Horse-riding is an integral part of living for many in country Australia, where Kangaeroo spent the formative years of life.
Incredibly, in spite of this, and despite a landmass 26 times greater and population only about 1/6th the size, Australian horse riding services are generally far more expensive than their Japanese counterparts.
Provided you’re happy enough riding in a relatively confined space, it’s unbelievably accessible to ride horses in Japan, financially and in terms of getting to places to ride.
Moreover, there’s far less red tape involved in riding in Japan, where helmets, high-viz and other rigmarole are not mandatory as they are in the Aussie nanny state.
Kangaeroo’s days of regular horse riding are long gone, but that doesn’t make him a “neigh-sayer” when it comes to Japanese gee-gees.
Having completed about two-thirds of a circumnavigation of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, the final day was supposed to be an easy jaunt to the train station and a comfortable ride home to Tokyo for the Kangaeroo crew.
“Ha, ha,” laughed the devil.
On paper, the last leg of the Biwaichi circumnavigation was a mere 60 kilometers on a flat course, nearly all of which was isolated bike tracks.
For the first hour, that was precisely what Kanageroo and the missus got as they headed out of Seta and off toward Hikone.
The bitter taste of a terrible time at the Royal Oak Shiga slowly dissipating as we rode along Biwa, which offered a clear view of its built-up opposite bank with mountains in the background.
Nearing Moriyama, however, the wind suddenly blew up a storm…right into our faces.
The gentle ride suddenly became a herculean task as we ground the Brompton and BD-1 into the face of the 30-km/h headwind.
The steady rapid pace of the day’s first hour of riding was almost halved in the near gale, and pedaling became even more difficult in the open farmlands near Azuchi, where cyclists got no protection.
Finally, though, we rolled into Hikone at around lunchtime, an arrival somewhat earlier than planned.
It was here that Kangaeroo was to fulfill a 30-year-long dream of visiting Hikone Castle.
Before arriving in Japan in 1988, Kangaeroo read a travel guide that raved about the feudal era castle and its surrounding gardens.
Life intervened, though, and he never made it….until now!
Hikone Castle was a delight! The early 17th century castle is one of only a dozen that is in its original state. Glorious gardens that had once been the havens of the castle’s lords remain intact, as does the inner moat around the castle.
Even more delightful, a yakatabune runs tours through the moat, giving a wonderful look at the castle and accompanied by (Japanese language) guides with expert knowledge on the national treasure.
What’s more, there was also a little touch of Australia with a black swan (endemic to Oz, but this one was born in Japan) swimming its waters and frantically chasing the boat as it headed through the moat.
After an obligatory photo with the castle’s nationally famous mascot, Hikonyan, it was off to Champontei for a bowl of omi champon, noodles that are a local specialty.
Following the hearty and delicious meal it was a short walk to Hikone Station, where the bikes ended their fabulous journey by being packed back into their bags for the train trip home.
Being the year’s last long weekend, the trains were packed as the Kangaeroo crew headed back to Tokyo.
But it was essentially an eventful, though long, journey on the stopping all stations kodama bullet train to Odawara and then suburban trains to get home.
It was an amazing and rewarding journey with special kudos to Mrs. Kangaeroo, Brommie and Birdy for jobs well done.
Blessed with a long weekend and loads of motivation, Kangaeroo and Mrs. Kangaeroo got out the foldups and built up the resolve to circumnavigate Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.
The 235-km shore length is not for the faint-hearted, though plenty make the trip in a single day, courtesy of the almost completely flat course.
Nonetheless, it’s a demanding distance for irregular cyclists, so Kangaeroo had cause for concern regarding the missus, who admittedly cycles day, but does so on an e-bike and not an old foldup with no track record of triple-figure journeys.
Anyway, putting aside the concerns, Mrs. Kangaeroo remained deeply confident of her abilities and plotted out the trip, designing it to have full enjoyment at the lowest possible cost.
Thus the Kangaeroo couple headed out from home late on Friday night, racing to Kawasaki to catch the bus to Hikone, from where their circumnavigation would start.
Arriving at the bus stop and folding and bagging the deadly treadlies, Kangaeroo was surprised when the jobsworth driver informed him that bus company policy was to not carry bikes.
“We’ll let you on this time, but take no responsibility for any damage that occurs in transit,” the officious driver said.
The driver then wrapped the bikes in blankets, ensured no luggage was around them and went to enormous pains to make sure the bikes would be safe.
And, indeed, the Brompton and BD-1 were safe and unscathed when the bus finally made its way to Hikone the following morning, arriving more than 1 hour late thanks to roadworks and heavy traffic.
The less than ideal start was compounded by Kangaeroo having caught a cold, leaving him coughing and spluttering with snot running riot.
Countering that, though, was glorious weather. Blue, sunny skies and welcoming warmth greeted the riders as the foldups were unfolded, the luggage packed on the Brommie’s racks, and the riders set off.
Just one problem….which way to go? Fortunately, there was a sign to Hikone Port not far from the station and that seemed a logical place to head for considering the city is located on the lake (and not the sea).
Within a few minutes riding along the moat of the city’s renowned and beautiful castle moat, the Kanagaeroo crew reached the port and found the huge blue arrows that serve as the indicators for the Biwaichi, the abbreviation of 琵琶湖一周 (biwakoisshuu), or circumnavigation of Lake Biwa.
The remainder of the day was simply exquisite!
We rode north from Hikone, essentially hugging the lake’s shoreline.
It didn’t take long to reach Nagahama, the first big town after leaving Hikone, and also with a notable castle of its own, surrounding with a lovely garden.
Kangaeroo was worried about the missus, having seen seasoned riders struggle a little on a less than 80-kilometer trip in Kyushu just last month.
