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Ah the pleasures of a bike ride. So simple and enjoyable.

Since getting a bike, I’ve never felt so happy to get out and do things – even if it’s just picking up my laundry at the dry cleaners (recognise – I never used one in my life until I realised the ones in Japan are cheaper than buying alcohol for the night). Not only is the bike bringing me enjoyment, it’s also keeping me a little healthy – something I regularly combat by smoking while I ride. But hey, my legs are a lot more toned you know? 😆

Shortly after getting the bike, Ella and I set off on regular trips in the area around Kiyose, realising the wealth of attractions within a short ride from our house. We might be leaving in ‘bandit country’ as my mate said, surrounded by vegetable patches and houses, but there’s still a lot to do and see. Something which never ceases to amaze me – we’re still in Tokyo (though our borough is on the border with the next prefecture) but we’re actually in the countryside, and able to enjoy the best of both worlds. City conveniences, and countryside relaxation and sights. Perfect.

A little while ago I bought an atlas of tokyo and the surrounding areas, which came in really handy when we set off on our trips, looking for things to check out and see. One of the things my friend pointed out to me after I got the atlas was that there were two lakes not too far from us (about 15km) and I soon made it one of my missions to arrange a bike trip to the lakes. Luckily, though I didn’t know it at the time, we kept putting it off until this weekend, the beginning of the Golden Week holiday (a week long Japanese national holiday).

We set off on the sunday, a hot and sunny day – not a cloud in the sky and warm weather. Perfect signs that this would be a good day. A Japanese friend of mine recommended an easy and very scenic route, which I’d mapped. Taking us south of Kiyose and onto a bike path which runs from near the centre of town all the way to the lakes and around it! Now that’s what I call looking out for the bikers. We got to the path and set off towards the lakes. Along the way we saw lots of parks, shops and nice things to do and check out in the future. It was really surreal – not only was the path amazing, nicely laid out and really pretty, it led to all these amazing places on the way.

One of which was the Higashi Muryama park, where we heard the sounds of a what appeared to be a festival. So we stopped and investigated – and found a local festival in full effect. Lots of kids and families chilling the park and playing in the fountains, and a music/dancing festival happening. Showcasing traditional dances and music, including a dude who put on a samurai show. I’m not sure show is actually the right word, but it looked impressive and deeply traditional. And the audience were primarily old people, so that kinda reinforced the fact that this was all probably traditional Japanese dances and demonstrations. Old ladies in funky kimonos also put on a show, and as we went walking around we found food stalls, an outdoor flea market, and an earthquake demo area! They have this truck with a mock flat in it where they invite people to come and huddle under a table while they shake the truck to replicate the effects of an earthquake. Pretty funny to look at actually. And a nice way to introduce prevention too!

The festival was a wicked little detour, and soon enough we got back on the bikes and continued on our way to the lakes. An hour or so later, we’d made it to the first lake, Tamako. Half of it is kinda emptied out, and vegetation has grown back, making it a really nice little valley in which you can chill. We stopped for lunch, Ella had prepared some home made onigiri which were sick! After a little chill, we headed off to the second lake, Sayamako which looked more impressive on the map.

On the way there we stopped at a traditional Japanese village, which featured lots of nice buildings and temples, set against the pretty contrasting sight of the Seibu Dome – a giant, modern and shiny dome in which baseball games are held. It made for a pretty crazy sight. As you walk around the village, which is set on the slope of a hill all you see beyond it is this giant shiny dome. A nice encapsulation of Japan’s old and new dichotomy.

We got to Sayamako lake and it was worth the long ride – by that point we’d already done about 20 odd kilometers. A giant dam cuts the lake from the valley below and offers amazing views of the lake and surrounding forests. On a good, clear day you can see Mt Fuji from the dam. Must be pretty impressive. On the other side of the dam is a park (well it kinda runs around the dam and the side of the lake), and a valley with a town.

After a bit of sightseeing we set back off, up the hill again and round the other side of Tamako lake back towards home. On the way we found an amusement park, and more little towns, places and shops. We got back on the cycling track and headed home, realising on the way that there were a whole bunch of towns we work in that are actually quite close to home on the bike. At that point Ella realised that the track ran for more 30kms! 😆 She thought it was quite short, but in fact by that point we’d nearly done 30kms if not more. Needless to say our collective asses were you know… aching.

We got home 7 hours after heading out, knackered, a little sun burnt but thoroughly happy and content. There’s nothing like getting out on your bike and discovering new places. What’s more, it was done on a pair of granny type city bikes, with baskets and trimmings! I sank two beers in record time, and promptly fell asleep for more than 10 hours.

T’was a good day.

Check out a set of pictures from the day here:
Trip to the Lakes – Flickr set

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