Enter Nude Pedal Cruising, a 37km ride, well more of a mobile party than a ride, starting in Shibuya and winding a course through Tokyo's well known neighbourhoods including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppingi, Ginza and Odaiba, taking in sights such as Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station along the way. The ride was planned as a Hinode ride, a ride to see the sunrise over Tokyo Bay, this meant starting at 1am and riding through the night. Oh, and did I mention it was a nude ride?
(Editors note. Its difficult to do nude in Japan unless you're at an onsen. The population just aren't that into it, and the police are decidedly against it.)
In order to maintain a high standing with the law "nude" was redefined to mean "in your underwear", with no obligation to bare anything if you preferred not to. Despite this technical hitch the "nude" ride went ahead and this is my report from the event.
|Group picture at LOVE Nishi Shinjuku, we were just getting started.|
It took me just 15 minutes to cycle to Yoyogi Park, I'd left home too early, it was just 12:15am. Not sure of the meeting point I cycled around until I spotted a group of people and bikes near the entrance to the park outside NHK. Music was being played, beverages were being consumed and people were chatting loudly while checking out each others bicycles.
I've known about, and been following Night Pedal Cruising, for almost over 3 years now, but this was my first time to attend one of their events. Unsure of who was in charge I headed towards the lady holding what appeared to be a clipboard (those in charge always have clipboards) and signed up for the ride. Upon signing up I was presented with a spoke card, a sticker, and a complementary set of underwear .. did they think in my enthusiasm to ride naked that I'd forget my own underwear?
I introduced myself as the fellow behind Tokyo By Bike and handed my business card to a man in underpants and a wrestling mask, despite the fact he had no pockets. Then I too got to checking out some of the other bicycles, including no less than 5 tall bikes, one with a huge stereo blasting FM radio from the rear rack.
|One of the many tall bikes at the event.|
Riding at the head of the group behind the tall bike with the stereo I learnt quite quickly that my clip less pedals would be a burden at such a slow pace. Looking over my shoulder I was blinded by the lights of over 30 cyclists. With many sporting multiple headlights, tail lights, spoke lights and lights hanging off every conceivable part of their bicycles it was a blinding sight. Many radio's in the group were all tuned to the same station spreading tunes through the length of the pack.
It took me a while to understand the ride, so slow, a little boring and kind of lame in fact, but partway through the first leg from Shibuya to Shinjuku it clicked. I started drifting up and down the group pulling alongside random riders and simply starting up conversation. Its always easier as the foreigner to break the ice by starting conversation in Japanese, otherwise everyone assumes you're an uneducated illiterate and they leave you alone. There were about 7 foreigners along for the ride too so there was also English conversation to be had.
Nishi Shinjuku is decidedly dead in the early hours of the morning, so after a brief stop for a photo at the LOVE sign we continued on past Kabichicho and the entertainment areas of Higashi Shinjuku still full of revellers where our large, loud group of cyclists and particularly the tall bikes drew a lot of attention. This area is jammed with taxis, all of which were unsure of how to proceed when surrounded by cyclists. I hope we taught them to use caution.
The first stage of our journey finished with us riding through Harajuku and we ended up back at our starting point for a short break in which even more riders were convinced to whip off their shirts.
|Night photography is HARD.|
On the way we stopped right outside several Koban and passed numerous policemen all of whom simply stared in bewilderment. To them we weren't breaking any laws, but such a large gathering of people must have been up to no good.
During the Roppongi break people started swapping bikes and owners of tall bikes were very enthusiastic to let everyone try their skills on frightening looking machines. One fellow dressed only in boxers with a camera slung around his neck wandered into a convenience store for some food and drink much to the bewilderment of staff on duty at the time.
From Mid Town we continued on through Sodom and Gomorrah, that's right, Roppongi. Even at 4am the streets were teeming with people and the music still blaring from the clubs, many people shouted to us and took photos as we wove our way through the seemingly endless streams of taxis, pedestrians and drunks. We passed under a dark Tokyo Tower, a very tranquil contrast to Roppongi, then hit every single damn red light on our way up to Hibiya. During this long section along practically deserted roads people were using the red light stops as an opportunity to swap bikes again.
The plan was to go from Hibiya along the front of the Imperial Palace, swing by Tokyo Station and into Ginza, but as we were already well behind schedule we turned right from Hibiya and went straight through Ginza, past the Kabuki theatre, and Tsukiji fish market then over some bridges to the man made islands in Tokyo Bay.
|Assing around on one of the many breaks during the ride.|
A little down the road as the sky began to grow lighter a decision had to be made. We'd loitered too long on our breaks, enjoyed conversation too much on the ride and would be unable to reach our goal of Wakasu Seaside park. With a show of hands, which indicated most riders were too tired to continue that far, we turned right again towards Odaiba where if we were lucky we'd get to to see the sunrise.
We arrived, we saw the sunrise, we posed for photo opportunities and we chatted as we downed any food we had left. The ride was over. Except for many of us, it wasn't. Myself for instance, I live 15 minutes beyond the point where the ride had started over 4 hours earlier. As soon as we arrived I was planning a route home and calculating the time it would take me to get there.
|Goal! (erm .. revised goal) Odaiba.|
True to my calculation I arrived home at 7:05am, showered and managed 1.5 hours sleep on the tatami in the living room before sharing (another) breakfast and a fun filled day with my family.
Pedal Day celebrations started at 10am in Yoyogi Park on the same day and continued into the evening. I didn't make it but it looks like the Nude Pedal Cruising ride was just the beginning of a very exciting day.
It was truly a pleasure to meet a number of people I've exchanged tweets with on twitter at the event. As I said, I don't get out much, and I put my family first, but I'll try to attend the Night Pedal Cruising rides each month from now. Please do check their homepage, follow them on twitter or connect on Facebook and join us for a social ride in the future. I'd love to meet you all.