Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Main Mode of Transport

I don't have a car in Japan. Most of the time I don't really miss it. I have my granny bike, and it gets me around my mostly wonderfully centralized tiny town. I'd love it if we had a proper drug store in the center of town, too, instead of just way out on the outskirts (when it's windy and cold or stupidly hot and humid, I simply don't go there, so it's a very seasonal roughly 3-times-a-year event for me). If I need things that are further than I care to bike, I just bike the handful of minutes to the train station and head to one of the cities. If I need something in "the city," I'd probably like a latte or a Big Mac while I'm there anyway, too, so it works out OK much of the time.

I don't miss worrying about every little sound a car makes or weird thing it does and wondering if it is something that will need to be fixed or how much it will cost or having to pay for car insurance or caring about the cost of gas. Cars and their related costs are spendy. Even if the worst of Very Bad Things happened to my granny bike, the maximum cost would be roughly US $100 to replace it.

I do miss driving itself and love it when I am back home and get to crank up the radio and sing along while driving on back roads (bonus points for country roads and country music and, I'll admit it on this one, being in Oklahoma), but Japan's not really made for that. Many roads are ridiculously narrow, and I'm sometimes amazed that even a single car can fit, let alone two passing each other (sometimes they can't, and one has to wait). Once in awhile on these same super narrow roads there will be someone on a bike (like me) riding on the side but not all the way on the side because they are trying to avoid riding into the drainage ditch that exists next to most roads (remind me to show you these!). I'm sure there is a name for these in Japanese, but lots of us foreigners just call them gaijin traps (gaijin = 外人 = literally, outside person = foreigner, so, basically, "foreigner traps," a term that just cracks some of my my Japanese friends up the first time they hear it, but to me it's just what we call them). Those are bad enough walking or on a bike, but I can't imagine having to drive and worry about putting one (or more) of your tires into one and the damage/cost that would involve.

Then there is this whole separate driving skill set that's required to drive here. As a pedestrian/bike person living in Japan for more than a couple of days, I'm used to traffic driving on the left instead of on the right as back home in the States. That's fine. What I mean is the skill like how most people who drive in Japan back their cars into parking spaces instead of going into them front first, even the tightest of spaces, between two cars. When they hit nothing and also make it look as effortless as most people seem to do, I want to applaud and hold up a 10.0 score card. I can't imagine ever being able to do that without damaging a minimum of two cars in the process. I can back out of a parking space easily and parallel park about 87% of the time, but other than that, I drive frontwards. It's just what my people do.

So, yah, she is a basic one gear model full of no features fancier than a basket and a bell, but it's good that I have my granny bike. I accidentally took this picture the other day while I was walking to get a picture of the takoyaki/taiyaki stand. Oops.

18/366 - View From My Granny Bike
(Taken on my iPhone, toyed with using the BeFunky app. Oh, and Photobucket.)


  1. I love my bike too, I don't drive a car either. ( my husband does) I live in a tiny town too, and I get to Antwerp in less than twenty minutes by bus. Or I walk, as most of the shops are within walking distance. Or else I take my bike, just like you.
    By the way, you "accidentally" made a very good composition!
    Oh and umm... great minds think alike, I'm also doing a post about bikes! Bikes are everywhere in Antwerp these days.

  2. I only wish I lived somewhere that didn't require a car. The city was awesome for that, but now I live not only in suburbia, but mountainside in suburbia, making a car necessity. I totally hear you on all those car sounds and noises and dollar signs.

  3. bikes are the best buddies ever! they can be functional, fun and increase your fitness. I'm so glad you shared this entry.

  4. I wish I could go everywhere on a granny bike. Would be nice to get some exercise regularly without going to the gym! Then again, I'm not too outdoorsy.
    And FORGET that parking! Holy cow!


Talk to me.