CycleKyoto HP LInk

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fushimi Inari by Bike

Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Kyoto自転車で伏見稲荷へ

Kyoto's Fushimi Inari is the top Inari shrine in Japan. Top out of some 32,000 inari shrines.

They are devoted to business, and as such are packed on New Year's Day.

We visited a few days prior to Christmas, and just about had the place to ourselves.

The famed gates - all 1300 of them - are normally clogged with tourists. Not last week.

The ride from the center of town takes about 30 minutes and is flat. The final stretch is on a narrow road, but nothing out of the ordinary for Kyoto.


Fushimi Inari Shrine
68 Fukakusa Yabu-no-uchi-cho, Kyoto

Entrance Fee: Free


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kyoto City Hall by Bike

Kyoto City Hall

Kyoto City Hall is a looming presence on Oike Dori, just north of downtown.

The building is not especially attractive. It was designed by Goiichi Murata and completed in 1927.

Other than location - a subway runs under it, the Kamo River is close, and shops and bars are nearby - what draws crowds are flea markets held in the plaza in front of the main building.

On the day we rode by, a large crowd was enjoying a sunny December day and perusing the used goods.


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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cycling Tenryuji Temple Kyoto

Wall near Tenryuji自転車で天龍寺へ

Cycling in Arashiyama offers so many sites and places to see - and some serious obstacles - that choosing a route is key.

Above all, stay off the main drag as much as possible. The street that runs from roughly the JR tracks down to the Katsura River at Togetsukyo Bridge is packed, year round, with tourists and those catering to their whims.

Except when crossing the bridge, it is best to stay off.

Once away, though, the fun starts. Even Tenryuji Temple, a World Heritage site located on the main drag that is very popular, can be approached from side streets which are pedestrian and cyclist friendly.

If you are coming from the Hankyu Railways side, cross the Togetsukyo Bridge, turn left at the first street. After you pass Kitcho - a three-star Michelin restaurant - and a few other fabulous buildings head north into the neighborhood that borders the temple.

Get lost. Find the statuary in front of a temple wall. Keep pedaling. Go into an old antique shop. Find the temple.


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Friday, December 24, 2010

Bicycle Sign Kawaramachi Kyoto

Bike restrictions Kyoto自転車乗らんと押してね

Not far from Shijo Kawaramachi, in downtown Kyoto, we found this fantastic sticker.

Don't ride, walk it!

Below the image of the cyclist duly walking his rod are the details:

Between Bukkoji and Oike, cycling is prohibited on the street from 8 am until 10pm. On the sidewalks, it is always 100% completely verboten.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kitayama Canal Kyoto


A bit east of the center of Takaragaike in Kitayama - the area where the subway exits and botanical gardens are - is a wonderful streetscape.

Until the subway was extended to Kitayama in the 1980s, it was mainly rural area in the north of Kyoto.

Now it is a chic area with the city's concert orchestra hall and many large homes.

However, prior to the arrival of the newly monied, there were older homes that were built in the 19th century. Most of them hug the base of the hills, and are wonderful farm houses set behind a moat and large wall.

The moat runs the length of the street, and thus passes in front of each home. All of the houses require a small bridge for cars and pedestrians and cyclists.


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Monday, December 20, 2010

Kyoto Delivery Bike Sagawa Kyubin

Sagawa Delivery bike京都佐川急便自転車

In recent years, delivery companies - including the post office - have returned to human-powered vehicles.

With its narrow streets and human scale, Kyoto is ideal for this type of business.

We found this brand spanking new silver bike with back u-haul device north of City Hall not far from the Manga Museum.

The driver very politely waited while we took a quick picture, and then told us how he prefers pedaling a bike to riding the old noisy scooters. "With the exception of high summer, it feels great," he said.


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Friday, December 17, 2010

Bike Festa Kyoto 2011 Models

bike festa kyoto

The bikes on display at the recent Bike Festa at Takaragaike did not disappoint.

High end Colnago, Shimano, Scott, and other models were out in great numbers.

Most were racers that were priced often one zero out of our price range.

Still, one can dream - and in the case of Bike Festa we got to ride a few of the bikes.

The model at top right was not available for test riding, but a fabulous looking machine.

The bike below left is for serious hikers and trail riders. With a few easy movements - demonstrated by a sales rep, the bike collapses into a short flat marvel of engineering that can carried on your back.

On the frame itself is a backpack that is used to strap the folded up bike onto your bike.

