Years in the making

The city has been working on a bike lane for a very long time. It seems like at least 2 years. I can’t be sure. I do have some historical records I think on various blog posts. Here’s a post from January, and here’s one from October … of 2009.

Yesterday, they finally opened up the approximately 800 meter bike lane. It removed a lane on a very busy street.

Opening Day

 

The first day the sidewalk was armed with heavily clothed workers on a lower ‘90s kind of day (34 degC) with quite a bit of humidity directing traffic to the new bike lane.

Controlling the flow

 

It gets a little confusing

 

Lots of signage and rules associated with this bike lane and parking areas.

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

No lack of signage

 

People seemed to be using it pretty happily, well most people. It’s funny to me, because I only see these bike lanes on streets with really wide sidewalks anyway!

This way please

 

One speed and flat roads

I used to be a pretty decent cyclist. Sure, a lot of people could drop me, but I could hold my own against a lot of folks as well. I think when I was living in Luxembourg I raced against the Schleck brothers (Fränk and Andy) as well. I probably beat them too. Well, maybe I was only beating Andy. At the time we would have been racing against each other in Luxembourg, Fränk was 16 and Andy was 11.

Now, my beautiful titanium bicycle is sitting in my garage in Los Angeles, gathering dust. As you know I have my similarly colored ママチャリ here in Nagoya. On Sunday I was feeling sloth-like, and needed to get some exercise. I had planned on a bike ride, but the day was passing without any action. I was making excuses, like, “Well, if I go out it will probably rain.” Lame.

As I was falling asleep on the couch I finally shook myself out of my lethargy and started mapping a course. I knew that if I could just get to a river, likely I’d have a bike path to follow. One thing that drives me crazy is the constant stopping and starting. Why even bother with a road bike when you would be clipping and unclipping most the time? A riverside ride would at least give the illusion of an open road.

I was checking out the Nagoya map and found a river out by the Nagoya Dome. Hey, that had potential. Around 5 pm, on a hot and humid day, I headed out on my bike looking for some exercise.

Yada yada yada

Indeed I found a bike path, one that was actually pretty nice. I told myself I’d go out until 6:00 pm and turn around so that I’d get two hours in. Of course, just getting to where I could ride consistently without stopping took some time, but once I got along the Yada river I found a very serviceable path and had a nice, long ride. On one speed. It is kind of hard to feel like a cyclist sitting upright with a basket in the front, but I kept plugging along. I wonder how fast I was going?

My ride for the day

 

The Yada River meets the Shonai River and the trip starts feeling like you are actually out in the country.

Peaceful countryside

 

So the experience has made me think, “Do I want a real road bike out here?” Should I drop the cash and get a low end road bike? Even low end is still serious cash. Will I actually ride consistently? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’ll get out there again on the but this time I’ll put some water in the basket!

色々な事 (iroiro na koto)

I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping up with my blog. I feel like I should always have some sort of picture accompanying my entries now. I’m not sure why, but it does seem to make it more interesting. But, alas, I really don’t have any pictures yet. Maybe I’ll post this later and have some pictures.

 

Current Health Update

My phone calls from the Naka-ku health center have finished. I remained asymptomatic for 10 days after my re-entry to Japan so they’ve given up on me. Everyday between 9:59 am and 10:01 am I got a call from the health office. I usually replied before they could really ask me any questions 気分がいいです (I feel well) or まだ元気です (still healthy!). I admire their perseverance. I can imagine now that the Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク) holiday has just finished they must be extremely busy. Anyway, I’m glad the calls are ending and I’m glad to not be sick.

 

Reintroduced to Two Old Friends

Last Sunday I met two friends I hadn’t seen in a while – my ママチャリ (old school bicycle) and a trumpet. The weather was nice and I felt it was time to dust off the bike get some exercise, and explore the city. I ended up riding for about 2 hours. It isn’t the same exercise as a super-slick titanium road bike but I still had a good time. My beloved bikeI was going to ride to Kanayama and try to go a little past it to the Aeon Mall (I was killing time). I got a little confused by using train tracks as landmarks and ended up getting completely lost. Luckily, there is a very tall building in Kanayama, so I just kept heading for that building once I was turned around. I stumbled across the mall and used that as a landmark to head to Nagoya, but then I started thinking that the direction I was heading put the mall on the wrong side of the train tracks. Say what? So I asked a passerby which direction to Nagoya Station, and sure enough it was the other direction. I thought I was pretty good with sense of direction but I was totally messed up. I checked my detailed maps when I got home and realized that the tracks bifurcate (I love that word) at Kanayama and I was following the wrong tracks for a while that actually ended up going back towards my home. So I think I was almost home before I turned around to head back towards the Kanayama building landmark only to head back home again. What can I say, I actually enjoyed getting lost.

