Explore the Tour de Kyushu 2023 in Japan
The race is on, and you’re invited to watch. This October, the Tour de Kyushu 2023 will treat spectators to four dazzling days of bar-gripping, thigh-pumping, world-class cycling across three prefectural stages, and a castle criterium. The fun begins at Kitakyushu’s Kokura Castle on October 6, then continues over the following days through Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Oita prefectures, passing through the five Aso mountains and ending with a high-speed sprint in Hita’s city center in Oita on October 9.
It’s a rare opportunity to catch all the live cycling action in person and up close, as 18 road-racing teams from Japan and abroad spin out of the stadium and into Kyushu’s famously historic, oceanic, and volcanic landscapes. Cheer on the cyclists channeling the joy of pure speed, then take some time to wind down and slow travel through the region in Kyushu’s mild autumn climate.
Stage 0: Spinning around Kitakyushu’s Kokura Castle
The Tour de Kyushu 2023 starts with a 45 km closed-circuit sprint around Fukuoka prefecture’s iconic Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu. This is the opening criterium race, in which the riders compete for positions and the fastest finishing time on a set course that consists of several laps around the picturesque castle grounds.
After the race, feel free to visit the castle tower museum and delve into its 400-year-old history. The original Kokura Castle was built in 1602, commissioned by the samurai Hosokawa Tadaoki, who arranged the legendary duel between the swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi and his rival Sasaki Kojiro. Miyamoto Musashi himself is believed to have visited the castle in 1632. The current tower was reconstructed in 1959 and renovated in the karazukuri architectural style — the topmost floor is larger than the floors beneath it, so you can swoon over its panoramic views of Katsuyama Park, the Murasaki River and surrounding Kitakyushu cityscape to the west, south, and east.
Stage 1: Traversing Fukuoka’s Rural and Historical Towns
On October 7, the 145 km long-distance race takes off from Kitakyushu, the birthplace of track bicycle racing, and winds its way through many of Fukuoka prefecture’s charming rural towns and villages.
Along the route, don’t miss Kawara’s Roadside Station, which serves a distinctively refreshing black “coal” soft ice cream, or the Roadside Station Oto Sakurakaido, which includes an open-air hot spring bath. In Soeda, venture off-road and into the forest to visit Hikosan Shrine and watch artisans make garagara clay bell amulets. Gaze over Toho’s spectacularly terraced rice paddies, and discover the area’s traditional koishiwara-yaki pottery, recognizable by its characteristic dotted and brushstroke designs. Contemplate the Hishino triple water wheels of Asakura, and see how the local community has rebounded from the devastating landslides of 2019. Finally, in Kurume, taste Kyoho draft wine in the same vineyard where the French Kyoho grapes were first planted in Japan, at the oldest winery in Fukuoka prefecture, founded in 1972.
It will be a certain thrill to watch the pro racers cycle across Ukiha’s Shirakabe-dori white-walled avenue, lined with 250 merchant’s houses from the early Showa period preserved as National Important Traditional Buildings. For a wider view of the Chikugo plain, challenge yourself to climb 300 stone steps framed by 91 red torii gates up to Ukiha Inari Shrine. Or simply enjoy a leisurely ride of your own along the Chikugo River Cycling Road that stretches 27 km between Kurume and Ukiha train stations.
Further south, the Yame Central Tea Garden region is famous for cultivating fragrant, high-quality Yame green tea leaves, so don’t miss the opportunity to sample a freshly brewed cup accompanied by traditional wagashi sweets. You might even spend the night at Nipponia Hotel, renovated from a traditional wooden merchant’s house built in 1917, which includes a tea shop and contemporary art gallery.
As the cyclists race through Miyama, why not take a stroll through Kiyomizu Temple Honbo Garden, centered around a pond with a view of Mt. Atago in the background? Kiyomizu temple is also a highlight of Kyushu Olle’s Miyama Mt. Kiyomizu trekking course through this mountainous area. Get to Omuta early to watch the cyclists sprint across the Stage 1 finish line, then stick around to watch a spectacular sunset over Miike Harbor.
Stage 2: Passing through Kumamoto’s Five Aso Mountains
On October 8, the 106 km course tackles the volcanic Aso mountain range, passing through its five distinct peaks, while showcasing Kyushu’s natural beauty from northern to southern Aso.
The race starts at about 900 meters above sea level at Senomoto Kogen, at the northeastern border of Kumamoto prefecture. First, take a moment to pause on the wide open meadow; from here, you can see all five peaks of Aso to the south and the Kuju mountain range to the north. Then hold your breath as you witness the cyclists’ dazzling descent along the mountainside Yamanami Highway to the city of Aso before climbing the peaks to the east of Mt. Aso’s fuming Naka-dake crater.
The Stage 2 Kumamoto race concludes with an intensely competitive circular course in the hills surrounding the city center of Minami Aso, so be sure to catch the winner’s heart-pounding finish.
Stage 3: Sprinting from Oita’s Autopolis to Hita City Center
The final stage of the Tour de Kyushu 2023 is a high-speed sprint across 135 km that spins right off the Autopolis International Race Track at an elevation of 820 meters in the south of Oita Prefecture before pursuing a winding descent through the mountains and swirling around downtown Hita, 700 meters below.
This is the stage where spectators can truly appreciate the various tactics of team competition in bicycle road racing. As the speed of the cyclists increases, aerodynamic drag increases exponentially. So, the team members ride in tight formation to break the wind in front of the “ace,” who will save their energy for the final sprint to the finish line. As each team’s claim to victory depends on both the strength of its individual members and the effectiveness of their various strategies along the course, it’s particularly rewarding to follow the race from start to finish.
The Tour de Kyushu 2023 spotlights the natural and cultural assets of three prefectures over 400 km while revitalizing the local community and economy through cycling and tourism. This world-class race is the long-awaited reprise of a major international sporting event in Kyushu, inviting the world to see how the region has rebounded from natural disasters and other setbacks in recent years.
Best of all, it’s our chance to show our support for a region rich in attractions and share our passion for cycling in all its forms, from the competitive road and track racing to a leisurely weekend ride along a scenic riverside. We also offer 1-day tours for cyclists. Please join us.So see you in Kyushu this October!