Tuesday, 21 October 2008
After lunch I decided to head out of the village towards the Yoshida town, the road I took followed beside the branch line from Yoshida to Yahiko station and if I had been paying attention I could have taken a nice photo of the train returning to Yoshida as it passed me while I was entering Yoshida town. Just before Yoshida town I decided to take a left hand turn and head back towards Mt Kakuda unfortunately I ended up riding into a head wind which soon tired me out and I was wishing I had stuck to the base of the mountains as that way I would have avoided the winds. After battling the wind I headed towards Sakata lagoon and then rode back towards the sea side line that lead me back into the city. I was feeling rather tired on approaching the city but once the Shinano river was in sight I got an extra boost of energy and the remainder of the ride through the city past pretty quickly and I arrived home at 3.30pm having done 92kms in total.
Pictured above are the last photos I took which show Mt Yahiko in the background and my final stop on the cycle path in the center of the city
After viewing the historic house & surrounding buildings I headed back into the village to purchase a can of the local Echigo beer ( Echigo brewery was the very 1st boutique brewery to be established in Japan ) while purchasing my beer a man approached my bicycle and took great interest in it and told me he had seen me cycle through the village and followed me to take a closer look at my bike. He turned out to be an avid collector of classic bicycles and had a bicycle with a sturmey archer 4 speed at home. He was most impressed with the Humber as I've tried my best to keep it in original condition and asked many technical questions related to the bike. Before we parted he gave me his name card so I hope we'll be able to go for a ride together some time as he lives in the center of Niigata city not far from me. Also he mentioned that in another village located about 10kms down the road is a rickshaw builder which would be interesting to visit as there aren't many rickshaw builders left in Japan. After our chat I headed back downhill towards the park to have lunch, unfortunately the nice Autumn colours had already vanished but still it was a very beautiful park and after walking through the park with the bike I found a good place to enjoy my lunch & local beer.
After viewing the shrine I decided to head out of the village to see the site of the Takeishi Family's former residence, I was almost ready to turn around and cycle back into the village as I wasn't having a lot of luck trying to locate it when by chance I saw a large thatched roof house located up a driveway to my left which turned out to be the house I was looking for that was mentioned on the village map.
The information below was taken from a website on Yahiko explaining the history of the buildings pictured above.
The thatched residential structures of a medium-size farming family were disassembled and then restored to their original appearance. The oldest is the main house, which dates back to the middle of the Edo period – 300 years ago. It is a cultural property designated by the village. The miso storehouse was built during the early years of the Meiji era, and the woodshed in 1929. Both buildings are registered national tangible cultural properties.
As you can see from the photos above the buildings were restored to a very high standard and it's nice that you can still see such buildings as these as they are slowly disappearing from villages in rural Japan due to the vast expensive of restoration & upkeep. Most thatched roof houses I have seen locally now have tin sheeting protecting the roof which is not as pleasing to the eye as a traditional thatch roof.
This post is devoted to Yahiko shrine which is the main reason that most tourists visit Yahiko village. Throughout the year the shine hosts many festivals and the Yahiko Chrysanthemum Festival is held from November 1 through 24 every year in the precincts of Yahiko Shrine, the supreme shrine of Echigo Province. The event is Japan's largest chrysanthemum exhibition in terms of the numbers of participants and exhibits. Unfortunately the chrysanthemum festival had already ended but as you can see from the photo above the shrine itself is very impressive. Another one of the photos above shows the main torii gate which is the entrance to the shrine and around the side of the shrine is a large car park and a cable car which you can take to the top of the mountain if you're not keen on hiking to the top. As usual in Japan there are several tourists shops over the road from the car park selling oden which is a traditional boiled food on a stick plus countless souvenirs depicting the shrine & Mt Yahiko. Next the the shrine where I parked my bike were hundreds of pieces of white paper tied to a tree as people write on these and tie them to the tree for good luck etc. If you ever get to Niigata a visit to Yahiko shrine is well worth a visit.
