling time required: 3 - 4 hours

Day 4: Cable Car to Mt. Shizugatake - Cycle to Sugaura

Shiga, Japan
Shiga, Japan

Today is all about the journey, not just the destination. Your route will take you along quiet winding roads between the mountains and coastline. Enjoy a scenic detour up a short cable lift to Mt. Shizugatake’s summit, with panoramic views of Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo. In the distance, you can see the Hira Mountain Range, Chikubushima Island, and the towering Mt. Ibuki. The hilltop lookout is also an ancient battlefield from the 16th century, where the outcome propelled Toyotomi Hideyoshi into power to become the second of Japan’s three great unifiers.

Continue cycling along gentle bike lanes through some of the most picturesque shoreline in Shiga. Rest for lunch along the way before arriving at the lakeshore village of Sugaura, which is enclosed by mountains on three sides. This quiet, hidden area became accessible by road only a few decades ago. Spend the afternoon exploring the peaceful fishing village and its ancient shrines and temples, or relax along the coast.

For more cycling, you have two options. First, opt for a loop course around the peninsula, which begins with a sharp but manageable 4-mile (6 km) uphill to a panoramic viewpoint. Enjoy a stop at the cafe before the short ride back down to the village.  Or, keep the trip going for an additional 15 miles (25 km) along the peninsula’s scenic loop course to return to Sugaura.

Tonight, enjoy the lakeshore views from your traditional ryokan accommodation which features fantastic indoor and outdoor Japanese bath.

Cycling Details:

  • Distance: 15 miles (25 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,341 feet (409 m)
  • Cycling time required: 2 - 4 hours
    • Extended option: 17 miles (27 km) and approximately 1,394 feet (425 m) elevation gain

Day 5: Boat Ride to Chikubushima Island - Cycle to Takashima

Lakeshore cycling
Lakeshore cycling

After a hearty breakfast, enjoy a morning boat ride to nearby Chikubushima Island, one of the most scenic spots on Lake Biwa and known to be a source of great spiritual energy. On the island, you can visit the two historical buildings, Hogon-ji Temple and Tsukubusuma Shrine. Both are dedicated sites of faith, decorated with traditional Japanese architecture representing the elaborate Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573 - 1603).

Upon returning to Sugaura by boat, you'll begin cycling the scenic Kaizu-Osaki shoreline where over 600 sakura cherry trees form a tunnel of color in the spring months. With a few short, sharp uphills, the route gives way to beautiful countryside dotted with traditional thatched-roof houses surrounded by hills. After you descend downhill into another Satoyama village, you'll follow a beautiful 2.5km stretch of road lined with hundreds of Metasequoia trees. You can stop for lunch at one of the nearby cafes.

After lunch, continue cycling the scenic riverside bike lanes connecting to numerous hamlets in the area, and onward to nearby Makino lakeshore and its scenic pine-tree lined beach. If you wish to extend your cycling, you can opt to ride into the mountain trails, which add an additional 19 miles (31 km) and 2,211 feet (774 m) of elevation gain. You'll pass Mt. Hakodateyama with its spectacular views overlooking the countryside, Chikubushiima Island, and Mt. Ibuki off in the distance.

 Your accommodation will be in Takashima, where you can stay at a traditional Japanese folkhouse or Minshuku (family-run guesthouse).

Cycling Details:

  • Distance: 27 miles (43 km)
  • Elevation gain: 203 feet (62 m)
  • Cycling time required: 3 - 4 hours
    • Extended options: 36 miles (58 km) with approximately 2,194 feet (669 m) elevation gain and 19 miles (31 km) and approximately 2,211 feet (674 m) elevation gain

Day 6: Discover Sustainable Villages While Cycling to Omi-Takashima

Terraced Rice Fields in Japan
Terraced Rice Fields in Japan

Today's ride takes you to picturesque villages surrounded by mountains and terraced rice paddies, both exquisite examples of the Japanese Satoyama 里山 settlements where people and nature coexist in harmony. You'll first cycle the western side of Lake Biwa to the village of Harie, where a network of natural springs formed from mountain rainwater flows underground to the lake. Here, people live sustainably with the land and water.

After cycling through charming Harie, make your way inland to a hidden farming village surrounded by mountains on three sides and beautiful terraced rice paddies. You'll find excellent cafes and eateries along the way, perfect for a lunch stop.

In the afternoon, cycle to Omi-Takashima. You'll pass through the traditional part of town and to the nearby lakeshore for your final evening in a Japanese ryokan inn with excellent onsen hot spring baths.

Cycling Details:

  • Distance: 29 miles (46 km)
  • Elevation gain: 1,479 feet (451 m)
  • Cycling time required: 2.5 - 3.5 hours

Day 7: Visit Shirahige Shrine - Return to Moriyama

Torii gate, Shirahige Shrine
Torii gate, Shirahige Shrine

Enjoy you final breakfast before the last cycle of the trip. Today you'll begin along the shores of Lake Biwa and bike to Moriyama. 

First, make your way to Shirahige Shrine, a beautiful building with a grand, vermillion-lacquered Torii gate standing in the lake. The name of the shrine,“Shirahige”, means “white beard” in English and is one of Shiga’s oldest shrines with over 2,000 years of history. Stop here for a lunch break before cycling by the pine-tree lined beaches at Omi-Maiko.

For the final section of your cycle journey, cross over the Biwako Ohashi Bridge that spans the lake's narrowest point. Your journey comes full circle with your return to Moriyama. After returning your bike and other provided gear, you can head back to the airport for your flight home, or continue your journey to the next destination.

Cycling Details:

  • Distance: 19 miles (31 km)
  • Elevation gain: 479 feet (146 m)
  • Cycling time required: 2.5 - 3.5 hours