Bicycle in front of the moat at Budokan

Suboptimal conditions

When I looked at the clock this morning, it was much later than I expected. I got up and checked for messages and there was the Halfakid, reminding me that I was supposed to meet him within 10 minutes. I told him I’d need another hour or more, and started getting ready for the ride.

The bike is ready
The bike is ready — but I’d forgotten the tire pump

As it turned out, I rolled into his apartment lot two hours late. The Halfakid answered the intercom after a wait of 30 seconds or so, and his voice was bleary. I waited patiently for some minutes, and when he appeared he confirmed he’d fallen asleep waiting for me.

And so off we set. I had a headache from last night’s party, and the Halfakid was complaining that his legs were sore from yesterday’s karate practice. There’s only one thing to do when the riders aren’t in the best condition: obey Rule #5!

Gingko trees at Meiji Jingu
Ginkgo trees at Meiji Jingu

Our first stop was at Meiji Jingu. We were a bit early to see the ginkgo trees in their brightest yellow, and we hadn’t counted on the crowds … we dismounted and walked even before we reached the park entrance. Fortunately, once we reached the end of the main boulevard, the crowds thinned out a bit.

Tokyo Tower from Shiba Koen
Tokyo Tower from Shiba Koen

From there it’s a lot of up and down through Akasaka Mitsuke and Nagatacho en route to the National Diet Building and various ministries. Ol’ Paint threw the chain when the Halfakid tried to shift to the smallest chainring, and he walked the bike up one of the steeper inclines as a result. Once past the ministries, we turned towards Azabu Juban and then turned again to Shiba Koen, where we stopped for water. I checked the time and it was just past noon, and so I realized we were more than an hour behind schedule as we planned to lunch at Tokyo Big Sight.

After a short break, we turned back towards Hibiya and thence the Imperial Palace. We exited the palace grounds and headed east past the Bank of Japan on our way to Mitsukoshimae. From there the route takes us over Nihonbashi and south towards Tsukiji and then Toyosu. We arrived at Tokyo Big Sight around 1:30 and immediately tucked into donburi.

Tokyo Skytree and the Sakura Bridge
Tokyo Skytree and the Sakura Bridge

After lunch we headed back north, paralleling the Arakawa. We finally emerged at Sakura Bridge and paused for a photo of Tokyo Skytree. When I sent the picture to Nana she messaged that there was rain in the forecast, and indeed the sky had turned darker.

Our next turn took us west, and we passed the Asakusa temple without pausing to look. There’s a long, straight ride in traffic until we reach a steep — but thankfully short — climb bringing us up to Ueno Park. This is followed by more “up-down” to reach Tokyo University, and the Halfakid was groaning behind me as we pressed on up the hill.

The sky continued to darken, so at a stoplight I took off my shades. A few stops later, I turned on my lights for good measure. It looked like we might get caught out in the rain, and I was beginning to believe I’d jinxed the trip by washing my bike first.

The course takes a long downhill at this point to Tokyo Dome, and then it’s level and south until we reach Budokan. It was getting quite dark by this point, and I kept trying to remove my sunglasses — having forgotten I’d already removed them! It was quite a bit darker and more grim than it seems in the picture, and we felt a growing certainty we’d be caught in the rain.

Bicycle in front of the moat at Budokan
Kuroko at Chidorigafuchi

In the end, though, we managed to beat the weather. We rode into a gloomy Shinjuku at just past 4 o’clock, passed the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings and cruised down the final downhill towards home. Final for me at any rate: the Halfakid had another 8km to go from there. He knew the way, so we said our goodbyes in Nishi Shinjuku and I wheeled home, glad to be out of the elements before the first raindrops fell.

Tokyo Landmarks route
Tokyo Landmarks route

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