After checking out the map I headed back up the main street past the park towards the shrine on the way I took the photos above which show one of the many large traditional style shops, this one happened to be selling sake and their shop was well stocked with different brands of local sake which Niigata is famous for and the other photo shows one of the roads that lead into the village.
From Iwamuro Spa to Yahiko village is only about 20 mins ride, so it wasn't long before I had arrived in Yahiko Village. On entering the village I passed by the cycle track but as there weren't any races planned it was rather quiet and I contuined on through the village to the station & information center to check out a village map. I had passed through Yahiko Village previously but didn't have a lot of time to explore the village but as it was only 9.30am so I had plenty of time to look around. Yahiko station is a rather interesting building built in the style of a shrine painted red & white and pictured above are a couple of photos of the station and a very good village map which I found located further up the street. As you can see by the map it's a rather small village but very popular due to the fact that Yahiko shrine is very famous and like Iwamuro Spa, Yahiko village also has a number of large Onsen hotels.
Here is a link with some more info on the village
After passing through Makigoya I soon came out of the low range of hills I had been cycling through and could see Mt Yahiko in looming the distance. It wasn't long before I had entered Iwamuro Spa a village famous for it's many tradition Inns & Hotels offering hot spring baths and luxurious accommodation. As I cycled along the narrow village road I was passed by several people out running in matching track suits only to find the remainder of the group doing some exercises in the front of an Inn which they were staying at, maybe they were a visiting high school sports team on a training camp if so there were very lucky to be staying in such a scenic village. The above photos were taken in the center of Iwamuro Village and the shop above is a traditional Japanese sweet shop which are often found in such villages frequented by tourists.
As the weather lately has been really nice I decided to make the most of my Tuesday off work and woke up early and made some sandwiches for lunch and headed off in the direction of Yahiko Village at 7am. At that time of the morning the roads are relatively quiet which makes cycling through the center of the city not so bad. From my house to the cycle road along the banks of the Shinano river is only about 6km so it wasn't long before I was out of the city and heading along the coast road through Kobari. At Kakuda hama I made a left turn and headed inland skirting the side of Mt Kakuda at the turn off I saw what I first thought was a cat in the middle of the road but as I got closer in turned out to be a baby Tanuki ( Raccoon dog ) You can check out some info on the Tanuki at Wikipedia . After that I continued through a long range of hills at the base of Mt Kakuda and went through the small village of Makigoya where I took the two photos pictured above. One of the photo's shows a traditional Japanese storehouse called a Kura which can often be seen in rural Japan.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
The above article was taken from a 1948 issue of " Cycling " which was a long running popular cycling magazine in the UK that was 1st published in 1891 although this magazine is no longer being printed you can quite often find copies for sale on E Bay UK at reasonable prices. The above article outlines the challenges of cycling with a family at that period.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
After stopping off at the small shop in the last posting I then headed downhill to Gako cho which is another old area located in the center of the city. Once in Gako Cho I rode along the narrow street to Liqueur shop Okura where I purchased a can of dark beer for lunch. Liqueur shop Okura is another unusual shop as it's a dry cleaners, bottle store & restaurant. You can go there anytime of the day or night as it's almost open 24 hours and you can take a seat and help yourself to the bottle store drinks from the large fridges, of course there is an extra charge but it's still rather cheap. After leaving Gako Cho I headed back the way I had come to rejoin the seaside cycle path where I stopped for a beer & a Bagel before heading home to Kodo through the underground cycle path that runs under the mouth of the Shinano river. By the time I had returned home I had cycled a leisurely 45kms and visited a few new places along the way.
After leaving the Shrine complex I headed down the hill towards the center of the city and made a right turn and took a street that runs alongside the University hospital, it was along this street that I came upon a curious looking shop entrance covered with hand painted signs written in Spanish. On closer inspection the entrance also contained a drink vending machine and a menu that was written in English was attached to the wall advertising the type of meals available. It seemed to be a Shokodo ( basic family style cooking ) and while I took the above photos several Uni students and businessmen entered the shop. On mentioning this shop to my mate Brian he informed me that the entrance way I saw leads downstairs to a basement restaurant that seats about 20 people. As I had already purchased bagels for lunch I didn't stop but will return again in the near future.