But she was resilient, pounding away on the Birdy’s pedals and less susceptible to the call for a cuppa than Kangaeroo.
A snack was partaken at a delightfully quaint, lakeside cafe basking in the sun in Takashima.
From there, it was a couple of kilometers off the beaten track to the Makino Metasequoia, a row of redwoods leading to Makino Pick Land, where punters can at times gather their own fruit for eating.
On the day the Kangaeroo crew arrived, there was a local market going on.
While Mrs. Kangaeroo went of to get a French lunch, Kangaeroo clumsily carried the bikes up a flight of stairs to score a seat.
Well, it was a right mess, but people flocked from all sides to help out, including another Aussie, who was there with her hubby and we had a wonderful conversation.
True to form, her hospitality was outstanding and we tucked into our French fare armed with an invitation to drop by her home during our trip.
Having eaten more than out fill, it was off to Imazu, where we would end the first day’s journey.
We even saw a couple of wild monkeys along the way!
The Imazu Sun Bridge hotel, while being nothing flashy, was simply outstanding in terms of its handling of cyclists and bicycles.
We were warmly welcomed, the bikes wheeled into a protected area behind the Reception Desk and the staff treated the bicycles with great care.
Imazu would be a nondescript town were in not for the existence of a few prewar buildings designed by an American architect who would naturalize and spend the war interred in Karuizawa.
After a tour of these buildings, it was back to the hotel room to watch the Rugby World Cup final where the Springboks blanketed England, ending an amazingly well-coordinated event where Japan excelled itself both on and off the field, as well as turned Kangaeroo into a rugby fan having (erroneously) previously dismissed it as a rich boy’s sport with little appeal.
Australia’s rugby team, the Wallabies, were ignominiously dumped from the 2019 Rugby World Cup that Japan is currently hosting (and being lauded for both its organization skills and the rousing performance of its unfancied team).
The Wallabies lost badly to England in a quarter final, mostly because they were not good enough as a team.
But Kangaeroo.com has also discovered another reason for the Wallabies’ woes.
Gorgeous Jindaiji Temple, which supported the Wallabies’ woeful World Cup, is situated in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu, location of the Aussies’ group stage loss against Wales on September 29 that effectively derailed their campaign on the field.
Jindaiji had proudly displayed Wallabies jerseys (alongside a Brave Blossoms team shirt, too, it should be noted) and supported the Australian team as it tried to regain the William Webb Ellis Trophy it last won in 1999.
The temple also displayed a daruma, a doll traditionally used to pray for good luck in Japan, as well as a message wishing the team well. Here is that message, reproduced in full (with spelling and grammatical errors intact):
The conetents the priest preached when he visited the camping place for the match
Daruma is a Japanese style a bringere of good luck which you can find at restaurants, in the houses and so son. This Daruma is representing a monk who was meditating for 9 years. When you think about meditation, you might think it’s static, but actually during meditation we are fighting against and enduring something like weakness or anger or worldly desires. Meditation is not just static, but also conflicting against ourselves. that’s the training of Buddhism and that’s the spirit which Daruma is showing to us. This spirit is exactly like the spirit of Rugby. It’s very dynamic in contrast, but you play desperately for one goal with focused. In Japan, there is a proverb associated with this Daruma. that is “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” It is a saying about never giving up no matter how many times life knocks you down because Daruma always comes back after falling down. The important thing is same in Sports. The high spirits touch people’s hearts. So, like this daruma, attend to the spirit and concentrate on the game and play a good game which touches people. I believe that this Daruma which you team put strong wish will bring good result. Today we want you to put one eye into Daruma. Putting an eyes means that you swear to start the mental training and achieve the goal. This ceremony is for the time which you have strong wish, so please don’t fool around make a wish.
Clearly, then, in spite of rumors of a rift in the Wallabies camp, the reason for such a dismal showing by the two-time champions and reigning runners-up was that they fooled around to make a wish.
The Tigers enter the game as a slight favorite against the league’s youngest club, which is playing in the Grand Final for the first time ever.
The Giants are the league’s Baby Frankenstein, having received hundreds of millions of dollars since league headquarters formed the team in 2010 to tap into one of Australia’s fastest-growing urban areas and to add another match to make broadcast rights more attractive to bidders.
Richmond makes the Grand Final despite having been plagued by long-term injuries to key players throughout the season. They will go into the game knowing that the last time these two teams met, the Tigers walked away victors at the MCG, a ground where they have won 34 of their last 38 matches.
The Giants have been brilliant throughout the finals series, winning their way through to the championship game by defeating highly favored opponents in the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood Magpies along the way. They also add some mongrel and talent with stars Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene coming back into the team. If they fire, things might get tough for the Tiges.
Greene will be refreshed, having sat out the previous week’s final against Collingwood after the tribunal (whose composition is two-thirds former Collingwood players) suspended him for a trivial infarction he denied committing, but probably paid the price for a season filled with a litany of unpunished offenses.
Kangaeroo.com is a lifelong supporter of the Tigers and, borrowing a turn of phrase from our aMerkin brethren, expects them to become the world champions of Australian football for 2019 by reducing the Giants to size.
Dennis was racing for the first time since his sudden withdrawal during Stage 12 of the Tour de France in July.
Few expected the reigning champion to defend his title, but Dennis averaged 49.7 km/h over the 54 km course to win by more than 1 minute over his closest rival.
“It’s been a long route to get here since July,” Dennis told a news conference. “There are a lot of people to thank. It’s not just been tough for me, it’s been tough for them too. It’s really special to back up this year and come here in the best possible shape to defend this title and show that I haven’t hung up the bike.
Dennis is Australia’s second multiple time trial world champion. Mick Rogers was a three-time winner from 2003-2005.