The award for most expensive bike went to a carbon frame Scott mountain bike retailing for 1.2 million yen ($13,000).

The seller - Koseki-san from Koseki Cycle near Kitano Tenjin Shrine - encouraged us to lift it up. At just 7.1 kg, we were impressed, however briefly.


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Takaragaike cool bike

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kyoto to Hiroshima by Bike


Milan Bannerje, 16-year-old Kyoto native, gets our Iron Man award.

This August, at the peak of high summer, he rode from his home near Kitayama 400 km to Hiroshima.

The basic details are noted below:

Duration: 4 days
Distance: 425 kilometers
Highest temperature during ride: 38.8°C
Lowest temperature during ride: 27°C
Average temperature (approx.): 35°C
Top speed achieved: 61kph (downhill into Hiroshima)

His grit and adventures are documented here and also in Japanese.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bikes Behind Daimaru Department Store Kyoto

Natural Bikes Kyoto京都大丸の裏にある自転車

Last Sunday while out on walkabout in downtown Kyoto, we came across a bunch of semi-funky bikes parked at the rear entrance of the Daimaru department store.

They were being sold by Natural Bikes, which is located on the Sanjo shopping arcade.

Not exactly our cup of tea, but interesting.


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Monday, December 13, 2010

Kyoto Transportation Safety Campaign


The Kyoto cops are on the warpath. From December 11 - 31, the men and women in blue are in campaign mode.

The "accident prevention campaign" has the cops out in force in an attempt at preventing accidents.

The campaign even has a poetic catchphrase:

「あわてんと ゆっくり越しましょ 京の暮」

Don't get wound up, take it slow and easy, Kyoto nightfall (the original sounds better)

The campaign is aimed at cars and bicycles.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cycling Restrictions Downtown Kyoto


The cops and their minions are cracking down in a "bike safety campaign."

Lately, from evening rush hour until early in the night, cops are manning corners - especially near universities - and stopping cyclists.

The usual: light not on, riding on the wrong side of the road, and checking to see if the rider actually owns the bike.

Also, at long last, the police and "bike cops" - men and women in blue official looking uniforms - are patrolling the main streets downtown.

As a reminder, Kyoto restricts cycling in the following areas:

Shijo Karasuma - Shijo Higashi Oji (Yasaka Shrine)
Shijo Kawaramachi (Takashimaya) - Kawaramachi Oike (City Hall)

These restrictions are in effect from 8 am until 10 pm.

Note: these restrictions are for the street itself, not just sidewalks (which are of course a no go area).

In addition, some of the streets between Kawaramachi and Karasuma downtown - for example, the Sanjo Mall, Teramachi, and other nearby streets - are designated pedestrian areas. That means from 8 am until 10 pm, no cycling.

The above are areas to be avoided if for no other reason than: many cars, many people, no joy.


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shirakumo Inari Shrine Kyoto

fall colors kyoto shrine自転車で白雲稲荷神社へ

On a ride in Kitayama, we came across a small beautiful shrine nestled in the hills east of Takaragaike park.

The steps up to Shirakumo Inari Shrine were framed by maple trees ablaze in fall colors, and, on the right rear, cedar trees.

After a day at the Bike Festa - test riding 2011 bikes and checking out a lot of cool stuff we don't really need but very much wanted - the shrine was the perfect stop before a ride back towards Ninnaji Temple and home.

The shrine is below the 法 (ho) symbol carved into the hills above. This symbol is one of the giant kanji that are set ablaze every August during the Bon holidays to help guide the spirits of the departed back to the other side.


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Monday, December 6, 2010

Cycling to Myoshinji Temple

Myoshinji Temple自転車で妙心寺へ

Kyoto's Myoshinji Temple is a sprawling complex in western Kyoto that dates to the 14th century.

Its Myoshinji school of Zen Buddhism is the largest within the Rinzai sect. Within the walls of Myoshinji are 47 sub-temples. It is literally a city within a city.

What is so special about Myoshinji though is that it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and - except for special events in certain sub-temples - is free.

You will not find the crowds that throng the Golden Pavilion or Kiyomizu Temple, or even Daitokuji, another zen temple. High school and college students ride their bikes through on their way to school. Local people walk their dogs.

Unlike heavily touristed sites, it has a laid back vibe.


64 Myoshinji-cho, Hanazono, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kyoto Cycle Festa in Takaragaike

京都サイクルフェスター in 宝ケ池

Mark your calendar.

Actually, just go: tomorrow is the annual "Kyoto Cycle Festa in Takaragaike" (link in Japanese).