After eating my Gelato I decided to take a look at Gokoku Shrine which is located in the center of a park between the coast & the city. Even though I lived in Niigata City now for four & a half years I had never been here before so was rather surprised to see how large it was as it's completely hidden from view when driving past. The Shrine complex consists of the main shrine building and next to it located on the left is what appears to be a band new Victorian styled wedding reception center and two very old traditional buildings that house the administration office and a small museum. Also located in this area where some other smaller shrine buildings & a large car park. If you ever get to Niigata be sure to visit this beautiful area as it's well worth a look. Above are a few pictures that were taken at Gokoku Shrine.
After leaving the Bagel shop I headed back towards the coast road and back in towards the city stopping off at the car park located at Kobari beach , in the summer time this area is packed with people swimming & having BBQs etc but at this time of the year it was rather quiet except for a few people fishing. After leaving Kobari I headed along the only other cycle path located in the city which runs beside the sea and stopped off at a local baseball field to watch some Junior high school students play a game against another school. Located nearby the baseball field is a fantastic Italian Gelato ( Ice cream ) shop called Popolo where the Japanese owner who trained in Italy serves up some fantastic Gelato. Pictured above is the almost deserted Kobari beach, the ball park & the Gelato shop.
As yesterday was my day off I decided to potter around the city on my bike, at first I rode from my house into the center of the city and followed the bike path along side the Shinano river which is rather nice and in some places is shaded by trees. This cycle path is very popular with cyclists, joggers etc and further along crosses the river and heads towards Kobari beach. Once on this section of road you can head straight for Mt Kakuda alongside the coast or do as I did which was to turn left and head towards Niigata University where I had been informed there was a very good small Bagel shop called Bagel 1 after dodging thousands of students cycling on the wrong side of the road and cycling past the shop twice, I finally located it and purchased some of their delicious bagels two plain bagels and a filled one for lunch later on. Pictured above are two photos taken on the cycle path one shows the Bandai bridge which is located in the center of the city and the other photo was taken further along the riverside.
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Well finally I have purchased a saddle bag to use on my Humber, after much research and some feedback from other saddle bag users I finally decided on purchasing a Carradice Nelson longflap saddle bag. As it was to go on the Humber it had to look the part and as Carradice have been making their traditional cotton duck saddle bags since the 1930s it was an easy choice to use one of their bags.
My next choice was deciding which size bag to buy, as they make several sizes. In the near future I'm keen to do some overnight tours on the Humber fully loaded with a compact tent, sleeping bag, cooker etc so that's why I decided on the Nelson longflap. When the extra flap is not in use it is held out of the way with two sturdy dome clips. It has a capacity of 15 ltrs and extends to 18 ltrs when using the flap. It came complete with a small but sturdy wooden dowel rod fixed across the back with two screws. This supports the entire bag and the white buff leather straps pass through your saddle loops and back into the bag and fasten around the wooden dowel. And as their old advertisement states above " Warm days, cool nights, Room for woollies in Carradice " there is plenty of room for woollies and anything else you may wish to carry.
The side pockets are rather large and I have managed to fit a bicycle bag in one side. This bag is carried in case I need to board a train etc as in Japan all cycles must be in a cycle bag to be accepted and the other side pocket holds my leather tool bag which was previously mounted on the saddle loops and a can of CRC oil.
The main compartment is huge and could easily hold a lightweight one person tent, compact sleeping bag & cooking kit & spare clothes etc. Most of the time I won't need such a large bag but it's good to know I have the room if needed. The top of the bag has fittings for two straps to carry a wet jacket/rain cape or even tent poles. The rear of the bag has a reflective logo and a leather strap in which a small light could be clipped. All the main points that would normally wear out on a bag of this type are reinforced with high grade leather. Any items that are carried in the main compartment are held in place by a waterproof cover on a drawstring to stop them falling out etc.
