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

An unusually bigger drift than normal. In fact, the starting and ending points are where I used to live to where I live now. It was on the 30th of July this year and I was collecting my fold-up bicycle which wasn’t loaded onto the removal lorry the day before. That’s the reason for this drift as I wasn’t going to fork out a £50 to get the bike sent by another removal company.

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

I had a rough idea about the route I would take but as usual my trivial pursuit would spiral out of control at some point. And that’s when the adventure started. As always, I carry a paper ordinance survey map. I also have strict cyclogeography rules which apply (i.e. no electronic navigation tools). Well, they are my rules. I know navigation tools are useful but I’m old school plus serendipity is being lost these days due to how networked we have become as a society.

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 and all I had to do was 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 going along the country roads, I felt more freedom and unrestricted. No heavy 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 ages. 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 waving her old stick. Now I was back on the Seibu Shinjuku line! God knows how and where I deviated but the line still leads 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 in one piece. But what an adventure though!

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 various dirty-looking objects. What a spectacle! You would never see this back in the UK, Health & Safety inspectors would have had the place closed down years ago. It will eventually get knocked down or even closed down  but at least now it’s recorded in my sketch book.

Yakitori Shop 2 (2016).jpg