It was the 1st of July this year when my husband and I together with our two-year old son arrived in Nagoya airport. It was almost five in the morning but the sun was high in the sky and the wind that blew was warm and humid. I could feel pain radiating from my limbs up to my head as we were all exhausted from an 11-hour bus and airplane travel. We headed straight to Minokamo, Gifu where the rest of the family resides.
Minokamo, Gifu is at least an hour and a half away from Nagoya by car giving us a chance to catch some sleep. My body badly wanted to give in to a little rest but my mind and eyes were awake. It felt like a dream. I have never been out of the country since Malaysia ten years ago. My eyes danced in amazement as I watched everything we passed by. It was all beautiful, so peaceful and calm, so green and relaxing.
There was one thing in particular that I noticed, though, I have not seen a single live person walking. It made sense because there were cars everywhere. And, when we arrived in the apartment building, there were bicycles parked in front of the apartment. So, putting two and two together, people here either drive their own car, use public transport, ride bicycles, or just walk (which is rarely chosen).
Driving a car on a hot summer day would be the best choice if you wish to stay cool and fresh. Some of our family can drive but asking them every now and then to drive us wherever we want would be an inconvenience on their part as they are occupied with work. Densha (train) is a great choice as well.. Although they are a little expensive, they are very comfortable. However, one thing that I really loved was the bicycle ride.
The first and last time I rode a bicycle was when I was ten years old. In my mind, I could still remember how to balance my body and pedal but when I try to ride on one I feel like falling off. It was becoming impossible and I was running out of hope of ever riding a bicycle again. My husband patiently taught me to ride the bicycle again. We went around the neighborhood on bicycle every night for a week. I fell of too many times, bumped on our neighbors’ fence often, and I had cuts and bruises on my legs. Finally, I learned to ride again.
Since the sun is hottest during the day and the air is heavy and humid, we go on a ride in the late afternoon or early evening when the wind is cooler and the heat does not hurt. Before setting out, we pack face towels as the heat can make you sweat heavily; and most especially a good camera. For us to travel light, we avoid bringing a lot of things. We usually just stop by convenience stores to buy something to eat; my personal favorite – Tuna-mayo Onigiri. Water is also a huge necessity so we either buy it in convenience stores or just get one from vending machines which can be seen almost anywhere.
On our bicycle rides, we visit shrines, temples, parks, old towns, and shopping malls. Minokamo and another city called Kani are just separated by a river and connected by a bridge, it is easy for us to go from one city to the other. Aside from the boutiques and regular shops in malls, another interesting place that we always visit when we go biking around town are the reuse shops. These shops are basically selling second hand goods. We don’t necessarily buy stuff but we usually just amuse ourselves with what they sell in those shops. At times, we bike near the river bank to breathe fresh air and calm our souls. We sometimes park our bikes under a tree and watch the sunset or we just let our eyes gaze through the horizon.
Bicycle ride on a sizzling hot summer can be challenging and unpleasant, especially in Japan where the summer temperature is as high as 38 degrees Celsius; I never get to experience this where I come from. What makes it gripping is the up close contact with the living: the people and the nature; you meet people on the road on a bike and you still get to greet them. My husband and I once visited the bamboo forest which is near the river between Minokamo and Kani. We didn’t have to get off our bicycles, instead we just biked through the forest. It was fascinating and beautiful.
Japan has diverse choices of transport to choose from. All of it are convenient and comfortable. A Bicycle ride is not just a good way to exercise, it is not just friendly to the environment, it is not just cheap, or it is not just fun; it is extraordinary for me and at least a romantic bond that I share with my husband.
Living in a place with the façade of a busy city, the aura of an ancient town, and the serenity of nature are great reasons to bike around town.