Wide awake at 4am I spent a while stretching and catching up on emails on my tablet. At 7am breakfast started and I was first in line. I started with the “Traditional Western” buffet and had a completely non-traditional western breakfast consisting of french fries, miso soup, iceberg lettuce and white rice. Being vegetarian in Japan can be challenging for sure! I felt a million times better then I did the day before and was excited to get out on my bike. My plan was to ride from Tokyo along the coast to my destination in Nagoya. The company that imports Fairdale into Japan was having their 35th anniversary and they had brought me over to be part of the celebration. Rather than flying over for just the few days of the event I flew in a bit early so I’d have time to do the ride. I had planned absolutely nothing for my trip and barely even looked at a map. Over planning can kill a trip. Instead I was just going to work it out on the fly.
A few last minute adjustments to my bike outside the hotel and off I went into the confusion of downtown Tokyo. I managed to get lost about every 5 minutes for the next 4 hour or so. I constantly was stopping to pull out my tablet and check Google maps to make sure I was headed vaguely the right direction. Tmobile says it has free data in Japan so hopefully that is true! Tokyo seemed to turn me around and disorient me at every turn. I was not at all frustrated by this though… the hustle and bustle of Tokyo is amazing to be in the middle of and I was loving it. Riding was not really that awesome here though, loads of traffic and people everywhere along with stop lights at every block. There was a bike lane painted onto the sidewalk where I rode often. With how ordered Japan generally is I found it odd that the bike lane was complete anarchy. Pedestrians seemed to lurch unexpectedly into my path constantly. When encountering oncoming cycling traffic I noticed that older folks seemed to want to pass me on my left, while younger folks seemed to want to pass on the right. Moms riding bikes loaded with 2 kids came straight at me and didn’t brake or turn. I was laughing at the madness of it all and thankful for my years of BMX experience. Swerving and dodging all the people was kind of a fun game. I was going VERY slowly though. Between the stop lights and the traffic I was averaging less then 5mph. The other option was to ride in the roadway. With no shoulder and never a break in traffic it seemed like more than I could handle. I did see a few road bike guys hauling along in the roadway keeping up with traffic but as I wasn’t ready to go quite that fast I mostly stuck with the busy sidewalks.
Around 3pm I finally hit the coast. This would make navigating a bit easier for me as I just had to follow the water for most of the trip. I went from Tokyo into Kawasaki city and then through Yokohama. From my perspective I never noticed a break in the traffic or cityscape so I really never felt like I left Tokyo. This is a densely populated area for sure! I had naively imagined that the coast line might be like the northwest USA coast line; empty and beautiful. This part of the coastline of Japan is not that way at all, choked with traffic, very industrial with oil refineries and factories all over and lots of smog. I would hardly say it was a nice place to ride, but as it was all new to me I still found it interesting and enjoyable.
Food was a challenge. I stopped at 2 different diner type places. Without knowing a word of Japanese I had hoped to run into someone who spoke a little english. No luck with that so I resorted to drawing pictures of cows, pigs, chickens and then drawing “X”s through them to try and get across that I was vegetarian. It was comically hopeless and I’d leave laughing at myself. Grocery stores were good finds and noodles from the deli counter were my staple.
I was lugging along camping gear and had read some cycling blog about Japan that made it sound easy to camp. I searched around for some hours until dusk and never saw a spot open enough to camp in. It was just too busy and crowded. Luckily I stumbled upon a hotel just a little after dusk. About $50 with very friendly staff that set me up in a old but cozy room. My bike was left outside the room with only the smallest cable lock. Japan has very minimal bike theft so it was nice to not worry about it.