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Biking Tokyo’s suburbia – learning about Japan

Biking Tokyo’s suburbia – learning about Japan

I love those days when you can lay back and see what happens, walk out of the house and let the day go by. Effortless PT days. A bike is the perfect vehicle for that kind of sensation in Tokyo. It is like zapping though a Youtube video, pausing or fast forwarding as you please.

Today we went for another bike tour through Tokyo’s suburbia. Not knowing what to expect and which way our bikes would carry us. The truth is that this bliss ignorance only goes for me, Tomek knows exactly where we are and where we are going. Without Tomek using Google, I would have been completely lost in the maze of tiny streets of huge Tokyo. This is how we avoid relationship challenges with location findings. I simply don’t do it. He is the alpha male. Win win.

Today I have some neat pics of Japanese periphery and more of an awareness of cycling in Tokyo – which turns out to be neither as cheap (have to pay for bike parking) nor as convenient (have to park at bike parking) as I thought it would be.

But as always, this ride gave me a lot of impressions of what it is like to live in Japan.

I took this picture because I found a big front yard garden – a unique thing in Tokyo’s real estate.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Old houses are replaced by minimalist modernity in a flash.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Apparently houses are not made to last longer than 25-30 years which is why in the real estate business you mainly purchase the land, while the house is close to worthless and consequently put down as soon as the new owner takes over. In case you were wondering about the boy in a jacket. Kids wear school uniforms (girls wear scandalous short skirts and look gorgeous).

Tokyo, Japan

 

Another row of houses coming at the front.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Some people are just very well off. But they may not have a car, just a bike. The metro and JR systems are super enormous and connect all districts very well. If you are buying a house, its price will largely depend on the distance to the station. This is one of the main details provided on house ads – the distance to the station is given in the exact time, as in ‘4 min’ to station!

Tokyo, Japan

 

Another thing that strikes me here, is that even the loaded Japanese do not flash with big show off cars. Modesty is the Japanese wealthy. In my home countries, the effect is slightly opposite. The poorer the area, the bigger the cars, the more important the status symbols.

Tokyo, Japan

 

A contrasting housing sight. It may well be in the same area. There simply aren’t any ‘bad’ areas in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

 

People make the best of their property and houses, even if aged, they are well taken care of. The beauty of Japan lies in its details.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Some houses made me think I am in Europe.

Tokyo, Japan

 

One thing that I wrote about in my last post is how balconies are used (not recreational at all) because Tokyo’s amenities provide for an ongoing vacation in the city. No need nor time to use a balcony other than that.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Traditional old wooden houses like this are a testament of how different Tokyo must have looked like before WWII. No central heating, but spacious with gardens!

Tokyo, Japan

 

Japan is a perfectionist. It will surprise with elements in infrastructure that accommodate its maxim: safety first. Tiniest streets will not be left out. I have not seen a piece of land which hasn’t been administered in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Tomare -とまれ – stop and align.

Tokyo, Japan

 

An extreme example of damage control is a crossing with traffic lights for a street about this size, right in our neighbourhood.

Tokyo, Japan

 

German allotment gardening in Tokyo. I was slightly amused that figures of garden gnomes have caught on here, until I looked closer and it turned out be the world of Snow White’s dwarfs.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

More signs of Snow White. Actually, these are pomegranates, not apples.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Typical post advertisements for standard 2-3 LDK (living, dining and kitchen area) family units. Prices are steep in Tokyo. Just opposite of our home a townhouse has been put down and now three modern units stand on the same sized land. Each house has about 80m2 – 100m2 and is about half a million Euro.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Some owners use their land to put up a mini car park – sometimes for not more than a handful cars.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Another car park with two Japanese square cars. Cube shapes are used a lot in Japan and are incredibly practical.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Here is one car park fitting just three cars!

Tokyo, Japan

 

The pleasant thing about cycling or walking through Tokyo is the surplus of sources to get food and drink. There is always a shopping street nearby.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

An equation to go by: eatery + queue = good food.

Tokyo, Japan

 

I found this small shop selling tea and cute tea boxes. I have about four of those made in Japan beauties. Need to stock up.

Tokyo, Japan

 

I also loved this sight. Japanese beauty salon from the boom times. When was the last time you have seen bonnet style hood hair dryers?

Tokyo, Japan

 

The Japanese conbini. Ultra convenience around the clock.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Before I tell you what we were looking for at the conbini, let me tell you about the peculiar names of Japanese residential buildings.

Tokyo, Japan

 

If you pass residential houses with name plaques like Poem Hill, Windy Heights, Long Island Grove or Plaza Mansion, a spark of  romanticism, glamour and exuberance lightens up. Below, the four homes building is called Sun Luck Honmachi.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Names like Gatsby for deodorant tissues are no more a surprise.

Deodorant TISSUES? Yes, in the land of technological progress, I can only assure you that anti-bacterial-wet-tissues for armpits do wonder. Just for the record, I used to pollute my ballet rooms with deodorant spray (sorry to whom it may concern) but now I apply Gatsby (does that sound weird), the unscented kind. But it wasn’t available at this conbini which is why we biked on.

