New Years Ride with the Cycling Embassy of Japan in Tokyo

Byron Kidd
On January 4th the Cycling Embassy of Japan rang in the new year with a social ride on a relatively car free route to Lake Tama on the border of Tokyo and Saitama.

Lake Tama Ride from Cycling Embassy Japan on Vimeo.

The ride came about quite by accident as I asked Chad to join me for a ride as I want to get in as much cycling as I can before I start a new job on January 15th. But before I knew it Chad had designed posters and set up a Facebook event so we could invite even more people. In the space of a few hours the ride grew from two guys to a fully fledged Cycling Embassy of Japan event!

Our plan was originally to meet at Meidaemae Station around 9:30, make a stop at Inokashira Park in Kichijoji at 10:30 to pick up more riders if that meeting point was more convenient for them, then to the beginning of the Tamako Cycling Road by 11:00 to pick up even more people. But with a low response rate via the Facebook group we started the day with just 5 riders not expecting any more.

The twin lakes of Tama and Sayama act as reservoirs supplying Tokyo with much needed drinking water and the Tamako Cycling Road sits above a pipe which take the water from the lakes into the city. Along the way out to the lakes you pass many water treatment facilities which set the theme for our ride. So rather than keeping to a schedule we set off in the opposite direction to visit a water storage and treatment facility close to Medaimae station before cruising down to the Kanda River which we followed all the way to Kichijoji.

Interestingly even though the ride was organised by the Cycling Embassy of Japan, at one stage one of the ride participants Kosuke took the lead guiding us an alternate route from Kugayama to Inokashira Park which avoided some nasty intersections and obstacles around Mitakadai Station.  If there is one thing we all love it is alternate routes and local knowledge of backstreets we can add to our mental maps so we can avoid difficult spots in the future.

At Inokashira Park, Kosuke was keen to go off road, closely followed by myself Brad and Chad and as a result we lost Aya for a moment and completely bypassed the spot where we were to meet any additional riders.  We were already 30 minutes behind schedule due to our educational waterworks detour and didn't expect anyone to be waiting anyway, but to our surprise Matthew and Masahiko had been patiently waiting.  Matthew apologised for not knowing the correct procedure to RSVP for the ride but I assured him that if he was willing to stand around for 30 minutes in the park on a cold winters morning not getting upset then he would be the perfect fit for our cycling group.

From Inokashira park Kosuke led us again, this time along the Tamagawa Josui, through a tunnel under the Chuo Line and past the sprawling Tamagawa Josui water treatment facility this continuing our theme for the day.  We arrived at the beginning of the Tamako Cycling Road behind schedule as predicted and sadly found no new riders waiting for us.

We cycled the Tamako cycling road, which was much more crowded with cyclists and pedestrians than our last visit just a few weeks earlier, right up to the Tamako dam where we enjoyed convenience store bought lunches on a grassy bank overlooking the expansive park lands and river.  Along the way we had lost Brad who had to return to Tokyo for an afternoon appointment making us realise that all the times we have cycled with Brad we have rarely if ever completed a return journey with him present!

Surprisingly warm for January 4th I could have lay down on the bank in the sun for a long nap, but that had to wait until I got home where after a shower I fell asleep in the kotatsu.

Hastily arranged with a schedule we mostly ignored this ride turned out the be the best of the year so far (OK so it has been the only ride, but we set the bar high!) A small group of just seven people, some close friends, some casual acquaintances and others joining the ride for the first time, but despite the mix everyone was easy going, nobody paid much attention to the clock, and everyone seemed happy to take detours and learn new routes thanks to people who had more experience cycling in the area.  In all it was a great day of cycling and I hope we can have many more such rides in 2016!

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