Cycle Festa will take place in north Kyoto, in the park called Takaragaike, which is a short ride from Kitayama.

The highlight for us at CycleKyoto will be the opportunity to test ride 2011 bike models. All the big name makers will be there -  along with stacks of their new bikes.

All the major stores in town will be on hand, including Vigore.


Date: December 5
Hours: 9:45 am - 3 pm
Location: Takaragaike (subway Karasuma Line)
Free Admisssion


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ninja House Kyoto


Just a short ride south of Nijo Castle is Kyoto's famed Ninja House.

It is more formerly known as Nijo Jinya but it is for all intents and purposes the Ninja house.

The house has been continually owned by the Ogawa family since it was built, in the 1660s.

It is now being renovated, and will reopen in 2011.

The building was used as an encampment for visiting feudal lords, and thus has escape routes and other special design features.


Nijo Jinya
due south of Nijo Castle on Omiya Dori
075 841 0972

Entrance Fee: 1,000 yen for adults, 800 yen for high school students


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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hip Bike Kyoto

cool kyoto bikeめっちゃ素敵な自転車京都

Two extremely cool middle-aged dudes were deep into an afternoon coffee at Bibliotec, in central Kyoto north of City Hall.

With their gray scarves, bespoke jackets, salt-and-pepper stubble, and high-end bike shoes, they personified a new type of cyclist.

One for whom cost is not an issue. Rather, style is.

The bikes parked in front of the machiya cafe are expensive, finely tuned urban machines.

They are as much of a fashion statement as the clothes the men were wearing.


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bicycle Child Seat Kyoto

child seat kyoto自転車用チャイルドシート

Just south of the Imperial Palace at a children's center, we saw a practical bike seat for children.

The seat was attached to the handlebars, and is for small children. Unlike the the traditional bike seat, which is set on top of the rear wheel - which this bike also had - the smaller seat allows a child to see the world as it passes by. The view from the back is, well, of mom (dad)'s lower back and butt.

It also lets the rider see and talk to the child.

This seat has straps, a small child-friendly bell, and water-proof padding.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ring Lock Kitayama Kyoto

bike lock kyotoリングロック北山京都

At the corner of Kitayama Dori near the city's spectacular orchestra hall, we found this lime green bike.

It was your standard all-purpose bike: no gears, simple basket, and a simple ring lock.

The black lock presents a delicious contrast with the color of the frame. Added to that is the red and plain color of the key insert.



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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kyoto Funky Foldable Bike


On the street that follows the JR Saiin Line from Nijo to Enmachi, there is a beauty college.

Young women and men learn the arts of cutting, dyeing, and making a client feel beautiful.

Many of the students commute via bike, and park in a lot under the train tracks.

There were several foldable bikes line up.

The outside bike, pictured above, was pretty zippy: two-toned leather seat, chrome rims, bright white frame.


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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bike on Roof Kyoto

bike on roof kyoto京都屋根の上にある古い自転車

On the roof of a bike shop in downtown Kyoto is a wonderful old rusting bike.

The saddle, somehow, retains a turquoise color.

In wonderful contrast is the reddish-brown rust on the rims and parts of the frame.

Below this is old-timey bike shop.

A bit south of the Manga Museum.


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Friday, November 19, 2010

Woman on Foldable Bike Kyoto

Woman on foldable bike Kyoto折り畳み自転車に乗り携帯でしゃべた京女

On a corner not far from Nijo Castle - and the side route up to Enmachi - a young woman straddled her foldable bike.

These bikes are especially popular with the college set.

More and more one sees cyclists lugging them up subway exits and 1-2-3 putting them back together - and then zipping off.



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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cycling to Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art自転車で京都市美術館へ

One of Kyoto's great attractions is the city's Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

It is a big old musty brick pile built in the 1930s that once a year or so gets one of the big ticket exhibits.

Located in Okazaki, it is close to the zoo, Heian Shrine, the Museum of Modern Art, and only a short ride from Philosopher's Walk or Chionin Temple.

The area has wide streets and is just 10 minutes from downtown.

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
Okazaki Park, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8344
075 771 4107

9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (admission until 4:30 p.m.); closed Mondays

Entrance Fee depends upon the exhibit


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Cool Kyoto Cyclist

Cyclist Kawaramachi Oike京都での格好いい自転車男

This mildly hip young dude was spotted on Sunday at the corner of Kawaramachi and Oike, across the street from Kyoto's City Hall.

