Pioneering Post-Pandemic Travel: Beer Bikes Stir Up New Tourism Trends in Japan
As the pandemic abates, the dormant tourism industry is gradually regaining its vigor. However, travel in the post-pandemic era shows notable changes compared to pre-pandemic times. Alongside an emphasis on localized in-depth tours, smaller group trips seem to be gaining more popularity. A case in point is Yokohama’s recent addition, the “Beer Bike” tour, which is poised to set off a fresh wave of tourist frenzy this summer.
The Beer Bike, an initiative originating from the Netherlands, is a pedal-powered vehicle that can accommodate up to 16 passengers who pedal while enjoying their drinks at a built-in bar. Accompanying the group is a dedicated driver, responsible for steering and braking, while the passengers chat over a beer, the bike moving forward as long as they keep pedaling.
Before the pandemic, similar multi-person bikes sporadically surfaced in various parts of Japan but lacked a suitable use-case until a car repair company based in Kobe, Shinki Shoko, decided to step in. Harnessing the expertise of their in-house craftsmen specialized in metalwork and painting, they procured a Beer Bike from the Netherlands and carried out reverse engineering to build Japan’s first Beer Bike.
To comply with Japanese traffic regulations and ensure a comfortable, safe ride, they limited the bike’s top speed to a leisurely 6–7 kilometers per hour — a walking pace. Yokohama Brewery was the first to introduce the Shinki Shoko’s Beer Bike in December 2021. During the 90-minute tour, visitors explore over ten breweries in Yokohama, tasting different beers while enjoying live violin and organ performances on the bike. This innovative and entertaining travel mode quickly captured public interest, with over 10,000 people having participated in the tour to date.
Yokohama, one of Japan’s early contact points with Western culture during the Meiji Restoration, is also the birthplace of Japanese beer. This city, with popular tourist attractions like the red brick warehouse in Minato Mirai, became the perfect spot to initiate the Beer Bike tour. Despite concerns that the bike’s slow speed might deter shy customers, it received an unexpectedly warm reception. Many people, from bus drivers waiting at red lights to traffic police and…