I do not have a car in Japan, much to my dismay in the sweltering heat of summer and the upcoming dead of winter. But also, much to the delight of my wallet.
I always assigned gas, insurance, and repairs as annoying but necessary side-effects to having a car, and now that I am without one, it’s fun to watch the yen stack up. Sometimes I pile all my yen in my spare bedroom and swim through it like Scrooge McDuck. Unfortunately, calculating exchange rates, a room full of yen comes out to about $3.50. Luckily, though, yen are lighter than pennies, and thus easier to exhale during a hearty swim.
So now I bike to school, to friends, to the train station, basically wherever I need to go within a 5 mile radius. I’ve never really worked out regularly, and I look pretty much the same, until someone drops a book or something on my thigh, and it makes a metallic clang. Yeah! Now if only I had to do sit-ups to get to work on time. THEN I’d be looking buff.
But there are some cons that come along with that, which I will illustrate via use of fancy bullet points. Who doesn’t love bullet points?!
- To remember when riding a bike in Japan
- No one wears helmets. Which is worse: bucking the unbuckable system and awkwardly sticking out even more, or painting the sidewalks with my face? Clearly I have chosen to blend in. (Added bonus: possibly blending in…to the ground!)
- You can’t listen to music while biking.
- Well, actually, you can, but then you won’t hear the car that’s about to hit you. Which is always nice.
- If you do listen to music, you don’t have the luxury of pretending you’re just on speaker-phone when you jam out to your favorite song, like you would in the car.
- Other bikers do not appreciate it when you belt out tunes, suddenly catch sight of them right beside you, stop abruptly, and turn beet red while you wait for the traffic light to change. It makes them feel awkward. Stop making people feel awkward!
- Biking through a swarm of bugs is really, really gross.
- Do not yawn while biking.
- Don’t mouth “thank you” to drivers who let you pass. They speak Japanese.
- If you are 1 minute behind schedule, you can’t just “step on it.” You miss your train.
- There are 3-foot gaping canals on the sides of all roads, hilariously named “Gaijin Traps.” This is because you will someday fall in one. Possibly on your bike. I hope you still have some baby teeth you can afford to lose.
- It is really awkward when you come up behind people walking slowly on the sidewalk, and you don’t know how to tell them you’re there, much less in Japanese, in a polite, non-threatening manner.
- A bike bell is a good way to let people know you exist.
- A squeaky handbrake can also let people know you exist. And it always scares them to death.
- The Japanese word for “biking” is NOT in fact “baikingu.”
- The word “baikingu” in Japanese means “viking,” which oddly does not mean “king of the Nordic seas.” It means “buffet.”
- When your English teacher asks you what vikings have to do with buffets, don’t answer, “Uh, maybe sm