Hair pulled back, low boots, knobby tires - ready to take on the world.

All he needs is to customize his bike a bit more.


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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oike Dori Bike Lane Test Run

Oike Bike Lane Kyoto

The city of Kyoto appears to be testing out the possibility of installing bike lanes on the sidewalks of the wide boulevard that runs, east-west, at the north end of downtown.

Oike Dori is home to City Hall and leads to Nijo Castle. Underneath it runs the Tozai subway line and there is a shopping mall.

Above ground, the streetscape is wide and heavily concrete.

The sidewalks however have always been good for cyclists: wide and flat and easy to cohabit with pedestrians.

The city however is going to set up a test run - lines have been painted on the sidewalk along with new purple bike marks - with an eye towards creating a permanent lane. The test will last from November 12 - 18, from 7 am - 5 pm. It will extend from Oike Kawaramachi, at the corner of City Hall, to Karasuma.

Fingers crossed.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Kyoto Police


Last night while riding from Demachiyanagi past the Imperial Palace en route to an area near Ninnaji Temple, a cop yelled at me to put my bike light on.

Actually, "politely entreated" would be a more accurate description.

The light was already on and I told the woman cop - who was probably excited at the prospect of practicing three words of English ("right on, purease") that she failed to notice - "it's already on" and pedaled on.

The cops were out in force from Kawaramachi to Senbon along Imadegawa around 7 pm, berating and stopping cyclists.

No fines though.

The campaign will last a few days, the police will pack up and go back to the koban, and the problem will be solved.


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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kyoto Community Cycle

Kyoto Community Cycleまちかどミナポート

Kyoto now has a public rental bike system.

The city sponsored Community Cycle program debuted on April 30th of this year, and now has four rental/return locations.

The four "stations" are near Kyoto Station, Sanjo Station, just north of the Manga Museum, and close to Marutamachi Station.

Fees start at 200 yen for the first hour, and then 100 yen for each additional hour.

The bikes are white single-gear bikes with a blue strip between the top tube and down tube.

Payment is with a credit card or a Pitapa IC card.

For those who plan on cycling all day, the private rental companies may be more economical.


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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Northeast Kyoto Shugakuin Villa


In northeast Kyoto not far from the Silver Pavilion are a handful of small and not so small temples and sites to be seen.

The hills are never too bad, and if you hug the small roads along the foothills of Mt. Hiei, you will enjoy a pleasant ride.

Among places worth a visit are:

Shisendo, Manshuin, and of course Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Many other temples dot the area, but these are perhaps the most major.

The road pictured above right is between Shugakuin and Manshuin. The residential area to the right (west) is filled with older homes; the area to the left is either wooded or farmland.


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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cycling Toei Kyoto Studio Park

eiga-muraToei Kyoto Studio Park

Kyoto's Toei film studio has since 1975 been part theme park, part film studio.

In that year, with the film industry fleeing Kyoto for Tokyo, the Toei Kyoto Studio Park was born.

It is located not far from Koryuji Temple, JR Hanazono Station, and is on a stop on the Keifuku Line.

It is a good day out, especially for those with kids in tow.

There are many performances, lots of information on the bygone film era, actual sets where samurai films are still filmed.

More Information

Kyoto Studio Park
10 Uzumasa-Higashi hachigaokacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8586
075 841 3381

Hours: March-November 9:00 am - 5;00 pm; December-February 9:30 am - 4:00 pm; Closed December 27-31, 2010

Entrance Fee: 2,200 yen adults; 1,300 for junior and senior high school students; 1,100 yen for children older than 4.


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Friday, November 5, 2010

Cycle Myomanji Temple

myomanji temple自転車で妙満寺へ

A 10-15 minute ride from Kitayama is Myomanji Temple.

A member of the Nichiren Buddhist sect, Myomanji enjoys fantastic views of Mount Hiei and is a short ride from Entsuji Temple.

There is a large concrete copy of the famous stupa at Bodh Gaya, India (and can be seen at left rear of the photo). The original is where the historical Buddha gained Enlightenment.

Inside the stupa is a statue of the Buddha.


91 Hataeda-cho, Iwakura, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.
Tel: 075 791-7171

The grounds are free, but there is an admission fee for the stupa and gardens.


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vigore Kyoto

vigoreVIGORE Kyoto

Kyoto's only bespoke bikemaker is Masato Kataoka, owner of Vigore Kyoto.

He is a third generation craftsman, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father.

The forerunner of Vigore was established in 1930 by Kataoka's grandfather.

