Thursday, December 18, 2008

Biking to School

First of all, this is what the sun looks like in Nagoya right now... it's a little hard to tell from the pictures, but it's bright bright orange around sunset.

Yesterday, the after last day of school before my nearly month-long winter vacation, I procured the key to the music room so I could play piano. However, as I was heading out to catch the bus, I accidentally gave my house key to the teacher instead of the music room key and didn't notice until I arrived at home. Fortunately my host family's grandmother was home (they live adjacent to the house, an arrangement that is popular in Japan), and she let me in from her side. Today I had to go return it.

When I first saw the son's bicycle, I was a little incredulous. It was bright yellow, very wide, and the pedals were extremely low to the ground and tucked under the seat. It felt strange to pedal, and it didn't seem to be capable of changing gears, leaving it in a perpetual gear 1 or 2. With the varied terrain of Japan, I soon realized that this was an ideal setting for difficult hills and flat areas alike.

I hadn't gone to school by bike before, as my host mother was worried I'd get lost and I didn't know the route. I'd heard that by bicycle it took about 30 or 40 minutes each way. I tried to follow the path the school bus took, but soon lost the route and branched off in the direction I imagined it to be in.

It took me one hour, but I finally managed to find the school. I could see the hill it was on, but couldn't quite get to it. I kept making the following mistake:

If you want to explore Japan, the little streets are awesome. A good way to see such a different culture and country. If you're actually trying to get anywhere, though, they're a death trap! You may think you know where a street goes, but sudden turns and long hills will swiftly carry you away from your destination. Narrow roads the width of back alleys will force you to shelter in the nearest driveway as cars going the opposite direction barely avoid sandwiching you in their bid to skirt around each other.

Having learned my lesson, I mostly resisted the temptation to stray away from the main roads on the way back, this time trying to follow the route my host mother took when she drove me to school in the mornings. I soon lost this too, and ended up indulging myself a little, leading to a wait with some cars and another bicycle at a train crossing where Nagoya-bound engines blew by at astonishing speed. I ended up far down the bus route from where I wanted to go, but by following signs counting down the kilometers to a store nearby my house I was able to make it back after another hour of biking.

In Japan everyone bikes and sidewalks are everywhere, sidewalks that also serve as bike paths. This is what makes your bike bell so important. It's also interesting to note that there doesn't appear to be a correct side of the street to bike on. I encountered people coming from both directions.

In the mornings it seems like there are thousands of high school and middle school students biking to school. Elementary school students all walk in long groups, ushered on by parents and traffic controllers. People will come out of their houses to wave at the little kids coming by, who politely greet them in return.

Anyhow, since the teachers will allow me to use the music room at any time during my vacation, I'll have to make several more trips to school and see if I can make out a better route. But getting lost is good exercise and a good way to get to know the city, even if it's inadvertently!

Till next time!


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  2. Pretty pikshurs! Nagoya seems like a lovely town... I never went to the actual city when I was there but it seems I should have! :)

  3. How adventurous. I'm glad you got lost. Not because I hate you, but because I think it undoubtedly made your journey many times more interesting. XD