Business operator: RIDAS Inc.
Project manager: Masamitsu Fujita
RIDAS Inc. offers cycling tour courses that go through Japan’s beautiful sceneries. These are experience-based programs for both novice and experienced sport bicycle riders, which tour along the Tokaido Road, Nakasendo Road and other old roads and around traditional woodland landscapes. Rather than cycling around cities, the courses focus on ordinary rural landscapes and local histories, which can only be appreciated while traveling on a bicycle.
RIDAS provides a wide variety of programs, from one-day tours to escorted tours spanning three to four days, including cycling and photography services. Staff members, one of them qualified as a cycling guide by the Japan Cycling Association, provide support to ensure the safety and security of participants. RIDAS holds one to two tours every week, each for about 10 participants.
RIDAS has also formed a business partnership with Feel Japan Co., Ltd., which operates a cyclist-friendly guest house in Kyoto, a hub city for inbound tourists. Together, they are currently planning cycling tours for inbound tourists not only in Kyoto, Shiga, Nara and surrounding areas but also throughout Japan.
Old Tokaido Road, connecting Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, had 53 lodging towns (“shuku”) along its route. Kusatsu-shuku, the 52nd town from Edo, was an important transportation hub where Tokaido intersects with Nakasendo. The guest book of the Honjin, the lodgment designated for use by feudal lords, shows many names of great figures in Japanese history. The town still retains the atmosphere of the Edo period (1603–1868) with many historical relics, such as kousatsu (street bulletin boards to notify laws to townspeople) and oiwake (branching points).
From the bustling main road lined with inns for civilian travelers and teahouses for travelers to rest, slip into an alley and cyclists will find quiet and peaceful scenery. This small shrine, worshipping monkeys as a sacred animal, is a hidden gem popular among local cyclists who love to ride along the old road. Flexibility is one advantage of a cycling tour: one can wander around and visit various spots.
Lunch at an overlook
Lunch is served at an overlook in a sit-down buffet style. It is a very hospitable and mouth-watering moment for cyclists, with a variety of dishes served by a chef in a makeshift kitchen, accompanied with non-alcohol beer, Perrier, freshly brewed coffee, tea and sweets, bringing great satisfaction.
Seki-shuku, located near the Suzuka Pass, is a tourist spot off the beaten track. The town’s preservation district of traditional buildings, free of power poles, is included in the 100 best roads in Japan and gives travelers a feel of stepping into the Edo period. The district preserves nearly 200 traditional-style houses, and it is also fun to look for reliefs created on plaster walls by old-time plasterers.
Hisashi Inoue & Masamitsu Fujita
Hisashi Inoue (left) manages a sport bicycle shop, STRADABICYCLES Inc. He also launched and serves as president of RIDAS Inc., an event business that operates cycling tours and other bicycle-based leisure services.
Masamitsu Fujita (right) has traveled to more than 40 countries around the world for over a total of 600 days. Taking advantage of this experience, he operates a guest house for inbound tourists in Kyoto. He is CEO of Feel Japan Co., Ltd., which also organizes cycling tours at the guest house, Bed & Bike Fujitaya Kyoto. He enjoys triathlon as a hobby.
“Cyclists usually enjoy comfortable riding in natural landscapes in rural regions,” says Hisashi Inoue, president of RIDAS Inc. He continues: “Through these rides, I’ve also realized a number of beautiful sceneries uniquely Japanese and started providing cycling tours.” It gives him a particular joy to work with inbound tourists, as they are very impressed by local shrines, countryside landscapes and traditional woodland sceneries, which form a part of Japanese life and are too commonplace for Japanese people to notice.
“I’ve travelled around the world and I feel Japan’s nature and food have a great potential. I started participating in a triathlon six years ago and opened a cyclist-friendly guest house. I now often invite our guests from foreign countries for a bicycle ride,” adds Masamitsu Fujita, a BrandLand Japan project manager partnering with Inoue.
They are confident that their collaboration will make Japan’s unique sceneries more known to cyclists visiting the country from overseas. They are full of ideas for future activities, including a long-stay program based in Kyoto or one visiting Kyoto from other regions. Their hope is to contribute to society and achieve regional revitalization through cycling tours targeting inbound tourists.
Participants need only to bring themselves to the tours offered by RIDAS. Everything, including wear and helmet, is ready for them for rental. A special support vehicle capable of transporting 15 bicycles escorts each tour, carrying an automatic external defibrillator (AED), cots and a full set of bicycle maintenance tools to ensure the maximum level of safety. A generous and sumptuous lunch is cooked in a makeshift kitchen set up on site by a professional chef, which forms an important omotenashi (hospitality) moment that brings additional enjoyment to the cycling event.
Lake Biwa, with the largest surface area and the largest amount of water in Japan, is also famous as an excellent cycling spot. Tsuchiyama green tea is a specialty of Shiga Prefecture where the lake is located. It originates from the refined tea renowned among people traveling on the Tokaido Road in old times.
RIDAS, offering various styles of cycling tour services, is operated by STRADABICYCLES Inc., a seller specialized in sport bicycles. The tour along an old road has been well received by cyclists both at home and overseas as a tour to “rediscover” Japan.
1-9-7 Oogaya, Otsu-shi, Shiga