CycleKyoto HP LInk

Monday, February 28, 2011

Circle K Rental Bicycles

Circle K Rental BikesサークルKカルチャリレンタルサイクル

Circle K, a convenience store chain, has entered the bicycle rental market in Kyoto.

In front of a store north of Daimaru department store, three bikes were lined up waiting to be rented.

There is little information online in Japanese or English.

The woman manager, however, was helpful.

To rent a bike, must present one of the following: a valid passport, driver's license (Japanese), student id (presumably Japanese), or insurance card (Japanese).


City Cycle rental tickets:

3 hours: 300 yen
6 hours: 450 yen
9 hours: 600 yen
24 hours: 900 yen
1 hour supplementary tickets: 150 yen

Electric Bicycle rental tickets:

3 hours: 500 yen
6 hours: 750 yen
9 hours: 1,000 yen
24 hours: 1,500 yen
1 hour supplementary tickets: 250 yen

Insurance comes with the cost of renting a bike. However, accidents and theft are not covered.

Also, not all Circle K stores offer this service.


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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Boycott the Kyoto Aquarium


An massive aquarium is under construction in an urban park in the middle of historic Kyoto, an inland city miles and miles from the nearest ocean or bay.

Strange, sad, but true.

Kyoto has decided that 17 World Heritage Sites is not enough; that endlessly stalked and marketed geisha no longer cut it; that its artistic, religious, cinematic, artisanal, architectural, and historical importance won't suffice.

Thus, to draw in more tourists, the city decided it needs dolphin shows.

The aquarium - with repulsive dolphin shows set to be a main attraction - is now being built in Umekoji Park, which is a 10-minute walk from Kyoto Station.

Various groups opposed the project, but like so many post-war building plans in Kyoto big, ugly, politically connected, and tasteless won out. Green, sensible, and understated lost out.

Kyoto o Mamoru Kai (The Committee to Protect Kyoto), one of the leading groups opposed to the aquarium, is now leading a boycott movement.

For more details, click here.


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

North American Handmade Bicycle Show


In another life we would go, schmooze with lots of fellow bike geeks and check out amazing new models.

This weekend, bike artisans from around NOrth America will gather in Austin, Texas, for the annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

Taking place at the Austin Convention Center from February 25 - 27, the seventh annual confab will feature exhibits by Naked Bicycles, Engin Cycles, Yipsan Bicyles, and more.

Book your tickets, fast.


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Kyoto Police Motorcycle

Kyoto Motorcycle Cop京都警察白バイ

Not far from Takaragaike, in northern Kyoto, this police motorcycle sped by.

He "raced" by at about 10 km/hour.

The cops were keeping order during the annual Daimonji Ekiden race, a relay marathon.

The race is held in early February and is run by teams from 50 of the public schools in the city.

The course winds began near the Golden Pavilion and ended near Heian Shrine.

Each leg of the race is about 1.5 - 2 km, and to maintain safety for the participants the cops were out on motorbikes and in patrol cars.

Though not a fan of oil-powered transportation, we have to admit this bike is pretty damn cool.

Check out the Star Wars helmet the cop is wearing.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beautiful Kyoto Ryokan Inn Entrance

Traditional Ryokan Kyoto京都旅館の入り口

Behold the entrance to an inn most can only dream of entering.

From the subtle lighting to the wet pavement - it had not rained for weeks on the day this photo was taken - the scene creates a perfect tableau.

Within men in hanten and women in kimono are waiting.

Multi-course meals, a luxurious Japanese bath, and thick futons await.

Rooms start at around 50,000 yen ($550).


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Girl on Bike Kyoto

Girl on bike Kyoto自転車乗る京女

A perfect montage.

Beautiful woman on her "mama chari" bicycle in downtown Kyoto.

She is about to pass a slower moving middle aged man - foreground right - and is blithely cruising through an intersection.

Clueless. Helmetless.

Chatting away on her cell phone.


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Friday, February 18, 2011

Kyoto to Nara Bicycle Path Sign

Kyoto Nara Bike Path Marker八幡木津自転車道線

It doesn't take much imagination to hate Japan's Ministry of Construction.

In several post-War decades, the Ministry managed to concrete over and dam up the landscape and rivers of what was a beautiful country.

The solution to every problem seemed to be: throw a lot of money at it, let the major construction firms run wild in the countryside and earn enormous sums (of which the yazuka took a sweet cut), and buildbuildbuild. The result was a Soviet style landscape. Bleak. Hard. Ugly. Concrete.

However, as cyclists, we must also take our hats off to the Ministry. The Men of Concrete have built a series of wonderful bike paths around the country. One of the best runs from Arashiyama, in western Kyoto, to Kizu, which is just outside of Nara.

