When I picked up my current apartment, the original plan was for me to take the TX (train) to Tsukuba Station, and then bike from there to work. Of course, life and procrastination got in the way of my plan, and I was taking the bus for the last 2 months.
But last week, in the mandatory medical examination, I found out that I was 4kg above my “ideal” weight D: That’s when I decided that it was time to put an end to my sedentary life once and for all, and start biking to work as I planned.
It was not that easy though. First things first, bicycles in Tsukuba are surprisingly expensive. When I was in Tokyo, I bought a nice, 3 gear, “mama-charin” (a city bicycle with a large basket in front) for 10.000 yens at a shop near my home. But looking in Tsukuba, the cheapest bikes I could find were from 12.500 and above, for no-gears, very flimsy bikes. The simplest geared bicycles were upwards of 18.000 yens. I was flabbergasted with these prices – so far, everything else in Tsukuba has been cheaper than in Tokyo. But not the bicycles :-(
Fortunately, some friends pointed me towards a second-hand store where I found an old bike for more “reasonable” 9.500 yens. It looked sturdy, had a pretty big basket, and 5 levels of shifting gears. However, it also had plenty of rust marks and it makes a weird sound sometimes. I will think of these as “battle scars”.
Besides buying the bike, there is a second, somewhat more serious problem: parking.
Parking bikes near train stations in Japan is always somewhat complicated. Because everyone uses them, the stations tend to get a bit crowded with bikes. So usually a large radius around the station is marked as a no-bike-parking zone. You can sometimes ignore this if you are only stopping for a night, or for a few hours — but there is always the risk of the cleaning truck picking up the illegal bikes and taking them to “bike prison”, where you’ll have to pay a hefty fee and be severely stared down by an old man to get your bike back.
Of course, you can pay for your parking, and that is what I was planning to do. However, the legal bike parking lots get crowded pretty quickly. When I first started looking for a bike on Sunday, the parking lot guy told me that there were still a couple of spots left. I thought that those were left-overs from the “start of year” season (early april), and would stay vacant for the time being. Big mistake. New registrations open every month, and since Sunday was the 2nd, these were the last remaining spots from June opening. I finally bought my bike today, and when I went there to ask for a parking spot, they were all long gone — new registrations will only open in July.
All that I can do until there is to pay the daily parking spots, which are much more expensive than the monthly ones :-( I guess I will probably only use the bike once or twice per week (or on weekends), and make sure to get my spot on the line in July.
Oh well, at least I have a bike now! :-D