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Cycling Books in English

For many years, there were only two books in English specifically devoted to the subject of cycling in Japan. That changed with the publication in 2009 of “Cycling Japan by Takashi Niwa: 10 of the Best Rides, Volume 1.”

CYCLING JAPAN by Takashi Niwa: 10 of the Best Rides, Volume 1

Takashi Niwa

Tokyo Chizu Publishing Co., Ltd.  2009   1700 yen

ISBN 978-4-8085-8533-4 C0026

The first of its kind: a Japanese cycling book with full English translation! And it’s a good one. Focuses on long routes and covers some of the major cycling routes in Japan (such as Shimanami), complete with elevation guides and many, many excellent photos.  Not surprisingly for a book by a map company, much of the content is devoted to detailed maps, with bilingual notes along the route in the fashion of the Touring Mapple guides. Extras include a short glossary of common kanji likely to appear on road signs (-shi = city, -zaki = cape etc.). Caveats: There are only 10 routes (though the “Volume 1” in the title hints at more to come). Apart from the brief notes in the maps, the text explanation of routes is minimal, with little detailed information on the area or sights -- and, surprisingly for a guide published in 2009, there’s no GPS data (this is true of other recent cycling guides as well). Finally, there’s zero information on accommodations along the way - you’re on your own. Despite the caveats, quite definitely recommended.

The other two books are both quite old now, so I’m not sure if they’re still available:

Bicycling Japan: A Touring Handbook

by Suzanne Lee

Zievid Press, 1991

Library of Congress Catalog No. 90-83529

ISBN 0-9627458-0-4

The only book yet published to focus on the actual nuts and bolts of how to go about cycle-touring in Japan, this relatively short book is loaded with practical information designed for people who know next to nothing about Japan. Covers such topics as airline policies on transporting bikes, the mechanics of bike-bagging, practical steps to avoid getting lost when traveling in a group, and so on. There is much wisdom here, making the book well worth the price. Includes a detailed suggested packing list, Japanese glossary, and lots of other goodies. At least one reviewer called it the book he wished he'd had when he first started cycling in Japan.

Cycling Japan: A Personal Guide to Exploring Japan by Bicycle

Edited by Bryan Harrell

Kodansha International, 1993

ISBN 4-7700-1742-1

Unlike the Bicycling Japan handbook, this consists almost entirely of trip descriptions. Cycling Japan is actually a compendium of re-edited articles from Bryan Harrell's excellent and unfortunately now defunct newsletter Oikaze, put together from 1985 to 1995 through voluntary contributions sent in by riders. Much information was added for the book publication (ferry schedules, lodgings and so on), but many of the articles are still primarily tour reminisces rather than detailed route descriptions. Hence, the book is useful mainly as a sourcebook, showing what other people have done and indicating general areas for cycling. The first section contains some practical information on matters such as bike-bagging, and a list of bike shops (exclusively in the Tokyo area); the short Resources section at the end contains mainly the names and addresses of cycling terminals and a list of bikepaths (with unfortunately no maps)

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