I have developed an addiction to exploring the mountains, forests, and untrodden roads in my area of Japan, Niikawa, on my mamachari, and so as the weekend approaches, I have planned multiple options of exploration this Saturday. The rainy season has begun in the Sea of Japan side of Japan, and it will probably rain everyday for a month. As my interest in exploration is peaking, how could I cancel due to rain? I couldn’t, and in fact, I planned a trip that would work just fine in theory. I planned to go to Dousugi, which would take me to the neighboring town of Uozu, and into the mountains following a riverbed to a spot that is famous for giant cedar trees. In my hometown in Washington State, there are glorious cedar trees, so I have a special affinity for this tree. I think they are especially beautiful in the rain, and as the road would be mildly flat, this would be the journey for this weekend.
Tonight, I went to the hyaku-en shop (dollar store) to buy a poncho and wide brimmed hat in anticipation of heavy rains. I went, and reluctantly bought shoddy gear that wouldn’t last more than 20 minutes in the type of rain I would experience, but I thought little of the limitation, and was glowing from my optimism and enthusiasm to persevere. I would ride for about two hours in the rain with a dollar-poncho, no matter what … and like it.
Well, I came home, practiced the ken and jo (wooden sword and short staff) for an hour, took a shower, and saddled my bike to meet my favorite person in Japan, Terao Sensei, who is one of my coworkers, for dinner and beer.
It was raining. Not pouring, but definately raining, and I was on my way at a medium pace to our usual meeting spot for yakitori. The side-walks here have a part about a foot wide that is different from the rest of the side-walk, as it is has straight lines, which can easily trap a bike tire. In the rain, my front bike tire got caught in the grove, and sent my bike tire skidding as I was about two feet from a wooden stand up sign. My bike had turned and was skidding straight towards this sign, and I shifted my weight so that the bike collided with the sign but my body would fall slightly over and to the side of the obstruction.
I found myself half underneath the bike, to the side of the sign, and lying on the ground while my front tire was spinning from the impact. One of my first reactions was to look around to make sure no one had witnessed my blatant act of gaijin madness. Cars were passing, but no pedestrians were there to see. Next, I got up, put the sign back in its place (it had no marks of the incident luckily), picked up my bike, and resumed my trek to the restaurant with a straight face and steady heart.
The gods had spoken: I was not to ride my mamachari to Dousugi tomorrow if it was raining.
My front basket was greatly distorted, and the part that connects the light to the frame and tire was bent as to interfere with the spokes when the wheels turned, but really, no serious damage was done, and it can be fixed. My left paw has a few scratches, but no bruises, sores, broken bones, or inflating brains. I will not be going to Dousugi on that mamachari tomorrow, but why would I anyway if I can’t even ride safely on the sidewalks in mild rain for fifteen minutes?
What makes me most happy about this, was my ability to maintain zanshin! At the instant my bike hit the groove and went out of control, my vision shot straight to the impending danger, the sign, and my body began to react to the inevitable crash. I saved my body, and made impact with the ground in an amazingly pleasant way. There was no emotion or negative thoughts that entered the situation, I basically saw the situation, reacted, and proceeded on my way. “What about my bike!? I’m going to be late?! I’m never going to go on a trip tomorrow! I’m so stupid! The bike is so stupid! The rain is so stupid!” No, none of that. I did make sure I wasn’t too publicly embarrassed, but that was the only sign of ego to stain the experience.
I’m so happy I trashed my mamachari. I now know limitations to the bike, the effect of certain terrain, and that I can on some level react subconsciously to physical confrontation.
And I get to read more aikido books tomorrow.
Or find a way to get to Dousugi in the rain … on another mamachari …
Time to drink beer and restrategize my battle plans.