Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dark river night

Hooking up with Mavis is possibly one of the best things that has happened to me during my time in Japan. Deep into our honeymoon period, we are tearing it up all over town. I even thought I would be clever and take her to my last eyebrow threading appointment in Nishi-kasai AKA a place very far from central Tokyo when all you have is your legs to carry you. I thought it would take about an hour of concentrated love-making with Mavis to get there and thought, why not? I had nothing better to do that Friday night than get my brows lined up and take a monster bike ride.

Getting to Nishi-kasai from my side of town, I have to cross two rivers. Two! Here I thought I was living in a metropolis, who says there isn't nature a-plenty to enjoy. The way there was fairly uneventful but long, and things didn't start to look iffy until I was starting to cross the second bridge, which spans a wide big Bertha of a river. You would think with such a wide river, the footpath on the bridge would be ample but no, there was barely enough room for two bicycles to squeeze by each other and wouldn't you know it, the only crazy motherfuckers crossing the bridge were on two wheels. Have I mentioned that it was windy and dark? So I am pedalling for my life across this huge bridge, until I approach other bikers of course, when I have to slo-o-ow it down so that we can cross paths unscathed. It felt rather like a wild nature safari after my years of self-imposed confinement to concrete.

Pretty-browed and a short break later, I prepared for the journey back. Biking far and wide is fabulous as long as you remember that you must ultimately rely on your own two legs to get you back home. It was recommended that I take a different bridge on the way back, one with more girthal allowance, and as I headed to the first river, instructions on turning right or left were promptly carried away on the wind. Reaching the river, I automatically thought the bridge to my right was the one I had come over on and so I logically started towards the bridge to my left. "Left" is a bit of an understatement; "bridge way the fuck down river" would be a more fitting description. Away I pedalled, sometimes glancing down at the dark black river churning to my right. A yakata-bune made it's way down the river with its kitsch red lanterns swinging to the waves and as I looked across the river and saw nothing but low buildings and fog trimmed in hazy light, it occurred to me that I was very far from home, Toto. I couldn't see clusters of high buildings in Shinjuku, Shibuya or any other civilized hub. This caused me to pedal faster and with more purpose towards the bridge in front of me.

It was as I passed under the bridge with no on-ramp in sight that I started to feel a little nervous. I had been told explicitly that the river path led right onto the bridge and well, this huge bridge way over my head was not looking accessible from on top of Mavis's leather throne. I did the only logical thing to me at the time and began to pedal inland from the river, thinking that perhaps the on-ramp to the "bridge" started way over there where my eyes couldn't reach. Notice how I just used bridge in quotation marks? That's a little bit of foreshadowing right there, for as I got further and further from the river and into abandoned industrial area save for a lane of very fast cars, it began to dawn on clever me that perhaps there was no path over the "bridge" if you weren't in a car, or by the looks of it, an eighteen-wheeler truck. It was Sophie's choice trying to decide whether to keep going further in to find this path that frankly, was beginning to look as if it existed only in my head, or to turn around and go 30 minutes back to the bridge to my right. No one in the world knew where I was at that moment, so I decided to cut my losses and head back to the original bridge. Turns out, this "bridge" I had planned on crossing? It was a fucking highway.

It also turns out the original bridge wasn't the original bridge, but the one I was supposed to take on the way home to save myself the stress of playing chicken with other bikes. By this time, exhaustion was setting in and climbing up the bridge's steep incline, I was actually uttering the mantra "You are a strong powerful woman, you are a strong powerful woman", possibly out loud, to get me over to the other side. It was that or think about how not even the beau knew my whereabouts and if I didn't propel my ass home, I was going to be spending a night camped outside a Jusco (yes, that is how far out of Tokyo Nishi-kasai is).

Almost two hours and a regular coke (which I never drink) later, I made it back to my sweet sweet home and basked in the comfort that is feeling surrounded by concrete and department stores with things I cannot afford.

8 comments:

kathrynoh said...

Yikes, not good. At least you got home in the end.

Are you allowed to take bikes on the trains here? In Aus, ppl do it all the time if they need to ride both sides of the train trip but I've never seen anyone with a bike on a Tokyo train.

Sam said...

You have a simply wonderful blog!! I just found it last week and am enraptured with your posts, and am reading them all now, slowly. You write so delightfully and funny!!! Honestly, I've never been to Japan and your blog gives me an perspective which I feel to be much real-life-like and very insightful - you open up another dimension for me. You actually changed a lot of my ideas and perspectives about Japan. Thank you very very kindly again for your amazing blog!!

As with the current post I can much empathize with, that's never a situation anyone wants to be in - must be a really good cosmetician for that high price!

ThePenguin said...

You can take bikes on trains here if you can fold them up and put them in a special carry bag. (Same goes for pets).

Not having a folding bike though, I sorely miss being able to use public transport to extend my cycling range, but on the other hand just imagine what it would be like if every Taro, Hanako and Bakayaro could clutter up trains and station stairways with their wheeled conveyances.

gaijinwife said...

Thankyou for the bike escapades. I think I needed a chuckle today - at your expense sorry. I think I would have opted for a cup sake form a vending machine :) Glad you made it home safely.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

kathrynoh: As Penguin said below, not unless it's in a bag. It's a shame really, as I would love to take Mavis out to western Tokyo on the train for some cycling fun.

Sam: Thank you for your kind words! Unfortunately the woman who did my brows has gone back to India for a while and I am having a hard time finding another place to go. The more I miss her, the more I would be willing to take on another monster ride for some threaded eyebrows!

Penguin: Thanks for explaining. I considered getting a fold-up bike for this reason but ultimately chose not to. I do wish I could go farther afield...

gaijinwife: I am always glad to be of service. I should have stopped for a one cup to fortify myself!

Generic Jen B said...

I would have died. I get scared just cycling down the normal little roads.

Cory said...

Actually, the rule is just that the front wheel is off and its in a bag. The guys here on the west side of Tokyo simply get plastic and masking tape and wrap the bike, minus the front tire, and wrap the tire and it's then baggage and not a bike. They then dump the plastic and tape at the konbini west of Ome in western Tama and ride back.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Jen B: I considered uprooting my life to eastern Tokyo so that I wouldn't have to cycle back.

Cory: Good to know! Although frankly I don't know if I could be bothered wrapping up my bike for appearances.