Archive for the ‘Yukiko’s diary’ Category

Setouchi Great Journey – Side trip from Shimanami Kaido cycling road – Day 3

July 22, 2017

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We left the hostel on the next morning, after cycling in the historical heritage district in Mitarai. It used to be a very prosperous port in Edo period as there were many important shipping routes and channels in Setouchi and sometime seamen needed to wait for the good condition of the wind and tidal current. So there are many old wooden houses preserved from that time, they are so lovely.

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We have crossed the last bridge on Tobishima Kaido to Okamurajima island, then took a ferry to Omishima island.

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We were planning to take Shimanami Kaido cycling route from Omishima heading to Onomichi, the goal of our cycling trip. We could leave depart for Onomichi directly, but again, this is our 4th. trip in Shimanami, so we would like to try something new, then we have decided to swing by Okunojima island, which is know as a rabbit island because there are many (more than 700) rabbits living on this island and you can touch and feed them. Although this island has a history that before and during WWII, there was a poison gas factory …

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(Haruna, Haruna’s travel company, Peter Rabbit and a rabbit at Okunojima)

Me? I’m not that big fan of rabbits, giving food to them is very childish! So I didn’t care at all…. but…

 

 

 

 

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Oops… Yes, they are cute…

Not like islands on Tobishima Kaido we saw many tourists visiting Okunojima from overseas countries, which is great. Many Youtube videos, blogs and other SNS about rabbits here are bringing more tourists to this tiny island, where not so easy to reach.

We stayed there 30 minutes and took the same ferry to back to Omishima island, then headed to Tatara Ohashi bridge, one of the most symbolic bridges along Shimanami Kaido.

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We were very hungry and decided to have a lunch before crossing the bridge, so we went to a restaurant. This decision was correct! When we were at the entrance, I heard someone were calling my name. What a small world is this!! They were actually guests from Singapore and I was a guide for them at  Tokyo Great Cycling Tour. 

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Very impressive encounter at Shimanami with Rachel and Kung (in yellow jersey) and their cycling mates Lilian and Tey. They bought lunch for us. Thank you very much!!!

They were cycling from Onomichi to Imabari, and we were heading to Onomichi, so we said good bye to them and continued our way. It was another nice weather today. Since we had started cycling, we only saw blue sky, blue ocean …. what a perfect cycling days. At around 5 pm, we finally arrived at our goal, Onomichi U2. Although Haruna has to work tomorrow and needed to go back to Tokyo tonight, I would stay here tonight.

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Finally our Setouchi Great Journey was over. We had cold beer at the terrace to toast our safe and fun cycling this time. We like cycling, cycling everywhere, especially at this beautiful cycling heaven, Setouchi. We will definitely come back very soon!

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Bye Haruna, she took train back to Tokyo at JR Onomichi station.

The third day  – Cycling around 45 km

 

 

 

 

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Setouchi Great Journey – Side trip from Shimanami Kaido cycling road DAY 2

July 20, 2017

DSC_0305We had a reservation of a kayak tour in the afternoon, we left our hotel very early and head back to the Koyo port. There were a few hills along the north coast of Etajima but we could make ourselves to be in time to get the ferry to Kure. Kure is the 3rd. big city in Hiroshima prefecture and it is famous as its history of the naval dockyard which built the battle ship Yamato  before WWII.

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We took a bus to the first bridge, Akinada Ohashi, on Tobishima Kaido cycling road. We could cycle there, it is only around 10 km but cycling on busy streets is not so fun so we decided skip this part, and which we believe as a right decision.

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Tobishima Kaido Cycling Road is about 30 km connected 5 islands with four bridges. Other than those bridges between islands the course is relatively flat and it is only 30 km so you could of course ride through easily in one day. You could start cycling from Kure (which we did) or from Onomichi via Shimanami Kaido cycling road or even taking a ferry from Imabari to Okamura island.

We arrived at the second island, Kamikamagari island early afternoon and we cycled to Kenmin no hama beach where we tried a kayak tour.

