Cycling in Takahama, Along Fields and the Seashore

Thinking of the countryside I imagine cycling along narrow paths through fields. In Takahama, in Western Fukui just North of Kyoto, you can combine this with bicycling along the seashore. With few cars and people on the roads, riding a bicycle is a true bliss. What better way to get around this small charming countryside town, located between green forested hills and the scenic coastline of Western Japan, than by bicycle?

2018-11-27   Activities, Visit: Charming Towns, Fukui,


Renting a bicycle in Takahama from a JR Station

Japan Rail offers a bicycle rental service from some of its train stations, called Machi no Eki Puratto (まちの駅ぷらっと). Loosely translated, it means “wandering from the town stations”. The service is available in Takahama, and so it’s possible to rent a bicycle from the following JR Stations located within the Takahama town area. From West to East:

  • Aonogo Station 青郷駅
  • Wakasa-Takahama Station 若狭高浜駅
  • Wakasa-Wada Station 若狭和田駅

Since you can return the bike to any of these stations, my recommendation is to rent it from Aonogo station and return it to Wada station. Aonogo is slightly inland and is thus at a higher elevation (40 meters) than Wada, only slightly above sea level, so you’ll be able to enjoy some downhill on your bicycle ride.

The place to rent bicycles – Aonogo station

You can rent bicycles between 9 in the morning and 10 at night, but they must be returned by the end of the day. Since there are only a limited number of bicycles, it may be wise to reserve the bicycles in advance at the tourist office inside the Wakasa-Takahama train station, especially if you’re only staying for a short time. The cost is 300 yen for under 2 hours, 500 yen for up to 4 hours, and a 1000 yen for a full day of cycling.

We decided to rent our bicycles for only a couple of hours since the distance to Wada station is only 8 km. However, we came to regret that decision since at the end we ran out of time and had to rush back to the station to return the bicycles on time. So I’d recommend renting the bicycles for at least 4 hours, especially since the price difference is not that big. It’s also possible to go on a guided bicycle tour – in that case advance reservation is required, and tours start from Wada station.

The rental bicycle is your basic “mamachari” (ママチャリ): a very simple bicycle common in urban areas in Japan, mainly used by housewives to run daily errands. It has a solid frame and a basket in front for groceries. There are no speeds: it runs really well on downhill and flat bits but going uphill can be somewhat tough. Fortunately, this ride has very few up sections. Another potential issue is that if you are tall you will need to raise the saddle to its highest position so that your knees don’t knock against the handlebars.

The author on his “mamachari” bicycle

Cycling from Aonogo to Takahama – along the fields

We followed the route recommended by the station attendant. First we rejoined the Tango road (Tango kaido 丹後街道), the main road that runs from Tsuruga to Maizuru and through Takahama, and followed it for one kilometer till a Family Mart convenience store at an intersection. Although it’s a busy road, there is a sidewalk which you can use if you want to avoid the traffic. After buying some water for the trip, we went right, under the Obama line train tracks, and followed the road as it curved gently to the left, forming a semi-circle through green fields and yellow flowers.

Typical countryside landscape around Takahama

Eventually, the small road was running downhill alongside the train tracks. This was one of the most fun parts of the bicycle ride, especially since there were almost no cars. We soon arrived at the small unmanned train station of Mitsumata, the only station in Takahama where the cycle rental service isn’t available. We decided to park our bicycles there and check out the nearby Hiei shrine (日枝神社). The “mamachari” bicycles come with a handy inbuilt lock which you just have to slide into position before removing the key. Although the risk of theft is quite low, I still prefer to lock my bike for my own peace of mind.

A short stop at Mitsumata station
Path leading up to Hiei shrine

After exploring the small shrine, we continued our bike ride. Almost immediately, something interesting caught my eye on the left side of the road – a water wheel (suisha 水車). We got off our bicycles once again to explore. Behind the wheel there is a “shishi odoshi”, a bamboo tube, which clatters against a stone while disposing of the water supplied by the wheel. Apparently, it is a device for scaring birds away from gardens. I found the noise it made very soothing.

I didn’t expect to see a waterwheel here
A simple device for scaring away birds

Cycling from Takahama to Wada – along the seashore

It’s hard to describe exactly where one should turn left and cross the rail tracks since there are several crossings. Just make sure to do it before reaching Wakasa-Takahama station (we went through the bunka kaikan crossing 文化会館). Then cycle straight to the coast and turn right along the seashore. You’ll get some nice views of Mt Aoba to the left before reaching the Wakasa Takahama fishing park. Here you can leave your bicycles, and for 200 yen, cross the bridge and walk to the little observatory on Takashima island for some better views of the bay (until 5pm).

View of the bay with Mt Aoba in the background

Afterwards, you can continue along the marina to Shiroyama park (shiroyama koen 城山公園), another interesting place to explore on foot. There is quite a spectacular archway, Meikyo cave (meikyodo 明鏡洞), which makes for a good photo. There is also an observatory at the highest point of the park. After exploring the area, ride alongside the beach, and at the end turn right and join up with the Wada Promenade (wada no sanpo michi” 和田の散歩道), a very scenic road that takes you through the area of Takahama where most of the inns are concentrated. If you feel like taking a break, there is an excellent cafe and restaurant, called Familiar right on the Wakasa Wada Blue Flag beach with a view of the bay. You’ll need to take a left turn shortly after crossing the small bridge.

The Meikyo cave, the symbol of Takahama
Shiroyama beach, one of the 8 beaches of Takahama

Some of the wooden exteriors of the buildings have been blackened as a protection against fire. I found this part of the bike ride very enjoyable. We could cycle down this small lane, lined with traditional houses and small fields, without having to worry about cars and people. Upon reaching the main road, turn right and go straight all the way to Wakasa-Wada (若狭和田) station, where you can return your bicycles.

Typical building along the Wada Promenade

If you have more time, or if you decide to rent the bicycles for another day, I am sure there are plenty more areas than can be explored, along the fields, or along the seashore – just be sure to check whether there are any uphill sections before heading out!

Read more about activities in Takahama on the Tadaima Japan website:

Eat Fugu and Live to Tell the Tale

Mt Aoba – Takahama’s Highest Viewpoint

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.