12 February 2008

Escape from Tokyo

I was on a business trip to Osaka on Friday and looking at the weather forecast for Tokyo I thought that I might better take my bicycle with me and stay in the Kyoto area. To escape the snow and do some nice rides in so far unchartered terrain.

The girls from our Osaka office were so kind to book me a hotel in Kyoto which was quite difficult due to the extended weekend. On Saturday morning I assembled my bike and wanted to start to ride. However within hours it looked like this:

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[psychological tension built-up trap]


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The rest of the day I spend in museums, department stores and other cozy and warm places. I even went to the local Sento around the corner and took a long bath. Much more than Onsens, Sentos have the tendency to be hot. Very hot indeed. This one was no exception, I could lower myself only up to the belly into the water and when I went out again I looked like the Polish flag (red below, white above). The only basin with an acceptable temperature was the one with free distribution of electric shocks, which I found out only after I have moved inside. I encountered one of the rare occassions that I wished to be born without testicles.

On Sunday morning I move on to Hamamatsu. I have lived there from 1998 to 1999 and I liked it very much. There is much less to go, see and do compared to Tokyo, but it is so much easier to do something. So in the end, in Tokyo I do nothing because it is too much stress anyway, while in Hamamatsu I had a lot of fun.













On Sunday I made a round trip at lake Hamanako. This is the tour I always made when I lived there, it is only 63 km long and the hills are ridiculously easy to climb today, but 10 years ago it was very hard. The landscape is beautiful, especially in the north of the lake. The civil engineer in me rejoices, seeing all these fine examples of bridge building culture. I was aiming to do this round in 2 hours in the past, but this time I rather tried to stay in high cadence of 90+ and make a lot of breaks at temples and sightseeing spots and take some photos which I never did in the past.
Here is a nice photo of my bicycle enjoying the view at Bentenjima with four Japanese mops.

All in all it was a little bit cold still, but much better than the day before at Kyoto. The only bad experience I had came when I went to the CYCLE POP shop and asked if I could use their pump to inflate my tires. The owner said no, even after I repeated my question and even after I offered him money for it. This is actually the shop where I bought the pump I am currently using in 1999 from exactly the same guy. There are many Japanese-Brazilians (or Brazilian-Japanese) in Hamamatsu and the town is famous for its prejudice against them. I guess I was mistaken for one of them, despite my super-expensive Assos gear.

On Monday I went to the North to Tenryu and than up into the mountains. One needs about 25 km to come out of the city but then one is in the middle of the country side. I opted to go to in Western direction first, then took a smaller road leading me over a 400m elevation pass. There were no signs of snow and the roads were in good shape. The area is similar but somehow different to the Okutama area where we do most of our rides. A lot of tea paddies deep in the montains, some lonely houses here and there, I even saw a small waterfall. Also there are many temples and shrines in the area and virtually no traffic. If I encountered a car, it used to be a minicar or a minicar type van, rather than tourists crusing the area. For the friends of WADA, there were also some difficult steep slopes.

I only made about 90 km, but in high cadence and took a lot of breaks. It is clearly different to ride a track which one has ridden many times before or to go into new terrain where you don't know how much more meter you have to climb before you reach the pass. This showed me, that I have become a little bit complacent in recent times, as I did not try to many new things, more variations of the same theme.

In any case, it was a very good experience and as there are many nice onsens in the area like Shibukawa Onsen, I wonder if we should not go together there in spring before it is getting really hot. The trip by Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Hamamatsu is about one and a half hour and a return ticket costs 16.000 Yen. I stayed in a pretty good business hotel close to the station for 6.500 Yen per night - so if we leave by first Shinkansen on Saturday we could ride both days and visit some Onsen for 24.000 Yen plus this and that.

Please let me know if there is any interest.

3 comments:

TOM said...

Looks like a great place for a weekend ride. Jerome was telling me that around Kobe and the Kansai area in general plenty of good tougegoe riding can be enjoyed. BTW Michael, are you entering the Kusatsu HC on April 20?

mob said...

I will not be in Japan most likely on April 20th but visit the Milano kitchen fair. Wow.

TOM said...

You're kidding...I might be going to Milano too same period to attend the opening of a Gio Ponti exhibition (I which case I would have to cancel and lose the partipation I already paid).