Thursday, December 25, 2008
Biking the Tamagawa
(The Tamagawa, looking north from Noborito)
The Tamagawa (Tama river) runs from inland out to Kawasaki City and used to be a major waterway for navigating into Tokyo from Tokyo Bay, up until maybe the 1920's. At least up until the 1890's. Now, it's mostly just a trickle with a few dams along the way. There are a couple places where old men set up chairs to do some fishing, but otherwise, it's not much to look at anymore. Although, around the Noborito area there are popular spots for having picnics and exercising.
(Looking south to Kawasaki City, from Noborito)
Tamagawa runs about 6 blocks from my apartment, and there's a bike trail that runs along it, next to a small street treated as a main thoroughfare for delivery trucks. Walking or riding a bike on the street is very dangerous - it's only 20 feet wide or so. So, anyone wanting to get around, or just exercise, will get on the bike path. During the Summer, I was walking to Noborito in order to buy the Japan Times newspaper (Noborito is the closest place that carries English papers), but it was taking 90 minutes for the round trip walk, so I gave that up in order to dedicate the time to other things. But, it was good exercise for a while.
In this neighborhood, there's not much to do or see along the Tamagawa from a sightseeing viewpoint. On the river side, a couple of baseball diamonds used by high school students, a private tennis court, and some small plots of land used for farming. On the road side of the bike path, it's mainly offices, apartments, and a couple of small factories. As I say, the river itself is mostly a trickle, so it's not even much to look at while exercising.
(Shrine near the dam)
But now, I have a bike. On Monday, I decided to take it out for its maiden ride. From Noborito, it's 25 kilometers to Kawasaki train station, which is about 30 miles round trip. Took me about 2.5 hours. My legs are killing me. Along the way, I discovered a miniature golf course (free and open to the public if you bring your own club and golf balls), several golf practice centers, several batting practice centers, 2 shrines, a horse racing track and a whole lot more buildings. I have no idea how close I got to Kawasaki station, but I'd like to think that it was no more than 1 mile away.
(Dog statue at the shrine)
The problem is that the paved trail is only maybe 5 miles of the full length of the river. The rest of it is gravel or packed dirt. That limits the speed I can ride at. And, a couple of places I had to ride on the street, with cars passing within a foot of my leg. So, on the way back, I crossed over to ride on the other side of the river. For the first 5 miles out of Kawasaki, I had a nice paved trail. Then, I ended up back on packed dirt. Unfortunately, at one point the trail disappeared completely and I had to detour onto side streets packed with foot traffic. I realized that what I should have done is to ride about half way to Kawasaki on one side of the river, then when I got to Maruko bridge, crossed over and kept riding on the other side, then reverse the pattern on the way back. But, I'd still be on gravel for a couple of miles in the middle of this no matter what I do. Sigh.
One interesting thing was to encounter 3 older men riding beat-up bikes carrying huge bags of aluminum cans - the piles were close to 6 feet wide and 10 feet high. Turns out that there's a recycling plant halfway to Kawasaki, and that's how these guys make money, scavenging soda and beer cans to turn in.
Now, I need to find a new part of the city to explore. In the meantime, I'm going to take it easy for a bit. My legs need the rest.