Fukui: Wakasa Bay Cycling Route Highlights Scenic Beauty

Courtesy of Fukui prefectural government
Cyclists ride around the Mikata Five Lakes area in May.

FUKUI — A cycling route is being developed in the western part of Fukui Prefecture, which is blessed with a spectacular view of Wakasa Bay.

Developed by the prefectural government and other organizations, the Wakasa Bay Cycling Route, or Wakacycle for short, is a 126-kilometer route that runs from JR Tsuruga Station to JR Wakasa-Takahama Station via Wakasa Bay and the Mikata Five Lakes.

The route passes through Kehi-no-Matsubara, a pine grove in Tsuruga, with beautiful white sand and green pine trees, and Suisho Beach in Mihama, known as “the Hawaii of the Hokuriku region” due to its beautiful sand.

The route also encircles the Mikata Five Lakes, which straddle Mihama and Wakasa, towns facing the Sea of Japan; crosses the 743-meter Aoto-no-Ohashi bridge over Obama Bay; and passes through Wakasa Wada Beach in Takahama.

About 10 cyclists gathered in front of JR Wakasa-Hongo Station in the town of Oi in the prefecture at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 19. They set out using personal or rented bicycles.

While taking breaks at a local coffee shop and other places, they enjoyed about 17 kilometers of the area around the Wakacycle route.

A 72-year-old man from Wakasa who started riding a road bike two years ago said, “The best part of bicycle trips is that you can casually chat to fishermen and farmers.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cyclists set out from Wakasa-Hongo Station in Oi, Fukui Prefecture.

The Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, which currently connects Tokyo and Kanazawa, will be extended to Fukui Prefecture next spring.

However, since the line will only be extended as far as Tsuruga Station, there are concerns that areas west of Tsuruga, known as the Reinan region, will not benefit as much from the extension.

In June 2021, the Fukui prefectural government established the Wakasa Bay Cycling Route promotion council, a public-private partnership with six cities and towns in the Reinan region and local commerce and industry organizations.

They have worked to improve the route by installing arrow signs on the roadway and other signage to designate bike lanes. They hope to have visitors tour the area by bicycle and create a new pillar of tourism for this area.

In the current fiscal year, they aim to establish a base in Tsuruga where cyclists can assemble their bikes and change their clothes.

In addition, they plan to create a multilingual website for foreign visitors to Japan, and aim for the Wakacycle route to be recognized by fiscal 2025 as a National Cycle Route, which are Japan’s leading cycling routes and are designated by the central government.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
Clockwise from top: Cyclists enjoy the view of Wakasa Bay in Obama in June 2022; Kehi-no-Matsubara; Suisho Beach; a view of the Mikata Five Lakes

In May, the promotion council conducted a media tour covering 64 kilometers from the northern part of Lake Biwa to the Mikata Five Lakes by collaborating with an organizer for the Biwaichi Cycling Route that encircles Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture.

The council promoted the route under the name of “Gokoichi,” meaning a round trip around five lakes, after the Biwaichi route, which has already been recognized as a National Cycle Route.

While cycling routes nationwide have become more popular amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some riders have shown poor manners, such as by cycling past residences at high speeds.

“Local understanding is essential. We would like to raise awareness of riding etiquette at the same time as developing the route so that residents will support the project,” said an official of the Fukui prefectural government.