In an attempt to both get fit and offer my neighbours the comical sight of a chubby fellow on two wheels, I have bought a bicycle. I don’t know much about bikes, so I just went to the shop and got one that I thought looked quite nice and was about my size. Today, as it was a beautiful day, I went for a ride.
I had no destination in mind, I simply set off and turned down any little side streets or alleys that took my fancy. I passed shrines and temples, old stone markers and immaculate cemeteries. I passed springy rows of green tea, their fresh leaves ripe for the picking. I rode under the highway and darted down a path next to a small river where three young children were wading in the water with nets. I rode further, away from the traffic until I was alone amongst fields which will soon be full of water and rice plants and the chorus of frogs. An elderly man was cultivating his field as four white herons stood nearby and watched. A snake slithered by. I stopped to photograph the birds and the snake, and the man in the tractor stopped what he was doing to come and chat.
He was a leathery man of minimal teeth. He asked where I was from and if we had rice fields in Britain. I said that we didn’t and he said, ‘Of course, it’s cold in Britain, isn’t it?’ I said that it was. I told him that we occasionally had days with weather as it is now, but that they were few and far between. He smiled and said that yappari Japan is the best place. I looked around. The weather was wonderful. I was alone in beautiful countryside having a pleasant chat with an old farmer. Elsewhere, on the highway I had passed earlier, people would be stuck in air-conditioned Golden Week traffic. I was in the fresh air, and free to ride off in whichever direction I fancied. The farmer was wrong. Japan probably isn’t the best place. But right at that moment, I felt he had a point.
I could get used to his cycling malarkey.