Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Top Ten Reasons Why Everyone Visiting Kyoto Should Rent a Bike

10. It`s cheaper, faster and more efficient than public transportation -- and the public transportation system in Kyoto is quite good. Still, you can`t beat 500Y/day.

9. Bikers are the Lords and Ladies of the city -- and accordingly roam wherever they desire: Care to use the bikepath? No problem. The streets? Of course. The sidewalk? Absolutely. On that great Darwinian food chain of Japanese traffic, bike-riders are way, waaaay on top.

8. I can personally attest to having seen at least 3 different Japanese cartoons where the protagonist trips off his/her bike and lands precariously and compromisingly on top of his/her object of unrequited affection. Hey, it could happen*.

7. Do it for the adrenaline rush! You`ve played Grand Theft Auto -- now experience the true thrill of being chased by countless natives, having multiple riders bear down on you, narrowly avoiding innocent bystanders ... it`s all in a day`s work.

6. A bike`s the ideal position from which to fend off merchants trying to push fliers, samples or other unwanted information upon you. Bonus points if you place a copy of one of Lonely Planet`s guides visibly in your bike basket -- the natives now know that you`ve a.) not sat on the seat of a real bike in a number of years (true), b.) do not own or bear any kind of responsibility beyond that pathetic 1000Y deposit for the bike you`re on at present (indeed) and should thus c.) be considered armed and dangerous (no kidding!)

5. In an equal and opposite vein, a bike provides you with the street cred that says "watch out! I did not enter this city yesterday!" I`ve spotted precious few foreigners on bikes -- and they all have that mysteriously knowledgeable air about them ... when they aren`t desperately leaving through their guidebooks to figure out what intersection they`re on, that is.

4. Your spouse has been hinting you should lose the spare tire. Your most recent significant other left you for someone more "sporty" (... way back in 1994.) You`ve discovered you actually *like* Japanese cuisine -- and biking`s the way to burn calories, especially in those Northern Hills of Kyoto (... although, as a word to the wise, if floppy noodles in cold broth aren`t your thing in the U.S., there`s a good chance that they won`t be your thing in Japan either. Use this information wisely -- I could have saved myself those 350Y.)

3. You`ll get to feel the sun (and rain) on your face, the wind in your hair, the mosquitoes between your teeth -- all without the cost of renting a cabrio.

2. Those tiny, terminally yappy, impeccably groomed lap dogs? Their nippy teeth are no match for the tires of your bike. It`s open season -- go get `em, Tiger!

1. Chicks dig bikers. `nuff said.

* ... although, generally speaking, I`ve experienced far more bruises, scrapes and fleshwounds than moments of romantic tension as the results of such incidents. Don`t let that deter you, though.

In light of such overwhelming evidence, I offer merely three words of caution:

1. Left. It`s the side all of Japan drives on -- and the side all of Japan rides on. This means that if your bike encounters another bike on the bike-path, the way towards a successful evasive maneuvre is to veer left, NOT right. Should you neglect to heed this valuable advice, at least remember that camelia bushes inflict deep painful bleeding gashes upon your arms when engaged in forceful contact with your body -- I beg you, learn from my mistakes!

2. Signals. This is probably a quaint bit of personal history, but when I was a wee little girl of 10 and could finally get my bike riding license (... that`s right: bike, not motorbike. In Europe, many countries don`t award you your actual driver`s license until you are 18, so that bikeriding license was my pride and joy during my Jr. Years. Hey, we took any freedom we could get!) As part of the course preparing us for the scary adventure of riding our bike across the rural roads of Austria, we had to learn to make hand signals -- you know, take your little paw off the handlebar and stick it out in a fashion that will allow those drivers that are not patently intent on hitting you to avoid doing so, and give those who ARE murderously intended less of an excuse. Suffice to say, no one here practises these hand signals, and if you, gentle reader, choose to do so, I will applaud you -- while the rest of the country looks at you as if you had just grown a third leg.

3. After Hours (... ok, 2 words.) While it`s perfectly possible to ride a bike in the evening hours after having consumed more than 3 beers and without having proper lighting installed upon it (... and half of Kyoto seems to be intent on demonstrating this ...) I personally do NOT recommend it.

Creep Counter: 3.5
I don`t look like Drew Barrymore. YOU don`t look like Jet Li. I DON`T want to see your katana. Wakatta?!


At September 2, 2004 at 7:05 AM, Blogger Ella Quint said...

You're cracking me up! I love your insights- can't wait till you get back so we can start our writer's group! The next time you find yourself sitting somewhere that grabs your attention, blog that detail. This is already so vivid, I know your readers will feel like they're right there with you! And I love the creep counter! :) Have they been standard creeps or those of the drunken variety?

At September 2, 2004 at 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that a katana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Hattori Hanzo

At September 2, 2004 at 3:11 PM, Blogger Expat Birds said...

Spider: Isn't the standard creep version drunk off his bum anyway?! ;) These, though, have been mostly, frighteningly sober. Thank you for the too-kind words and suggestion -- I think I will try to do that setting-blog (or, in the absence of a portable computer, setting journal) at some point on this trip. How's the Newsletter coming along, by the by? I'm curious :)

Hattori: Yes to both, the former being the reason for the latter ;)


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