The current bicycles are order made, and start from 128,000 yen.

Kataoka's bikes are beautifully crafted, a delight to the eye. His shop is located north of Kyoto's International Conference center, not far from Kitayama.


On Takaragaike Dori, just north of the the Kyoto International Conference Center. A short walk from the Kokusaikaikan Mae subway stop.
Tel 075 791 6158


Vigore bikes can also be found at two locations in Tokyo.

FIG Harajuku
TEL 03 5413 9050(2F) 9051(1F)

FIG Daikanyama
TEL 03 5456 7701

The photo is © Vigore Kyoto


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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jizo Statue Kumogahata Kyoto

Jizo-san in Kyoto地蔵さん雲ヶ畑京都

The small statuettes sprinkled throughout Japan - an in particular, in Kyoto - are known as Jizo, or Jizo-san.

Jizo is a Bodhisattva (in Japanese: Bosatsu): that is, one who "achieves enlightenment but postpones Buddhahood until all can be saved." The "ji" (地) means earth, and the "zo" (蔵) is womb.

These mini-Buddha are beloved and thought to ease suffering.

This one sits in a cemetery in Kumogahata, northern Kyoto.


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Buddhist Symbols Kumogahata Kyoto

Buddhist symbol Kyoto京都仏教の石碑

In the hills of northern Kyoto near a small town called Kumogahata, there are many pleasures to be had.

The area is a rural mountain enclave not far from downtown that is a step back in time.

Temples dot the area, and the several villages retain a Japanese look.

Near Itsukushima Shrine, we found this Buddhist marker and the foot of stone steps leading up to another temple.

The four characters are, clockwise from top: high, zen, cloud, temple.


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cycling Kitaoji Vivre Kyoto

Vivre Kitaoji Kyoto自転車で北大路ビブレへ

In north Kyoto, not far from the Kamo River or Daitokuji Temple, is an upscale mall: Vivre.

Known locally as Kitaoji Vivre, it features four floors of shopping, all of it located directly above a subway stop and bus terminal.

There is an LL Bean, a large supermarket, mens and womens sections, a good book store, even a snazzy gym.

If you are on your bike, the Kyoto Botanical Garden is just across the river.


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cycling Ninenzaka Kyoto

Kyoto Goldfish, Ninenzaka

Ninenzaka is one of Kyoto's most beautiful walks.

It is located in Higashiyama in the eastern hills of the city.

The sloped street, which runs from close to Nene no Michi - another beautiful street - up to the area almost to Kiyomizu Temple, is full of traditional shops.

Also nearby are Kodaiji Temple and Ichibei no Koji, the latter a narrow beautiflly preserved alley.

Gion is just south.

Much of this area is best seen on foot. A good idea is to pedal up to Nene no Michi, then park. From there you can walk to most of the temples, shops, and sites.


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Flea Market

Flea market, Kitano Tenmangu自転車で北野天満宮へ

Every 25th of the month, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine opens its proverbial gates and hosts a flea market.

It is an interesting mish mash of stalls selling food, fabrics, antiques, plants, etc. There are also some carnival games.

The good stuff gets pored over early, so if you are really interested in shopping for quality - go early.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Cycling Otani University

No bikes sign Otani University自転車で小谷大学へ

Across the street from Vivre, the shopping mall in north Kyoto, sits Otani University.

It is a Buddhist affiliated school, located conveniently near Kitaoji Dori and a subway stop.

The Kamo River is a short walk, and the Botanical Gardens, Daitokuji Temple, and Kitayama are all close.

But don't try to cycle inside the campus.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Cycling Heian Shrine Kyoto

自転車で平安神宮へHeian Jingu Shrine Torii

On a glorious fall day, we rode over to Okazaki to watch the annual Kyoto Student Festival.

Students from all over Kansai, though mainly from Kyoto universities, performed in dance troops on the street that runs from Heian Shrine, under its massive torii gate, and past several of the city's best museums.

The Shrine was completed in 1895, and was built to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the city's founding. Its four gardens are particularly beautiful, and cover approximately 33,000 square meters.

It is built in the style of Chodo-in, which was the main building of the Heian capital (the original name of Kyoto).

Admission is free except to the gardens, which cost 600 yen.

Nishi Tennocho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN

Tel: 075 561 6155

A ten-minute walk from Higashiyama subway stop on the Tozai Line, or a 15-minute walk from Sanjo Station on the Keihan Line.