Bach StradivariusHow did I come across a trumpet? On May 1, I went to dinner with a colleague to Nanpu again. While we were going there, my colleague said, “Takeshi is trying to learn to play the trumpet, he has one at the restaurant but he doesn’t know how to play.” I got completely excited by that. Hey, I could teach him! When we got to the restaurant he showed me the trumpet – it wasn’t a Bach Stradivarius but it would do. Out of curiosity I just looked up the list price of a Strad – only $3250. YIKES! I hope my old one at home in LA still plays. I went out Sunday, bought my own mouthpiece and went to the restaurant on Sunday to start the lessons. How do you teach someone to buzz their lips so that they can get the proper resonance out of the mouthpiece when it is second nature? Anyway, I told him to practice with the mouthpiece. I played his trumpet a little bit. My tone, control, and range all sucked but I got a real kick out of it. I wish there was a way to play without blasting everyone away. Trumpets are loud. Sure, there is the cheesy Yamaha practice mute, but I tried that about 15 years ago and didn’t like it because there was too much back pressure and the balance of the horn was off. However, I may consider it again, it was so nice to play the trumpet again. I will have to relearn though because my embouchure is completely changed after braces. I may go again Sunday to try another lesson.

 

Current Fashion Trends

 Guys are more pretty than handsome in JapanJapan is a land of crazy fashions. This is the land of tight T-shirts with fancy, sparkly cursive writing words, dyed hair, hair clips, and extremely manicured eyebrows. And those are just the boys! The girls dress about the same.

Now that it is late Spring, early Summer, I’ve noticed a new fashion trend with some of the younger guys. Apparently leggings underneath shorts are in style. Last weekend I saw at least three instances of that style. The leggings are black and typically go below the knees to mid-calf in a kind of haphazard, scrunched look. I guess it is versatile – just slide them down when it gets too cold. I used to have arm warmers and leg warmers for cycling, but those were a little different. I can’t say it is a bad but I’m not sure I could pull it off. I did quick websearch on “japanese boys leggings shorts photo” took me to this blog. Gosh, I guess Nagoya is a year behind. Not surprising at all.

Who wears short shorts? Apparently Japanese girls wear them – now is also the time for the shorts to come out. And I mean short shorts. There are all sorts of variations on the style but the most common style this time of year is short shorts with stockings pulled up over the knees to mid-thigh and usually heels. Mleh. I think it looks silly. I suspect as the days get progressively warmer the length of the stockings will decrease. The shorts can’t get any shorter though.

I tried today to get some pictures of these styles to augment the description. However, I feel kind of 助平 (sukebe – lecherous, lewd) trying to get the right picture for the example. I don’t want to perpetuate the ugly foreigner stereotype so I gave up pretty quickly. As I go out riding later today or tomorrow I’ll try for some pictures but don’t count on it!

I did run across a nail shop with an example of their wares outside. When I first saw the picture of the bling on the nails I thought it was a fungus. Oh my.

Fungal nails - oh wait, that's the design

 

Music

I’m currently listening to the J-Pop band RADWIMPS pretty regularly. They actually write their own stuff, play instruments, and everything. A real band! I saw them at Sumer Sonic last year and really enjoyed their live performance. They released a new album recently and I can recommend it.

 

Weather

Japan is a land of seasons beyond just the regular four. Right now the weather is fantastic, but I can feel it heading towards rainy season and then the dog days of summer. Instead of sitting inside writing this blog I should be out on my bike, and I will be soon. It is probably going to reach 28 degC (82 degF) today and 29 degC (84 degF) tomorrow. After three days of rain the sun is nice, but the humidity is starting to pop its head up say, “Beware, I’m just around the corner to completely smother you!” Ah, well, that’s OK too.

It’s the simple things

Today I woke up with no plan. That’s good and bad. It can lead to sloth and lethargy. I succeeded in napping again before actually getting out of bed.

I decided to take the mamachari out for a spin and check out the grocery store in the nearby area. I wasn’t impressed with the store but I had fun on the bike. I was out for over an hour, just riding around. I discovered a Catholic church and the home of the Toyota Antelopes. Huh? I think it turns out that the Antelopes are a women’s basketball team. Go ‘Lopes! I’m still enjoying the freedom of the bike. I bumped in to a different colleague while I was out and about. I see more colleagues out on the street here in Nagoya than I do in LA! It isn’t like I’m hanging out right by the hotel or anything. OK, when I went to the Hard Rock Café on the 4th of July it didn’t surprise me seeing others there. But just bumping in to people on the street?

(Oh, I just realized I didn’t confess to going to the Hard Rock Café on the 4th of July. Hey, I figured some good old American food was the best I could do for the holiday where I worked all day long. So I had a pulled pork sandwich, fries, cole slaw, baked beans. And I LOVED every bite of it. So sue me!)

