Monday, May 2nd
A brief and pleasant, uneventful ride into Tokyo. 33 miles which brought my cycling in Japan, and Asia, to a close, for now. I was prepared for a difficult ride, but aside from negotiating the guts of Tokyo – the busy roads around Shibuya, it wasn’t long until I was outside my hostel in Ryogkoku and wondering what to do with myself.
From my camp spot I took car-less, sunless roads to the Tama river which I followed for the next hour taking me closer to the heart of Tokyo.
Cycling along the river was just like the cycling in Korea – straightforward and carefree. Miles of well surfaced tracks with just the occasional dog or walker to dodge. The sun was out now and people were starting to emerge. I passed a group of about 10-15 young guys, all with touring bikes and camping gear, presumably heading where i’d just come from.
I had to leave the river after about ten miles and begin the journey through the centre of Tokyo to Ryogkoku, a neighbourhood on the west side of the city next to the Sumida river.
It started easily, more quiet neighbourhood streets, but inventiably the roads got busier, the buildings bigger, and the effort required to deal with their impact on my concentration a little bigger too. Cars kept their distance, and quite a few other people cycled, but after making it close to Shibuya i’d had enough, and headed for a quieter road – the 413, pausing by Aoyama cemetery where it was quiet and green. I noticed one of the bolts holding my rear rack on was missing. Another thing to add to the increasingly long list titled ‘Stuff to fix/replace’.
I continued onward, I would fix it later. I counted down the last five or so miles as they passed. A spoke snapped but it didn’t matter now, I was so close. I went past Edo Castle, then took a left, headed over the river, and I was there. It was 11am.
I stopped in a park just close to the hostel and rearranged my things. Some businessman smoked cigarettes and a boy played in bubbles blown by his grandfather. I couldn’t check in until 4pm so put what I needed for the day in my rucksack and the rest back on the bike, dumped it at the hostel, and went off to find a coffee somewhere, on foot.
I’d ridden well over double what I had in Korea, in a journey which took three times as long, with countless more challenges to overcome – both with my bike and the country, yet I was prepared for the anticlimax at the finish. I think it struck me, when I was riding along the river, how surreal it was to be cycling into Tokyo, a huge metropolis, at 6am on some Monday morning in early May, 2016. And as I cycled passed people I wondered if they could tell how far I had come.
I felt a sense of achievement, but it was hard to feel the culmination of those days and miles, other than in the tiredness in my body, the aches and pains growing stronger now I knew that it would end shortly.
I took the days one by one as I cycled, each with it’s own start and end point, and challenges – some I could forecast and some unknown. And today’s objective was simply to make it to Tokyo. Which I did.