Words and photos by Kerry Werner.
It all started when I decided it wasn’t a good idea to do the China CX races at the beginning of the season. I started thinking, “What else can I do?” and then it hit me… I remembered Timmy J., Jeremy, and Zac McDonald all had done the CX Tokyo!
I had recently, even before thinking about CX Tokyo, grown a keen interest in Japanese culture, food, and the city lights. It blows my mind how their traditional views within society can keep 40 million people in line. You would think that crime would run rampant in the streets, it would be dirty and littered, and people would be jerks. Everything was quite the opposite.
People were nice, even though I was a little shocked to learn that many people spoke little English. I guess I am too use to the melting pot of Europe where everyone speaks 3-6 languages. Apparently, the Japanese study English in school but then never have an opportunity to use it so they lose it (if you don’t use it you lose it).
The city was eye popping and with so many tall buildings! The only way to build as a contractor is up. The streets were clean and respect for the space of others was apparent everywhere I went.
I was most excited about the food scene. I had been watching “Mind of a Chef” on Netflix and David Cheng was really getting me excited for some ramen. I had tried to make it myself and I thought it was ok, however, my ignorance was immediately realized upon digging into my first bowl of tsukemen.
So after the post World Championship races Doug and I flew through Istanbul and then into Narita, 30miles west of Tokyo. The next morning we met up with Ryoji Aybeki, the CX Tokyo promoter. He was privy to my quest for the best bowl of ramen consequently we stopped for lunch on the way into Tokyo. In hindsight this was a blessing because when you walk into a ramen shop there is a vending machine type thing that you pick your ramen on, you pay, it prints your ticket, you hand it to the waiter and then wait for a steamy bowl of love.
The problem was that all the text on the machine was in Japanese and completely indecipherable to Doug or I. We tried to shoot from the hip later in the trip and it wasn’t a complete failure, we still got great ramen, but Doug ordered the biggest bowl on the menu by accident and didn’t eat until the next day at dinner.
Doug and I spent the first two days in the Tiato-Ku district, NW of Downtown, in Hotel Kurame. We walked everywhere, which may not have been great for the race but I have no regrets! We checked out historic Asakusa and the Skytree.
And from 350 meters up…
We had ramen all over and great coffee at “Bridge” recommended by my good friend Hans. We loitered in shop windows, picked up authentic handmade Japanese knives, bought souvenir chopsticks, frequented multi level malls, ate mochi on the road, and tried to blend in. We should have bought some medical masks to do this, maybe next time.
We wandered through temple grounds…
And were inspired by the intricate bike parking garages.
Pre-ride was Saturday. The course was all sand, which didn’t make me particularly excited. There was no need to do openers, simply riding the course was hard enough.
Doug and I spent all nights riding the train to somewhere new and checking out new districts. The night before the race was no different. We headed to Shibuya to check out the hustle and bustle. If I sat in the hotel room with my feet up, while in Tokyo, I would be looking back on the trip with regret.
We raced Sunday afternoon, which was nothing special for me. I felt as though I had the fitness just not the finesse. The sand was raping me. Aerobically, I wanted and felt as though I could pedal harder but, technically, my constantly shifting body weight was hindering any power output. I finished 6… I wanted that podium, but instead I pulled out my notepad (literally I pulled up the “Notes” app on my phone and wrote“sand practice”) next year will be better. Notice I had to cut the sleeves off my long sleeve jersey. Sun’s out guns out in February.
Big thanks to the Shimano boys for letting us take up room in their tent and all their help.
Doug and I headed back to the hotel, packed bikes, and hit the town. We were going to check out the Imperial Gardens, but were stopped by a guard. I think they close at dark. We had some Gyoza, dumplings, and sake. Then to soak up the nights festivities we had Yakatori in the bowels of the subway station and it was marvelous.
Monday we embarked on a sobering Journey to find “The Great Buddha”. This entailed a short 5k trail from Kita-Kamakura station to Hase Station. We saw Mount Fuji on the way, which was epic.
We found it!
We even checked out the beach then trained it back to the hotel.
Tuesday we woke early to walk 3 miles to the Tsujiki fish market.
We were greeted with fishermen who looked annoyed to see tourists wandering around their domain but who cares.
We plopped down for sushi in the markets next to the auction area and enjoyed. The raw fish had a texture I had never experienced before. It melted in my mouth and the flavor was enhanced that much more as I was watching the Sushi master hand craft my sashimi no more than 3 feet away.
A ball of mochi for the walk back and that was all she wrote. Doug and I grabbed our bags and trained it to the airport.
I can’t thank Ryoji and CX Tokyo enough for the experience. I don’t think I have a regret or a bad thought about my experience in the city, interacting with the people, or the culture. Though, the jet lag was brutal!