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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kitaoji Vivre by Bicycle

Vivre Kitaoji Kyoto自転車で北大路通Vivreへ

In north central Kyoto, not far from the Kamo River is an area known as Kitaoji.

Close by, there are a few sites - Daitokuji Temple being the best known - Otani  University, and the river, but mainly it is a quiet upscale neighborhood.

For shoppers, though, the Vivre mall full of stores of good quality. The mall is located at a bus terminal and a subway stop, both of which are below the mall.

It has an LL Bean store, a good supermarket, and an excellent book store on the fourth floor.

Other nearby areas of interest are the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, and the even more upscale area of Kitayama.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cycling Le Petit Mec Cafe Kyoto

Le Petit Mec Cafe Kyoto

Located on Imadegawa Dori west of Horikawa, Le Petit Mec serves fantastic coffee and mouth-watering bread in a cafe that could be in the middle of Paris.

Le Petit Mec is close to Nishijin and near many places you may be riding to or from:

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Imperial Palace
The Golden Pavilion

Very highly recommended.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Japan Coast to Coast Charity Ride


Japan Coast to Coast grew out of one man's epic 6-week bike ride chasing the cherry blossom front along the length of Japan in 2000. Along the way, Lowell Sheppard discovered a statue of the 19th-century missionary Walter Weston on a semi-abandoned coastal road. Weston was the man who introduced Japan to the concept of mountaineering and research into his life and writings led Lowell to plan another bike ride - following Weston's trail across the Japan Alps and between the northern and southern coasts of the main island of Honshu.

Inspired by Lowell's bold plan, two friends agreed to join him on his weeklong journey and Japan Coast to Coast was born. Planning and physical preparation meant that the ride went well, and the rider's camaraderie and resourcefulness made event the occasional setback just another part of the fun and adventure. That ride, early June 2010, took in such spectacular scenic highlights as Kamikochi, Norikura and Hakuba and many warm and friendly encounters with locals not used to seeing foreigners, let alone three of them on bikes.

The scale of the challenge was a big motivation in itself, but what really made the trip - and the whole JC2C concept - all the more worthwhile was the fact that it was a fundraiser for the great aid work done by HOPE International Development Agency. Lowell is the Asia-Pacific Director of HOPE and his advice and experience helped them team raise over ¥600,000 in donations, funds that went directly to build wells that now provide clean drinking water for many families in Cambodia.

A second ride the following October saw the group grow to nine riders and a support vehicle. This ride was shorter at two days, and didn't have any major mountains along the way, but it provided quite a challenge for the less experienced cyclists.

The plans for 2011 are more ambitious still, with a JC2C challenge featuring more riders (probably in teams) and lots more fun! We are always happy to hear from cyclists across Japan who are interested in joining us.

Contact Japan Coast to Coast:

See us on Facebook


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cycling Nishijin

自転車で西陣へJofukuji Dori

Kyoto's Nishijin is the city's weaving area.

Located north of Imadegawa, west of Horikawa, and extending roughly to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, it is a large neighborhood.

And very good for cycling.

Aside from the large boulevards noted above, Nishijin is mainly narrow north-south, east-west streets with wooden homes and weaving companies.

The area contains a few small temples, narrow old streets, and a weaving center (to the right in the above photo).


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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bicycle Friendly Cities


According to Tourism Review, the top five cycling cities in the world are:

1. Amsterdam
2. Copenhagen
3. Bogota
4. Curitiba, Brazil
5. Montreal

An interesting and diverse selection.

No surprises with the top two, but Bogota and Curitiba?

Only 13% of Bogota residents own a car, which means that a lot of the traffic and trips in the city are done on bicycles. The South American city is also apparently devoting a lot of its resources to ensuring those rides are pleasant and safe.

As for Curitiba, it is Brazil's best planned city, and its bike infrastructure is excellent.

Kyoto officialdom, are you listening? You just lost out in one important index of level of how civilized an urban area is - cycle-friendliness - to Bogota and a city you have never heard of in Brazil.


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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jintan Street Sign Kyoto

Jintan Street Sign仁丹の標識

Kyoto has the largest collection of Jintan signs in Japan.

Jintan, a small pharmaceutical company based in Osaka, used to post these ads/street address signs on houses in the early part of the 20th century.

They all have the British (?) officer at the top, followed by the Jintan companycharacters (仁丹), and then finally the street address.

The decades old signs were often tacked onto houses on corners, however they can be found on homes in the middle of blocks.

