It was not only the range of bicycles that was surprising, but also the range of riders. I learnt afterwards that of the 319 registered guests 43% were women, an unusually high number for a cycling event in Japan. Attendees ranged in age from under 10 to over 70 while the group consisted of people from all walks of life including middle age men tight fitting bike wear to ladies in frocks clearly enjoying the warm weather after a week of dreary wet days leading up to the event. (In its three year history, this event has consistently been rained on!)
The 13 kilometre course began at the Dutch Embassy, and circled Tokyo Tower before heading in the direction of Toranomon Hills. No surprisingly not a single cyclist in my group took advantage of the shiny new, but dangerously narrow, bicycle lanes on Shintora Doori preferring to take their chances on the road instead. After a short stop at Hibiya Koen to collect the KLM stamp in our "passports" we continued on ast Tokyo Station to the Imperial Palace where we mingled with even more cyclists enjoying 8 lanes of road closed to traffic on the Imperial Palace cycling course. From there we cycled through the gardens surrounding Nippon Budokan before winding our way through the backstreets, guided by even more cheerful volunteers before completing our journey at the Embassy of Belgium.
But for me the highlight of the day was hearing Ambassadors Radinck J. van Vollenhoven and Luc Liebaut speak proudly of European cycling culture. Citing over 45,000 kilometres of cycling paths between their two countries they compelled Tokyo's cyclists to visit and experience cycling as it should be experienced everywhere. They also spoke briefly of the numerous benefits of cycling including social, economic and health benefits pointing out that cycling plays an important role in long life expectancies of Japanese citizens.