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It was a perfect day for kayaking! Actually yesterday was too hot and we thought we would like to jump in the water at any moment we were hill climbing but today it was a little cloudy so very comfortable. Our guide, Shiroki-san was young, nice guy and luckily we were only guests and when we told we’re doing a kayak tour in Tokyo, he was kindly suggested to take us to a little further than usual course. We were so relax and enjoyed paddling. We saw a small Shinto shrine on the rock which paddlers or boatmen pray for safety at the sea.

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(The message at the bottom of a kayak saying  “Take care! Bye!!” They offer a paddling school for children and when they see them off, they capsize on purpose to show this message to them. Wow, what a hospitality!! Shall we do the same thing at Tokyo’s canal? No way…..)

After kayaking we head to Mitarai district on Osaki Shimo island where we will stay tonight. Mitarai is the name of historical port and the area is preserved old houses and streetscape. We book a hostel whose building was a former medical clinic. It was Sunday and the owner of the hostel said to us there were no restaurant open nearby. This is the important point for cycling on Tobishima Kaido. Not like the previous Kakishima Kaido or Shimanami Kaido, there are very few convenience stores, so you need to prepare emergency food and drink in advance.

On the way we happened to meet the owner of orange and lemon farm where they sell fresh fruits and juice. That gave us really a power back. Only 100 yen per a cup!

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When we travel it is always the most interesting is meeting new people. After a while of chatting with the owner, we continued cycling heading our hostel.  And we found a small restaurant open very close from the hostel. Lucky! Although we got some foods from the shop, it is much nicer to have cooked dishes along with cold beer! That was a Okonomiyaki restaurant  and they serve Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki, so even better. (Be careful! Hirochima people never say “Hiroshima style” , those are proper Okonomiyaki.) At the restaurant we met a group of local people (who seemed already having some amount of beer, Sake ;-)), and we started chatting each other. They were surprised when we told them we were from Tokyo. It was nice and funny talk and I enjoyed food and drinking over chatting a lot. After they left, we also asked the restaurant owner for check, surprisingly she said the bill was settled by those men…! Thank you so much! They didn’t tell anything when they had left the restaurant. Actually they were a bit rude, as they called Haruna as Onesan ( a young lady) and me as Okasan (an old lady) ! But I’ll definitely forgive them 🙂

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We had more drink at the hostel with Yano san, the owner. Again, meeting and talking new people is always great fun. According to Haruna I was too talkative on that night and talked the same things many times… I was totally drunken… Sorry,  Haruan and Yano san.  By the way the hostel did very good jobs to renovate an old clinic to a nice cozy place to stay. Highly recommended!

Hatagoya Kusushi  (Website  http://hatagoya-kusushi.com/)

Second day – Cycling around 45 km   Kayaking around 5 km

Setouchi Great Journey – Side trip from Shimanami Kaido cycling road DAY 1

June 23, 2017

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This is my forth trip to Shimanami Kaido (please see this article for the previous trip.) as well as for my cycling buddy, Haruna, thus both Haruna and I wanted to try something new. Under searching on the internet, we found that there are some more cycling courses in Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) area. Especially after Shimanami cycling road had come to be very popular domestically and internationally, local municipal governments are trying to develop more cycling courses to attract more tourists visiting the area for cycling. I totally understand and agree that Setouchi is the perfect destination for cycling for its mild climate with low rainfall level. Adding to cycling, this area has lots of beautiful beaches where we can enjoy water activities, such as kayak, SUP etc. Cycling and kayaking! What a great combination for us.

