Back on the Chrome Horse

Thanks to the Swine Flu, I now own a bicycle. If that Pig Influenza hadn’t sidelined me in bed for a week, I would have surely blown another paycheck on yet one more all-you-can-drink karaoke session. But as it happened, once my fever broke, my wallet contained a spare hundred bucks worth of yen, so off I went to the bike store. I bought the largest bike I could find. It was still tiny, like riding a midget, but also just as fun.

A bike is a great way to get around. I went to the next town. Wow, just like my town. From there I found a lazy, tree-lined downhill. I was like, Man, cycling is so relaxing. Gradually, the downhill got a bit steeper, I stopped pedaling, the trees ended, and then without warning my meandering path turned into a highway entrance. I was like, Man, not cool. Suddenly there was this terrible truck roaring behind me and a tall railing keeping me from the sidewalk. Faster and faster went the tiny bicycle until the handlebars started shaking and I felt a sudden need to urinate. Something flew off one of the wheels and cracked on the concrete. Well, I thought, I probably didn’t need whatever that was anyway. At this point the truck behind me decided it would be a good idea to start honking. So there’s a giant white guy on a teenie-weenie bike entering the freeway at like a hundred miles an hour, and you think honking will improve matters? Thanks for the support.

A bike is a great way to get mind-bendingly lost. Once the road leveled out, the truck blew past, and I tossed bike and self over the shaky railing, I was far, far from home. Like in Kansas far. No way was I going back up that hill, so I thought, The hell, I’ll just loop around. I figured that if I only made left-hand turns, I’d soon circle back home. I’m smart like that. I made three perfect left turns before coming to a halt in an alley, where a glaring old man said, in English, “No way.” So helpful, the Japanese.

There are lots of maps in Japan, but for some reason they’re all in Japanese. And as I rode around confused I kept bumping into things, notably other bikes and people. Now, as far as I can tell, there are no rules whatsoever about riding a bike in this country. Right side of the road, left side of the road, the sidewalk, it makes no difference. I succeeded in pissing off guys in suits and grannies like there was no tomorrow. Eventually, by calculating the angle of the sun and asking directions in slobbering Japanese, I found Denny’s, which wasn’t home but was still nothing short of awesome, since I had a craving for a massive breakfast, famished as I was from all that riding. Denny’s also has a really nice automated bike parking system, at least until you use it. I rolled my front wheel up a thin ramp and suddenly jaws locked around it. Then I couldn’t get the damn thing out. Some crazy Japanese device had taken control of my midget bike. So I had breakfast anyway, then came back out and cried in front of the bike vending machine until some school girl showed me how to pay for my bike’s release. Two bucks to park a bike? It’s going to be a while before I eat at Denny’s again.

I’m pretty sure the cops in Japan have nothing better to do than to give me directions, which is a good thing since I asked at every police box until I finally found my way back to my village, took a long bath, and resolved never to leave the house again. It’s a big, confusing country out there. Probably best to just stay at home.

9 Replies to “Back on the Chrome Horse”

  1. Thank you Ken for each and everyone single one of your article. Your info is so helpful, and I can’t help but laugh so many times when ever I read one. Please keep sharing with us your wonderful insight.
    You have made my day!

    1. Thank you so much. Hearing things like that really keeps me going. That, plus a ton of coffee, beer, and these strangely addictive rolled-up fish cakes stuffed with cheese. They taste, eh, slightly better than they sound, but anyway I like them. But what I really mean is, seriously, thanks for writing in.

  2. Hi Ken!
    I have been enjoying reading your blog since few days. And a good sense of humour you do have.. Great job. keep it up.

  3. Hi there Ken, I just want to say that I greatly enjoy reading your blog. You write really well! Your wit and humor are superb. Those are things I don’t have a lot of so I greatly admire those who do. Like anyone who loves Japan, I stumbled upon your blog while researching on something. After reading a few articles, I was hooked and am now reading from the very start (2008). Also, let me just tell you that you earned my respect for really doing your best in responding to every comment. Please keep on writing. Your articles are very informative and funny. I am living in Japan vicariously through you. I pray that I could also live there actually. It’s going to be my life’s one great adventure.

    Thank you so much Ken Seeroi! I hope you are always healthy and happy. 🙂

    Ps. I know you get this a lot but I sincerely hope that I would be able to meet you someday. It would be a great honor. God bless Ken!

    1. Ah, thanks so much! I really think you should live here (for a while, at least). Here’s a recent quote from a Japanese lady I happened to chat with: “Life’s too short. Try what you want to do.” So there, encouragement from an actual Japanese person. I’d say that sums it up pretty well.

      So yeah, Japan, it’s a great new adventure, and will probably change the way you see the world. For better and worse of course, but that’s how that works.

      1. Yeah, life is too short, and we chose to waste it by studying Japanese. Anyways, with this, I have read all of your articles. So, guess now I am free from the addiction.

        Btw, you should add some sort of notification to comment reply. Like, if anyone replies to my comment, I get some sort of notification by email.
        Anyways, and one more problem, I had written this long reply on one of your posts. But it seems to be not there right now. Like lost, in some way. I think the post was about who really learns Japanese, where you met this Nepali person.
        Anyways, that’s about that.

        1. If you’ve read everything I’ve written, you deserve some sort of award. For persistence, if nothing else. And thanks, seriously.

          I met a dude from Nepal one night, and he said the reason he was in Japan was because he couldn’t get into the U.S. Perhaps that was the comment?

          I’m not sure why that comment would have gone away. I blame the internet.

          1. Yea, it was nice reading about someone else’s life. Exciting even, doing it besides your Japanese colleague. God, I am thankful they cannot read English properly. They think I am researching some new equipment or something.
            I was thinking about going through all the comments as well. But, heck I am not bored enough to go through dozens of random strangers’ life history. One was more than enough.
            And about that lost comment, yes, it was on the post where you met the Nepali guy who could not be in US and came to Japan. I had written up my own loooong life history; where I come from and what I do and experiences and challenges in Japan and all that. Yea, But, may be no one wants to see one more random life history on your comments. Good riddance.
            And about notification for comment reply, think about that. I had forgotten where I wrote this comment. So, I had to browse through several of your posts. I should look up for my previous comments as well; maybe I have got some replies.

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