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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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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji) by Bicycle

Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto自転車で銀閣寺へ

Ginkakuji Temple is perhaps the zenith of Japanese artistic expression. The fifteenth-century temple was originally built as a villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, a hopelessly incompetent but artistically inclined ruler in a time of horrific conflict and instability.

Located at the end of the Philosopher's Walk, Ginkakuji is a World Heritage site.

As originally envisioned, the temple was designed to be painted silver, However, because of the disruptions of the Onin War this never happened. of construction never took place.

The grounds are fabulously beautiful.


Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion)

2 Ginkaku-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 771 5525

Entrance Fee: 500 yen

Keihan Demachiyanagi is the nearest station though a bus or taxi from there will save you a long walk or alternatively bus #5 from Kyoto station.


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