2003-11-08/09 Karuizawa Cycling - Bike Friday Meeting Japan 2003 (1/2)

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This year's Bike Friday Meeting in Japan 2003 was held on November 8th and 9th in Karuizawa, Japan. The meeting annually held in conjunction with the Tandem Gathering is called the Karuizawa Cycling Meeting, and is hosted by Kataoka-san of Cycletech-IKD, our Bike Friday distributor. Owners of Bike Fridays, as well as other bikes (participation is welcome to all)get together for a two-day gathering to tour around Karuizawa, party, change information, and last but not least show off their Bike Fridays.

Copyright -Shiroi Chizu Kobo-

Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture, a resort town located about 1000m above sea level is famous as a place to escape during the summer season. A 2 to 3 hour ride inland in the north-west direction from Tokyo, either by train or car brings you to this relaxing resort. Mount Asama, an still-active volcano can be seen near by on clear days. Since Karuizawa itself is located at a fairly high elevation, there are several interesting hill climbs and downhills, around the vicinity, making it a nice cycling area. Usui-Touge, or Usi-pass is famous historically for being the major only pass through to Karuizawa from Takasaki, a major town nearby. Of course, many trendy shops and restaurants are located in the Kyu (Old) Karuizawa district, and a new outlet mall makes Karuizawa suit also for in-town pottering with your favorite bike.

This years Bike Friday Meeting turned out to be special with Alan Scholz-san, co-founder and Product Manager of Bike Friday and Ruthy Kanagy-san (known as O-Rusu-san in Japan), Japan Community Advocate of Bike Friday coming to Japan and showing up for the meeting.
Having the two guests from Bike Friday to ride and talk together was very exciting experience for everyone. Special thanks for coming over.

For us...@nak(A) and @nak(Ta), this was the first time participating in the Bike Friday Meeting, with our 2 Bike Friday Sat-R-Days in April of this year through Kataoka-san. We were looking forward to meeting all the Bike Fridays, all the Sat-R-Days, and their owners !

Information about Karuizawa...
JNTO Website >Regional Tourist Guides
JNTO Website >Map of Karuizawa vicinity

We still haven't tried out carrying 2 Sat-R-Days on the train...(Ta)-san, my wife just cannot carry the heavy load up and down the stairs of the train stations in Japan. We also have a hard time getting up early in the morning :-(, so we decided to pack our stuff in the car and leave for Karuizawa the night before the meeting.

Fortunately, we have a fairly large station wagon (by Japanese standards) that will store 2 Sat-R-Days standing up.
A 3 hour drive on Friday night brought us to Karuizawa.

Kataoka-san had a down hill and hill climb of Usui-Touge (Usui-pass) planned prior to the meeting, which we decided to participate in. We joined the few which would start from Karuizawa, enjoy the downhill to Yokokawa-Station and meet up with the rest of the people who came by train to Yokokawa, and climb back up to Karuizawa.

At the top of the hill, Kataoka-san warns Alan-san not to stare in to the monkey's eyes when you see one. Yes...there are alot of wild monkeys around here, so watch out !

The downhill group : "Nezukichi"-san on the Air Friday, Nagino-san on the Sat-R-Day, Alan-san on the Air Friday, Ruthy-san on the Pocket Crusoe (company-bike...she left her Sat-R-Day back in Oregon and grabbed this for the trip to Japan), with Kataoka-san in the background.(Sorry Kataoka-san), " @nak(Ta)" on the Sat-R-Day and myself(" @nak(A)" on the Sat-R-Day). "(Ta)"-san went zipping by, way too fast for a picture ! :-)

A short stop at the beautiful "Megane-Bashi" (EyeGlass Bridge). The name of the bridge comes from the shape of the arches which look like a pir of glasses. The bridge was built more than 100 years ago to pass trains from Takasaki through the steep moutains to Karuizawa. The railroad and the bridge was taken over by a new rail route in 1963, then the Shinkansen...Bullet train in 1997. It is now a monument and scenic point that can be crossed on foot.