As you can see from the above photos my bag is mounted directly to the saddle loops of the Brooks B 17 and the lower strap is affixed to the seat post. If you don't like the idea of the contents of your bag sitting at an angle or the bag gently brushing the back of your legs as you cycle you could fit a Viva saddle bag rack which should then bring the bag backwards away from the back of your legs with the lower seat post strap fixed around the lower portion of the Viva rack. In the US these racks are available from Velo orange but here in Japan they can be ordered from any bicycle shop. The two colored tags you can see mounted on the saddle loops are bag tags from the Lake Pepin 3 speed tour, What the heck are bag tags ? following this link and find out http://www.3speedtour.com/
Pictured above is the Carradice Nelson longflap saddle bag and the Viva saddle bag rack.
Overall rating : Well worth the money as it looks trad and is very well made plus it's waterproof. The perfect accessory for any 3 speed cyclist.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
After my mishap with the Sturmey archer hub last year my Humber sports sat idle for quite some time before I got around to getting the 3 speed hub overhauled by Jon Sharratt the organizer of the now famous Lake Pepin 3 speed tour. Since getting the Humber back on the road I've been making the most of the weather before winter sets in and the roads are covered in snow. I've recently made a few changes to the Humber in keeping with it's original specifications which are outlined below.
While getting the Sturmey Archer ABC rear hub overhauled a new Sturmey 22 tooth cog was fitted as I often ride deep into the local mountains.
2 NOS hardened anti-rotate washers under the original black axle nuts.
A new Sram chain and a half-link as the old chain was now too short with the lager 22 T cog installed
A brand new Brooks B 17 champion standard with black rails - the reason for this up grade is that the old Brooks B 17 champion narrow recently came apart at one of the saddle nose rivets and rather have a saddle nose fall apart while on a long ride I thought I'd replace it with a period correct B 17. I did until recently use my older Brooks professional with the large copper rivets but it was too modern for the 1947 Humber
A Carradice saddlebag, the model I chose was the large Nelson long flap ( in black ) because it expands from 15ltr to 18ltr and I'm keen to do some overnight trips with a tent, sleeping bag, cooker etc. And from my research into 1940s period cycling in the UK it seems that the Nelson long flap was a popular choice at the time.
Listed below is the specification list for the bike
SPORTS model 321
WHEELS: 26" x 1 3/4 Dunlop Endrick stainless steel rims with 14 g SS spokes
TYRES: National custom ( original made in New Zealand Dunlop tyres were too unsafe to use )
HUBS: Front quick release with wing nuts Rear Sturmey Archer ABC with 22 T cog
GEAR: 3 Speed with Sturmey Archer trigger shifter
PEDALS: Gent's rat trap
HANDLEBAR: Medium drop Lauterwasser bars ( re chromed ) with adjustable stem & Humber lamp clip
BRAKES: Front caliper Rear drum brake
SADDLE: Brooks B17 champion standard in black leather with black rails
FINISH: Frame & fork black enamel , Mudguards white enamel , usual bright parts chrome
EXTRAS: Raleigh NOS kickstand , Black pump ( Zefal with the logo removed ), Carradice Nelson long flap saddlebag, Mudguard flap,Viva metal water bottle & cage,2 x 3 speed tour bag tags
What other up grades could the Humber possibly require ? , well the only other things that I'd like to fit to the Humber is a period correct Lucas cyclometer to record my travels & the Old Bicycle company has some very nice early pattern rubber grips that would look fantastic on the Humber. Oh and a nice Pifco British battery powered headlamp.
So if anyone out there has the following for sale please contact me:
Lucas Cyclometer for 26" wheels in good condition
Chrome Pifco battery powered head lamp
Pictured above is a recent photo of the 1947 Humber Sports