The path is three meters wide and is for use for cyclists and pedestrians. In other words, there are no cars, trucks, or motorcycles for the 45 km of the route.

The path follows the Katsura River out of Kyoto, and then joins the Kizu River.

We will be making the ride in late March and will blog it.

Information in Japanese.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Jintan Street Signs Kyoto

Jintan Street Sign仁丹の標識の復活

The number of Jintan signs in Kyoto is set to go up.

Jintan, a pharmaceutical company still based in Osaka, in the past posted these ads cum street address signs on houses in the early part of the 20th century.

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

However, the number of signs has declined as old houses are torn down.

To combat that, if only a bit, 18 brand new signs were sent from Osaka to Kyoto on February 10th.

The signs will be posted in 12 neighborhoods.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kyoto Police Car

Kyoto Patrol Car京都パトカー

Not far from Takaragaike, in northern Kyoto, this police car sped by.

The cops were maintaining order during the annual Daimonji Ekiden race.

The race is held in early February and is run by teams from 50 of the public schools in the city.

Each team of sixth graders is made up of 10 runners, 5 girls and 5 boys.

The course winds its way through the city, beginning near the Golden Pavilion and ending near Heian Shrine.

Each leg of the race is about 1.5 - 2 km, and to maintain safety for the participants the cops were out on motorbikes and in patrol cars.


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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Urasenke Chado Research Center

Urasenke Headquarters裏千家茶道資料館

On Horikawa Dori north of Imadegawa is the Urasenke Chado Research Center.

For an uber Kyoto organization, the Urasenke building is remarkably unattractive and bland. It could just as easily house a medium size plastics firm in suburban Osaka.

The neighborhood though - particularly behind the building - is worth a visit.

There are several beautiful Urasenke held buildings done in the most refined Kyoto style. The area moreover is dotted with temples:

Honpoji, Myokenji, Hokyoji, and across Horikawa Dori Myorenji Temple

The narrow streets of the area are often well preserved, particularly Ogawa Dori.


Urasenke Chado Research Center
Horikawa Teranouchi agaru
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 692-8688
Tel: 075 431 6474

Entrance Fee: 500 yen (which allows to see the galleries and the opportunity to drink tea prepared in front of you)


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Cycling Valentines Day Kyoto

Bikes in front of cafe Kyotoバレンタインディー京都寺町カフェ

On the day before Valentine's Day, we made a quick run into town on the bike to pick up a bit of chocolate.

We parked in front of Bal on Kawaramachi, picked up a paper on the 7th floor, and then walked down to the Takashiyamaya department store.

We are normally inclined to head towards Daimaru, but the 12-year-old had other ideas.

A Parisian macaroon maker had set up shop in town - only at Takashimaya, and only until the 14th.

To continue in that vein, we stopped off at a cafe on Teramachi before riding home.


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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kyoto Takaragaike Sidewalk Bicycle Pedestrian Symbols

Bike Lane Takaragaike京都宝ケ池歩道にある自転車シンボル

On a ride near Kitayama, we peeled off to head up towards Takaragaike and its beautiful park.

En route, we noticed odd symbols on the sidewalk denoting "lanes" for pedestrians and cyclists.

We were riding in the street - hugging the left, keeping clear of car traffic - and only noticed the last set of symbols before the street climbed up a stretch known as "kitsune zaka" (fox slope).

The two bollards present an additional obstacle.


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cycling Kyoto Imperial Palace Gosho

Kyoto Imperial Palace自転車で御所を乗る

 Cycling in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto - "Gosho" in Japanese - is not fast, is not convenient, and is not easy.

It is however exquisite.

The vast slab of land north of downtown Kyoto has a few buildings related to its former inhabitant(s), long since decamped to Tokyo, but it is much more than an "imperial" palace.

It is the city's best park.

Open 24 hours a day 365 days a year, it is not just a refuge but serves as the lungs of the city.

For cyclists, it presents a challenge - for those in a hurry, it could be perceived as an impediment that one must ride around - and an opportunity.

The opportunity is to ride - slowly - along the paths cut into the gravel by generations of cyclists. Go in at night when few are in the park, look at the stars, breathe deep, listen to the silence. Stop.


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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kyoto Pedestrian Charter

Cycling sidewalk in Kyoto「歩くまち・京都」憲章

Kyoto has a "Pedestrian Charter," which was prepared and published by the city's Planning Division. It appears, among other places, on a plastic folder elementary school children in the city receive at school.

It voices admirable sentiments; however, the reality on the street - or, rather, sidewalks - remains starkly at odds with the goals outlined therein.

