Cycling Across Japan With Sachi Takao

SEASON 1 EPISODE 20

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  • On 10 March 2011, Sachiko Takao set out an adventure bike tour to taste the wonderful flavors of Japan. Starting in Okinawa, Sachiko cycled over 2,200 km across Japan to the northern tip of Hokkaido. Along the way, she sampled many delicious foods, photographed the amazing scenery, and met many friendly and curious people.
  • Joining the show is Byron Kidd who runs a website dedicated to cycling in Tokyo. Byron talks about what makes Tokyo a great cycling city despite the chaotic disregard for the law.

Cycling Culture in Tokyo

A considerable number of people cycle in Tokyo, so Anthony talks to Byron Kidd who writes all about biking in the great metropolis in his blog Tokyo By Bike. So what makes Japan a great cycling nation? Why do its people opt for the bike as their mode of transport?

According to Byron’s research, the stores, clinics, and other facilities are clustered together, making it more convenient to use bikes to get from one place to another. The bike could also easily be families’ station wagon – carrying kids, grocery and packages across the neighborhood. These small areas are designed around the train network. Trains mainly take people to work. Meanwhile, major shopping centers are located near train stations or are stretched along the highways which are more accessible through cars.

Despite being known as a car manufacturing country, car ownership in Japan is expensive not only for its purchase but for its parking. Before buying a car, one must certify that they have a parking spot. And those spaces don’t just come cheap – they can also be quite a distance from the apartments where people live!

While citizens are mostly law-abiding, Japan’s cycling rules can be chaotic. Most do not understand it and police don’t bother enforcing it. Cyclists are also very polite and patient, they tend to also look after others given the little space on the road. Thus, Japan strikes a good balance between trains, pedestrians, cars, and bikes. To access more tips on cycling around Tokyo, head over to Byron’s blog, and find all the cycling information you need!

Biking Her Way Across Japan

When Anthony was planning his move to Japan, he consulted his Japanese friends on places to live. Amusingly, their eager bits of advice were based on where their favorite foods are!

Since there are various foods one can try in every region, the show’s guest Sachiko Takao began her Japan gourmet bike tour in March 2011 intending to sample great foods from her country. Because Sachi wanted to eat a lot, she decided to bike along her trip to shed off the calories.

To prepare herself, she practiced riding the bike with additional weights and went to the gym daily to build her stamina. She also had to acquire the proper equipment and gear for long-term biking on the road. Admittedly worried before her adventure even began, she shook these off as soon as she hit the road. With the help of her phone, fellow cyclists and locals willing to be of assistance, she navigated her way from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Sachi acknowledged that some were surprised and concerned with her being a woman and cycling alone. She shared her experience of loneliness, biking late at night, falling off a scooter, and breaking her hand. But she surpassed these challenges by enjoying the moment and sticking to her goal of traveling all over Japan. Despite some pain it caused, these moments became happy and memorable ones because of the people she encountered and the beauty of the places which surrounded her. She recounts volunteering alongside people struck by the tsunami and earthquake in the North as well as getting cheers and food from fellow road travelers. She benefited from the kindness of strawberry and scallop farmers. Getting to know people was the best part of her trip – thus, she stayed longer in some places and extended her trip to almost 6 months! According to Sachi, as long as one has a map, can make gestures, and say hello and thank you in Japanese, one can take a similar adventure as there will be people willing to help.

Sachi continues to cycle for weekend trips and would be happy to help fellow travelers in their adventure on the two-wheels. To find out more about her fascinating trip and her videos and photos about it, head over to her blog Finding Sachi. She would be happy to help recommend other aspiring cyclists on where to go and how to do it.

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