I got off to quite a lazy start this morning, and had to immediately forget any thoughts I had about riding the length of the Tamagawa in both directions. When Nana asked where I was going I said Disney, and figured I would decide once there whether to return via the Tokyo Gate Bridge or just come straight back.
It was very windy as I set out up Yamate Ave. towards the Arakawa, and I struggled more than usual with the many hills along the way. With about 5km to go to the river, I was overtaken by a group of three young men on carbon fibre racers with top-end mechanicals. “Nice,” I muttered as they passed, and then I caught up with them at the next light.
I thought they would lose me before long, but with the many traffic lights, I always managed to catch up with them again. Finally, at a major crossing, they opted for the crosswalk and I overtook them by staying in the lane. I figured they’d quickly overtake me again, but in fact they followed me the rest of the way to the river (less than a kilometer at this point). They stopped at a convenience store just before the dike, and so I arrived at the Arakawa before them.
Even before I parked Kuroko against the sign, I could see there was a marathon in progress. There are often 5km or half marathon events on the river course, and cyclists are permitted to pass as long as they take care to avoid the runners. But I could see that the other riders present were staying off the course. A few cyclists passed me along the upper and middle routes, but those soon come to an end.
After considering my options, I messaged Nana I would be changing my route because of the marathon. As I started back the way I’d come, I noticed the three riders I’d previously passed, still having a break at the convenience store. I thought about telling them about the marathon, but it would have meant crossing four lanes of traffic. I figured they would learn soon enough.
I had no trouble climbing back out of the river valley (I was considerably fresher than when I usually make the climb) while thinking about where to ride next. I figured I could backtrack to home and then visit the Imperial Palace. That should be fun in the beautiful weather. As soon as I’d reached the conclusion, I realized I would get there more quickly if I stayed on Nakasendo instead of heading back towards home on Yamate where it split off. It would also add a bit to the adventure to take the less familiar route.
And no sooner had I decided that then I realized I could continue straight on to Nihonbashi, then come back via the Imperial Palace and Budokan. I was helped in this realization by all the road signs counting down the distance to Nihonbashi, which is considered the root of Tokyo, the endpoint of the Nakasendo.
I’d forgotten this route leads directly to Tokyo University. I took a short break in front of the Akamon, eating one of Nana’s world-famous onigiri standing up. I consulted the map for the route to Nihonbashi (nearly but not quite a straight shot) and continued on my way.
From Nihonbashi I returned via my usual route: first the Imperial Palace and then Budokan. I’ve been saying I shouldn’t always take the same photo at the same spot of the palace, so this time I stopped at Hirakawamon. There was a mosaic on the pavement where I stopped showing some blossoms of Somei Yoshino — the most famous of Japan’s many varieties of cherry tree.
Next was a very brief stop at Edo Castle Shimizumon and a view of Budokan, before I challenged Kudanzaka to get my favorite photos of Tayasumon and Chidorigafuchi. I sat down on a bench overlooking Chidorigafuchi and ate the remaining onigiri.
At 12:50 I was ready to continue, so I messaged Nana that I would be home by 2 and set off on the final leg. I’d notched up just 30km by this point, so I was hoping that I would reach 40km by the end of the ride. I had just a swallow or two of water left, but it wasn’t hot — in fact a large, dark cloud had come out while I was enjoying the onigiri, and it was rather dark and chilly.
It was a short, enjoyable ride, livened up by a route I’ve only tried once previously and scarcely remember. The bicycle was working flawlessly the whole time — I’d remembered to charge both the Garmin and the Di2 battery. On a moving time of 2:10:40, I’d averaged 18.6km/h, which is satisfying considering how weak I felt starting out into the wind.
On my previous ride I’d come down the Arakawa from Saitama, and I’d seen signs announcing today’s marathon. “I’ll just go to the Tamagawa then,” I thought. Of course, I immediately forgot about that and didn’t recall seeing the signs until I arrived atop the dike this morning.