Tokyo, Japan

 

You can find many more things at the conbini than deodorant. Oden – a simmering Japanese hot pot with a wide variety of swimming snacks, like boiled eggs, fish cakes and stuff I have no idea about. It is very popular, cheap (each for 100 yen)  and always at the conbini to warm up the crowds during colder seasons.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Of course there is more fast food. Only a lot better than fast food. The buns are called pizzaman or nikkuman and are soft and hot dumplings with a filling.

Tokyo, Japan

 

A cheap way to shop for groceries and food are those 100yen food stores. A good deal with a good variety and fresh fruit and veggies  as well.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Look out for those one coin (500yen) pizza places to save some dough (which you can then spend on the wine).

Tokyo, Japan

 

That evening we cycled along Kanda river – which looks stunning in spring and is one of the hanami hot spots in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan

 

We came across many small temples but they close down at night. Surprise for the night owls.

Tokyo, Japan

 

I like how manga harmonizes with temple life. Both are Japanese traditions after all. There is no comic fun in European church life.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Passed a tiny shrine from 1710.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Modernity meets historic.

Tokyo, Japan

 

The reason I had my eye out for manga was because we were driving past the Tokiwa-sō apartment. The workplace and meeting point of leading Japanese manga artists, such as Shotaro Ishinomori, Fujio Akatsuka, Fujiko Fujio and Yoshiharu Tsuge. It existed as a sort of atelier from 1952 to 1982. Now a tourist attraction. Location: Toshima-ku.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Those artists gave Japan fictional characters and action figures absurd beauty ideals and fantastic manga stories. I grew up with Disney and Mattel – Mickey Mouse, Barbie, My little Pony and Polly Pockets.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Otaku feed.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

Japan doesn’t just have DVD/CD rentals but komikkurentaru – comics for rent!

Tokyo, Japan

 

We cycled down to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, a centre for the performing arts located in Ikebukuro.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Arty performance posters did not distract from the fact that we had to get rid of our bikes to enjoy the area more by foot.

Tokyo, Japan

 

The bikes turned out to be problem for the place (as for so many places we would visit). Everywhere we thought would be an acceptable place to park them, no-bike-parking signs appeared. Basically whole areas are indicated that do not allow bike parking. Tokyo’s bike policy is excessively strict when compared to European customs – which is more convenient: leave your bike where there is room.

Tokyo, Japan

 

We were often misled by many bikes parked in rows – which were all parked illegally, many already adorned with tickets. The fine is super pricey – 5,000 yen to 8,000 yen.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

After picking up a ticket for the same day which had been tossed on the ground, we decided to look for an official(-ly overpriced) bike park.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Tokyo provides bike parks but many are far from stations or attractions and take some time to find. Some may also close at about midnight.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

Our parking tickets. We paid 150 yen each for a few hours. It felt like having a car.

Tokyo, Japan

 

After the bikes were off our minds, we enjoyed the very cool book market.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

We found two gaming coins for pachinko – the Japanese version of a casino.

Tokyo, Japan

 

And the Japanese version of Russian dog Laika. The poor doggy that was sent to space, did not get an astronaut suit and died from overheating. Well done science.

Tokyo, Japan

 

I could hear my stomach rumbling by then and it was time to visit an izakaya to get our energy levels up. Anything that says beauty in the menu must have a positive influence on your body.

Tokyo, Japan

 

So we ordered plenty. Three side dishes, sashimi and vegetable samosas.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Cassis drinks are fantastic.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Fruit cocktails are also doing a fine job.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Sweet sesame dumplings.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Shrimp.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Salmon.

Tokyo, Japan

 

More sashimi. I only didn’t like the chewy squid.

Tokyo, Japan

 

The interior of an izakaya is usually very traditional, sitting low with sliding doors and dividers, they are also very dim lit.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

But Japanese public toilets can be pretty glam.

Tokyo, Japan

 

After dinner it was time to burn off some calories and explore another cool bar/restaurant/entertainment district in Tokyo, Nakano.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

Gaming places for the kids filled with crane machines are tremendously popular and crowded with youngsters on the weekends. I think the system is fundamentally the same as in the Netherlands – getting the young used to certain habits. Some will move on to the Pachinko drug, some won’t.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Maid Cafés. Japan never disappoints with bizarreness. Dressed up girls in Victorian maid outfits serve hungry men. (Just food, I might add.)

Tokyo, Japan

 

They do serve women as well, but the prime clientèle is one that fully appreciates girl=servant role play.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Hungry salary men.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Not weird, right.

Tokyo, Japan

 

BTW, I can hardly distinguish these Japanese taxis from blue-striped white police cars.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Did I say that the bikes-not-wanted agenda was just as big in Nakano? It was. The no-bikes ghetto is indicated by the red border.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Time to go home and enjoy the last gloomy looking images.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

 

So sad. He can’t reach the floor with his feet.

Tokyo, Japan

 

Donald Duck is the antidote to gloomy and sad, recently giving his the best smile on milk tea – I like the tea from Kirin best – they have a Disney creatures campaign going at the moment. It sure works for me. Watch me getting childhood idols, like that bright Tinker Bell drink, in the next biking episode (if I ever manage to write it up).

Tokyo, Japan

 

Our final break on the way home was near Omiya Junior High School. Few people were still jogging.

Tokyo, Japan

 

A hypnotic view made for a memorable end of the day.

Tokyo, Japan

In a way Japan is simply surreal.

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