A simple translation follows the Japanese original.







"A Walking City - Kyoto": Pedestrian Charter

In Kyoto, we pledge to endeavor that all citizens will be able to enjoy walking and living in a healthy, environmentally-friendly city.

Arm in arm, the city government and its citizens:

*will create a city with public spaces, roads, and transportation that encourage walking and results in a lively city for all.

*that all who visit Kyoto will be able to fully enjoy the pleasure of walking.


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Monday, February 7, 2011

Bike Lane Sign Kyoto

Bike Lane Sign Kyoto自転車専用レーンの標識

As noted in a previous blog, Kyoto recently opened a new bike lane.

It is 300 meters long, and runs in front of the prefectural police department building.

Perhaps the best aspect of the lane is the sign, pictured at right.

It is clear, attractive, easy to understand - and framed mystically by a brutally trimmed street tree.

The black lettering at the bottom - ここまで (koko made) - means "until this point."

Thus, the lane ends at the sign.


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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kyoto BMX Bicycle

Funky bike Kyoto京都BMX自転車

On the walk back from a concert at Taku Taku - a funky old night club in downtown Kyoto - we came across this black BMX bike leaning against a a wall.

We were headed back to our simple cross bike, which was parked on Oike in a stationary lot the city recently installed.

The walk, along Tominokoji Dori, was cold with bright stars overhead.

From Shijo Dori north, both sides of the narrow street are lined with many restaurants and bars of all types.

The BMX would be great along the Kamo River or short trips downtown.


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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi Dusk

Shijo Kawaramarchi Night四条河原町日暮れ

Dusk falls at Shijo Kawaramachi, the main intersection of downtown Kyoto.

A bitter cold night and clear skies highlight the lighting of the arcade, the cars, and above all Takashimaya department store on the left.

As gorgeous as it is to look at, there is no cycling.

The stretch of road is off limits to bicycles - and you wouldn't want to ride here.


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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Homeless Person Bicycle Kyoto

Homeless Person Bicycle Kyoto京都河原町でのホムレスの自転車

Japan has far fewer homeless than the United States.

Those that are homeless often end up in low-rent areas of major cities - Sanya in Tokyo, Kamagasaki in Osaka - where there are cheap boarding houses and job brokers in search of day laborers.

In other places, like Kyoto, the down and out build semi-permanent structures under bridges: blue tarp covering the roof, generator running outside, and shoes lined up neatly in front of a door.

That is what was so surprising about the scene witnessed the other night on Kawaramachi above Sanjo, in central Kyoto.

A large man in many layers of clothing was slumped, asleep, in front of a building. He was filthy, and bags of possessions formed a low protective wall around him.

While a common enough sight in urban America, this was a first for us in Kyoto.

More amazing though was his bicycle, which was parked directly in front of him. He had leaned it against a railing separating the street from the sidewalk. And on and around it piles and piles of bags.

The tires have air, and the chain appears to be in good shape.


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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bike Lanes Kyoto

Bike Lane Kyoto自転車専用レーン京都

A cruel joke? A pathetic attempt that resulted in abysmal failure?

As reported in the Kyoto Shinbun and the Kyoto pages of the Asahi Shinbun, Kyoto recently created a bike lane, its first since 1976 when a small portion of a street in distant south Kyoto was set aside for bikes.

The newspapers basically printed verbatim the press release they no doubt received from the City.

To wit:

As a means of reducing bike-related accidents, the city has created a bike lane that runs in front of the prefectural police building along Shinmachi Dori.

The 300 meter long blue lane is painted blue and has large block kanji that read 自転車専用 (jitensha senyo = bikes only).

Also in the works are bike lanes on Gojo Dori and possibly Oike Dori.

The former is expected to open at the end of February, and run 1.4 km from Gojo Ohashi to Horikawa. It will be created by fencing off a 5 meter wide area on the sidewalk for cyclists. This will separate bikes and pedestrians.

This is yet another example of why everything the mainstream media in Japan - with its press clubs and advertising revenues from big corporations - should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

We rode over yesterday to take a test spin in the "bikes only" lane. The lane is utterly meaningless because:

1. there is no barrier between the bike lane and the part of the street reserved for automobiles.
2. a taxi lane was left intact, and cuts the bike lane in two (God forbid the bureaucrats at the nearby Prefectural government building might have to walk a bit to hail a cab).
3. the painting on the street that designates the lane is sporadic - at the beginning and end only.
4. and, finally, the street itself is wide and not a major thoroughfare. Why on earth was a bike lane created here of all places? There is no need, repeat, no need here.

やれやれ。(Yare yare = Oh God...)


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