By Keisuke Uranishi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterA smartphone app about cycling in Senshu, a district in southwest Osaka Prefecture, has been launched by 13 local governments in the area as part of efforts to attract more foreign visitors — particularly people from Taiwan, where cycling is popular.
Senshu is close to Kansai Airport, which was used by a record-high number of foreign visitors last year. However, tourists tend to just pass through Senshu on their way to Kyoto, Osaka and other places.
Parties concerned hope Japanese cyclists will use the app and and share bike routes in the area with people overseas, thereby increasing the number of visitors to the district.
The 13 local governments are the cities of Sakai, Kishiwada, Izumiotsu, Kaizuka, Izumisano, Izumi, Takaishi, Sennan and Hannan, and the towns of Tadaoka, Kumatori, Taijiri and Misaki.
The app is titled Gurutto Senshu Saikuring Mappu (Senshu cycling course), and helps users enjoy cycling along three different routes. The Kaihin route extends for 52.8 kilometers along Osaka Bay. The 86.5-kilometer Kyuryo route has lots of ups and downs, and is considered suitable for intermediate or advanced cyclists.
The Renraku route, which comprises two routes branching off the Kaihin and Kyuryo toward the city of Osaka and Wakayama Prefecture respectively, is 55.3 kilometers long in total.
The prefectural road-based Kaihin route, easy even for beginners, is dotted with such tourist spots as a long-established anago conger eel sushi restaurant, an open-air market run by a fishing cooperative where visitors can shop for fresh seafood, and a beach for swimming. The highest pass on the Kyuryo route is located in Izumi at an altitude of 185 meters, allowing cyclists to enjoy the view that unfolds before their eyes as they go over a mountain pass, changing from season to season.
The app was developed with the aim of increasing the number of cyclists visiting from abroad, especially from Taiwan.
According to a senior official of the Sakai city government, “The Senshu district has been just an area that tourists pass through,” even as the number of people arriving on international flights at Kansai Airport has been increasing. The 13 municipal governments recognized that the airport is used a great deal, in particular by visitors from Taiwan.
The municipal governments have also prepared a B2-size folding map that cyclists can carry around. The map features information about places where cyclists can rent a bike plus bicycle pumps and tools.
The app is currently available only in Japanese. But KIX Senshu Tourism Bureau, a general incorporated association set up by the local governments in March, plans to present the information in Chinese and other languages in the future.
“We hope the app will be used by Japanese cyclists first and then spread among foreigners,” a bureau official said.
The bureau aims to increase the number of overnight visitors from abroad to the district to 1.37 million, and boost the amount they spend to ¥102.1 billion by 2020. There were 680,000 visitors and ¥51 billion spent in 2015.
“Surrounded by the sea and the mountains, the Senshu district is rich in all sorts of local delicacies as well as well-known sweets. Cyclists can take time to enjoy them,” an official said.
The map can be downloaded via a QR code on the homepage of the Osaka Senshu Kanko Gaido (Osaka Senshu Visitors Guide) (http://welcome-to-senshu.jp/).
For more information, call the bureau on (072) 436-3440 (Japanese only).
Shimanami Kaido sees surge
KIX Senshu Tourism Bureau is hoping to replicate the success of the cycling course on the Shimanami Kaido expressway, which connects Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, with Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.
The well-serviced cycling course has been attracting a rapidly increasing number of visitors from Taiwan thanks to the beautiful view of many islands from a bridge.
According to the Onomichi municipal government, the number of foreign tourists in the city hit a record high of about 270,000 in 2016, although the number of overall visitors was almost level with the previous year.
By country and region, Taiwan was the largest source of visitors to Japan, with 80,000 people.