Travel is always fun and travel planning is also a part of the fun. We did lots of on-line search and read someone’s blog etc., finally completed a rough plan for our 2 nights 3 days “Haruna & Yukiko’s  Setouchi Great Journey”

 

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Day 1 :   Tokyo – Hiroshima  Cycling on Kakishima Kaido in Etajima island 

 

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We took Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Hiroshima station, we had reserved the seat at the most end in the compartment so that we could store our bikes at the back of our seats. Although our bikes are Brompton and it can be folded nicely in small size but even so it is important to get this seat as Shinkansen has no luggage space 😦  The advantage of Brompton bike is not only its compact size but also easiness to put in Rinko bag. In Japan we can not bring our bikes in the train without putting them in the bags or boxes.

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We are heading to Etajima, an island located in Hiroshima Bay and just 30 minutes by ferry from Hiroshima (Ujina*) port. Etajima is very famous of its oysters, and which is my favorite food!!! OISHII!! Actually Kakishima Kaido, the name of the cycling road in Etajima is taken after oysters (Kaki means oyster in Japanese). There is no reason we won’t go there! While making cycling plan, I was already dreaming to enjoy oyster over nice white wine after cycling….! (I knew May is not a season for oysters, but I though we can still have chance to eat some…)

*Ujina port is about 6 km south from JR Hiroshima station.

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We arrived at Koyo port in Etajima around lunch time and we were the only cyclists in the ferry. We though there were more but not… A ferry port crew, a nice gentleman named Saito san kindly talked to us. He welcomed us warmly especially when we told him we were from Tokyo.

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I asked Saito san if he knows any good place we can enjoy oysters, but his answer was NO… not in this season… Some of the restaurants had offered oysters last months and their guests had got sick. OMG!!!

IMG_1805 (OK, at least I got this at a local shop, so I could enjoy a canned oyster with beer after Onsen!)

During our cycling trip, we met quite a nice local people and we had chat, drink, picture etc. Meeting nice people is always fun part of the trip.

Saito san recommended to go to the Naval Academy Etajima, which used to be Imperial Japanese Naval Academy trained officers for the Imperial Japanese Navy before WWII. According to the guidebooks, it is really “must visit” place here in Etajima, however, as our schedule didn’t match their visitor’s program and we were not so interested but interested more in local food, so we rather skipped this and head to Etajima Olive Factory . Under perfect condition (good amount of sunlight, less amount of rainfalls, less impact of typhoon etc.) their olive cultivation is getting bigger. What a beautiful color of their olive oil! But just a bit too expensive…

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Shelves to cultivate oysters… I need to come back here when oysters are in season!!!

 

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The view from our hotel. Sun is setting – our Day 1 is going to be over. Total distance for today was about (only!) 30 km.

Special ride in Nagano

May 26, 2017

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We, staffs of Tokyo Great Cycling Tour traveled to Karuizawa, Nagano during Golden Week holiday in this year as has happened in the past.

This year, we have decided to head to Kirizumi Onsen which is located in the deep mountain in Gunma prefecture. karuizawa map

The first 2 hours were rather easy ride with lots of fun. With decent distance and angle of hill climbing, we enjoyed watching cherry blossoms in the mountain. Here is about 1200 meters high from the sea level, so flowers have just started blooming. We were trying to cycle in the same pace as we were afraid of meeting bears who might have just come out from their hibernation. Yes, there are many bears in this mountain! Actually the area is named Kuma no Daira and Kuma means bear in Japanese.

 

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Two hours later we arrived at a kind of dead end but we found the sign pointing the very steep cliff and narrow road to Kirizumi Onsen.

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We put our bikes on our shoulders and climbing up this mountain wall standing in front of us. There are not many pictures we could take as the road was so hard and we didn’t have enough remaining power to do so… Some parts of the road were very slippery and one side of the slope face is all the way down to the bottom of the valley…!

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After another one hour of cycling (well, actually we were pushing our bike most of the parts), we finally arrived Kirizumi Onsen. It was truly a hidden gem, very quiet even in Golden Week and wonderful location Onsen in the serene hush. Onsen water contains lots of carbonic acid so when you soak in the bath you can see your hands and legs would be wrapped lots of fine bubbles. We had late lunch along a fresh stream.

