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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kyoto Prefectural Government Building

Kyoto Prefectural Government Building京都府庁

The Kyoto Prefectural Office, designed by Matsumuro Shigemitsu (1873-1937), is a wonderful building northwest of downtown.

It alludes to a French chateau in appearance, and was completed in 1904.

The main  prefectural police building, which is modern and brutal, is across the street to the south.

Kyoto Prefectural Building
Nishi iru, Shinmachi
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto

Tel: 075 411 5000


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kyoto Street Sign Takakura Ebisu

Kyoto street sign高倉夷川通り看板

Due south of the Imperial Palace, certain street corners have retro street signs set almost at street level.

In Japan, many street corners have no signs. Those that do are often high above head.

Moreover, the design of these signs has a more "Kyoto" traditional look to it.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

No Cycling Sign Imperial Palace Kyoto

No Bicycles Sign Imperial Palace Kyoto自転車乗り入り禁止御所

Cycling is permitted in Kyoto's Imperial Palace.

Nay, it is by all means encouraged. Not a fast ride, not a convenient ride - but a glorious ride.

It is a massive space in central Kyoto that is mostly gravel laid out for pedestrians visiting the palace or to see the gardens.

Bike-friendly paths have been worn into the gravel.

In places, though, cycling is not allowed.

In grassy areas with many plum or cherry trees, many come to picnic or let their children run free.

Here you will find such signs.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: In the Realm of Bicycle

In the Realm of Bicycle

Kyoto Journal founder and editor John Einarsen has produced a lovely book of photos taken of bikes in Kyoto.

Each photo in In the Realm of the Bicycle is a haiku, a brief fleeting moment that contains a larger truth.

The book has text in English and Japanese and a series of photos taken over the years.

Einarsen :

"Each encounter I had with a member of this vast race revealed an individual with a personality all its own, the result of a history at once common and mysterious. Inevitably, I came to see them as they really were: creatures who populated the niches and nooks and corners and alleys of neighborhoods and streets and lives.

And so I began with my camera to record their story, as my movements around town took me through their world. These photographs show them exactly as I found them; as indeed they remain even now, in their places everywhere, waiting only to serve."

For bike lovers or haters, those in Kyoto or not, this is a fine work that can be perused over and over again.

Preview and ordering information can be found here.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

Ishibei Koji Alley Kyoto

Ishibei Koji Kyoto石塀小路京都

Ishibei-koji is a postcard perfect alley near Kodaiji Temple and the Path of Nene in the Higashiyama Area of Kyoto.

It snakes from the Path of Nene west through a neighborhood filled with ryotei (high end restaurants) and ryokan (traditional inns).

The alley is paved with elegant stones and is perhaps the only area of Kyoto where you can point and shoot in any direction and still go home with a beautiful image. No framing necessary here.

Ishibei-Koji connects Shimogawara-Dori and Kodaiji-Dori, and is often used as a location for period movies and television dramas set in Kyoto. It is easy to miss, but the lantern below denotes the entrance.

Until May 8th, the area near and around Kodaiji Temple (600 yen to enter the interior) is being lit up. It presents a mysterious and ethereal nightscape.

Thanks to the strong dip in number of visitors to Kyoto, we had the streets and grounds of Kodaiji almost to ourselves.


Sign on Ishibei KyotoCycleKyoto Home Page


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kyoto Arts Center

Kyoto Art Project京都芸術センター

In the former Meirin Elementary School the Kyoto Art Center was born.

Following the closing of the school - at the time the population of downtown Kyoto was dwindling, though that has changed dramatically in recent years - the buildings were renovated and the Art Center opened in 2005.

The facility hosts an artist in residence every year, has a large art library, spacious galleries and studios. There is also a pleasant cafe.

Its stated goal is to bring together fine artists and artists in other fields, and contribute as a whole to the art scene in the city. And indeed it has.

Painters, musicians, sculptors, and dancers are featured regularly in exhibits and workshops.


546-2 Yamafushiyama-cho, Nakagyo-ku,
Kyoto 604-8156, Japan


From the Shijo Karasuma intersection, walk or ride one block west along Karasuma (Citibank is on the south side of the street). At the first corner, turn right and head north on Muromachi Dori. One block up on the right.


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Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Tiny Bicycles in Kyoto

Tiny bicycles小さい自転車京都

These itsy bitsy bikes were lined up and ready for purchase in front of the ABC Mart on Higashigawacho in downtown Kyoto.

Based upon the length of the seat and handlebar stems, it is safe to assume these are "adult" bicycles.