There was a thunderstorm brewing while I was on my bike so I decided to cut my ride short. Who knows, if it wasn’t for the rumbling thunder maybe I’d still be out there riding around like a little kid. I my ママチャリ.

I parked my bike in my $42/month parking spot and walked to Muji to buy a couple of glasses to replace the one I broke the other day. Then I planned to get some pillows at Tokyu Hands. I debated about buying an ironing board at Muji. It was a table top type board and I just didn’t know if it was practical. As I was getting ready to head to the up escalator, I heard, “Jon!” Busted again! This time it was my boss. He had been to Tokyu Hands after looking at his apartment and deciding maybe it was time to clean.

I had hoped Tomo would help me shop for cleaning supplies. But it is hardly fun. I remember now that when I lived here before I lived in a serviced apartment. So I never really actually had to clean. Oh. Therefore I didn’t really have any product knowledge. My boss inspired me though to at least get some cleaning supplies. I mean, he can’t speak a word of Japanese or read a single character so if he can do it so can I. But that’s what I mean – some times it is the simple things that can be difficult. Almost paralyzing. How do I know this is the right product? How do I know it is safe? What if I mix it with something accidently? That’s why I bought Tide when I bought laundry detergent. Because I knew it. I chose Pax Naturon. I guess I probably bought it because it has English on the label. I quote, mistakes and all, “Naturon is soap series.(natural ingredient) for new families who care for nature and health.” OK, sounds good. I care about nature and all. For the shower I got “パックスナチュロンお風呂洗きせっけん” I knew that お風呂 was a bath so I was in good shape. And now I am reminded that 洗 means clean. I got a similar product for the toilet. Hey, peace and nature. What more can you ask for? They look safe and friendly!

Shower Cleaner Toilet Cleaner

While I was riding around I was struck by what a cool experience this is. Yeah, I complain about work and sometimes the job can really get me down. That’s the same anywhere. I’m out of the hotel though, making it on my own (with a ton of help) in this foreign land. That I’ve been to about 30 times .. but STILL!!! It remains an interesting experience.

I was talking to friends today. Something about my upbringing tends to steer the converstation to, “What’s the weather like there?” We’ve grown out of the, “What time is it there” question. But now it is, “How much is gas? Really? Wow.” And they have a Prius. And their response is, “What’s the dollar at?” It is a different world these days.

Ready to roll

Today was really hot. I had to go in to work in the morning. I left a little after lunch and the spur train wasn’t running so I decided to walk about 20 minutes to the main train station. BUT IT WAS TOO DARN HOT! So I flagged down a taxi. Ahhh, it felt much better. When I got home I found a note from the post office telling me something related to held mail. One phone call later I at least knew where the post office was (sort of) and that there was a 24 hour window I could use. Hey, that’s cool. I consulted the map and found the exact location! I wished I had my bike because it would have been fun to ride there. I had to do some other errands so I decided to walk to the bike shop. My bike had arrived. Yippee!!!!!!! It was ALMOST like the picture except the basket wasn’t the black wire mesh basket. I wanted the black wire mesh basket. Oh well.

While they were putting my bike together they had about 5 people come in for stuff and I’m not sure I saw anyone pay. It is that kind of shop. They were cool. They ordered an extra long seat post for me and registered my bike with the city.

I didn’t know how to operate the kickstand! The bike feels like a limousine compared to my racing bike. Or maybe like a canoe when you are used to a kayak. Long and slow to react with a big keel. But it so cool to now be a little mobile! I was like a kid again. So I rode down to the post office. It is so much faster getting around by bicycle. I just need to make sure I stop and enjoy the city and not race from place to place. I went to the post office and got my new ATM card (I think I said that I was denied a Visa card …) and then just rode around the central city. I found some museums. As I was riding home I bumped into my colleague again – this time with his wife and child. They were on their mamacharis too! I kept rolling around the area, letting the wind pass by me and checking out the town.

When I was at the bike shop I bumped into another American who called my bike a knee destroyer. I guess because it is single speed. Today I noticed there were more hills than I thought but nothing to bad. Just gentle grades. Anyway, this bike shop will be a good resource in general. If I decide I want a real road bike I should be able to arrange something through this shop. I did bring all my clothes just in case. Well, except I think I forgot my winter wear.

The first thing I had to do was to buy a somewhat traditional Japanese futon as the guest bed. Something I can roll up and put in the closet when the visitors are gone. So where did I end up? Muji of course. I feel like a Muji representative. But they always have exactly what I am looking for. For all you visitors, here is the futon pad and futon you will be using. It is a double – special order!

futon pad futon