JETs on Jitenshas – the PEPY Ride Japan
compiled by Laura Graham
This Spring saw the biggest PEPY Ride Japan yet, with 10 prefectures taking part in bike rides all over Japan. Hyogo, Hokkaido, Shizuoka, Tottori, Nagasaki, Aichi, Okayama, Hiroshima, Ehime, and Yamagata have all entered teams for this year’s event, raising a massive 500,000yen (around $5000) for PEPY’s educational projects.
The PEPY Ride Japan: JETs on Jitenshas event was started by a former Ehime JET Aileen Cameron and PEPY intern Josh Bloomfield last year.The event involves groups of JETs and their friends getting together for a bike ride around their prefecture (or further in some cases).All those involved pay a participation fee of 2000 yen which goes directly to PEPY’s projects.
These rides have ranged from a handful of hardcore bikers pushing themselves to some extreme distances, to large party-style gatherings including BBQ picnics and onsen (hot spring) stopovers. The event is held across weekends in April and May, just in time for the last of the cherry blossoms and start of the warm weather – perfect conditions for biking! Or at least that is the idea – a bit of snow didn’t put the Hokkaido team off! Read on for more details from each ride…..
“They said it couldn’t be done. You can’t bring a yearly spring cycling event from Honshu and plunk it down in Hokkaido. They should know by now that Hokkaido JETs don’t take “no” for an answer. Our ride was about 20K through the countryside in front of the beautiful Mount Yotei, complete with a coffee break at the Weiss Hotel and an exhilarating 7K downhill finish. Now when I look at the pictures and see the snow piled up around our bicycles, it does look a little absurd, but I can’t wait to do it again. And hey, only a few of us fell off our bikes! As with any foreigner summit, the event snowballed from a bike ride into a fantastic beast of a weekend.”
In stark contrast to Hokkaido’s super chilly and crazy weekend, Hyogo’s team followed a route which took in drifting cherry blossoms, Sousha Shrine, Himeji Castle and a riverside picnic accompanied by beautiful spring sunshine. One of the team leaders, Emily Lemmon, wrote:
“All those who came out were cool people and I know that at least I personally made some new friends! Everyone seemed in pretty good spirits (I think the perfect weather and showers of sakura petals kind of helped) all day!”
In Shizuoka (former home of PEPY’s founders and original PEPY Ride members) participants, many sporting attractive PEPY t-shirts, celebrated their triumphant ride with a delicious picnic lunch! “With the sun shining brightly and a gentle breeze blowing, the riders made their way leisurely down the Magome river to the ocean. We then followed the beach trail east as far as the Tenryu river before stopping off for an al fresco lunch at SurfQuest. Everybody had brought their own bowl, spoon and cup, and we were soon tucking into the delicious curries, raita, rice, and naan breads that had been prepared.”
The ‘Let’s Biking Goto’ team did a sterling job in Nagasaki, getting support from the local community. Team leader Kelly Trombley wrote:
“Riders enjoyed flying down the mountains, stopping at a waterfall and other gorgeous lookout points, and enjoying bananas and mint water from the support car.Everyone finished by 6pm and the BBQ party began. Some friends from the community also came to support PEPYs cause and brought more food! By the time everyone woke up on Sunday the BBQs were fired back up and we ate the loads of remaining food, while sun bathing, swimming, and jumping off the pier until the last ferries left around 4pm. It was the perfect end to an amazing weekend!”
Team Aichi got together once again for a 40km ride through Okazaki and Anjo. PEPY Ride Japan veterans Lindsey Tulloch and Karen Gawne worked together to create this ride for a small group of friends and showed their dedication to PEPY by joining this event for the third time. Here’s to many more Aichi bike rides in the future!
Okayama, Hiroshima, and Ehime
All three prefectures did the Shimanamikaido Bike Ride, across 77km of suspension bridges, beautiful islands, mikan groves, and beachside trails. Ehime and Hiroshima briefly passed each other at the lunch-stop (great yakisoba!) and the hike uphill to the bridges was more than worth it to fly down the other side in the beautiful May sunshine and warm breeze. A group of Hiroshima JETs and friends stayed in Matsuyama Youth Hostel and made a weekend of it; others camped and a few impressive Okayamans turned round the next day to ride all the way back!
For Yamagata, this was no ordinary ride. This was a mission.
-To boldly bike where no one has biked before (aka Atsumi) – accomplished.
-To raise money for PEPY – accomplished (16,600 yen).
-To have fun – very, very, tres, hontouni, mecha mecha accomplished!
-To stick our feet in one of the most wonderful foot onsens known to humankind – accomplished.
-To avoid dropping any food in the foot onsen while eating lunch – failed.
-To avoid getting poked in the butt by kids with toy guns – failed!
-To minimize casualties – under review.
Notes: No hostages were taken despite the warning on the PEPY waiver. It was a great time, the weather was fine, the large Shonai hills were alive with the sound of musical screams of agony, the coastal view was idyllic, and we hope to do it again.”
Tottori’s ride was so popular that even the local press came to find out what it was all about: “We rode around Lake Togo, in Yurihama, out to the ocean, and along the coast. We stopped at several scenic points to take photos and to have short breaks. The ride lasted about 2 hours and 30 minutes. After we returned the borrowed bikes, we went to a nearby onsen to clean up and relax before an AJET-organized cookout. The local access cable TV station was on hand to interview participants and shoot some footage of the ride, as was a photographer from the town newsletter.”
A huge thank you to everyone who participated in these rides and continued to support PEPY’s work and increase awareness in Japan. We are looking forward to more rides in the future! If you are interested in organizing or participating in this event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org