A Solo Bike Tour of Japan

The cold wind ran down the valley’s throat, guiding it into the basins of the landscape. Pedalling against the moving atmosphere, a man slogged up the hill, moving towards the landscapes peak. As he exhausted himself, his head thoroughly swarming and swirling, like a fish tank in transit, he questioned himself, his reality. He questioned the now trivial actions that had once consumed his moral apparatus, the hollow meaningfulness of the unsubsist-full life. He relished the unconformist nature of what he was doing, floating unattached like a balloon in the wind. At the mercy of the tides of nature, flowing in and out with the ebbs of the seasons and weather. The rain had now turned to snow. The small crystal balls pelted his skin. No system encompassed what he was doing, he was as free as the birds he had once envied.

Round and round his pedals spun, turning the cogs that turned the wheels that cranked the landscape one more step back. Click, click. The trees around him looked earnestly on to his progress up the incline. Click, click. Slowly he made his way up the asphalt tongue. But now that his legs were stretched, he had no rush of motivation to knock back the distance, he was just happy to be moving, not stuck in the stagnant backwaters of stationary existence. He finally reached the last portion of the road, leading up to a lookout at the top of the hill. Even though he saw the end, he stuck to the same pace, happily in a sort of potential well. He called it the cycle potential well. Faster was unsustainable, slower and the progress was too demoralising. He finally clicked up onto the plato. He slid down, his legs on either side of the bike bar, relishing the achievement. This was one of those events you inhale, deeply, allowing it to seep into your skin. Ahh!! Yea!! Woohoo!!! The totality of the landscape unfurled itself before him, it’s furrows and abnormalities. The bending and fracturing, its colours and shades, accompanied by a melancholy grey above. What an intense sight. He took it in trying not to be too analytical, just allowing it to mould his mind. Imprint its structure onto his being. This is what life was to him, this was important. 

At the beginning of 2014 I set out to see Japan. I packed my bike and bag, booking the flights just two days before, and left the comfortable crevice of routine.

Looking back on the experience I’m glad I did it, it was the scariness that kicked me into a world with different perspectives. I didn’t ride as many kilometres as I thought I would, but I learned a lot about solo travel.

As I toured through Japan, I got a perspective that I couldn’t have gleamed from just reading books or seeing movies. They are now the images that are summoned when I hear of Japan. They are images of people working in large cabbage plots, and construction workers enjoying an onsen at the end of a hard days work. I see large reinforced hillsides in the middle of forests and deserted roads around them where tunnels now burrow through their core. Streams running through pine forests while I lay on my back eating raw cabbage.

Japan made me realise that beauty is lost in cities, but cities can be beautiful in their own way. That each country is not perfect, but each country is always trying. And that it doesn’t matter where we are in the world, it is how we perceive the moment that counts. These insights and memories are a gift from the trip, and I’ll never forget them.

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