Useful weblinks including stories and practical advice from people who have cycled in Japan, some of them illegally.
Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category
Traditional Japanese life takes place at floor level and, although many Japanese homes today have a mixture of traditional and western rooms and furnishings, there is nothing quite like a few days of floorbound experience in a traditional tatami mat room to bring home the essential differentness of life in Japan.
It took me some time to get to the bottom of the question of flying with a Brompton. There is no shortage of information on the web but I came up against two main problems – a lot of people were flying with their bikes but not actually getting them out until they were safely at their destination and unpacked (I intended to leave home and arrive at my hotel on my bike), and nobody seemed very interested in baggage allowance – some of the solutions seemed to call for the full allowance to be taken up by the bike and its packaging.
How I defeated Japan Rail and saved my back from injury
The last challenge was the day I needed to board the airport train with the Brompton and my full luggage, I didn’t want to carry all that for endless distances but you are not allowed to wheel bikes through the ticket barriers at Japanese station.
The previous night I had made a reconnaissance of Ikebukuro. There were four entrances but the one I was interested in was the south gate, it was the closest to the lifts so I would have the least distance to carry the whole load if it became necessary. Also I had used the west and east gates several times in the previous two days and the staff might recognise me and what I was up to. An element of surprise could work in my favour. (more…)
Japanese don’t do luggage as a rule and, while bicycles are absolutely everywhere, they seem to keep themselves to the streets, so the challenge of penetrating Japan Rail with a fully loaded Brompton is considerable compared to the ease of taking your bike and luggage on trains in, say, Britain or the Netherlands. However over my two week trip I had used local commuter trains, expresses and the Shinkansen Bullet trains without any exceptional difficulty.
To get to Japan it was necessary to cycle across Central London, from St Pancras station in the Northeast to Paddington Station in the West. Cycling in London used to be an activity for battle scarred cycle couriers and adrenaline junkies who didn’t mind mixing it with the traffic. To survive you had to be very assertive and prepared to break a few traffic laws.
Tokyo was the last stage of my trip. I had arranged to meet some Japanese designers at the Tokyo Design Centre and also to meet up with a couple of old college friends working in the car industry in Tokyo. Harry has lived in Japan since he graduated. His wife is Japanese and he is a director of a local design company. Tim is a more nomadic typical car designer, in Tokyo for a stint after several years in California.
On Sunday Morning I set off early from the Ohsado hotel on a wave of polite smiles from fellow guests and bows from the staff. It’s always a treat to start with a downhill and I cruised down the long descent into the port of Aikawa with the sun shining and the blue sea sparkling on my left – a moment of pure pleasure.
Sado-ga-shima is Japan’s largest island, off the north-west coast of Japan opposite Niigata. Its shape is distinctive, two mountainous areas to the North and South, joined by a flat fertile plain. I knew little about the Island except that it was the home of a famous traditional drumming school. When I returned to Tokyo to meet a Japanese colleague he was very surprised that I had been to Sado, it’s not on any of the usual international tourist itineraries but he knew it through a project which seeks to develop a sustainable economy for the island.