The epitome of style
When The Mister and I moved to Japan, one of the very first things we did, after exclaiming over the beer vending machines and accidentally buying a bottle of “Pocari Sweat” thinking it was water, was pony up ¥6000 (Around $60 bucks) to get us a pair of used bicycles. These were not fancy bicycles with things like “speeds” or “brakes” that “worked”. They were rusted and worn, they had functional baskets and the seats were made of some space age super-hard plastic that had the ability to reduce your butt to one giant callus. These were hard workin’ blue collar bikes that got you from A to B, and helped you get your groceries home.
Our first apartment was at the top of an enormous hill and it was always such a rush heading into town, rocketing down that hill at the speed of light with no way to stop except to sacrifice your body or be hit by a train. The freedom! The exhilaration! The abject fear!
One of the downsides of the impeccably orderly and on-time train system in Japan is that it only runs from 5am until about midnight. Generally you were forced to make a night of it if your evening was going to extend past the witching hour and you were further than walking distance from home. I was a bit of a party animal back then – staying up until 11, sometimes even 11:30! PM! Even with my wild ways, nights out were typically over well before the sun came up. There are only so many choruses of “Hungry Like the Wolf” a girl can stand before bedtime. Besides, staying up until 5am always required drinking until 5am if I intended to stay awake (separated entirely from my intention to stay ALIVE) and I had already had the experience of being on the early morning train as everyone is headed out to work while I’m trying not to vomit in a stranger’s briefcase. The bicycles changed all that. They opened up a whole new world of staying out moderately late. I know, I'm a rebel.
This is how I learned about the true Japanese National Pastime. Baseball? you ask. Pachinko? Selling strange things out of vending machines? Those are all great guesses but the answer is no, my friend. Let me introduce you to the sensation that’s sweeping the nation (of Japan, that is).
Drunken Bike Riding.
You heard it here first, folks.
Now I know plenty of people are going to tell you that this is Very Bad And Dangerous Behavior, but I’m here to tell you the truth. IT’S SO! MUCH! FUN! Look at the facts – drunkenness? Fun!! Bike Riding? Fun!! So by the transitive property or the pythagorean theorem or something, there is no way that this could be bad. And anyway, aside from the time I ran over that vagrant* no one ever got hurt. We did however pop wheelies, scream and shout, ride on each other’s pegs (Hi, I’m 11) and cause the kind of general mayhem that made me finally understand why the locals looked so fearful every time they were trapped in a subway car with one of us.
Were those some of my dumber escapades? Oh yes. But good lord were they fun. And as we all know (from experience – don’t lie) smart and fun don’t always live in the same place.
*Absolutely 100% true story.