Monday, May 10, 2010

When to Fold-em? Okazaki Biking Adventure!

So on Saturday, I decided to continue my plan to bike to various points of interest in neighboring cities, and so this time set forth for Okazaki. Okazaki is about 12-14km from where I am in Toyota, though the Ieyasu Shrine was charted at 16km away (about 10 miles) according to Google Maps. I got a very late start (talking on the phone to family and friends over Skype) so didn't get on the road until 2pm. This was less than fortuitous for me actually seeing the museum, but I decided to go anyway for the experience.

And it was a lovely bike ride, not too many hills. Both Chiryu and Okazaki are south of Toyota, though Chiryu is more southwest while Okazaki is more Southeast, and one huge benefit of biking south is that the roads seem flatter. If I was to bike to Seto, which is about equidistant but north, I'd have to go through a mountain range. Alas, probably not going to happen. Also, as Okazaki is a city (and not a tourist attraction smack-dab in the middle of mountains, like the Sanage Onsen), it was marked by signs that were large, blue and easy to follow, taking much of the confusion and random lostness out of the picture. That's a huge win. And while I wasn't biking directly over mountains, I did get to see some amazing mountains and creeks, as well as other points of beautiful landscape.

I'm going to let the video tell the story from here:

Looking back over this video, I really think the landscape was prettier in person. But hopefully it's given you an idea of what another Japanese road looks like.

The next video, about halfway to Okazaki, was definitely the prettiest:

And biking around is not only cheap--something very important when you are low on cash like me right now: paid May 20th...yay! – but it also allows me to really get to know the area where I live. And just biking, I get to see amazing and interesting things. Because everything is new for me, even looking at the stores and watching people is wildly fascinating and fun! And it's great exercise, in a way that is painless and interesting!

I made it to Okazaki with little trouble, with the exception of a section of Route 39 where I felt like I was taking my life into my hands as the shoulder was so narrow, but as usual, once I got into the city, things got dicey. But I will say, in regards to following Google Maps directions, this was my best usage of them. I managed to stay on the correct streets and roads with only moderate confusion. It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to make it to the city (which was about 12km) and then another 20 minutes or so in the city. Definitely my fastest bike ride so far too. Maybe I'm getting better at this? In fact, I'm sure I would have made it all the way to the museum had the sky not darkened, the wind not picked up, and had I not felt the impending threat of rain.

Video here:

I'm not afraid of a little water, but two hours straight of biking through rain is a bit much, even if it's warm (though as June is the rainy season here, I may get used to it). So instead of continuing on, I folded my hand and headed back for Toyota. I was so worried that I made the trip back in an hour and a half (even with a detour to a major interstate and having to backtrack my steps to the smaller road I could actually bike on). Of course, the rain never came, but better that than the alternative.

And afterward, Mie and I grabbed dinner at the Saizeria (cheap, delicious Italian food) and then did Karaoke. All in all, a great day!


Read more about my abroad adventures at