A group cycling through a small fishing village in Japan
/ The Real Japan Experience with Travel Guide Ken
Born in a bike shop in Japan, travel guide Ken is confident in giving you a fantastic cycling experience in the Asian country. Whether you come to visit Japan to see the sakura in bloom, visit Tokyo’s famous Geisha district, explore ancient temples or want to explore the scenic backroads and Mount Fuji, in this interview Ken aims to give you a better understanding of what cycling holidays in Japan are like.
"Via this interview I am proud to show you a little more of the real Japan experience combined with great cycling. Since 2003, I have been guiding road cycling and mountain biking trips throughout Japan. I was actually born in a bike shop in Japan and learned the bike mechanical skills from my father and grandfather. My passion for riding a bike and playing with bikes is in my blood. I am married and enjoy mountain biking and hiking with my wife.
As I’m a year-round cyclist who rides for work and for leisure, I’m confident to give you the best service.
When did you decide to become a cycling guide?
I have spent three years in total in Hawaii where I was involved in windsurfing, it was here that I experienced mana, the spiritual energy of nature in the Hawaiian culture. It drove me to start a career as an outdoor guide, I worked as windsurfing and surfing instructor in Hawaii. When I returned to Japan, I rediscovered so much beauty in our culture and nature. Since I was a member of cycle touring club in my university days, I knew where the beautiful areas and good cycling routes were. The idea flashed into my mind, this is what I want to do; explore Japan on a bike and share this beautiful place with cyclists from all over the world!
What is your role as a Japan travel guide?
My responsibilities are making sure that all the people around us are happy. Not just to mention our guests but also our cycling guides, drivers, staff in accommodations and restaurants, and people we will meet on the trip. We try to maximise interaction between guests and local people during our trip. For example, we have a Japanese language lesson every night and guests will be able to order drinks and food in Japanese by the end of the trip. We will also show travellers how to separate garbage according to the Japanese recycling system. I want to make opportunity for the guests and local people to respect each other.
This is what I want to do; explore Japan on a bike and share this beautiful place with cyclists from all over the world!
What do you like best about your job?
It is definitely cycling with people and sharing fantastic experiences. When I go out on a ride as a trip leader, I am always happy. I ride fast with advanced cycling guests, I ride slower with beginners. At each level, I find something new, something interesting in the field that I can then share with the travellers.
What is your favourite place in Japan?
My favourite place is Izu peninsula, which is part of Mt. Fuji Hakone Izu National park. And I live here on Izu peninsula. It has a lot of geothermal hot spring spas, beautiful beaches, and mountains. I can mountain bike in the morning, go surfing in the afternoon, and finish my day in a hot spring spa to relax. Of course, fresh sea food is another reason to choose to live here.
>> Watch! Kyoto & Izu with National Geographic
What, in your career as a Japan travel guide, do you like to think back of?
I organized in the past several trips for singles on which they could meet new people. Some of them actually started dating after the trip and even got married. It was a real pleasure to see them again when they came back on another tour.
Do you have any advice for people who are considering to travel in Japan?
When you come to Japan, try to stay in a traditional style of accommodation. This is called Ryokan and these are usually small and run by a family. They have fantastic hospitality. It is a good idea to bring your own slippers to wear inside the Ryokan, otherwise you might need to share slippers with other guests.
Another tip I have for visitors to Japan is to always carry with you your own reusable small bag. In stores you can then ask for your supplies to be packed in your own bag. Many stores will likely give you plastic bags for your shopping stuffs, you can reduce the plastic garbage by bringing your own bag.
Do you have some words for World Expeditions travellers?
Outside big cities, the land is sparsely populated and with little traffic, but still offering good cycling infrastructure. There are numerous country backroads you never expect them to be there, and many of those are tar sealed and very comfortable to ride. A number of past cyclists told me that Japanese drivers are very courteous and that their time in Japan exceeded their past experience overseas! The diversity of food, culture, history and natural environment within Japan is so interesting that many people can’t help themselves and return to Japan.
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