Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Shōnan is the name of the region we've moved to. It is not an official term, so there is mixed opinion about exactly how large an area the term describes. What's for sure is that where we live in the city of Fujisawa is in the dead center of what is considered Shōnan.

View Larger Map

In the map above all the coastline area included, the cities of Hiratsuka, Chigasaki, Fujisawa and Kamakura are all generally considered as part of Shōnan. Although it's not an official geographic term, it's widely used to describe the area. The term Shōnan might conjure up images of Sunny beaches and the ocean for most people. It's definitely a popular Summer destination for the inhabitants of the greater Tokyo area. I thought I would write about it since it's destined to be a term we will use very often from now on.

I will share with you some pictures of different parts of Shōnan that I have ridden to on my bike.


Most recently, yesterday morning in fact we rode to the nearby Enoshima where I took the picture above. Enoshima is a small island off of the coast. It is a very popular tourist destination and it's very scenic for sure.


Here's another picture from Enoshima. This is the very backside of the island and there is a cave you can see for a few hundred yen. (We were too cheap to pay to see it)

Hiratsuka beach

This is the beach front of Hiratsuka and in the distance you see the mountains of Hakone and Tanzawa. If the sky was clearer, you would see Mt. Fuji beyond there. This scenery pretty much continues from a little beyond near Enoshima to Hiratsuka.

Umi no Ie being built

This is Kugenuma beach just West of Enoshima. It is one of the most populated beaches in the Summer. I took this photo before the Summer vacation season began in earnest, but these temporary shacks are called "Umi no Ie" which roughly translates as "House by the sea" are places where beach goers can go to lounge around, eat, drink, take a shower, and keep valuables in lockers while dipping in the ocean. Kugenuma is littered with these Umi no Ie during Summer, so locals tend to stay clear and go to more quiter beaches in other areas.


This is the view of the ocean in Oiso. Oiso is the city West of Hiratsuka. I rode there a little over a week ago. That is so far the farthest I've ridden since I'd moved here. Going from Fujisawa, you cross the Sagami River from Chigasaki to Hiratsuka first and it starts to feel more rural and then when you get to Oiso, it feels even more rural. I saw a lot of sport cyclists in this area. I found that it was much easier and pleasant to ride there as well. I didn't ride by the ocean in Oiso, so I don't really know what the waterfront area is like, but I stopped to go toward the ocean here and snapped this picture. Unfortunately, I couldn't ride any further so, I couldn't get closer to the ocean, but the water looked really beautiful there. I will try and ride by the ocean next time.

Kugenuma Kaigan

Shōnan isn't just about the ocean. There is all kinds of cool neighborhoods and shops and there's a lot of historic sites as well. This particular picture is the old school shopping street in Kugenuma Kaigan. We bought some fresh Tofu there.

Anyway, there is so much to explore. My bike still isn't ready yet, but when I do get it, I will be venturing all over Shōnan and will share with you what I've seen.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The journey to a new bike

what's left of my previous bike

So, as I wrote in the last entry, I am working on a new bike for myself. Above is what's left of the previous bike; handlebar, stem, levers, saddle, seatpost, crankset, bottom bracket, derailleurs and chain. I had meant to bring the wheels which is the next most important (and expensive) part of a bike after the frame, but I had no way of bringing them with me here. So, this is all I have left and I started thinking about building a new bike with that.

After some thinking, I started entertaining the idea that maybe getting a custom frame could is a real possibility. I had been looking at sites of various Japanese frame builders and came across this one which is the builder Nakajima, but they also sell Toei frames.

TOEI commuter

I had seen this Toei Commuter a couple of years ago while walking around Tokyo. It's a very nice bike and it seemed to have a good reputation among their owners. I thought it would be a good frame to consider as it is very reasonably priced for a custom frame at the starting price of 87000 yen ($995 US at writing of this entry) and the waiting is much shorter than it is in the US. I wrote an email to Nakajima while I was still in Portland to inquire about it and maybe get the process started early, so I could have the frame done sooner. Unfortunately, he never responded to my email.

After I arrived in Japan and I had mostly settled down in my new place, I started again to try and put the new bike together. On the Nakajima site, it said that the Toei frames are now taking about 7 months, so at that point, that seemed too long as I wanted to have it before this Summer was over. I started looking at the Nakajima bikes which didn't look as good to me before, but there were pictures of more recent ones like this one above looked OK, nice and simple. So, I called Nakajima and had a talk with him. This was really the first time for me to talk to a builder with the intention to possibly buying a frame. I was quite unsure of how to talk about it and I had a lot of questions, but he seemed really uninterested and almost seemed to want to talk me out of it which he succeeded after he told me the wait was 1 year.

