The Trail to Chiyanoki: Mountain Biking Revives Village
A stunning mountain bike course has been carved into a mountain of a Genkai-shuraku -- a marginal hamlet where more than 50% of the population is aged 65 or over -- in Saga City. The trail has attracted new faces and energy to Chiyanoki Village, which is facing depopulation and super-aging. Masunaga Eiichi, who ran a mountain bike shop in Fukuoka City, spearheaded the trail project and eventually relocated there. He spent years cultivating relations with the locals before they would allow him to design and build his trail. His strategy was patience, and offering community volunteer work along with his bike rider friends. Eventually, he got the green light. And in return he and his colleagues regularly help trim back vegetation and clear roads. Residents and newcomers are now forging a vibrant culture.

Mountain bikes

The mountain bike course is also popular for its downhill Enduro races. When Masunaga Eiichi was scouting for an ideal mountain bike site, he heard about the topography of Chiyanoki. In 2012, after convincing local residents, he started building his MTB course. Now, the course has become a noted spot among mountain bike fans.

Chiyanoki cotton

Recently, abandoned rice fields are being used to grow cotton. Local farmer Mizuta Koji is behind the project. Young people come out from Saga City to cultivate, and later, spin the cotton. Motivated by the mountain bike project, Mizuta hopes to produce Chiyanoki brand cotton products, such as towels.

Furuyu Onsen Spa

Furuyu hot spring is in Fuji, about a ten-minute drive from Chiyanoki. People in the area have been enjoying the springs for more than 1,000 years ago. There are more than 10 hot spring inns, and most accept day visitors.

Access

From Tokyo fly to Saga Airport. From there, it takes a little less than 2 hours to reach Chiyanoki by shuttle with a transfer to a local bus.