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The time spending in the heaven can last only a short time… We need to cycle back to Karuizawa. We cycle down from Kirizumi Onsen which locates 1200 meters elevation to 400 meters (fun and easy!)  and then hill climb again to Karuizawa which also is 1200 meters! What the hell !!!

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In total, we are very much enjoying a day between the heaven and the hell. If you are interested in this route, we can tell you more details, or you can join us next year golden week 🙂

Travel deep into the rural Japan – Akita

January 18, 2017

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Tourism Agency announced yesterday that the total number of visitors to Japan increased by 21.8% from the previous year. More than 24 million tourists visited Japan last year but the same number in 2006 was just about 7 million, so this is really a big jump!

However, still tourists are visiting only specific areas such as Tokyo, (and around),  Osaka (and around), Hokkaido or Fukuoka. (See the above map. Red, orange or yellow are places tourist paid visits.)

Last weekend I traveled to Akita prefecture for skiing and hot spring (and of course nice food and Sake!!) with my husband and an Irish friend. My another old friend is now living in Akita for his work and he will soon move back to Tokyo, so I wanted to visit there while he was there.

Enjoying  a couple of beers and Sakes at the comfortable Shinkansen seats I fell a sleep and next time when I awake and looked outside the window, it was already completely different world. Snowing heavily and no more city lights. Shinkansen finally arrived at Tazawako station, three of us and two other unacquainted people stepped on the platform covered with 10-15 cm fresh snow. It was about 3 hour pleasant Shinkansen trip.

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We stayed at Kokumin Kyukamura hotel chain, and they have 37 hotels located in various national parks in Japan. This hotel chain is originally government owned so the price is relatively reasonable. (Kokumin Kyukamura website)  The room is a normal, traditional tatami room so we slept on Futon mattress wearing Yukata, Japanese traditional pajamas. We re-started drink Sake…..Akita has lots…..of nice Sakes!

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These are the selection made by my friend, Kosuke! The middle one is “ゆきの美人” which means “ゆきYuki, 美人Beauty” and Yuki is my name, well done, Kosuke 🙂

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The next day was started with Asa-Buro, the first Onsen of the day. For this way, I can reset myself from the previous nights drinking and be ready for skiing! As the weather forecast already had told, the snow continued for a whole day but not windy and snow was not that heavy so the condition was just fabulous for enjoying skiing in deep powder snow.This was my first time to ski in Akita, and to tell you the truth I didn’t expect too much about the snow condition in Akita, I thought it was wet snow but luckily I was wrong.

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Kosuke took a very good picture of mine with his Nikon D5. Immediately  I changed my Facebook profile picture to this one!

We skied until the chair lifts stopped their service at 4 pm. And drove back to the hotel. Soaked into Onsen (my second one on this day) to relax my sore muscle. The hotel is located well-known Onsen resort called Nyuto Onsen, actually Nyuto means a nipple, I know it is a very strange name… It is named after the mountain nearby and this mountain’s shape is similar to women’s breast, so that’s why. And also the color of this Onsen water is white, cloudy color like milk. I like sulfur smell very much and Nyuto Onsen is sulfur bath.I soaked Onsen one more time after dinner and Sake just before going to bed  (or actually Futon!).

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Next day was wonderful weather, we could looked down the lake Tazawa from the mountain. Amazingly there was no cue for lifts or restaurants, this ski resort has 13 runs some of them were well groomed and some are natural and lots of powder snow. Some are steep but mostly moderate. We skied until lunch time and then packed our gears to send them back to Tokyo by Takkyubin. I always envy when I talk with my bike tour guests who travel to Japan for skiing from Australia, New Zealand or even from Europe, as they have a few weeks holiday but my schedule is so tight, 1.5 days skiing and had to go home… Before taking Shinkansen back to Tokyo, we drove to Tsurunoyu Onsen, which is the most famous, popular and the oldest Onsen in this area. I have read many articles about Tsurunoyu and seen lots of nice pictures. We had originally tried to book this Ryokan (Inn) but was fully booked and we could not stay here this time. However you can try as visitors if you go there by 3 pm, and which we did this time. Even though I had heard about this place already but the actual impression was far above the expectation. The atmosphere, scenery, Onsen water, everything was just lovely. Simple and beautiful. I liked this place very much!

