Greetings from Japan. We have now been here for three weeks and have been riding our Santana without any problems. We just had a four day weekend, and on Tuesday went on our first 'long' ride. Due to our moving and getting ready for it we did not put in many miles for the last two months so we have to build up to it again. On Tuesday we took a 52 mile (83 kilometer) ride out to a lighthouse on the Southeastern most point in the area in which we live. It was a nice ride, though it required a lot of navigation.
The best riding roads are the small, narrow roads that run through the rice paddies and the local neighborhoods. Therefore there is a lot of zigzagging, which means either a good sense of direction or detailed maps are required. Fortunately we have both. The cars do pass rather closely, but they are used to bikes and will not pass until there is sufficient room. We have had cars stay behind us for close to a kilometer until it was safe to pass.
The rumors about tandems being illegal in most of Japan are true, but it is interesting how the police manage to turn away from us as we approach so that they can't see us! As we were told, many people exceed the speed limit but they are not ticketed. This was indirect communication saying you can ride the tandem, but I did not say you could.
Also on Tuesday, on our way home, we stopped to watch some festival parades. The locals were as interested in our bike as we were in the decorated carts. Many people offered us Sake and/or beer. We also were asked to pose for pictures with several of them. We speak almost no Japanese, and most of the local farmers speak no English, but we somehow manage to communicate to some degree. People have been very friendly and helpful.
Biking is different from in the states since there don't appear to be any places (at least in our area) where you can just get on a road and ride without stopping. We do have to make many sharp turns as we zigzag along the streams by the rice paddies and tea fields.
We are commuting to work by tandem, about 8 miles each way. The trip home in the dark has become quite a delight. The locals use low wattage generator lights, if anything, and don't seem to know about wearing bright colors to be seen when biking at night. We are quite different with our Nightsun Max, vistalites, and cuelights on the arms.
One of the fun things commuting is to blow by one of the numerous motorscooters which are on the roads. It always gives us a good feeling to have our 'four cylinder' engine outrun the motorized version.
I do not know if the general readership of T@H is interested in our stories from Japan so please let me know if I should continue clogging the bandwidth.
Rich Shapiro & Lindy Ellis
Roots in Elmira, NY USA
Asaba-Isshiki of Asaba-cho of Iwata-gun of Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
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