Fatbike riding on a roll at Tottori dunes
TOURISTS can enjoy riding bicycles with fat tyres - fatbikes - as a new type of leisure activity on the coastal dunes in Tottori city.
Nobuhiro Ogura, 45, a mountain-bike rider from Yurihama, Tottori Prefecture, launched the activity in late April. Fatbikes are more stable than typical bicycles and are easy to ride even for a novice, he said.
"I'd like to promote fatbikes as a new way to have fun at the dunes," he added.
A major leisure sport in the area is paragliding.
It takes advantage of the sea wind and the sand dunes' towering heights of 20m to 30m.
In recent years, "sandboarding" down the slopes and doing yoga overlooking the Sea of Japan have been added to the range of recreational activities on the dunes.
The Tottori prefectural government enacted a sand dunes ordinance in 2009 to conserve the area.
In the light of the recent popularity of sand activities, the government last year established a guideline regarding safe use of the dunes.
It asks visitors to follow rules such as avoiding leisure activities during bad weather, being considerate of other visitors and to restore the dunes to their original state after their activities, so as to preserve the scenic view.
Fatbikes, a type of mountain bike with tyres about 10cm wide, run well on snow and sandy beaches.
The vehicles have begun to gain recognition in Japan as snow races on fatbikes have been organised in Hokkaido and Yamagata prefectures.
Mr Ogura, a qualified instructor under the Japan Mountain Bike Association, first rode a fatbike on the beaches near his house.
He came up with the idea of a business to capitalise on the famous sand dunes as he was "sure it would be fun to ride on the dunes".
The biking course is set outside the dunes' "special protection zone" where vehicles are prohibited under the Natural Parks Law.
Bikers take a round trip leaving from Tottori Sand Dunes Geopark Center.
They ride along a path surrounded by a wooden sandbreak to reach the area with a panoramic view of the largest dune, called Umanose (horseback) after its shape.
The 1.4km ride, which is available from 10am to 5pm at 1,000 yen (S$13.20) per person, takes about 20 minutes, including time for a photo session.
"You'll feel fantastically good riding through the grand landscape of the dunes," Mr Ogura said.
Toshiaki Hotta, head of the prefecture's sand dunes office, said: "Riding bicycles is an accessible activity, and we hope to attract new types of people to the dunes."
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK