Between 14th-16th April, 2016, a series of earthquakes hit Kumamoto City and Kumamoto Prefecture on the far-west Japanese island of Kyushu. In response, Rapha Japan took the Mobile Cycle Club across the country to raise funds for the area that in 2013 hosted Rapha Prestige Oguni.
We felt the tremors in Tokyo, over 1,000 kilometres away, and our immediate thoughts were: “where had it struck, how big was it, and is there a tsunami warning?” But in Kumamoto thoughts like these were a luxury – fires raged in the cities, bridges had collapsed and over 44,000 people had been evacuated. People there were in immediate danger and the only saving grace was that Japan’s stringent building regulations had kept the number of casualties to a minimum.
Just three years previously the Kumamoto region had been host to the memorable Rapha Prestige Oguni, a unique riding experience through a vast landscape formed over thousands of years by the eruptions of Mount Aso, Japan’s largest active volcano. As news of the severity of the situation came to light – through news channels, friends and local cyclists (many of whom had been part of the original Prestige) – we felt like we had to take action.
So during Golden Week, the country’s longest national holiday, the team sacrificed time with their families to take the Mobile Cycle Club across the country to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake. By contacting friends, locals and enlisting the help of fellow cyclists, we visited nine cities and organised 15 rides in which 532 riders took part.
Beginning in Gifu, with a surprisingly large turnout, we journeyed west through the lush green forests of Kyoto on to Mount Rokko, Tatsuno, Okayama and Onomichi. With huge support from the bicycle-friendly U2 hotel group the trip ended in Oguni some 65km from Kumamoto.
Word had got out about what we were trying to achieve, and rides were organised on the other side of the globe in New York and Melbourne. One rider directly affected by the disaster and who was living in a shelter contacted us to express his gratitude, together with disappointment that he couldn’t take part.
Oguni’s tourism industry is an important source of revenue, areas that would normally be backlogged with cars are now relatively empty, so staying in hotels, eating local food and visiting the numerous volcanic hot springs is one way of providing help.
Connecting with local riders was important and helped us to create varied routes to accommodate all abilities. There was a challenging course that followed the original Prestige route, alongside steadier options suited to beginners and determined junior cyclists.
Over 10 days with a lot of riding, even more driving, and very little sleep, the support of fellow cyclists helped us to raise a significant amount of money. We hope that these funds will provide some support to an area important to us all.
|Ride Date||Location||Number of
|Number of Donations||Donation|
|2016/05/08||New York, USA||19||19||¥19,000($190)|
Through the cooperation of local riders and government authorities we were able to create a breathtaking route based on that ridden by participants in the original Prestige Oguni.