Priced at 34,650 yen (roughly $390 USD), these foldable bikes are made by Renault and have a small French flag logo just below the seat stem.

They weigh just 8.5 kg (18.7 lbs) and are 62 cm tall (24").

Ideal for someone with very little space, but with no gears and tiny wheels speed is not one of the strong points of this model.


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Musee de Some Seiryukan Kyoto

Some Museum Kyoto染清流館京都

The Somé・Seiryukan Museum was created in 2006.

Its purpose is to transmit "to the world the art of Japanese dyeing."

The name itself "Some" means dyeing.

The museum contains a collection of around 500 pieces by 100 dye artists who are based in Kyoto.

The name - Somé・Seiryukan - of the facility has its origins in a villa on the grounds of Nanzeji Temple, Seiryutei. The villa was built around 1912 and was later joined by another villa, Nomura-tei, along with Tatsumura-tei.

Members of the imperial family as well as famous writers and artists were frequent guests, and from the Taisho Period of the 1920s it became a salon primarily for craftspeople.


Meirin-biru 6th floor, 550-1 Yamabushiyama-cho, Muromachi-dori
Nishiki Koji Agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8156

From Shijo Karasamua, walk or ride one block west. Citibank is on the south of side of the street. At the first corner, Muromachi Dori, turn right and head north. On the right side of the street after one block.

Open 10 am~6 pm
Closed: Mondays; the August and New Year holiday periods.

Tel:  075 255 5301


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Texting While Cycling in Kyoto

Woman texting on bike in Kyoto自転車乗りながらメールチェック

The title is, admittedly, a bit misleading.

At the corner south of the WINGS center in central Kyoto, the young woman pictured here came to a full stop and is thus not riding and texting.

She came to our attention via the screeching of her not well oiled brakes.

The buzz or ring of her cell phone - indicating the arrival of an urgent message - caused her to stop and pull over to check in on her network.

Kudos to her.

Many Kyoto riders keep right on pedaling as they check their mail, often with iPod ear buds firmly embedded in place and at a volume loud enough that passersby are treated to a bar or two of Arashi or Ayumi Hamasaki as they pass by.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gangoji Temple Nara

Gangoji Temple自転車で元興寺へ

Gangoji Temple is one of Nara's Seven Great Temples.

It is located in the heart of the Naramachi area of the city and is registered as a World Heritage Site.

The temple was first built in Asuka, in Nara Prefecture but outside of the city proper. It was then moved to its current location in 718 C.E.

Fires in the 15th and 19th centuries destroyed much of the temple.

As a result, many of the buildings are fairly recent.

The area around the temple is also well worth a ride or stroll.

More Information

0742 23 1377
Admission: 500 yen


On the left as you enter (pictured below)


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Gangoji Bicycle Parking Tags

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kyoto Shinpukan


A former power station that was built in 1926, Kyoto's Shinpukan (new wind space) was renovated by the British architect Richard Rogers and reopened in 2001.

It is now one of the best mixed use retail spaces in Japan.

Located on Karasuma Dori south of Oike, Shinpukan helped spur the renaissance of the Karasuma downtown corridor. Until about ten years ago, Karasuma was a dour, dull boulevard of insurance companies and banks. From 6 pm it was a desert.

Now it is among the most pleasant - and interesting - spots in central Kyoto.

The new design of Shinpukan retained the old walls and gutted the interior, leaving an open space within. Boutiques and restaurants line the four walls and surround the open central area, which is now a performance space.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the original renovations, the interior has been spruced up.

For cyclists there is free parking in the back. Or, on Oike Dori, just north of Shinpukan, there are spaces as well.


Shinpukan is just south of Oike - Karasuma. It is a short distance from either the Manga Museum or The Museum of Kyoto, which is on Sanjo.


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Monday, April 18, 2011

Mama Chari Bicycle in Downtown Kyoto

Mama chari京都河原町のママチャリ

On a recent Sunday in downtown Kyoto, a woman was carting home a heavy-looking box of vegetables (green peppers, if the box is accurate). She is about to cross Kawaramachi Dori, heading towards the building where the Maruzen book store used to be.

On a useful beater of a bike - the all-purpose and ubiquitous mama chari - she has strapped on the large box above the rear wheel.

In addition, there is an umbrella held in place on the right fork of the front wheel.

There is, moreover, a holder for said umbrella attached to the handlebars. In the event of rain, she will pull out the umbrella, insert the handle into the holder, tighten it, and then open the umbrella. That way she can navigate the streets of Kyoto with two hands on the handlebar and not get (too) wet.

