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Toronto-based Butterfield & Robinson's new active journey, Japan Biking, features moderate to challenging cycling and first-hand exposure to Japan's culture. The eight-day trip has departures in May, September and October.

"Rapid construction in the country has resulted in perfectly paved secondary roads virtually free of traffic," says Expeditions program director Duff Trimble. The company's first Japan trip coincided with the 1997 publication of Arthur Golden's epic, Memoirs of a Geisha. The celebrity author took part in the inaugural journey. Butterfield & Robinson's return to Japan follows the release of the movie.

Participants fly from Tokyo to Noto Peninsula, where they bike past rice fields, thatched-roof houses and intimate shrines. After an introduction to Japanese Buddhism at the Sojiji Temple, they ride through terraced farmland and traditional villages to the Sea of Japan. Cyclists visit a famous kimono maker's workshop and learn about traditional lacquerware techniques. Accommodations are at the refined Notonosho Ryokan, near Wajima, and the Japanese-style Kagaya Ryokan in Wakura Onsen.

After visiting the local asaichi (morning fish market), riders can cycle more than 80 kilometres to Chirihama Beach. In Kanazawa, they visit well-preserved geisha and samurai quarters and one of the country's top gardens. Cyclists overnight in Western-style rooms at the New Grand Hotel.

In Yamanaka, near the Japanese Alps, participants soak in hot springs and enjoy tatami rooms and a hot spring at Kayotei Ryokan. Japanese meals include a nabe lunch, a traditional kaiseki meal, a cha-no-ya (the way of tea) ceremony, shabu shabu and sukiyaki.

After a bike ride around Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, participants transfer to Kyoto, the religious and cultural capital of Japan. Accommodation is at the Westin Miyako.