Norway and Japan: Similar Countries and Great Biking Destinations?
This month's guest post comes direct from Curtis at the excellent Viking Biking & Hiking, who are dominating the cycling scene over in Norway. Curtis and his energetic team specialise in both mixed group rides and curated private rides of the breathtaking city of Oslo. I’m yet to visit Norway or ride with the gang but I can think of no better way to gain an intimate insight into Oslo than by jumping on a bike with Curtis and his vibrant team. Hope to see you over there soon guys!
When you think Norway, certainly its similarities to Japan are not something that jump to mind. The cool Scandinavian country in the snowy north of Europe is a far cry from the neon lights of Tokyo. But upon further inspection, the countries resemble each other in a variety of ways.
First up: geography. Lands of mountains and sea can best describe Norway and Japan. Both countries have among the longest coastlines in the world, with numerous islands dotting the rugged seascape. Both countries have world-famous mountains, whether it is Mount Fuji looming over Tokyo or the Lofoten island peaks falling directly into the North Atlantic.
Next up: food. While the traditions vary greatly, one basic ingredient reigns supreme in each country. Sushi in Japan, smoked salmon in Norway – the national dishes are of course dominated by seafood. If you don’t like fish or shellfish, these food cultures might not be for you. But for a seafood lover, these countries offer some of the freshest ingredients and best chefs in the world.
Another similarity: humbleness. Scandinavia’s code of behaviour, called “Janteloven”, is famous for espousing the virtues of remaining humble, almost to an extreme. This same concept exists in Japan, often called “Kenkyo” . Both cultures seem to place immense importance on remaining modest, even in cases of obvious success. As a result, the people are known as kind and gentle, somewhat reserved and quiet.
Finally: surprisingly bike friendly destinations. While cities like Amsterdam get most of the publicity, both Tokyo and Oslo are leaders in transforming a car-dominated city into a biking mecca. Oslo, for example, has been instituting its “bilfritt sentrum”, or car-free city centre, for over 5 years. The result is a calm downtown, full of pedestrians, e-scooter users and bikers. Highways are in tunnels under the city while above ground, it is peaceful and shockingly quiet for a capital city. In Tokyo, it is estimated that more than 15% of all personal transport is done by bike. And of course, outside of the capital cities, the long-distance biking through world-class nature is a popular holiday among both local and foreign tourists thanks to the quiet roads, advanced bike infrastructure and law-abiding drivers who share the road.
What does this mean for the tourist? It means both countries are best explored by bike. Whether exploring the Norwegian capital on an Oslo bike tour, or renting touring bikes for multiple-day excursions to the mountains, a bike is the optimal way to see these gorgeous countries. On an Oslo tour, that might mean heading to the numerous local beaches, accessible by kilometers of separate bike paths. Or further afield, taking a sturdy touring bike to some of Europe’s greatest wilderness, which includes hundreds of thousands of lakes and ponds, wild reindeer, moose, and bears roaming the thousands of mountains that run from the southern tip near Denmark to the northern tip by Russia.
Put Japan and Norway bike tours on your post-Covid travel itinerary. Do like the locals in Tokyo and Oslo and grab a bike. It is the perfect way to discover these two unforgettable countries.