The bike also has a front basket, in which the woman has placed a plastic bag full of more goodies she no doubt got on her shopping expedition.

Last, she has draped a small cotton bag around the umbrella holder on the handlebars. That probably contains her wallet, keys, cell phone, etc.

Finally, note her wonderful sandals and socks.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike Lane South Kyoto Kawaramachi

Bike Lane South Kyoto自転車専用レーン南京都河原町通

In deep south Kyoto - home of freeways and industry - was this bike lane.

It is perfect.

Forget for a second that you are riding under a highway, that an on ramp is just up to the right, and that the road you are riding on - Kawaramachi just south of the Jujo corner - is about to end.

Then enjoy the short lane.

It is separated from pedestrian traffic by a neatly tended row of bushes.

Automobile traffic runs on the other side of a ten-inch high barrier.

Alas, the lane ran for just several hundred meters, if that.

Still, it was perfectly planned, executed, and built.


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gold Lantern Kasuga Shrine Nara

Kasuga Taisha Shrine金提灯春日神社

Deep in Nara Park is the World Heritage site Kasuga Shrine.

It is a Shinto shrine established in 768 C.E. It was originally the shrine of the legendary Fujiwara family, and has been rebuilt several times in the ensuing centuries.

The Kasugayama Primeval Forest near it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a wonderful, deep walk.

If you go early, the silence is deafening.

The Shrine is famous for its lanterns, most of which are bronze. However, gold lanterns like the one pictured are also common.


6:30 to 17:30 (7:00 to 16:30 from November through March)

Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free (outer area), 500 yen (inner area)


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Kyoto is Safe to Visit Now

Kiyomizu dera Temple京都観光は安全だよ!

While the crisis continues to unfold in Tohoku in northeast Japan, the rest of Japan remains much as it always has been.

Images of Japan have of course been of the disaster and now recovery effort.

The recent announcement that the nuclear crisis on the coast of Fukushima has been raised to level 7 does not inspire confidence in Tokyo Power.

However, at the risk of sounding like George W. Bush following 9/11, Japan needs a strong economy in order to rebuild.

Part of that income comes in the form of tourist dollars, euros, won, etc.

And there is actually no better time to come than now.

A few factoids:

Kyoto is 521 kilometers (324 miles) from Fukushima City, and a bit further to the actual power plants
Prevailing winds blow out to the Pacific (away from Kyoto and Tokyo)
0.0041: Level of Radiation (Average range: 0.033-0.087) on April 13, according to the Ministry of Education
22: Number of murders in Kyoto in 2009
306: Number of murders in Philadelphia with the same population of 1.5 million
17: Number of World Heritage Sites
7: Number of 3-star Michelin guide restaurants (Kyoto has the third most stars of any city in the world, following Tokyo and Paris)

Hotels are begging for guests, temples are seeing light traffic, and spring has arrived.

There are no shortages, and everything is working as it always has.

Kiyomizu Temple - pictured at right - awaits.

京都へよこそう!Welcome to Kyoto.


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Giant Buddha Nara Todaiji Temple

Great Buddha in Nara大仏東大寺

Todaiji Temple is a grand Buddhist temple complex in Nara.

Located in Nara Park, its Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden building in the world.

Within this vast structure is the giant buddha, or in Japanese "Daibutsu."

The great buddha is nearly 15 meters (49 feet) high and weighs some 500 tons.

The city of Nara is compact and most of the main sites in the city limits can be easily visited in one day on a bike.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cafe Go Go Kyoto

Cafe Go Go Kyoto喫茶ゴゴ京都

One of Kyoto's many atmospheric cafes is Cafe Go Go.

Located not far from Demachiyanagi Station, it is in an old building on Imadegawa Dori.

Nothing fancy but the environment of the cafe is worth the trip.

We especially liked the combination of the Chinese characters (珈琲)- "coffee" -  instead of the more common katakana コーヒー with the very katakana ゴゴ (go go).


On the south side of Imadegawa Dori, about 200 meters west of Kawabata Dori.
Open 7 am - 7 pm, closed Sundays.
075 771 6527


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cycling to Ryukoku Museum

Buddhist Museum Kyoto自転車で龍谷ミュージアムへ

Ryukoku Museum, a museum wholly devoted to Buddhist artifacts and history, recently opened in Kyoto.

The three-story museum plus basement is the brainchild of Ryukoku University, a private university in Kyoto affiliated with Nishi Honganji Temple.

