Friday, 10 July 2009

Along the road in Japan

Cycling along roads in Japan can be full of surprises and there is usually something interesting to see:

First of all you are never far from a drink in Japan. There are soft drink vending machines everywhere - and I am not exaggerating here. At least every km or so you come across them. And because Japan is a country where everyone obeys the rules they are never ever vandalised, but work! And the biggest surprise: The drinks are not even overpriced either.

But drinks is not the only thing you can buy in a vending machine: We have seen machines selling fish bait, sushi, batteries, flowers and most interesting: porn magazines and DVD's. No joke again: We came across a monstrous agglomaration of porn vending machines right in the middle of nowhere on a quiet country road. And again: The merchandise was not exactly overpriced either. These porn vending machines lead to another surprising road find: You will find discarded porn magazines and DVD's all along roads as well....

Another typical Japanese job seems to be - a flag waver! In Europe and the US road works are usually guarded by mobile traffic lights leading to all sorts of traffic jams. Not so in Japan: Itis very rare to see traffic lights around road works - instead there are real live flag wavers. No matter whether it rains or the sun is frying your brain: They are standing there stoically and happily waving traffic around dressed in a smart (and way too hot uniform) waving a red/white flag or flourescent stick. And even better: Everybody obeys them!

Result: We have never seen a major traffic jam around road works here. But sometimes there are more flag wavers than construction workers and it also takes some time to get used to being bowed at by them. One even was so friendly as to invite us to a cold drink - out of the drink vending machine of course! And by the way: These people do not only work at road works, but you see them at all major car parks of supermarkets or gambling halls and they also lead you out of gas stations.

Also ubiquitous in Japan are the tunnels. I thought they have a lot of tunnels in Switzerland, but I was wrong..... Our record so far: 20 tunnels in 40 km ranging from 200 m to 2,1 km!!! A lot of these tunnels even have bike paths or at least decent lighting, but I have to admit that after 20 tunnels I was a little bit shaken. And by the way: 2 km of tunnel is nothing special here..... I am very happy to have an automatic light sensor on my bike. I know it is a rather kinky feature, but with all these tunnels it is very handy. The sensor realizes that it is dark and automatically switches on the light.... Great!

Another source of constant joy are Japanes road signs that more resemble comics. My favourite one is the one warning you of rock slides in form of a mountain spitting rocks at cars.

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