On our way down, we can see the entrance to the old NakaSen-do.(NakaSen Road) that used to connect Edo(Tokyo) and Osaka, in the Edo-period.
Lake Usui provides us a beautiful scenery.

After lots of downhill (more than 150 curves of it), we arrive at Yokokawa-station where we are greeted by the members who arrived by train. Greetings, welcomes, self-introductions, and chatting....usual offline meeting atmosphere.

Now, back to where we came from, the hill climb starts...we pass by the sign that reads "Usui-Pass starts here. Many curves ahead, Careful driving"

Each one climbs at his/her own pace, resting here and there.
We picked the best time of the autumn season to climb this pass...the leaves are so beautiful !

The red and yellow leaves shine under the sun. We had expected cold weather with rain this weekend, but luck seems to be on our side.

Nagino-san and (Ta)-san riding along. There are few occasions where you can see two ladies riding Sat-R-Days. The first time for (Ta)-san, she was very happy to have company of another woman Sat-R-Day rider.

Remains of the old railroad can be seen here and there along the roadside, tunnels and railway paths. Of course, we ride through a tunnel of red and yellow leaves.

Our recumbent evangelist...Maki-san follows (Ta)-san. The red and yellow Sat-R-Days fit in just right with the picture, with the autumn leaves.

A short ways past the 139th curve.....lunch time !
Everyone bought lunch boxes at Yokokawa-station before the hill climb, and we opened it up for a short lunch break. After lunch, the group hurried up the rest of the pass, and in to Karuizawa-town where the Bike Friday meeting will start at Hotel Lady-Bird.

When the climbers arriveat the hotel around 2:30pm, the others who came directly to Karuizawa have already gathered at Hotel Lady-bird to welcome us. More than 30 people gathered this year, and Kataoka-san declares the start of the Bike Friday meeting.

Oops...my camera is out of battery !

picture courtesy of Kisa-san

The group decides to ride as much as we can today, since the forcast does not seem good for tomorrow. Kataoka-san leads us on a ride towards the Mercian Whiskey Distillery, so that we can enjoy a little more down-hill and up-hill. Not everyone is the all mighty athlete here...about halfways to the Mercian factory, the group is split in to two groups ; ones that want to ride more, and others who prefer an shorter and easier course. Kataoka-san took charge of the short course, while Ono-san took lead of the long ride group

(picture courtesy of Kisa-san)

The ride to the Mercian factory included a long down hill, and with the sun starting to set got everyone somewhat worried about the way back. (The way back was a different route which wasn't all that bad...) The group took a short break at the Mercian distillery.(We didn't have time for a factory sightseeing tour.) Some had tea and cake, and some....tasted wine and whiskey ! (Hey...no drunk drivin' fellas !)

(picture courtesy of Kisa-san)

We stopped by at an Japanese antique shop near Oiwake-juku on our way back to the hotel. I had no success in explaining to Alan what was there... I didn't even know what they were !

Gettting back to the hotel(about 6pm was it ?), we checked-in, took showers, and got ready for.....DINNER ! Boy, were we hungry !

Dinner was served in a buffet type manner, which as always turned into a "En-kai"....the Japanes for drinking party.

A word from Kataoka-san, our host continued by Alan-san and Ruthy-san.

Kan-pai !(cheers!)....Let the battle begin (for food, that is....)

Alan-san and Ruthy-san brought us some verrry nice gifts for the participants. Thanks a million !

A very interesting Q & A session, where Alan-san and Ruthy-san talked and answered questions about the Petite-Series, Pocket Pilot, Crusoe, and future plans for Bike Friday recumbents !

The evening continued with a cycling report presentation of Cycle Oregon - Bike Friday Meeting 2003 by Ono-san, and a trip to Taiwan by "Yagi-chan"

Day 1 End....Continues to Day 2


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