The Pursuit of Happines

Pulling over and getting off the bike was often more important and enriching than being on the bike during the trip. The shrines and temples of Nikko are about 90 miles outside of Tokyo, built into steep hillsides. Most of the hundreds of structures are associated with ancient Shoguns from the 14th century.

The Pursuit of Happines Grace, Bikes and Broken English in Japan

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had made a wrong turn.

My mind deep into other matters, I climbed endlessly up steep, paved switchbacks, head down in the drizzling evening rain. It wasn’t until I heard the tires screeching that I realized my mistake.

The first Japanese supercar came dangerously close as it drifted around the corner ahead of me, and I quickly pulled over to let the squad of rallying compatriots whip their way past. Combined with screaming birds and monkeys in the nearby trees, I finally snapped out of my reverie, and with a sigh I turned around and bombed back down. I had a meeting in a fishing village in a few hours with a couple I’d met in Tokyo, and I still had many miles before beers and pleasant conversation about the pursuit of happiness. 

On a cold, soaking wet October evening in Squamish, BC a few weeks before, I purchased a ticket to Tokyo. I had always been fascinated with Japan: anime movies, the art, the WWII stories my grandpa told me about the welcoming and humble people. I had long known that, one day, I would visit.  

I hadn’t looked at a map, asked my boss for time off or planned a route. I did have a mission: exploreing Japan’s main island of Honshu, traveling alone on my bike for 18 days, focusing my trip on iconic areas and friendly personalities—and, of course, ripping some dirt along the way. I had one mountain biking connection, a friend I’d met in Whistler named Jinya Nishikawa. My passion for bikes would be my method of communication. That, and Google Translate.

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