Thursday, November 11, 2010

Biking Buddies: Barry sends us another blog from Japan

We are fortunate to, once again, have Barry send us a post from the land of the rising sun. It is always nice to see the universal love for biking and fellow bikers knows no political or geographic boundaries. 



   I hold the same regard for my friends, as I do for this piece-of-rock (Planet Earth) we live on – respect and appreciation. And, like my feelings for this planet, I don’t take them for granted, abuse them or neglect them. My very-best friend is the person who placed a wedding ring on my finger back in 2000.

   A few years ago I was invited to join a group of cyclists on a sightseeing trip into Kyoto City. I had met and spoken to some of these guys before – they hangout at the same bike-shop where I take my bike for any maintenance – but this was the first of many outings I would join them on.

   Let me tell you all about them. They are all retired – average age would be about 70. They all have a road-bike and a mountain-bike – and top-of-the-line bikes too. They meet 6-days per week, (Thursday is mountain-biking day) at the same place (Yawata Ohashi) and at the same time (9am). Then after a brief chat they head-off to a predetermined location. Some days they bike just a short distance, find a cafĂ© and, after a brew and a bite-to-eat, head home. On a big day they will clock-up to a 100km, taking their lunch with them. They are very supportive of each other – anyone that is struggling or slower than the others, will always be accompanied. They are very social – sometimes stopping to help fill a baseball team if they are short of players. But man, are they fit – on a return leg of a trip, I was second behind the leader and, for the 8km leg of this segment, I clocked this guy averaging between 20kmph and 22kmph. He is the oldest of the group at 85.

   But cycling isn’t their only reason for gathering. They regularly meet during April to celebrate “Hanami”. Then there are the regular karaoke sessions (one of my favorites), and (by far my favorite) the all-day train-ride through the Kansai Region. They are well organized – someone buys all the food and drink, which we all chip-in to cover the cost.

   Well, enough of the introductions, here is a snapshot of the group.
This is the first trip I did with the guys. It was the days leading up to the “Gion Festival” in Kyoto City. Yamaboko Floats, like the one in the background, are towed through the streets of downtown Kyoto by dozens of devotees. The festival is held on July 17th each year.


This is “Hanami”. It’s an annual event held during “Cherry Blossom” season (April/May, depending on when the Sakura bloom). It’s one of my favorite Japanese traditions…..


……the reason being, it’s a great excuse for a beer-drinking session (we have another term for this, but I don’t think Kevin would appreciate me using it). Once the ‘season has been declared open, you have about a week to celebrate “Hanami” before the rains come and wash the petals off the trees.
Pon-Pon Yama (Mount Pon-Pon). Always a popular destination for hikers and bikers (actually bikers aren’t allowed on this track).
The guy on the right is 85 (I mentioned him earlier). Hasutane-san, on the left, owns the “Bamboo Lotus” bike shop. And, in the middle, is Fujiwara-san. He is an awesome guy, and I have a huge respect for him.

This was a great trip through a very-historical part of Kyoto Prefecture (check-out my “Everytrail Guide – Pilgrimage to Sekibutsu”).

Two ears ago I was invited to join their “Weekend in Shiga” trip. It was an overnight camp with three rides through some spectacular Autumn scenery. 

We returned (or tried to) to the same location a
few months later in Winter. We were only able to progress about a kilometer before calling it a day.


And, what better way to end the day, with a good long soak in an Onsen.

   I could take-up many pages with my photos and stories of these guys. But I think you get the idea of what they are all about. For me, whatever the occasion, I always return home full of appreciation, respect, and gratitude for having had the opportunity to have had spent time with these “Friends”.



hellbent said...

It's nice to see some information about other countries on trailsnet's blog.
There are some great bike trails in Europe. Will you be including these in future posts?

hellbent said...

It's nice to see some information about other countries on trailsnet's blog.
There are some great bike trails in Europe. Will you be including these in future posts?