One-day cycling through the Japanese countryside at Inabe City

One-day cycling through the Japanese countryside at Inabe City

Located in northern part of Mie Prefecture, Inabe City is beside the majestic Suzuka Mountains and offers traditional landscapes of "inaka", the Japanese countryside. The area is scattered with stylish cafes that make the most of local produce, historic buildings, and other photo-worthy spots, and it is perfect for cycling!

Written by Julien Legrand

For this article I tried Inabe City’s new bicycle rental service called “Ina-chari” (chari is a colloquial word for bicycle in Japanese). To be honest, I was amazed by how easy the whole process was! You just need a smartphone and a credit card. You download the app, go to one of the stations, and unlock your e-bike with the app. That’s it! The rental fee is only 1,000 yen for the whole day.

After picking up my e-bike nearby Ageki Station along the Sangi Railway Hokusei Line, I started my trip by cycling along the Inabe River. The Inabe River Promenade is about two km long and dedicated to pedestrians and bicycles. Right from the beginning I was wowed by the inaka scenery, with the vast rice fields against the snow-covered peaks of the Suzuka Mountains in the background.

Inabe is also famous for its narrow yellow trains, with one of the three narrowest railway tracks in Japan. Therefore, I decided to make a first stop to take a few pictures. I picked a spot called Megane-bashi, literally the “Eyeglasses Bridge,” named so because of its arched shape. Since only two or three trains are passing by per hour, you need to be ready not to miss your shot. It was rather thrilling, but I was so happy when I managed to get a nice picture of both the bridge and the yellow train!

While continuing my trip, I made an unexpected encounter in the rice fields nearby. A troop of monkeys! After taking a few minutes to observe them playing in the rice fields — such a cute view!—, I kept cycling through the small hamlets. I enjoyed looking at the old houses, orchards, and vegetable plots. You know, all those things typical of Japanese inaka.

My wanderings then lead me to Kanai Shrine. Established in 1221, this shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of the sun in Japanese mythology. Despite its slightly remote location, the shrine is very popular for its original goshuin. Goshuin are large seal stamps with handwritten calligraphy that certify that you have visited a specific shrine. You can collect them in a dedicated accordion-shaped booklet. A perfect souvenir of your trip to Mie!

On the premises, you can also enjoy some instagrammable things such as hana-chozu, a form of floral arrangement made in the water ablution basins, and colorful pinwheels with handwritten wishes from visitors. There is also a subsidiary shrine dedicated to Inari, the deity of agriculture, with a tunnel of red torii gates and stylish lanterns.

Before resuming my trip, I went to pay my respect at the main shrine: a coin in the offering box, two bows, two claps, and finally another bow.

Fresh air and cycling worked up my appetite. For lunch, I decided to check out Nigiwai no Mori “Inabe Hütte,” a unique space created by the city that brings together shops selling colorful food dishes and products made from local Inabe ingredients. In addition, this space aims to create interaction between the local community and visitors through events, workshops, and markets. 
There you will find a bakery, a café, a cake store, and even a restaurant specializing in hot dogs. This was a great treat after cycling!

I ended my cycling trip with a visit to Torinkan, an old elementary school built in 1937. Currently, it hosts a hitsudan café. The Japanese word hitsudan means “written communication.” Inside the café, you are not allowed to talk at all! But I had a lot of fun figuring out how to place my order using body language and a notepad. It was also the opportunity to learn a few words in Japanese sign language. This café was created by a former nurse to give an insight into the unusual aspects of deafness. A really unique experience!

After cycling a little more along the old Noshu-Kaido road and its historic houses, I went back to Ageki station to return my e-bike and take a warm bath in the local onsen. Nothing beats a hot bath to warm up your body and relax your muscles. As you can imagine, I particularly enjoyed it this time.

Inabe is also famous for its plum blossoms in the Agricultural Park. Make sure to check our article about Inabe Plum Grove!
Inabe Plum Grove: Spectacular Spring Scenery Rooted in Community

If you are looking for a getaway in the Japanese inaka, Inabe is the perfect place for you. The e-bike rental service makes it easy and as you can see from the above, Inabe has plenty of unique places and activities to offer!

Tourist attractions covered by this article