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May 2010 Archives

May 8, 2010

Staying in a Ryokan

You haven't really been to Japan until you stay in a Ryokan or Japanese style inn. Rates are higher than business hotels, but may include breakfast and/or dinner and a hot spring bath. When you arrive at the inn, remove your shoes in the entry and step up into the guest slippers that are supplied, taking care not to step on the entry floor in stocking feet. A staff person will guide you to your room. Take off your slippers at the entry before stepping onto the delicate "tatami" or woven rush mat floor.

Typical guest room in a ryokan

In the center of the room will be a low table with a "zabuton" cushion to kneel on. On the table is a thermos of hot water and a tea set, ready for you to make "ocha" or green tea. Often there's a small sweet or rice crackers to nibble with your tea. You won't see any bed in the rooms because the "futon" bedding hides in a closet during the day. After dinner, a staff person will come and lay out the bed for you on the floor.

Yamanaka Ryokan in Tokyo with my Speeding tikit

After a long day of biking and sight-seeing, there's nothing like a soak in the "ofuro" or bath to relax sore muscles. Most Ryokan (say 'dyo' and 'kahn' in 2 quick syllables) have large communal baths - one for women, one for men - often fed by natural thermal springs. When you head to the bath, take along a bath towel, a small towel for washing, and "yukata" cotton kimono and "obi" sash supplied in your room. You can tell which bath is for women and men by the red or blue curtain outside the door. In the changing room, stash your clothes in a basket and take your small towel with you to the bath area.

The first thing to do is grab a small stool and basin and wash thoroughly at one of the spigots. There's usually a shower head as well, which you can use while seated. Rinse soap suds by pouring lots of hot water over your shoulders. Once clean, step into the very hot tub and relax. You can leave the small towel in the washing area, or, as many people do, fold it and put it on your head (don't dip the towel in the tub). Often there are rocks and plants artfully arranged with hot water running down. There may be a "roten-buro" or outdoor spa set among rocks and trees with screening for privacy. There's nothing like soaking in a hot spring bath with snow drifting down while gazing at the mountains! In cities the rotenburo may be on the top floor of the hotel.
(Adapted from "Living Abroad in Japan" 2008 by Ruthy Kanagy, page 84.)

Cycle tour group at Inn Fujitomita near Mt. Fuji

Last fall I stayed at Suigetsu Hotel Ogaiso in Ueno on a cycle tour I led. It is not inexpensive, but very comfortable and walking distance to the National Museums, Ueno Park and Zoo, and 'Shita-machi" old Tokyo neighborhoods, with convenient train connection to Narita Airport. (Ruthy Kanagy).

Booking a Japanese Style Inn

Japan Guesthouses

Japan Ryokan Association

May 26, 2010


If you're the lazy type who want to take it easy on the bicycle, try out one of the "Den-Do-Assisuto", or the electric assisted bicycles.


They're nothinig new or minor, and can been seen in large quantities all around Tokyo and in Japan. You may not notice them at a glance since they're mostly in the same form factor of the mama-chari, or shopping bikes. You can distinguish them by the battery pack they carry between the the seat and the pedal.
One characteristic that sets these bicycles aside from electric bikes found in other countries is that they are electric assist bikes, not electically driven bikes. The electric motor is only there to assist your pedaling, not to run the bike instead of you as in a scooter. Sorry folks who though they could skip the cranking... this is because the bikes need to stay human-powered in order to stay legally categorized as bicycles. (Maximum assist power is defined as well)

They first kilometer and a few stop and goes on the bike will give you a strange feeling. To feel an aggresive acceleration that doesn't match up with the power you put on to pedal yourself is something your senses do not expect right away. But soon, the surprise turns in to smiles after a few stop and goes when you quickly become used to it. This assisted acceleration is something one should experience.
The electrical assist mechanisms on the latest bikes are smart, and controls the level of assistance by sensing the force you put on to the pedals. If you slam the on the "gas", the assisted acceleration is huge, and the assist is soft if you pedal light.

The easiest way to experience the Den-Do Assisuto is to rent one. MUJI (Mujirushi Ryohin) at Yurakucho has a rental bike service where you can rent an electric assist bicycle.

  • Mujirushi Ryouhin Yuurakucho

    • 1 min walk frim JR "Yuraku-Cho" Sta. Kyobashi Exit.
      (You can casually stroll around Ginza and Marunouchi using the rental

    • Fee(weekdays) 525yen/day (tax included)

    • Fee(weekends) 1,050yen/day (tax included)

    • Deposit 3,000yen (cash only, returned on bike return)

    • Time 10:00 - 20:00 (registration 18:00)

    • Passport or ID required

    • Reservations accepted

    • http://www.mujiyurakucho.com/info/index.asp

About May 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Cycle Tokyo ! Weblog in May 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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