Japan Secret Service

I kid you not. On the way to work this morning I pulled up alongside a gray Toyota Prius with an insignia and black lettering on the door which read "Japan Secret Service". Hardly a secret any more now is it?

I would have taken a photograph except I was worried I'd get busted for international espionage, taken away and locked up in a secret government prison, the location of which is marked only by a large flashing neon sign reading "Japan Secret Service Interrogation Facility - Move along now, nothing to see here".



Down Low Glow in Tokyo

Roughly a year ago I bout myself a Down Low Glow, from Rock The Bike and have been using it on my commute every day since. I can't say I'm getting any more room on the road from Tokyo drivers than I did in the past, but in the event of a future accident I'll be able to yell at the driver "Which of my fifty #&'%! million flashing #&'%! lights did you fail to #&'%! see?!!?"

I expected a few more comments and bigger reactions to the Down Low Glow than I've received to date. I've received my share of looks from pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike, but only children grace it with a comment, usually along the lines of "Coooool!", or "Woah, green!". Adults on the other hand don't like to show their surprise. By acting surprised at the Down Low Glow they're publicly admitting to all around they've never seen such a thing before. They dread the person they're with saying "Oh that, that was last weeks trend, I can't believe you didn't know about that!"

Also about the same time I purchased my green Down Low Glow, those tiny single green LED strap anywhere lights suddenly became popular. Every time I rode past a cyclist sporting one of those I could see them shrivel up in DLG envy, yet everyone is too proud to ask where I got it.

Oh well, its a hit with the kids.

One in particular loves the DLG, my daughter. She has a pretty standard Japanese girls bike, step through frame, rack on the back and a translucent blue plastic basket on the front. Because of the unusual curve of her frame there is nowhere to conveniently mount the DLG, but toss the Down Low Glow into her front basket an suddenly she is cycling with a huge cube of green light on the front of her bike that absolutely nobody can fail to see.

To date she hasn't expressed an interest in getting a DLG of her own, just don't tell her they're available in pink, purple, red, blue and amber as well as green!

If you're in Japan and would like to get your hands on a Down Low Glow you can order from the Rock the Bike homepage. They deliver internationally and offer exceptional customer service. You'll also experience no problems using the American made charger with the Japanese power supply.

I hope to see more Down Low Glows on the the streets of Tokyo real soon.



Buying a Second Hand Bicycle in Tokyo - Suginami Green Cycle Open Day Calendar

Buying a second hand bicycle in Tokyo is certainly a great option for anyone looking for a good deal on a reasonable every day bike. Suginami Green Cycle as mentioned in my post "Buying a Reconditioned Bicycle in Tokyo" offer second hand reconditioned bicycles for between Y6,500 and Y10,000 except in special cases when the price may rise to Y15,000 for a well known brand in good condition.

As mentioned in the previous article Sugunami Green Cycle are open to customers for 3 days each month but their timetable is a little unpredictable. Yesterday my wife was in the area and she stopped by to ask if they had an open day calendar for the upcoming months, indeed they do, and here it is:

May 200918 (Mon.)19 (Tues.)20 (Wed.)
June 200915 (Mon.)16 (Tues.)17 (Wed.)
July 200921 (Tues.)22 (Wed.)23 (Thurs.)
August 200917 (Mon.)18 (Tues.)19 (Wed.)
September 200914 (Mon.)15 (Tues.)16 (Wed.)
October 200919 (Mon.)20 (Tues.)21 (Wed.)
November 200916 (Mon.)17 (Tues.)18 (Wed.)
December 200914 (Mon.)15 (Tues.)16 (Wed.)
January 201018 (Mon.)19 (Tues.)20 (Wed.)
February 201015 (Mon.)16 (Tues.)17 (Wed.)
March 201015 (Mon.)16 (Tues.)17 (Wed.)

On the days listed above Suginami Green Cycle is open from 11am to 4pm, and these are the only days you can purchase second hand bicycles, but you're free to drop in a few days before the sale to check out their stock.

Suginami Green Cycle and is located at Eifuku 2-1-11 just 10 minutes walk from Eifuku Station on the Keio Inokashira line or Shimotakaido on the Keio line. Call 03-3327-2287 for more information.

Staffed by friendly bicycle loving retirees giving something back to the community Suginami Green Cycle is definitely worth a visit if you're in the market for a second hand bicycle in Tokyo.



One Week Pedestrian Safety Blitz

If you've been cycling in Tokyo this week you may have noticed a policeman on every corner, a guard on every crossing and a host of mothers sporting "PTA on Patrol" armbands. What's going on? You may ask as I did when I witnessed it for the first time too many years ago.

Monday marked the start of a new school year and between 7:30 and 8:30am in particular the streets are overflowing with excited 6 year olds on their way to their first days at school. In Japan with roads being narrow, that youthful enthusiasm often spills out on to the road which is why you witness such a high level of adult supervision.

Each year around this time the police presence rises to an unbelievable level. Literally a policeman on every intersection, directing traffic, directing pedestrians, hassling cyclists with their individual unique interpretation of Japanese cycling laws. Where are these officers the other 51 weeks of the year? If they can provide such a show of protection for 1 week why not even a token show of interest outside of that week?

Its not just the police who disappear. After the first week of school, crossing guard numbers also fall. Sure the busier intersections are manned year round by civic minded retirees (for whom I'm grateful) but other intersections guarded so passionately for the first week of school are suddenly deemed safe and go unmanned.

Finally, the parents disappear. They drop out over a number of weeks as their children grow in confidence and finally their little ones are left to fend for themselves on their way to and from school.

Maybe I'm overprotective, but I walk my daughter to school every single morning and have witnessed the safety overkill of the first week of school fade to the point where its just a handful of crossing guards and me looking out for a quarter of the schools population.

Its not just traffic dangers parents expose their children to on their walk to and from school. Last year there were a number of disturbing incidents involving children from my daughters school, on in which a child's backpack was slashed by a man as he walked home. After that incident 2 policemen were stationed outside the school gates (which are already manned by a security guard) for a week even though the incident happened nowhere near the school. Would it be too much for them the get on their bikes and patrol the area? My daughters school has 4 official routes which children use to get to school, how hard can it be for a policeman to randomly patrol those routes by bike each morning?

As a deterrent to prospective child endangering nutjobs my wife and some other mothers considered it a good idea that I wear a bright orange PTA Patrol armband as I walk the kids to school, sending out an eye searing visual clue to everyone around that the children are being looked out for. When they bought up the idea with the PTA President it was rejected on the grounds that I do not attend PTA meetings. It really makes me wonder how serious these people are about protecting their children.

Anyway, I continue to walk my daughter to school every morning before continuing on my way to work and will do so till long after she thinks she is ready to fend for herself.

Seems I've gone off the cycling topic and into a rant but isn't that what blogging is all about?

If you're on the streets around the time children are heading to or from school, exercise a little safety in your riding or driving, as children and their movements are unpredictable at the best of times let alone when they're with 6 of their boisterous friends all pumped on first week of school excitement. Also, when the police, crossing guard, PTA and parent presence dies down, and you find yourself the only adult in a sea of kids, keep an eye open for anything suspicious or potentially dangerous and steer them away from it. Its the least we can do for parents and a society that think its safe for 6 year olds to walk the streets by themselves.