If you are a health nut or haven’t exercised in years, the relaxed pace of the Tokyo Great Cycling Tour (TGCT) is a great way to have a work out and see a hidden side of the city at the same time. Led by English speaking tour guides, you will discover new sites, new muscles in your legs and you could learn a thing or two about this fascinating town.
On a recent Saturday trip TGCT tour leader Kosuke Moriwaki took us on the popular “Tokyo bayside ride”. The six hour excursion crisscrosses often overlooked parts of the city—and though perfectly designed for tourists, offers a new perspective for long-time Tokyoites too.
“It is absolutely the best way to see Tokyo” says Andres Kiger who was visiting the city on a family trip from Shanghai
“You are at street level and really experience a new side of Tokyo, you are much closer to the people.”
“This is our third or fourth time in Tokyo—it’s the best time yet.”
Tourism is one of the main industries to be most visibly hit by the recent earthquake and tsunami, but the Kiger family were not deterred,
“We wanted to come to Japan. Now is the time to visit, tourism can help the country recover” says Andres.
After being measured up for a bike we headed to Tsukuda island, home to the Sumiyoshi shrine, the tiny fishing island was founded by 30 fishermen from Osaka who came Edo for work.
Next we crossed town, taking in bridges and water side footpaths before reaching Tsukiji fish market for a brief tour, a sample of sashimi and a chat with some of Japan’s busiest fishmongers.
The tour took us across road bridges to the artificial island Odaiba for lunch, then a water taxi took us smoothly back to the mainland.
After a fun day of cruising the streets, hills and bridges of downtown Tokyo—ending in the impressive grounds of the Imperial Palace.
Tour leader Kosuke Moriwaki says “All guides speak English and one even speaks Portuguese.
Most guides are students and some have regular jobs in local businesses” the local knowledge is something no guidebook can provide and the enthusiam shows—historical facts taught along the way are a fun way to punctuate the day and great for learning about the landmarks of Tokyo.
Ayumi Higuchi, who studies at Tokyo University was on the tour for the first time, she told the Weekender that even residents of the city can find something new “The tour is very nice experience, I like the chance to speak English with foreigners. I recommend it for people who have lived in Japan for a while—you could learn something” she says.
TGCT was founded in 2006 and has been growing in popularity every since “Our tour has grown by mouth to mouth reputation” says Moriwaki.
“It’s not like work, more like fun. The two best aspects are we get to meet guests from all over the world and the city itself, as through the seasons Tokyo is constantly changing.”
Moriwaki admits that the past few months have taken their toll on tourism across the city but an increase in bookings point to recovery for the summer.
“We run tours in every season, but May and June are the best times to go as it’s not too hot”
Even in mid-winter tour guides don multiple layers of clothes if tourists request a tour.
“We run tours in summer, we have to stop at every combini we see for bottles of water, but it is still very fun!”
“Sometimes we run into festivals and change the course on the fly, we are very flexible and like to alter the course to surprise visitors.”
The tour starts at 9am and finishes around 3pm, including a bento lunch box and drinks. Both courses are family friendly and rated “easy” but riders will have to cross many bridges around the city.
Prices ¥10,000 for adults, ¥7,000 for children. (including tax,rental bike, box lunch, insurance, guide. And 1% of the fare will be donated to ‘One percent for the planet’ project.
To book and for more information visit: www.tokyocycling.jp or call (03) 4590-2995.
TGCT 1-3-2, Shinkawa, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0033