I had to work Saturday to bring down the network for some electrical maintenance (and of course to bring it up again when the maintenance was done), and the weather was fine. The forecast for today had been for rain, so I thought the weekend was a wash. But since Friday afternoon, today’s forecast has been for rain in the afternoon. So I contacted José to see if he was available for a morning ride, and he said fine, so long as he was home by 2 p.m.
I said we’ll meet at 8 a.m. at Nihonbashi, meaning I’d leave at 7. I woke up this morning and poked Nana until she got up to make some of her world-famous onigiri, but I still didn’t have any acknowledgement from José before I left home. I finally got a thumb’s up from him when I was approaching the Imperial Palace. I sent him a photo from Sakurada so he would know I was near, and then from Nihonbashi at 7:48. Finally he replied about 7:58 that he was on the way.
Fortunately, he lives within a shout of Nihonbashi, and we were soon on our way to Tokyo Disney Resort.
A bridge too close
After the meet-up we continued east on Eitai Dori towards Arakawa and Tokyo Disney Resort. We stopped on the way at a convenience store so José could get a bottle of ocha for the ride and some breakfast, and I waited patiently while he enjoyed the sandwich and chocolate bar.
And then almost immediately we were climbing the bridge to cross the Arakawa. I started to realize I’d chosen almost too direct a route — I’d be lucky to get in 60km for the day, meaning 40km for José.
When we got into Kasai-Rinka park I missed the usual turning. We decided to continue on as I’ve been trying to work out a route through this portion that doesn’t have us tangling with major pedestrian traffic. Today was the jackpot: after a couple of brief cobbled sections were were back on course, and we’d gone around the lion’s share of the pedestrian traffic.
From there it was a cat-and-mouse game with a rider on an electric bike. We’d overtake him on the flats and then he’d outclimb us on the ramps up to the bridges over highways and the Kyu-Edo river.
We arrived quite early at Disneyland after a downwind blast down the Arakawa to Tokyo Bay. It was at this point I started to realize this was going to be a very short ride — I’d failed to consider I usually ride to Tokyo Disneyland by going north first to Arakawa, then down the riverside cycling course to the bridge. The direct route cut more than 20km off this roundabout way.
The next consideration was that we’d be reaching our usual lunch spot on the return before 10 a.m. I was hungry for the umeboshi onigiri Nana had made, but José had just had breakfast about 8:30. Would he be able to eat two onigiri by this point?
I needn’t have worried. We stopped at the usual convenience store and then the park, and José ploughed through his two konbu-encased onigiri long before I was finished.
Into the wind
When we got back to Arakawa we had a stiff headwind for the 2km or so we had to ride upriver. I was expecting this from the time we had been making on the downriver leg — you don’t really feel a tailwind unless it’s a gale, but we had been making very good time.
With lunch behind us, we crossed the Arakawa and continued west on Eitai Dori. We were mostly sheltered from the wind at this point, and the traffic was neither more nor less than expected. We continued to make good time.
We reached Nihonbashi at 10:37. I took off my jacket and bade José farewell, conscious that he’d be putting in far less than the 40km I’d originally projected for him. I continued on towards the Imperial Palace and Budokan, arriving at the latter about 11 a.m. after setting a personal record for the climb up Kundanzaka — due no doubt to my fresh condition after having ridden less than 40km to reach that spot.
I reached Budokan at 11 and messaged Nana I’d be home by 12. She replied she was just leaving for a hair appointment. I started off home and got mixed up with a taxi which raced ahead of me only to cut over two lanes at the next light to turn left, cutting me off. I avoided the taxi but was flustered enough to fail to recognize that was also my turn. I went along another block before turning and retracing my path.
Back on Shinjuku Avenue, I suddenly encountered a parade in Yotsuya. Bringing up the rear were the Highlanders — dozens of Japanese men in kilts playing the pipes. After overtaking them I was treated with the sounds and sights of multiple marching bands and twirling squads — all in the left-most lane that was my usual haunt. I had to keep one eye on the marchers and one on the traffic overtaking from behind as I continued on my way.
At Yotsuya 4-chome I decided to change tack and take a right turn. I’d been investigating various routes along this course and Google Maps had suggested this as an alternative to passing Shinjuku station at the south gate.
The alternative course brought me to Yasukuni avenue and hence to Shinjuku and Shinjuku station. It wasn’t really any less trafficked than my usual route through Shinjuku — in fact, there were more side streets where pedestrians or vehicles might suddenly leap in front of my path. And then once I’d passed the station, I got in the wrong lane and found myself turned back towards the station once again.
It was all easily sorted out, after waiting just an extra light or two. But the verdict was to continue using the route I’ve used until now, unless I find something better.
In the end, the forecast rain did not come before 5 p.m. Based on a moving time of 2 hours 37 minutes 29 seconds, I averaged 18.9km/h. Not a stunning speed, but I posted multiple PRs on the road from Shinjuku to the Imperial Palace in the morning, and then counterclockwise around the palace.