I had looked into other builders as well, but none were as cheap as Nakajima or Toei, so I gave up on the idea.

Then I looked at the semi-custom frames by Panasonic like this one above. You can order this frame in 3 sizes (460, 510, or 550) and in any of 28 colors you like and it will be finished in 14 days! The only thing I couldn't tell was what the wheel size is. It kind of looks like they could be 26 inch, but even if that was the case, this seemed like a good possibility, so I went to a local Panasonic dealer to ask about it. I was quite ready to go ahead and order it, but I asked just in case if they had other steel frames that were similar. It was a good thing I asked because they indeed had something even more reasonable.

Yes, that's a Surly. All of you in North America are probably quite familiar with the Surly brand. They are quite a popular brand in Portland for sure. I'd never been super attracted to Surly's myself and I'd been thinking my next bike will be a Japanese brand, but this Surly frame was much cheaper than the Panasonic and with all the parts I still need to buy to complete the bike, I can use all the savings I can get. Many of you keen observers probably noticed that the bike is the Surly Crosscheck and not the popular Long Haul Trucker. While I have no intention of racing cyclocross, the LHT will be for the 26 inch wheels in my size, so I opted for the Crosscheck which are made for 700c wheels in my size. The only misgiving I have with this frame is that the bottom bracket is slightly higher than normal making the center of gravity higher, but I think I will get used to it and with this frame, I can be much more confident going over rough roads which there are plenty of around here.

Anyway now, the shop had ordered the frame for me and it is waiting for a few more parts to arrive before being built. They are building new wheels for me instead of getting pre-built ones as the kind of wheels I wanted weren't available and the parts for the wheels seem to be taking a long time. I called them today and they said it will be 1 or 2 weeks still. I was hoping to get it this week, but I have to be patient.

Anyway, so after looking at more exotic possibilities, I will end up with a very ordinary Surly bike. I'd been riding Kao's Trek ever since I'd been here and it's pretty good, but not quite right, so I'm really looking forward to getting my own bike and dialing it in and riding it all around this area which is quite a haven for cycling in this part of Japan.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Starting again in a new place

Enoshima by mamachari


Sorry for the long hiatus. Life had taken precedence over blogging for the last months.

I am all well and good. I may have mentioned it here before, but I have finally made the move back to my native country of Japan. We have found a place to live in the city of Fujisawa which is about an hour South East of Tokyo by train. It is just West of Kamakura which is the city that used to be the seat of the Shogunate long ago. They call this area Shonan and is quite a popular area for its beaches. We are quite happy to finally be living together and in our own place. (We were living in a family related place before.)

Kao with new friend

I had actually a couple more Portland posts in mind before I left, but then the move was so consuming, I had no time nor energy to write them. This move was probably the worst move of my life as I barely got out of the place in time to catch the plane. My friend Eric who came to give me a ride to the airport saw that my apartment was still a big mess when he arrived and if he hadn't been so kind to help me pack and clean, I wouldn't have made it. I was quite deluded about how much work was involved and how much stuff I could take with me. I had been hoping to be able to take the remnants of my bike (the bike sans the damaged frame), but there was no way for me to take the wheels as they were too big and I already had so much luggage.

our bikes at Chigasaki beach

I did manage to take the KT (Kao's bike) with me as you can see in this photo. It is doing well. I've made a few modifications to it to suit the environment here. I will do a post about that soon.

This area is really beautiful with the the beaches, but there are also many rivers and rice fields and lots of green. I thought I would be missing Portland a lot, but this place is so much better than my expectations that I haven't even thought about Portland that much. Our place is only a 15 minute bike ride from the ocean and 30 minutes to either Kamakura or Chigasaki. Chigasaki is a very bicycle friendly city and it is where the pro cyclist Fumiyuki Beppu (he rides for Lance Armstrong's Team Radioshack) is from.

Hikichigawa cycling path

We have been taking little bike trips all over the area and it's too much to write about it all, but I will now resume with regular updates, and I will write more detailed entries from now on.

We currently have 3 bikes among the two of us. One is Kao's KT, one is Kao's mamachari and the thrid one is my Dahon folding bike. We have been sharing KT and the mamachari between us for now, but I have been looking to build a new bike with the parts from the old one. It's taken a bit of time to consider many different possibilities and I've finally decided on something, but I never would have guessed my new bike will be that. It's still going to take a while to put it together, but I will write about that soon as well. I don't know if we might have lost what few readers we had during our inactivity, but if you are still with us, thank you. I think this blog will be much more interesting reading as we are starting a new life in a very beautiful new place.