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Maximum Pace
Apr 9, 2007
For a change:), here is a very nice & heartwarming article in this week's Nikkei Weekly:

Source: The Nikkei Weekly


:cool:do I recognize Kitano-san, Andy W's TOITO Itoigawa Super-lieutenant in this picture?

Cyclists in a Hill Climb Challenge Series race in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, pedal past a piece of art that had been installed for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial Earth Festival.

Towns see hope in bicycle boom
What better way to get tourists to visit than by appealing to their desire to pedal

Staff writer

A bicycle boom is playing a part in revitalizing out-of-the-way towns. With health and environmental concerns convincing people to do some pedal work, the cycling population has increased by 50% over the past five years. It is this trend that municipalities and nonprofit organizations are exploiting to try to kick-start regional economies.

"Go! You're almost there!" It is early September and a race associated with Hill Climb Challenge Series 2011 is taking place in the city of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture. A total of 110 people - from 8-77 years old - are participating in the uphill bicycle race. Cyclists race up mountain roads as neighborhood seniors and children stand on the sidelines waving homemade flags and cheering them on. Starting at the Matsunoyama Hot Springs and ending at Daigonji Heights, the course stretches 7.5km and has an average incline of about 5%.

"The louder the cheers, the more encouraging it was," a 42-year-old man from the city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, said afterward. "I think I will try again next year."

A 41-year-old woman from the city of Osaka said she was looking forward to the post-race hot spring soak and meal.

A third-grader from Minami-uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, participated with her family. "I didn't think she would do this well," her father said, then explained that she did not practice much before the race.

City officials in Tokamachi take advantage of a visitor influx by promoting local delicacies and fresh produce.

After being terrorized by a series of aftershocks following the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tokamachi got mugged by torrential rainfall this summer. The city is known as the home of Matsunoyama Hot Springs, one of Japan's three great medicinal hot springs.

"If they come, I know they will have a good time," Mayor Yoshifumi Sekiguchi said.

The Hill Climb Challenge Series was launched this year to reinvigorate the city. Participants compete by age and gender, so anybody can enter.

The most recent race began at 7:30 in the morning. Most participants stayed the night before near the Matsunoyama Hot Springs. After the race, a curry cook-off was held, and visitors could check out food booths that showcased local delicacies. Sekiguchi told the participants to "enjoy the great food and beautiful views."

The participation fee for the series is 6,000 yen ($78). If there are 600 participants, the event can break even without sponsors. Right now, the series is being supported by residents - in more ways than one. Citizens marked bulging potholes and other earthquake scars with road cones. On the day of the race, nearly 100 volunteers helped out.

But Akifumi Haga, the series' organizer, said recurring events to rejuvenate a region that relies on government budgets is not a sustainable model. The future of town-building, he said, lies in a mix of citizen participation and cash from sponsors.

Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, which will host another Hill Climb Challenge Series race at the end of this month, has installed bike hangers at various points along its race course.

Another Hill Climb Challenge Series will take place late this month in Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture. The city was established in 2004 through the merger of a city and four towns.

City of pedallers
Takahashi's sightseeing spots are somewhat scattered. And a less-than-ideal transportation infrastructure led officials to the idea of using bicycles to promote tourism. Bicycle racks are located at various points along the race course. Residents will hand out free locally grown tomatoes. And the cyclists will be cheered on by the residents.

During the three Bon holidays, a midsummer celebration meant to honor ancestors, some 150 cyclists from all over the country visited Takahashi. "The most important thing is realizing that town-building is something we have to do ourselves," a city official said.

Two new cycling courses were added this fall. One runs 30.395km and goes by a samurai residence. Another, 42.195km long, takes cyclists past Japan's oldest wooden elementary school building, which is still in use. The city hopes to attract year-round visitors by staging races.

The city of Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, meanwhile, wasted no time turning itself into a city of pedallers. It is the home of the professional road race team Utsunomiya Blitzen and hosted the Japan Cup Cycle Road Race on Oct. 23, the biggest bicycle race of its kind in Asia.

According to the Japan Productivity Center's White Paper on Leisure, the country's leisure-time cycling population stood at 13.6 million in 2010, up 46% from five years earlier. Turns out this leisure-time activity is also a great way to exercise, shop and gather free tomatoes.

Half-Fast Mike

Lanterne Rouge-et-vert
May 22, 2007
Two new cycling courses were added this fall. One runs 30.395km and goes by a samurai residence. Another, 42.195km long, takes cyclists past Japan's oldest wooden elementary school building, which is still in use.
Nice story, as you say.

The lengths of the cycling roads seem a little too precise, though - to the nearest meter!?


Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
And in other news, the Yahiko Hill Climb was canceled because the organizers thought it would be too ostentatious following the earthquake. Go figure.


Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
This was a great little series. JCA which hosts the biggest hillclimbs in the country was actually involved in this - trying to promote the events in local communities. Much like Kodama san used to do.

The top 10 in each race got free entry into next years bigger JCA events: Norikura, Utsukushigahara, Chokai and Aizu. I was lucky to get top 10 in the 2 events I enetered. However, these would probably be better given away as raffle prizes.

As for Yahiko, I believe there was more to it than just the earthquake. The Keirin association choosing to invest their money elsewhere...

Tom, yes that's Kitano san. On the far right is Kenta san of local Nagaoka bike shop "Fins".


The guy with no sleeves is 52 years young eventual winner and Mr. hillclimb himself Murayama san.

As for me, I was leading the race and am out of shot at this point! Try this photo for a better angle:



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