Japan – Best Trip Ever?
I was intrigued when I read that the writer Pico Iyer had made Japan his home. Pico is a discerning traveler and his descriptions of his adopted homeland have long resonated with me to visit. A colleague suggested that the Noto Peninsula offered just the right balance of rural countryside, beautiful seaside vistas, an astounding number of cultural attractions, charming ryokans and more. But how would it be to bike, I asked? At this question, his eyes sparkled and he grinned widely exclaiming – the biking is some of the best in the world on the quietest roads imaginable.
We put together an itinerary that included a mix of inland and coastal riding, visiting Wajima, Suzu Beach, Wakura Onsen, Kanazawa through to Yamanaka. The roads we chose to use (many not on maps) were the types of roads that cyclists dream of riding. At night, clients stayed in ryokans that could only be described as luxurious and unlike any hotel you have ever stayed in. Omotenashi is the Japanese way of hospitality and once you have experienced it first-hand, you will never forget the welcome extended – they make you feel the most important person in the world. At these ryokans, they encourage you to enjoy the onsen (many have natural hot springs) and to wear the traditional yukatas to dinner. Most require you to leave your shoes at the entrance, which is somehow liberating. Did we mention the food? In a word, extraordinary. We mix traditional Japanese meals with French and Italian-fusion restaurants including Ben Flatt’s outstanding restaurant along the coast south of Suzu.
Perhaps because I have been leading trips for over 35 years and have been to some pretty amazing places, I often get asked which is my favourite. My new answer – Japan and the Noto Peninsula, hands down.
Best time to go: May is idea. Our recent trip (May 10-17), the cherry blossoms were still in full bloom, rice was being planted and the weather was perfect, every day averaging a balmy 25C.
Is Japan expensive? Yes, but you get quality in everything. Close your eyes and go.