Every autumn brings a blizzard of events to the Hakata area. One of them is the Hakata Meguri, in which a guide takes visitors to see well-known local sites of historical or cultural interest. It’s certainly a lot of fun to walk, but this year, visitors will have the option of using a velotaxi.
Created in Germany, the environmentally friendly velotaxis are large tricycles designed to carry passengers as well as the driver. They’re starting to be seen in greater numbers in Fukuoka, but one group in particular has unique decorations. On the body is painted a Hakata-ori pattern, the textile that is one of Hakata’s famous products, and the legend that it is a Hakata Katari Velotaxi. In other words, the driver will tell you about local history and culture as he pedals you through town.
All the drivers have taken a course for Hakata guides conducted by Fukuoka City, so they have unparalleled knowledge of Hakata sightseeing spots and their origin. These sites are best viewed either on foot or using a bicycle for two reasons. First, the sites, such as the Kushida Shinto shrine, and the Shofuku-ji and Joten-ji Buddhist temples, are in a relatively compact area. Second, that area has many narrow streets. Going by velotaxi means you can take someone with you, and you’re free to ask the guide all the questions you like.
The Hakata Velotaxi began operating in May this year, and they’ve become quite popular, perhaps because they’re so easy to spot. In addition to the Hakata area, you can take them to the Ohori area, the site of the former Fukuoka Castle and a beautiful park, and the Tenjin district, where you can shop ‘till you drop. Be sure to flag that cab if you see one on the street!
Originally published online for Fukuoka Now magazine (Oct. 2011)