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Tokyo Wakes

Tokyo: early morning rides

If there’s an upside to jetlag it that it’s a viable excuse to hop on a bike and take an early hour’s ride around Tokyo – after a month or so on the road I need certainly need the exercise. The route runs from my home base of Sakura Shin Machi down the 246 through Shibuya, Omotesando, before touching the edge of Ginza before heading for home. In many ways the early morning urban landscape is a refresher course in the study of Tokyo, which helps put similar work related sessions in perspective.

By 4am the July humidity is sufficiently dulled to make exercise enjoyable and the pre-dawn light can give even the 246 – an ugly split level motorway that runs through the city, an air of romance. The traffic consists largely of taxis taking home drunk revelers, perma-tanned kids doubling up on mopeds (schools out for the summer) and a smattering of tinted window Hino vans making pick-ups for location fashion shoots. The Hino’s are usually passed parked at the side of the road its driver, invariable a chubby bearded guy sneaking a quick fag in one hand whilst playing with a role of gaffer tape in the other. By the time you near the eastern edge of Ginza its common to come across three wheeled motorbikes driven by riders adorned in head to toe fish-market-rubber. I would love to say this is part of the local lively fetish scene but the mundane reality is that Tsukiji Fish Market is nearby.

By 6am the Imperial Palace serves as a training loop for local runners, overweight foreign joggers and cyclists. Arriving half an hour earlier they would have witnessed both the evaporation of the mist hanging over the Palace grounds and disappearance of the many homeless people sleeping rough. Homelessness is found in every park in Japan but it’s at its starkest here amongst the splendor of the expansive grass and trees. One long term homeless gentleman lies under a purple blanket, a Louis Vuitton holdall lying next to him. The sight is interesting on lots of levels not least the bag is likely to be fake but this being Japan might equally not be.

The route home is smooth – Tokyo asphalt is easy compared to the third world roads of suburban Kampala, parts of Hackney or most of Manhattan.