11.23.2006

Rubber side down

There are some things that I neglected to mention about cycling in Japan.

The first has to do with the fact that pretty much everything that goes into a garbage here eventually gets burned. If you live in the inaka (countryside) like we kinda do, you are doubly blessed with the smoke from the garbage fires plus all the smoke from the fires in farmers fields. They burn their fields after the rice harvest, they burn anything that may be considered leftover.

The net result is that the air quality around here is absolutely brutal. I often find that my eyes sting and its hard to breathe on my drive home. After a good dump of rain, we will be able to see the mountains again for a day or two, but they disappear in short order. I find it somewhat ironic that so many Canadians are griping about the Kyoto Protocol when it is clear that Japan is doing very little to curb the release of carbon here.

It does make for some spectacular sunsets though.

The other hazard here is what is known as a 'gaijin trap'. Many foreigners ride bikes for transportation. Most of us are here for a short stint before heading back home and it doesn't make sense to buy a car.

The roads here often have no shoulders. They are almost wide enough for two cars to pass each other and then they drop down a metre or so to the rice field. Sometimes they drop down that metre or so into a narrow water-filled canal.

These canals have become known as gaijin traps. They have claimed countless unsuspecting victims and they are not pleasant. Here are a couple pictures...

In this first one you can see the burned rice field, the drop to the rice field on the right side of the road and the drop to the canal on the left side of the road.


This would not be a pleasant endo.

10 comments:

Lowell Sheppard said...

Forgive the entry from a stranger. I recieved your blog post via Google Alerts for CYCLING IN JAPAN.

I was intrigued by your interest in cycling and in japan. a few years ago i followed the cherry blossom front from kyushu to hokkaido by bike. As a christian I was particularly interested in Kyushu but encountered some very interesting tales about christianity in japan while on the road .... Walter Weston to name just one . . . have you heard of him? The anglican missionary of 100 years ago who is now known as the father of mountaineering in japan?

Vertigo said...

Hey Lowell,

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you come back again.

I noticed from your profle that you are in Nagoya. We live in Ogaki and I commute into Nagoya to teach english.

Vertigo said...

Sorry, I haven't heard of Weston. We have heard some of the stories about Christianity around here. I think it is Gifu Castle that has a painting of St Francis of Assisi (could be mistaken on the castle and the Saint).

Lowell Sheppard said...

I live in Owariasahi in fact. Have been here for ten years. My wife is from japan . . born in kyoto but raised in Nagoya and is a graduate of Nagoya International School. Her parents were missionaries.

How long have you been in Japan?

Vertigo said...

We have been here for almost a year and a half. Planning to repatriate next summer.

I am not familiar with Owariasahi, is that close to Owari-Ichinomia?

Lowell Sheppard said...

Owariasahi is surrounded by Nagoya on two sides ( north and west), nagakute to the south and seto to the east.

Are you canadian?

Vertigo said...

Yes. Born in Clearwater, BC. I have since lived in Abbotsford, Lethbridge and Calgary.

And you?

Lowell Sheppard said...

born in sask, schooled in Winnipeg, calgary. SInce 1973 my family has been on the coast and my parents live in Abbotsford.

I moved to the UK in 1983 for 13 years and then to Japan for the last ten.

I am asia Director for HOPE International Development Agency www.hope-international.com which is a Canadian organization. you can check out HOPE Japan at www.hope-international.jp and www.hopeglobalchallenge.com

Emily said...

Thanks for the pics of the Japanese roads. Yes, that would be a very unpleasant endo for sure!

BB said...

The pollution you referenced in your post is a hundredfold where I live, Taiwan. I think what happened is after the stringent environmental regulations in America came into being, major companies simply moved their factories to this island, instead of taking the necessary steps to reduce their output of pollutants. To most Americans, its no big deal, because we tend to believe what we can't see won't hurt us. But believe me, I see it, and it is hurting me.