Japan Journal 02


4:15 first light, unambiguous sunshine by the time we’re rolling each day, including from the city parks where we stretch and bow to the dog walkers and runners looking quizzically at our tents which we’ve arrayed discreetly tidily, including in the close woods where we camp some nights, including those where moments before we were blinking soft luminance through paper ryoken walls.

Including that initial dash from the airbnb to the station where we take off the wheels and put the bikes in rinko bags, then transfer to a local railway with cars that have wood slat floors, the mountain filling the windows. Rebuild and start our ascent on a quiet service road bound for the highest place we can ride. Once we turn our bicycles down, well then that will be the start of the trip, Fuji to Hiroshima.


We’ll visit some sites from tour and guidebooks, mostly we’ll be breath slowing across landscapes to find less insistent beauty, the beauty in the ordinary things in their ordinary state.

How our shoes circling back and back let the images come and go: vignettes of children walking home from school, mist whorls dragon chasing trees on the hillside, sweat stinging in our eyes, ribbons tied to the ornamental ropes on the gate, rake trail in the gravel garden, the call of monkeys and our yells back in darkness. Maybe practice our eyes unused to seeing wabi. Forms in impermanence on the road, when peopled ask us where we’ve gone, we can name specific places that elicit knowing nods, but 15k/hr most of all finds frames the wholeness of which don’t need to be arrow aimed at something else allegedly greater.DSCF0205I find in me the fool’s craving for seeing something in its perfect state, predicated on an anxious illusion.We’re used to waiting for the beautiful moment, the expression of an exquisite nature, that one instant where the composition is just right, essentially so. The penalty for this way of thinking is that we’re constantly missing the perfect, the transcendent sliver. With everything ephemeral, with no essences, any of the states of a thing can express the beauty that it has right then, and even the melancholy when it passes coloring a memory as another sweet whisper in the flux.

 I’m understanding better the suspicion of a metaphysics of permanence and enduring nature, the way that those presuppositions insulate us from the burden of openness and simultaneously blind us so that beauty is always somewhere or when else. DSCF0542

Japan is an inversion of so many places that I’ve been: the dense urban areas are confident in bustling cultural homogeneity, unapologetic in a way that I never find entirely comfortable. And then the rural areas are reflective and unstill, corrugated steel and rusting engines of some forty years old mysterious industry, no young people, a dominance of a kind of contraction as if the culture is thinking, wondering.



Back in Tokyo before we left, we presented our journey plan to a crowded room at the Rapha Club. Someone asked us, it was translated, “without the numbers from a power meter or keeping distance or speeds, how do you find spice in rides like this?” Parker talks about openness and place and finding commonality against difference, and the crowd shuffles their shoulders, a few nodding.

I want to go faster so I pedal slowly, I’m hungry so I let the 7-11 go by, I’m tired of mountains so I rise up out of the saddle and point the bicycle upwards to find what is immediately true of all these things.