Creating a Brighter Future for Local Communities through Cycling
Tom Bossis from France is working to revitalize local communities in Japan through cycling-based activities, including competitive cycling and cycling tourism.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics cycling road race course started at Musashino Forest Park in the Tokyo Metropolis, which traverses Fuchu City, Chofu City, and Mitaka City, and finished at the Fuji International Speedway in Oyama Town in Shizuoka Prefecture. The route passed along the shores of Lake Yamanaka (Yamanakako), one of the Fuji Five Lakes at the foot of the majestic Mt. Fuji.
France-born Tom Bossis is currently a Coordinator for International Relations in Yamanakako Village in Yamanashi Prefecture, working to revitalize the community through cycling. “I think bicycles have a broader appeal that goes beyond competitive cycling; that is, the ability to get around under your own steam and enjoy nature. These values are sure to be a good fit for the society of the future,” says Tom.
Tom began competitive cycling in 2006 in France, host nation of the Tour de France for some 120 years. While still at university, he placed ninth in France and became a candidate to represent his country. His future looked promising. However, juggling the demands of professional cycling with academic study led Tom to question if he wanted to devote his life to competitive cycling, and eventually he retired from the sport. In 2015, he decided to broaden his horizons by studying in Japan, a completely different culture from his own. “Before coming to Japan, I’d planned to visit other countries as well, but I fell in love with Japan and didn’t want to leave,” says Tom. Later, he joined a professional cycling team in Japan, as an athlete and coach.
Prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Tom was approached by the French cycling team to help find a location for a training camp in Japan. It was this that prompted his involvement in revitalizing local communities through cycling. Tom recommended Lake Yamanaka, his own familiar training route, as an ideal location because it has a cool and comfortable climate during the hot and humid Japanese summer and is quite close to Tokyo. The decision by the French team to hold the training camp there led to Tom’s appointment in 2018 as Coordinator for International Relations for Yamanakako Village. He presented a proposal to the mayor to “make Yamanakako Village a culturally significant site for cyclists” by establishing a cycling culture in the village. Today, he is actively engaged in efforts to promote cycling, including holding cycling classes for children and the general public. Tom was also involved in the launch of the Avenir* Yamanashi Yamanakako road racing team in 2021 with the aim of promoting competitive cycling and developing world-class athletes, and coached the team of the year. He also helped to organize the Avenir Cup cycle race that year in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Tom sums up the appeal of the village as a cycling route, saying, “Yamanakako Village is located in a beautiful natural setting. However, few people know that it is at its most beautiful in the early morning. When you catch sight of diamond Fuji** or scarlet Fuji*** as you cycle along it makes you feel as though you’re riding in a work of art.”
Tom plans to launch a cycle tourism startup company that combines the appeal of bicycles and rural Japan, beginning with the Mt. Fuji area, which includes Yamanakako Village. Mt. Fuji straddles the boundary of Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, which form the heart of a region that boasts oceans and mountains, agricultural products such as tea and fruit, and a cultural heritage associated with the worship of Mt. Fuji itself. It is as though the charms of Japan are concentrated in a single region. The cycling route extends over a wide area at the base of Mt. Fuji and Tom believes that if it grows in popularity, the surrounding area will see an increase in tourist numbers both from Japan and overseas.
Expressing his aspirations for the future, Tom says, “I want to think about ways in which bicycles can help create a better future where we can all enjoy the bounty of nature while interacting with the local people.”
- * Avenir means ‘future’ in French
- ** A phenomenon that occurs when the sun aligns with the peak of Mt. Fuji, causing it to shine bright like a diamond
- *** In winter, the snow-covered mountain peak takes on a pale scarlet hue in the morning and evening sun