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We took same way back to Tokyo, by Shinkansen. Although it is just 2.5 days short visit, I fully enjoyed the weekend retreat, I will definitely come back!

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My Irish friend was one of very few Western guests everywhere, at hotel, ski mountain or Onsen. The map above, the data can tell this fact. If you have JR pass, just jump into Akita Shinkansen and get off at Tazawako station. You need to reserve hotel / Ryokan and reserve the pick-up bus from Shinkansen station. Please enjoy this very local experience in Akita.

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Tazawako Ski resort   website

Tsurunoyu Onsen website

 

 

Tsuyu …. Rainy season is not fun at all but…

June 12, 2014

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As you may already know, it is the middle of  rainy season in Japan. This year it has been raining a lot, Tokyo has the most rain in the last 1/4 century… Oh, just too much… we look outside of the window with the bitterness when we need to cancel the tour.

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Rainy season is called “Tsuyu (梅雨)” in Japanese, it literally means “plum rain”, and actually this is a season for Japanese plum fruit. You can easily find the light green or yellowish fruits on the trees in the gardens, shrines or temples even in Tokyo.

With these plum fruits, someone make plum jam, another make pickled plum (Umeboshi) or maybe plum juice. For us it is definitely, “Umeshu (梅酒)”!!  Umeshu, or plum wine is a Japanese liqueur made from steeping Ume into “Shochu” (Shochu is a kind of Japanese distilled beverage) and sugar. After three months or more maturing in the jar, it becomes very smooth and mild Umeshu, normally Umeshu contains about 10 % of alcohol.

On the other rainy day, we made TGCT home made Umeshu, we may be able to start tasting in this winter, so please come to our shop to try them before we finish them all by themselves :-p

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Matsuri – Summer festival – season has come

July 8, 2013

We have many festivals and events all year round, but especially summer is a season when a lot of Matsuri (festival) are held in Japan. The world “Matsuri” literally means “enshrine” and so the origin of Matsuri comes from the ritual to pray and thank God for the abundant crops. Also it is very humid and hot in summer, people need to pray for the future well-being.

It must be nice to experience Japanese Matsuri with local people, who may be much more open attitude than usual after a couple of beers and Sakes 🙂

Here are some of the scheduled Matsuri in Tokyo in this summer.

*July 13 – 15    (6pm- 9pm)     Bon Dance festival @ Tsukuda Island (Tsukishima station /Yurakucho line)

*July 13, 14   (2pm – 9pm)  Tsukishima Kusaichi  @Tsukishima (Tsukishima station/Yurakucho line)

*July 24-27  Kagurazaka Festival  @Iidabashi station (JR, Tozai, Yurakucho, Nanboku line)

* July 25, 26  Shimbashi Koichi Festival  @ Shimbashi station (JR, Ginza line)

*July 26, 27  Bon Dance festival @ Zojoji temple (Shibakoen station)

*July 27  (7pm – 8.30pm)   Sumidagawa Firework festival   @Asakusa

*July 31 – Aug 3   Tsukiji Honganji temple @Tsukiji (Hibiya line)

*Aug 10   Tokyo Bay Firework festival (6.50pm – 8.10pm)   @Odaiba

Enjoy Tokyo’s hot summer!!

Free Wifi spots in Tokyo – Update and wifi friendly hotel

June 21, 2013

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There are more and more places starting to offer a free Wifi service these days compared to the time when we posted our blog last time about free Wifi spots in Tokyo.

[Convenience Store]

Seven Eleven : Seven Spot

Family Mart : Famima_Wi-fi

[Cafe]

Starbuck : at_Starbuck_Wi2

Denny’s : Seven Spot (Same as Seven Eleven)

[Subway]

Tokyo Metro : Manta

[Other]

Marunouchi Cafe Seek    1 min. from Tokyo sta., 5 min. from Yurakucho st.