Perhaps the greatest concentration of the signs can be found in the city's "Gothic Quarter," west of Horikawa Dori.

Recently the signs have become prized as collector's items, and there has been some theft. When many of the older homes are torn down, the signs are often lost.

The Jintan Corporation also recently announced that it would add another 25 new signs in various locations throughout the city.


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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Funky Bicycle Kyoto

Funky Kyoto bikeカッコいい京都自転車

On a ride near Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, we saw this amazing bike.

It was the 25th of the month, which means flea market day.

The temple has a funky flea market every 25th of the month, rain or shine, and it attracts all types: tourists, old folks out for the day, Kyoto hippies, and people on funky bikes.


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Monday, September 27, 2010

Bicycle Film Festival

bike festival poster自転車映画祭東京

The tenth annual Bicycle Film Festival makes its way to Tokyo this fall.

From October 29 - 31, there will be several days of bike-related films.

The only aspect of the festival we are mildly bitter about is that it won't be coming to Kyoto.

Bicycle Film Festival


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Saturday, September 25, 2010

World Bicycle Relief



CycleKyoto recently read about an amazing organization doing brilliant work under the harshest conditions.

World Bicycle Relief donates bikes to people in the poorest of countries so that they can go to school, work, and live.

More information can be found here.

Here is a short mission statement:


Simple, sustainable transportation is an essential element in disaster assistance and poverty relief. Bicycles fulfill basic needs by providing access to healthcare, education and economic development. Bicycles empower individuals, their families, and their communities.

Our mission is to provide access to independence and livelihood through The Power of Bicycles.

World Bicycle Relief was founded in 2005 by SRAM Corporation and Trek Bicycle in response to the December 2004 tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean. In partnership with World Vision Sri Lanka, this project provided more than 24,000 locally manufactured bicycles to carefully selected men, women and children in greatest need. The $1.5 million Project Tsunami initiative dramatically accelerated their recovery from this brutal disaster, thanks to funding raised through the bicycle industry, foundations and individual contributors.

As part of its commitment, World Bicycle Relief retained an independent organization to measure the impact of Project Tsunami. Two years after the project was complete, the results are outstanding:

88% of recipients depend on bicycles for livelihood activities

Bicycles can save a household up to 30% of its annual income for transportation costs

The bicycle program provided critical, appropriate transportation enabling households to resume important livelihood, education and service activities.

World Bicycle Relief

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Daikakuji Temple by Bicycle

Daikakuji Temple自転車で大覚寺へ

Daikakuji Temple is an amazing lakeside temple a short bike ride from Arashiyama.

It was originally the Imperial villa of the Emperor Saga, later becoming a temple in the ninth century.

Daikakuji houses paintings from the Kano School, who were active from the 15th to 18th centuries. The surrounding Osawa Lake (Osawa no ike) is manmade, and was once used for boating by the Emperor and a reproduction of a royal boat is still there.

Boats are available for rental.

The picture above right is of a sub-temple by the lake.

It is a great area for cycling, not far from the Kyoto Youth Hostel and Ninnaji Temple.

Admission fees: Adults: 500 yen; Junior/senior students: 300 yen.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eikando Temple by Bicycle

eikando temple自転車で永観堂へ

Eikando is located not far from Nanzenji Temple or Philosopher's Walk, making it an easy ride from downtown Kyoto.

The temple's history dates from the 9th century C.E. In 853, the priest Shinjo (797-873), a high disciple of Kukai (774-835, also known as Kobo Daishi), built a temple on the grounds where the current Eikando sits. In 863 AD, the Emperor Seiwa named it "Zenrin-ji," or "Temple in a Calm Grove."

The most famous priest at the temple was a man named Yokan (1033-1111), who was better known as "Eikan." He devoted his life to the poor and infirm, and the temple was eventually named for him.

Like much of Kyoto, Eikando was destroyed during the Onin War (1467-1477). It was restored by the beginning of the 16th century.

It is especially beautiful in the fall, with the mountains of Higashiyama serving as a splendid backdrop.

Open 9 am to 5.30pm daily (last entrance is at 4 pm). 600 yen for adults.


Eikando-cho 48, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 761 0007


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Daitokuji Temple by Bicycle

Daitokuji Temple自転車で大徳寺へ

Daitokuji Temple is a functioning Zen temple complex in northern Kyoto. It is a large compound with 24 sub-temples. The small sub-temples Daisen-in (pictured at right) and Koto-in are especially beautiful.

Daitokuji was established in 1319 by Shuho Myocho.

