Well, that’s not entirely true, I don’t really hate rainy days. I only hate rainy days when I’m obligated to leave my house. As you can probably guess it has been raining over the last couple of days. Rain wasn’t too much of a problem for me in Australia, I had a car so I could drive from A to B while staying relatively dry. But there’s something that makes the rain particularly inconvenient in Japan for me – bike riding.
A huge number of people in Japan ride bicycles. Apparently in Japan there are around 86 million bicycles and 11 million are sold every year. It’s just a popular way of getting around in Japan, especially when you live outside of the big city areas. A basic bike usually costs between 6000¥ and 10000¥, you have to get it registered as well because bike theft is kind of a big deal in Japan.
So when I came here naturally I decided to buy a bike. Some other students decided not to for insurance reasons or just because they like walking more. I’m glad I did because if I hadn’t my life would be extremely inconvenient. In the dorms where I used to live the nearest supermarket was about 6 minutes away by bike – and 15 minutes on foot. I had a little trouble at first, getting used to riding a bike everyday when you last rode one about 5 years prior is an interesting experience. But I got the hang of it quickly, with minimal accidents.
So what’s the big deal about riding and rain? Well, the thing is I’m a pretty un-coordinated guy. I’m horrible at multi-tasking, two things at a time is my absolute limit and I have a lot of trouble even with that. My big problem in Japan is that I’m unable to ride a bike and hold an umbrella over my head simultaneously. I can do it but it takes almost double the usual time for me to get anywhere because I’m so horrible at it. Japanese people don’t seem to have this issue. I’ve seen Japanese people riding, holding an umbrella and using their phones(or even smoking) before. Some girls even do all of this whilst riding in high heels. How do they do it? I honestly have no idea. I asked one of my Japanese friends and his answer was basically that ‘it could only come from a life-time of practice’.
Who can an un-coordinated foreigner like me turn to on those hard rainy days? On closer inspection of an internet article and YouTube it would seem that a solution to my problem has actually been invented. Although I have yet to see this miraculous break-through in technology in any local stores…
“Young women in high heels, men in black suits and teenagers on cell phones all ride bikes. Hardly anyone wears a bicycle helmet but many people ride in the rain with special clamps on their bikes for their umbrellas. If they don’t have the clamps they ride holding an umbrella in one hand.”
Either way, I better find a solution to my problem quickly because although the weather did clear up yesterday the forecast for the week suggests that rain is likely for the next 3 days consecutively. I’ve heard that it rains a lot during spring in Japan so regardless of the forecast rain can’t be too far away, and the color fo the sky at the moment isn’t making me any more hopeful for sunny days.