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TOKYO was mad. Shadowing JP at work was one of the best mornings of my life. I was a kid, high as hell, smile stuck on, chasing closing gaps he’d just got through and not having any idea where we were. There are a couple hundred bike messengers in Tokyo, over 100 at the company JP works for. We went into his company’s base, a bike shop/kitchen for messengers, a huge dispatch room, a garage for people to store their work bikes and swap for their after/before bikes. I stood in the crowd for the morning pep talk, the boss talking loud and deep in front of the 10 o’clock starting bunch of guys. He’d bark off some Japanese and then the guys would echo back, I stood there in the company shirt JP had given me mumbling loudly, he must have seen me but didn’t care. We took off, did maybe 10 jobs in a few hours. Those intersections you see on TV and movies with shoals of humans crossing in every direction, we smashed through those weaving through traffic. We’d pull up to a pick-up or drop and I’d be laughing, too good, too fun. We bumped into Torizo who always does really well at worlds, he had a super high cadence on a road bike and it was easy to see that’s how he always rode, really hard always. It was bizarre to ride like that on a touring bike with knobby 37 tyres and it must have looked it but I was having such a good time I didn’t think about having my work bike much.

The whole time in Tokyo we stayed with JP (Junpei) who was the personification of Omotenashi. Door open to everyone, beers for anybody who wanted one, cooking for us, taking us on tour. Even his friends who we just met would go way beyond what I think of as being generous or hospitable. I have so much respect for those people who put other people ahead of themselves for no other reason than to enjoy helping and seeing it appreciated. Before we left he gave me a ring with symbols of friendship and vigilance on it to remember him and be safe. What an absolute legend of a man.

Only moving now for a couple days but they’ve been full. Since leaving Tokyo each night we’ve fallen asleep to the light drum beat of rain on tent, and riding past old ladies miming and we mime back ‘Yes! Much rain!’. Once we left the outskirts of Tokyo it was like we were on a black thread through a huge wooly green jumper. The peaks and valleys were sharper than anything I have ever seen. Up high enough it’s like the road is through giant treetops, each little mountain top is the top of a tree and the road takes us amongst them. There were villages up there with three houses and a graveyard, the mist hiding them like a curtain blowing away on the breeze as we approached, a guy working on an old car would look up from his stool, smile and wave. First crash out of the way. Our road narrowed and the speed limit rose, traffic went from scooters to transport trucks, still climbing, winding roads, no shoulder, the beginning of a landing Typhoon dumping on us. My front left pannier caught on a guard rail and turned my wheel left and brought me and the bike down. I looked up from where I was laying on the ground, there was a truck just coming around the corner where I was laying down. Jorja looked around and saw me down, I sprung up and hauled up the bike trying to get out of the way, the truck didn’t slow down but swerved into the other lane, if there was a car in the other lane it could have been bad. I shouldn’t have been so close to it but it’s easy to gradually get closer with trucks a foot away from your shoulder, eyes half shut in the rain. My front wheel had run into a pole on the guard rail and was tacoed. We got off the road and checked it and my body out. Just scrapes and a probably written off wheel. We walked back along the road we’d just climbed, getting bucketed with waves of puddle water from each passing truck, my wheel jamming in the forks each rotation like a ghost slamming the brake on me, we jumped onto a train at the last moment after the guard told us we couldn’t and made it 40k down the line to a place to hide from the Typhoon. Trying to jump on another train security wasn’t having it and took us to a mechanics shop where a young guy tried to get the wheel back to life. While he worked on it for hours a dozen people came and left, a 70 year old woman, who never stopped smiling and offering us coffee, seemed to run the place. Her nephew showed up and told us about his trip in Tasmania. He had gotten a wheel barrow, loaded it up with a tent and sleeping bag and clothes and pushed it around for 3 months, my kind of nutter.

We’re at Mt. Fuji (Fujiyoshida) and have been taking it slow. Jorja draws and I read and we just chill and ride a bit and have snacks and move on. We’ll probably stay here another couple nights since everything is getting dry and sunshine is getting closer. Not sure where next but vaguely west, through towns that had evacuations yesterday, vaguely west for a long time now. It feels incredible to have started the beginning.

 


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