Japan Update #2: Tandem riding in Japan.

Tuesday, October 17, 1995

We got adventurous this past weekend and decided to take a hilly route to the city we went to visit. We found that having a 20 tooth chainring with a 32 tooth cog to be very beneficial. I think we must be out of shape, because the hills did not look THAT bad, but we did use that loooow gear for a while. With it we were able to maintain a cadence of 90 while going 6 kilometers per hour.

The upside(?) of this was a nice downhill, though it was fast with continual short switchbacks. Needless to say, the drum brake was on the whole time, with speed modulation for the turns via the rim brakes. Even with the drum brake, the rims were too hot to touch at the bottom.

Toward the end of the hill we were passed by a police car, while we were exceeding the speed limit!! We were doing 45-50 KPH in a 40 zone. I don't think they even paid attention to us (other than having to go around us).

The past two weekends have been festival days in Japan; so on this ride we passed large decorated carts being pulled along by human power. We always got big "Halloo"s from people as we cycled by. I don't know how they do it, but within 2 seconds of seeing us, even though we have helmets and sunglasses on, they know we are Gai-jin (foreigners). Maybe it IS because we have helmets and lycra bike clothes.

Over here we see many, many more cyclists, though almost all for transportation, not for recreation. There are a few what we would call serious bikers, but not many.

Most of these local festivals have several of these carts which are either 2 or 4 wheeled and about 25 feet tall (they just clear most overhead electric wires). They are topped with a statue of an historical figure.

In the cart is a large drum and several smaller drums. These are played along with a flute as they roll along. We live in a small one-cart town. Our festival was not spectacular to look at, but we were welcomed with open arms. We fully participated in the dancing/cart pulling, and got to ride in the cart. Lindy was also given drum lessons and did the drumming on one of the small drums for about an hour each Saturday and Sunday night. We were invited into the community building as 'special guests' and ate and had limited conversations (pictures and hand gestures help) with many people. The most popular question seems to be "How old are you?" The tandem was a good point of conversation.

We are very different when we ride at night. Around here they use the little generator lights as headlights, if anything. We have added a helmet light to our arsenal so we must look like UFO's as we come down the road! The helmet light was added because on these small roads we often have to make very sharp turns to cross a bridge as the paved section will switch from one side of the irrigation canal to the other. I found it difficult to see what was around the corner with just the handlebar lights.

Speaking of UFO's, as we approach our little neighborhood, we go though a straight section of road about 1.2KM long that has several intersections. In the rural areas they have blinking red lights (sort of like vistalights) embedded in the pavement at the center of each intersection. These alternate in which direction they flash. As we go down the road at night heading toward about five intersections with lights, it feels as though we are a jetliner approaching the runway coming in for a landing!

Well, this has been lengthy, so I will cut it off for now.

Rich Shapiro & Lindy Ellis

Asaba-cho Japan

Based in Elmira, NY USA

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