The Japanese Odyssey is an endurance cycling event.
It is not a race.
It’s about discovery, about exploration, about challenging yourself.
The basics of the Japanese Odyssey
The Japanese Odyssey is a long distance unsupported cycle adventure.
The organisation doesn’t provide any support – once you cross the starting line, you are on your own.
We want to ensure equal opportunity for all riders, either local or non-Japanese.
This means that private assistance or pre-arranged support are prohibited. You may eat, sleep, and service your bike at places also available to the other riders or at commercial shops
Go your way
We chose 15 mandatory checkpoints and segments you’ll have to ride through.
Inbetween, nothing is imposed, you make your own decisions route-wise.
The Japanese Odyssey is a demanding adventure.
And yet, it is not a race.
Some riders will try to reach the finish line as fast as possible. Others will ride for the sheer pleasure of making it to the finish line. There won’t be any ranking, nor official finishing times. Successful riders will be those who accomplish the course within 11 days.
You have 11 days (264 h) to cross the fourteen mandatory checkpoints and segments, and then reach Hachinohe.
How to manage it is up to you. You decide when, where and how long to stop off.
A bit of history
2015 – Four pioneers
The first Japanese Odyssey was launched with minimal communication.
We selected 4 checkpoints, and the route was going to take the riders from Sapporo to Kagoshima, crossing all Japan, North to South.
We hadn’t any partners at the time and counted on word of mouth to get our event noticed.
Four pioneers answered our call, an so went our first foray into endurance riding.
Sapporo – Kagoshima – approx. 3200 km – 25000 m vertical ascent
2016 – Year of the typhoon
For 2016, we got inspired by the Nihon Hyaku-meizan – a book listing 100 remarquable mountains.
So we selected 13 checkpoints, all high-altitude passes and mountainous areas.
With a little less distance but a lot more vertical ascent, that would be an Odyssey for the climbers.
But typhoons got in the way, and riding in the non-stop torrential rain proved to be the real difficulty.
Tokyo – Osaka – approx. 2800 km – 35000 m vertical ascent
2017 – Where is the road?
During the previous years, we realised that the roads we enjoyed the most were the small, remote, secondary roads ; usually the one we encountered when we got lost.
So we decided to take the riders on those.
We set up segments instead of checkpoints, forcing the riders to take the roads we selected.
This edition promised to be the wildest and more exotic so far.
But unseasonal heavy rains hit Japan a few weeks before the event, and damaged severely some backroads ; to the point that some of our selected segments proved themselves unrideable.
Our motto « be prepared » took another turn as the riders and the organisers had to improvise on the fly to pursue their ride toward Kitakyushu.
Tokyo – Kitakyushu – approx. 3700 km – 38000 m vertical ascent
2018 – The hidden Rindō
The fourth Japanese Odyssey marked a turn in the history of the event. We took the best elements of previous editions, and packaged it in a more refined version.
For the first time, the Odyssey would be a loop, starting and ending in Tokyo, under the Nihonbashi, kilometer zero of Japanese maps.
12 checkpoints, all in small, forest roads (Japanese call them rindō), located in beautiful areas, where the riders could enjoy the stupendous autumnal colours only Japan can offer, while still enduring some seriously challenging climbs.
All in a shorter period of time, upping the challenge a notch.
Tokyo – Tokyo – approx. 2600 km – 32000 m vertical ascent
2019 – Kyūshū edition
2019 marked the return to Kagoshima city.
With a starting line at the foot of active volcano Sakurajima, this edition made quite the impression within its first hours.
From there, the riders got humbled by Kyushu climbs, amazed by the wild beauty of Shikoku, before encountering the aftermath of typhoon Hagibis as they reach Tokyo.
Kagoshima – Tokyo – approx. 2200 km – 30000 m vertical ascent
2020 – Année blanche
As we readied to publish our event manual and open the registration, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. We waited, hoping for things to calm. But as time passed, we knew there was less and less chance to be able to pull off a great event in these times of incertainty.
With heavy heart, we decided to do the wise thing, and to postpone the sixth edition of the Japanese Odyssey to 2021. And then to 2022 and then…
As the world opens again, 2023 will mark the return of the Odyssey.