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Don't forget:
Spare tube & bike pump
A helmet
Beer money

Weather permitting, I'll be guiding a group of fearless readers on this ride on Saturday, September 20 (Sunday, September 21 if it rains), starting at noon from the Azabu Juban water park. Please have your bike (and yourself) in shape. I'll even demonstrate how to fix a flat. Call 090-5813-6721 if the weather looks iffy.


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514: From here to maternity
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502: Tour de Morton, part deux
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Tour de Morton

Seasoned bicyclist Don Morton charts a course to Odaiba.

Finally a sunny weekend. You've pumped up your bicycle's tires, dusted off your helmet and done a little stretching-but where to go in a concrete jungle of 30 million people?
Unlikely as it may look, Tokyo offers a few surprisingly pleasant urban bicycle rides that will exercise, entertain and even edify you. We'll start with that landfill paradise out in Tokyo Bay. Forget that cute little automatic train, a ride out to Odaiba and back is well within the capabilities of almost anyone (about an hour each way, few hills), and provides a look at a dozen different facets of Tokyo to boot.

First, though, a little preparation. Take along a spare tube, a tire pump and the knowledge of how to change a tire (or someone who does). Failing that, take enough money to cover the cost of a taxi back for you and your bike (hint: fixing the flat is cheaper). Study a map of Tokyo before you go and the following instructions will make a bit more sense. So rip out this page and let's get started.


Starting point

We'll begin in Azabu Juban at the little water park (photo 1) where three overhead expressways meet. From there, head toward the bay. You should immediately pass Nissin "World Delicatessen" on the right as you go down the right side of the road. Keep going toward Mita, passing Tokyo Tower on your left. When the four-lane road narrows to a one-lane, one-way, keep going straight, through two lights, a little one and then the big Route 15, and pass under the JR tracks via a little pedestrian/bicycle underpass (photo 2).

Cross under the expressway and turn left along the right side of the street. This takes you past the lovely Hama Rikyu Garden on the right-worth a visit. Follow the road around the garden to the right to Tsukiji fish market. When you get to Harumi Dori, turn right and cross the double-arch Kachidoki Bridge (photo 3). Left would take you to Ginza. Keep going toward Triton Square (photo 4), where you will turn left and proceed along the right side of the road.

From this point, just follow your nose, and this sidewalk will make three gradual turns to the right, and after a few kilometers bring you to an elevated expressway. Cross under the expressway (but not the railway) and turn to the right along the left side of the road (photo 5), go straight for about a kilometer and welcome to the Emerald City.

Cruise your way through the future-land that is Odaiba, pass Big Sight (photo 6) and the central mall (photo 7), arriving eventually at the Museum of Maritime Science, that thing that looks like an ocean-liner-shaped love hotel with a red-topped tower on it (photo 8).

Side trip: from here you can explore out toward the container port. Passing to the left of the museum, turn to the right when you reach the bay, staying as close as possible to the water for the next few kilometers. This will wind around past a fountain and across a footbridge (photo 9). Check out that white sculpture on the way, the one that changes to something different when viewed from a 90-degree angle (photo 10).

Eventually this will bring you to what passes for a Santa Monica beach. I suggest the little café near the wind-surfboard storage with the white chairs that plays reggae music, and several beers, for this is today's destination (photo 11).


Home stretch

Coming out of the beach area, turn left under the train tracks and take the road (photo 12) that goes to the left of the Ariake Coliseum tennis mecca. This road is straight and uneventful, but a faster way out.

You'll come to the road you came in on and turn left along the left sidewalk and retrace your tread tracks. Just after the bridge before Triton Square, take a right, across the road (photo 13), "inland" toward Ginza. You'll cross a medium-sized bridge and descend into Tsukishima, where they serve at many places a distinctive dish called monja-yaki, a kind of okonomiyaki.

Back on the route, just before the next bridge, across the mighty Sumida, explore the neighborhood just to the right. It's a charming small town within the big city named Tsukuda, but I call it the "red bridge area" (photo 14). Gear down for the climb up the pedestrian ramp to the Sumida River bridge. On the other side it gets a bit labyrinthine, but you should go through Ginza, bear north a bit, and, ideally, end up passing between the Tokyo International Forum on your left and Tokyo Station on your right.

Keep going toward the palace and turn left at the last light when you can't get any closer. Then a right toward one of the best parts of this ride: where the road takes you through the centuries-old Sakuradamon gate. This will bring you to Kasumigaseki. Go right along the moat and cross the street toward the Diet building, then bear toward Tameike and Ark Hills (best to stay on the right sidewalk). Then up a hill to Roppongi and down another (the diagonal street at Almond) back to our starting point.

You can of course begin or end this ride from any point on it and, as I have done, refine it through trial-and-error exploration. No better way to learn a city than getting lost in it, and a bike makes this more fun.

Photo credit: Photos by Don Morton

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