During the Onin War, parts of the temple were destroyed by fire. It was later rebuilt with money from merchants in south Osaka. The abbot responsible for organizing the rebuilding process was named Ikkyu (1394-1481).

The Sanmon (Two-Story Main Gate) was built in 1589, and then repeatedly built by the tea ceremony master Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-1591).

It is possible to ride within the compound itself, though the paths are bumpy if elegant stones.

Daitokuji is close to Kitayama, the Kamo River, and the Shokokuji Temple Area Route.


Daitokuji-cho, Murasakino, Kita-ku
Tel: 075 491 0019


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Friday, September 17, 2010

Cycle Kyoto Geisha

Kyoto Maiko on Pontocho京都で芸者を発見

According to better informed sources than CycleKyoto, this lovely woman is a maiko, or apprentice geisha. She is not yet a geisha.

We were leading a small group of tourists on the Kyoto Station to Kiyamachi route, and decided to get off the bikes and wander on the adjacent alley way known as Pontocho.

Pontocho is a narrow car-free (and bike-free) street with restaurants and tea houses where the maiko and geisha entertain.

In front of the theater, just south of Sanjo on Pontocho, the maiko called Ichiraku was seated surrounded by fans.


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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cycling Kyoto Shirakawa Minami

自転車でShirakawa, Kyoto祇園白川へ

Kyoto's Minami Shirakawa area is one of the best preserved streets in the city.

It is adjacent to a tacky part of Gion, but this two-three blocks is indeed gorgeous.

On the left of the photo, the trees with green leaves - the picture was taken in April - line a narrow canal (shira kawa means "white river").

On the opposite side of that are high end inns and restaurants.

On the right side of the photo is a street lined with machiya style Kyoto townhouses. What is most notable about this streetscape is how few telephone wires and poles there are.

Unlike the rest of the city, Minami Shirakawa has had most of the wires laid underground.


From the Shijo Kawabata intersection - where the large Minami-za kabuki theater is - walk towards the hills in the distance east along Shijo Dori. At Yamato Oji Dori, turn left. Walk for several minutes. When you come to a small river, this is it; turn right.


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Monday, September 13, 2010

Cycling Shanghai


Riding a bike in Shanghai requires a big pair of cojones.

The traffic is awful, building sites are everywhere - think fences and piles of dirt and building materials in the street - population density is intense.

And, as far as we could tell, there are no bike lanes.

Yet many persist.

Mainly it is middle-aged guys lugging something around town on the back of their all purpose bikes.

Compared to what we put up with in Kyoto, Shanghai is a different level of chaos - and we salute the brave, the few, the semi-mad cyclists of Shanghai.


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Friday, September 10, 2010

Beijing Rental Bicycles

Beijing Bikes北京のレンタサイクル

Three years ago on a cold March day I was wandering the Back Lakes Area of Beijing.

Close to one of the lakes and just outside a hutong - traditional compound of houses - was a bike rental shop.

These colorful wacky bikes were waiting to be rented.

A group of rotund western tourists passed them over in favor of a modern version of the rickshaw.

I winced as I watched the Chinese driver struggle to get going. But go he did.


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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bicycle in front of Kyoto house

Parked Bicycle Kyoto京町家の前の自転車

In downtown Kyoto, not far from Teramachi south of Oike, was a standard issue mamma chari (mother's bike) parked in front of an old house.

The traditional machiya (town house) is covered in posters for art exhibits in the city.

The combination of the dark wooden slats, colorful posters, and simple bike evoke a certain Kyoto vibe.

Kyoto Museum Area


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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cycling Kyoto Sanjo Arcade


A bit west of downtown is one of Kyoto's best shopping arcades.

Sanjokai Shotengai ("shotengai" is a neighborhood high street, often a covered arcade) is 800 meters long and wide enough for cycling even at its most crowded.

A typical shotengai has all the things you need: grocery, vegetable and fruit stands, fish market, a barber, a post office, a police box, hardware store, etc.

Nothing too fancy.

Because of the growth of suburbs, many now have a bit of a forlorn air about them.

Not Sanjo Arcade. It connects the edge of downtown with neighborhoods all the way to JR Nijo Station.

As a result, there are many, many interesting shops, including two good cycling shops. Plenty of funky and not so funky mom and pop shops.


Due south of Nijo Castle. Go several blocks south along Horikawa, then turn right at Sanjo.

Due west of downtown. Go along Oike until Horikawa, Cross to the west side, and head down to Sanjo. Turn right.


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