October 27, 2018 Sat
Sunset on the Yosano bike path
In any Japanese city, it is hard not to notice the plethora of bikes and cyclists crowding the streets, with pedestrians and cyclists somewhat haphazardly sharing the pavement. (Even though it is illegal, many Japanese people cycle with umbrellas or while listening to music, adding to the frenzy.) The popularity of cycling reflects the quality of Japan’s cycling infrastructure, with multiple cycle paths criss-crossing the country, and bike parking stations dotted around every city. It is very rare for children to be driven to school: most walk or cycle. Even a small town like Yosano is no exception. Indeed, a cycle path - along the route of the former Kaya railway - spans the length of the Nodagawa valley, from the mountains of Yoza, along the rice paddies, to the seaside at Iwataki. One of the conveniences of living in a small town is that bicycles do not have to be locked, given the rarity of petty crime. The lack of traffic also makes cycling relatively risk-free, though elderly cyclists do often cycle somewhat erratically. (Drivers beware!) Although cycling culture is not unique to Japan (and is heavily embedded in European cities such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen), it chimes with the core values of a Japanese lifestyle: health, convenience and simplicity. Time to get pedaling.