This isn’t your average tour: Rather than being herded into a bus and ushered around monuments in a lost-looking group of tourists, on the Fukuoka Bike Tour, you see the main sights and back streets together as you zip around the city on bicycle.
In just over four hours, the tour takes you past 10 attractions and includes lunch, all accompanied by an English-speaking guide who explains their significance. In between, the tour snakes around Fukuoka, down busy streets and back alleys, so riders end up seeing much more than just the main attractions.
The tour is run by TripInsight, a travel agency started by Makoto Tanaka that also offers walking tours and other activities. Tanaka, himself an avid traveler, has visited more than 50 countries.
“When I traveled, many local people were kind to me,” Tanaka said. “I wanted to return their kindness.”
So, he started an agency with the goal of giving visitors an authentic glimpse into his city. An important part of that, he said, is hiring tour guides who are passionate about tourism and who are experts about their city.
The tour starts at TripInsight’s office in Hakata, near the first attraction: Kushida Shrine, the headquarters of Fukuoka’s annual Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, famous for its large float races. (Visit Fukuoka in early July for a chance to watch this festival.)
Then, the tour stops at Tōchō-ji, a temple founded by Kūkai in 806. After a few more stops, the tour wanders past the ruins of Fukuoka Castle with a stop at the Korokan Historical Museum. Then, head toward the bayside to see the Fukuoka Tower and other landmarks.
Aside from scheduled stops, tour guides each personalize their trips. My guide, Norry Okamoto, took me to Komaiya, a local, award-winning sweet shop, where we tried some confections and sipped tea before heading on. My visit fell just before the start of Fukuoka’s annual sumo tournament, so we also stopped by their training facility to meet some of the wrestlers.
After cyclists have sufficiently worn themselves out taking in Fukuoka, the tour ends at Nagahamaya, a popular restaurant that serves Fukuoka’s specialty: tonkotsu ramen. The shop has a locals-only feel to it: It’s near the wharfs so fishermen frequent it, as do the office workers nearby, and everyone sits at large, family-style tables to eat.
Fukuoka Bike Tour is offered daily, though it’s canceled if there’s rain. It starts at 9:00 and ends at 13:15. The tour costs ¥5500 and includes a bike rental, English-speaking tour guide, lunch (for those who can’t eat tonkotsu ramen, other options are available), a bottle of water and helmet, insurance and tax.
The complete list of stops along the tour is: Kushida Shrine, Tōchō-ji Temple, Shofuku-ji Temple, Fukuoka Building, Korokan Historical Museum, Ohori Park, Momochi Beach, Fukuoka Tower, Genko Bulwark Ruins and the ruins of Fukuoka Castle.
This activity was found on Nippon Quest, a website that curates unique, off-beat Japanese experiences around the country and allows foreigners and locals alike to rate them. Learn more about other activities on their website.
From Fukuoka: Take Exit 5 from Nakasu Kawabata Station and turn right at the stair landing for Canal City. At the top of the stairs, turn left and walk along the roofed shopping arcade. Take the second left. Then, take the first left at the fire station. TripInSight is located in the Reizenso Building on the left.
By plane: Fly to Fukuoka Airport. Then, take the Kuko Line toward Chikuzen-Maebaru. After four stops, get off at Nakasu Kawabata Station and follow the above directions.
By train: From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Nozomi 9 toward Hakata. At Hakata Station, transfer to the Kuko line toward Meinohama. Take the second stop for Nakasu Kawabata Station.