Seibu department store   (Ikebukuro, Shibuya)   : Seven Spot

And of course   TGCT office  3 min. from Kayabacho sta.

 

And below is the list of hotels in Tokyo where you can use wifi in your room.

Keio Plaza Hotel  (will be available from the end of July ’13)
Jal City Yotsuya
Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premium 
Royal Park Shiodome
Shinjuku Washington Hotel 
Kanda Grand Central Hotel
Toyoko-Inn hotel chaine

 

Cool stuffs !

August 3, 2012

 

If you go to stores like any convenience shops, department stores, 100 yen shops, DIY shops, Tokyu Hands, Loft,  in this season, you will easily find a wide space of  shelves selling various goods to avoid dehydration and prevent heat stroke.

“Ice Type Facial Paper”, “Cool Body Mist”, “Miracool (=miracle) Towel” Neck Cool Scarf” etc, etc… Some of them may be just no better than a placebo, but some are really working!

We have bike tours in this hot weather so our guides are carrying many items to protect our guests from the heat attack. Today, I’ll show you the contents of our guide bag just a bit 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite “Cool Down” item is “Bubshower” (name of the item) of Kao (manufacturer’s name). The menthol is used in it and the heat of evaporation can make you feel cool down. Everyday’s shower time with this item is my pastime (of bath time :-p) after the tour.

… And of course, beer time after the bath time is the blissful moment!!

Celebrate the 3000th. Guest since 2006!

June 27, 2012

This is the picture of our first tour in November 2006.  I still remember how I was excited when I found a new booking request e-mail arrived into my e-mail account! I had one couple from USA and one Canadian guest on that tour, and three guides (Masa, Carlos and I) wanted join the tour. So three guides for three guests 🙂 We didn’t have any cycling uniforms.

In 2006, we had 50 guests in one year. I had fun time on every tour. I sometime went out for beer together with the guests or even asked the guests to come to my place to have dinner together after the tour. Our guides (all are my friends) were enjoying the tour and enjoying to make friends from all over the world. Our tour operation was maybe still very immature and inexperienced but the guests are very patient and broad-minded.

In 2007, we had 103 guests in one year. Probably our tour operation was improved a little bit, but still we were enjoying the tour very much. At that time, we had only one tour (Route A) on Saturday only.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the number of the guests got increased a lot. We were all very surprised but very happy. We were of course enjoying the tour. With requests from the guests, we started different route, Route B on Sunday and finally on weekdays as well. In 2010, we had the 1000th. guest from Australia!

In 2011, until March 11th., everything went very well same as the previous year. But then that disaster occurred. All the reservation we had at that moment were cancelled. In April 2011, in such a circumstances, we still had 19 guests who still came to Japan and took our tour. We were so moved and cried happily. We enjoyed the tour with those amazing guests! We released and started Route C, although nobody had asked us 🙂 Actually we must have had the 2000th. guest in 2011, but did not notice. We were so empty-headed…

In 2012, the number of the visitors to Japan is gradually going back to normal. And…. finally we had the 3000th. guest. Originally we had estimated that the 3000th. guest might come in July or August this year judging from the record of the booking status. But actually “he” joined the tour on June 27th. We are so — excited and filled with deep emotions to think back that we enjoyed the tours with 3000 cyclists!!

I and other guides are enjoying the tour. We are often asked by our guests that aren’t we got bored as the tour routes are all same, but our answer is “NO, not at all” (so far!). We’re waiting you to join our tour, and please be our the 4000th. guest 😉 And of course I’m still very happy to go out for drink with you after the tour!

Thank you, Mark from Chicago, the 3000th. guest. Photo taken in the office after the tour with Mark (with our TGCT uniform), Alex, Erica, Sam, Jac, Palle, Sam and Angela!