As you know, I have started my soroban classes last week. The school is about 50 minutes walk away (along very busy roads, the scenic route next to the river takes more than an hour), and I’ll have to go there at least twice a week. The bus prices have just been raised, and although I wouldn’t call 230 YEN for one trip outrageous, it does add up over time. So, I have done the most sensible thing one can do with respect to city mobility:
I finally bought a bicycle.
I went to a tiny little shop that is owned by a very old man with huge, bushy, white eyebrows, and who of course speaks Japanese only. Neither his lack of teeth, nor his apparent hearing loss made conversation any easier, but we managed in the end. And now I am the proud owner of a bicycle, lovely, used, and red, and it cost only 6500 YEN. We adjusted the seat down (I have very short legs), checked the brakes together, and I had to prove by showing him that I understood how to use the attached lock.
Finally, the man’s wife helped me fill in a registration form for my bicycle. A registered bike has a yellow sticker on the frame bearing a number, and I now have written proof – for an extra 500 YEN – that this bicycle indeed belongs to me. In case it is stolen and retrieved by the police, I will get a phone call so I can pick it up again. (Oh, wait, I didn’t provide a phone number… well, they can always send me a letter.)
The only thing I still have to figure out is where to park when I go downtown. On the large streets of city centre it is even forbidden to ride a bike (pushing on the pavements is okay, but difficult especially during the crowded weekends), but in many more places you may not park your bicycle even for a short time. There are special parking lots or garages for bicycles, and they do remind me of the ones in the Netherlands, but you have to pay there (which means I could just as well take the bus) and I am not sure how conveniently they are located, as I only ever found a single one – being a pedestrian and all. I will find out soon.
What I have found out already is that it is not only possible, but quite likely that wrongly parked bicycles are towed and impounded. You have to go somewhere near Kyoto station with your registration card and pay a fine to get your bicycle back. I hope this won’t be happening to me any time soon, but if it does, you will hear all the details.
My action radius has just increased considerably, and I’m looking forward to lots of new and far away adventures…