Cyclogeography 3:Tokyo to Saitama Drift

Asagaya-Sayamagaoka (July 30 2016).jpg.jpg

Drift Starting & Ending Points: Narita Higashi (Suginami-ku, Tokyo) -Nishi Sayamagaoka-Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama) 

Distance (approx) 20 miles/33 kilometres

A longer drift than normal and in familiar environments.  The starting and ending points are locations where have I have to where I presently live. Drift date, 30th July, 2016.

I set off quite late that day, around 3:00 p.m. The Japanese summer heat is much cooler at that time of day. By doing so, I found I could drift along fairly comfortably at a relaxed pace.

I had a rough idea about the route I would follow though it was expected that my direction would spiral out of control at some point. And that’s usually when the excitement and adventure starts. Like a boy scout, my crumpled paper ordinance survey is somewhere in the depths of my rucksack as it comes in handy when venturing into the unknown. comes in. As far as technology is concerned, I’m not quite up to date. I mean I don’t carry any electronic navigation tools so in that sense there is more chance of serendipity. A magical chance encounter!

I began by following Nakasugi-dori Avenue which would lead me to Saganomiya train station on the Seibu Shinjuku line. Then, I followed the line to Kampachi-dori Avenue which is an absolute mother of a road in Tokyo. I was relieved to get off that awful, obtrusive road. Anyway, the road headed northwards and I eventually got to Nakamurabashi station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line. Still on track (excuse the pun). The light was now dimming, the environment softening to oranges and browns. I was now in unchartered territory. All I had to do was simply follow the train line. Eight stops until Tokorozawa, that shouldn’t be difficult, I thought. However, when I got to Hibarigaoka I couldn’t follow the line so easily so I decided to deviate slightly but stay in the same direction. It was a welcome change peacefully riding along the country roads, I felt more freedom and unrestricted. No weighty, articulated trucks breathing heavily and overbearingly on your shoulder . However free I felt, I was beginning to get a bit anxious as I couldn’t see a road sign for quite some time. I was just floating around fields, along rivers and the occasional A-road. All the time hoping that I would end up back on course. Not that it really mattered.

I finally ended up at Kumegawa courtesy old an elderly lady who gave me directions using her walking stick! Now I was back on the Seibu Shinjuku line! God knows how and where I deviated but the line lead to Tokorozawa. I just took the long route, a more scenic route, the getting lost route. Eventually, I got to Tokorozawa station around 6 p.m. and I’m back following the Seibu Ikebukuro line. However, from Tokorozawa station to Nishi Tokorozawa station was another hurdle, it seemed impossible to follow the line. It was dark now too which changed the mood. I had never lost my way cycling in the dark before. After about an hour of cycling down dimly lit quiet streets, past a few creepy graveyards, going down numerous dead-ends and asking a few hundred people for directions, I finally got home and was shattered. But what an exhilarating adventure!

Part of this experience involves recording old Showa architecture. I saw many engaging places along the way. Oddly enough, it was a Yakitori (skewered chicken) shop, which caught my eye the most. It is located where I began the big drift, in Narita Higashi. One side of the shop is littered by greasy canisters and other with various dirty-looking objects. What a spectacle! You would never see this back in the UK, Health & Safety inspectors would have closed the place down years ago. It will eventually get knocked down or even closed down in the near future but at least now it’s recorded in my sketchbook.

Yakitori Shop 2 (2016).jpg