It is built with an elegant concrete front and wave like bamboo frontispiece.

The Museum is currently holding a special exhibit titled, "Buddha and Shinran," and features 660 Buddhist statues and scriptures from Japan and other Asian countries. It will run until March 25, 2012.

That date coincides with the 750th anniversary of the death of Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism.


117 Maruyamachi, Shomen Sagaru, Nishi-naka tsuji Dori
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8399

TEL: 075 351 2500

Admission is 500 yen for adults, 400 yen for senior citizens 65 and older and for college students, and 300 yen for high school students.

Junior high school students and younger children can get in for free.


Directly across from Nishi Honganji Temple, on Horikawa Dori. A ten-minute walk from Gojo Station on the Karasuma Subway Line, or roughly 15-20 minutes walk from Kyoto Station.


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Monday, April 11, 2011

New Gojo Dori Bike Lane Kyoto

Bike Lane Gojo Kyoto京都五条通自転車レーン

On the way down to Fushimi the other day to see some of the old sake breweries, we came to the corner of Horikawa - Gojo south of central Kyoto.

And, lo and behold, there is an actual, useful bike lane.

Both Horikawa and Gojo have very wide sidewalks and the old style bike "lanes" - a brownish, purplish tinge to the pavement to distinguish it from the "pedestrian" area, an occasional bike logo - so are easy and convenient for cycling.

However, the city has taken that a step further on Gojo Dori.

The old quasi lane, in which pedestrians and bikes vied for space, has now been separated from the pedestrian lane.

From the Kamo River all the way to Horikawa Dori, on both the north and south sides of the street, there is now a genuine bike lane.

As can be seen in the photo above, an overhead sign clearly indicates that the left side is for pedestrians and the right lane is for bicycles.

In addition, there are fences throughout the route. At long last, a real bike lane has arrived in Kyoto.

We are waiting for similar work to begin on Oike Dori and Horikawa Dori.


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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kyoto Cherry Blossoms

Kamo River, Kyoto大覚寺花見

North of central Arashiyama is the lovely man-made lake that is adjacent to Daikakuji Temple.

It is a favorite spot for both spring cherry blossom viewing and, in September, moon viewing.

We spent a wonderful day with friends under a the boughs of a large cherry tree.

Perhaps because of a wee bit too much sake, the settings in the digital camera became confused and all of the wonderful photos taken of the temple, revelers, and cherry trees cannot be uploaded.

This picture is of a tree on the spit of land between the Takano and Kamo Rivers - and was taken a year ago.


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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nagare Bashi Bridge Kyoto


About midway between Arashiyama and Kizu, along the Kyoto to (suburbs of) Nara bike route, is one of the longest remaining wooden bridges in Japan.

The Nagare Bashi (bridge) is a simple but elegant wooden bridge that spans the Kizu River. It is 365 meters long, and just over 3 meters wide.

Vehicular traffic is of course forbidden, but pedestrians and cyclists use the bridge.


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Nara National Museum

Nara National Museum奈良国立博物館

In Nara Park is the late-nineteenth century Nara Museum.

The forebear of the current institution, the Imperial Nara Museum, opened in April 1895.

It houses works of art and archaeological artifacts related to Buddhist art.

The original purpose of creating a national museum in Nara was "to conserve a large collection of masterpiece artworks and treasures owned by local temples and shrines."

The elegant old building(s) is located in the heart of Nara Park, close to the Prefectural Government Building, Todaiji Temple, and Kasuga Grand Shrine.


Nara National Museum
50 Noborioji-cho, Nara 630-8213 Japan

9:30 AM - 5:00 PM (last admission at 4:30 PM)

500 yen for adults

Extended Museum Hours
9:30 AM - 7:00 PM (last admission at 6:30 PM)
Fridays (from the end of April to end of October) as well as the following dates:
the forth Saturday of January (January 22, 2011), February 3, March 12, August 15, and December 17


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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kyoto Rickshaw

Kyoto Rickshaw京都人力車

Not far from the Museum of Modern Art, in Okazaki, this rickshaw driver was pulling a couple through the streets of Kyoto.

A very fit and bronzed guy in his early 20s, he kept pace as he ran, head down, up the slope heading towards Chionin Temple.

Most impressive was that he kept up a steady patter of tourist information as he climbed, his torso literally parallel to the pavement below him.

In other words, he was speaking down to the ground - as he pulled - for the benefit of his clients.

And he had them laughing.

