lunes, 29 de agosto de 2011

Magnetic Tokyo


The ride back to Kunitachi city in West Tokyo took less than 5 hours and a large part of the rout followed the coast line. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the beaches were filled with sun worshipers, surfers, and families gathered around barbecue pits roasting yakitori. For more than 7 km I rode along the boardwalk, where I encountered many a surfer carrying their boards fixed to the sides of bikes. Bicycles are an integral part of the culture in this part of Japan and so ubiquitous are bikes that in metropolitan Tokyo cyclists are forced to pay to park their rides. It is illegal to lock in many places and cycles in violation are impounded; however there is plenty of paid parking just for bikes. Every metro station is equipped with bike parking and there are even subterranean lots outfitted with special bike ramps. Although I find the idea novel, I still can't get used to paying just to park my bike! If bike riding is to become mainstream back home as it is here, and I certainly hope it does, this is something I'll have to get used to.

I had planned to remain in Tokyo only one day and start heading north as soon as possible,
but the magnetism of Tokyo and the people I've met here make it hard to leave. In the
evening I join the Taku household on a small trip to the local supermarket to scourer the trash
and we return home with a mountain of vegetables. I never cease to be amazed by the
waste in Japan and gratefully we dine on a feast of steamed edemame, small cucumbers
with miso, a large fresh salad of butter leaf lettuce and raw vegetables, and a curry from
tomatoes, green peppers and turnips, all of which was salvaged from the garbage. We are
joined by another young man named Love; a Swede, lanky and red-headed, he is a university student living in Tokyo now for 4 years. Love tells me about an underground network of urban bike racers he has recently become acquainted with; I am intrigued and now I don't want to leave the city without first attending a race. Tokyo is without a doubt the best urban cycling in the world, with its impossibly smooth streets, long straightaways, and the general courteousness of Japanese drivers with cyclists. Another couple days in Tokyo perhaps.

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