Kyoto rickshaw can be found mainly in Arashiyama; the area around Heian Shrine (the area pictured); and near the Path of Nene, which is on the other side of Maruyama Park from Chionin.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kamo River Path Extension

Kamo Gawa鴨川サイクリング

The city has repaved (sanded?) the pedestrian path along the west bank of the Kamo River in central Kyoto.

The ride or walk is now smooth all the way to the Sanjo Ohashi (bride), which is where Starbucks is. (The photo is looking south towards Sanjo Ohashi, and the end of the new path.)

The City also appears to have planted grass at the front and back of the smooth sand - very hard sand so ideal for cycling. These areas are roped off.

From that point south, though, it is still bumpy and hard going, even if you are on a mountain bike with knobby tires.


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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mimizuka Burial Mound Kyoto

Mimizuka Mound Kyoto耳塚

Mimizuka must rank as the most grotesque monument in Kyoto.

Not far from the Kyoto National Museum and Sanjusangendo, and next to a small neighborhood playground for children, is a raised mound.

The monument contains - and was originally dedicated to - the ears and noses of Korean soldiers and civilians murdered between 1592 - 1598 when Toyotomi Hideyoshi lead an invasion of the Korean peninsula.

It is estimated that the mound contains body parts of 38,000 Koreans killed during the war.

In a cruel irony, the monument is just down the street from Toyokuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine honoring Hideyoshi.

In the past, Japanese warriors brought back the heads of enemies slain on the battlefield as both proof of their bravery - and to be paid. Soldiers received from their feudal lord a predetermined stipend for each head.

However, because the ships returning from Korea were so crowded - and the sheer number of Koreans slaughtered so extraordinary - for reasons of space ears and noses replaced whole heads. They were stored  in barrels of brine on the return journey.

The Mimizuka mound was first dedicated 28 September 1597.

At long last, on 28 September 1997 - the 400th anniversary of the original dedication - a ceremony was held to pay respects to the dead.

Today few Japanese visit the shrine or are even aware of it. Visitors tend to be Korean.

A simple plaque in Japanese and Korean explains the history of the simple mound.


From the entrance of the Kyoto National Museum, walk or ride west - towards the Kamo River - on Shichijo Dori. At the first corner, turn right. The Museum's main gate will be on the right. Go one block. On the right will be Toyokuni Shrine. Turn left. The park will be in front of you on the left side of the street. Just beyond that is the mound.


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Monday, April 4, 2011

No More Comments on CycleKyoto


Who knew?

There are apparently quite a few fans of cycling and Kyoto in the former Eastern bloc.

Unfortunately, they - and their pharmaceutical brethren in the US - are peddling less than savory links.

As a result, the Comments section on the site is going to be removed.

To those who have sent words of encouragement, corrections, suggestions, legitimate criticism, we extend our apologies and thanks.

However, the Comments section on the site has been overwhelmed by links to pornography and various drugs.

Thanks again to those who sent comments. You can continue to contact us via the site's Contact page.


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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Keihan Train LIne Bridge Over Kyoto - Nara Bike Trail

Keihan Train bridge京阪沿線の橋

Along the bicycle trail from Kyoto to Kizu, which is not far from Nara, was this wonderful bridge used by the Keihan trains that run between Kyoto and Osaka.

To the left is the Kizu River, over which the bridge spans.

The bike path dips under the bridge and takes cyclists through a cement tunnel.

As we sped through, an express train raced - as if on cue - towards Kyoto directly above us.


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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kyoto to Nara Bicycle Path

Kyoto Nara Bike Path Marker京都八幡木津自転車道線

The prospect of riding from Kyoto, the Japanese capital from 794 - 1868, down to Nara, its predecessor (710 - 784), is enticing.

Cruising along from temple to temple, through sylvan rice paddies, sounds idyllic.

The reality, however, is grimly different.

If one were to ride on roads, from south Kyoto onward to Nara, the entire journey would be exurban Japan: fast-food restaurants, used car dealers, tacky signage, trucks and cars belching fumes, telephone wires overhead, and nary a bike lane to be found.

However, there is an alternative:

The Arashiyama to Kizu Bike Lane

A 45 kilometer (27 miles) bike- and pedestrians-only lane runs from Arashiyama to Kizu, which is about 30-45 minutes outside of Nara. No cars, no trucks, no fumes.

Instead: lots of cyclists and river views and clean air.

The ride to Kizu follows the Katsura and Kizu Rivers and is flat the entire way. From Kizu, there is a climb into Nara if you take Route 754.

Highly, highly recommended.


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