I love amazing people with my feats of subarashii cycling or whatever. The other day I rode about 15K one way to the class that I was teaching instead of wasting my time going to the station and waiting for the train, then getting off and walking. People were shocked. It's great, the Japanese, maybe more than American's are stunned by human powered transportation, even though bicycle riding is so much more prevalent here.
But for the meat of my post i wanted to mention a sickening and strange occurrence on my ride.
The route to the business where i teach took me south of the city through an area that has been developed almost entirely within the last 10 years, mostly in the preparations for and aftermath of the olympics. It was strange riding in this area because while Nagano has its share of big box retailers and auto lots, they're all crammed in next to mom and pop shops and houses and apartments. I was initially shocked upon my arrival at the intermixing of land use along Japanse streets. It's not uncommon to see a garden right next to a convenience store that's right next to some heavy manufacturing place. It's really strange from my perspective of land use and zoning that's so prevalent in the US. At any rate, the ride through the new part of town felt strangely homey; the big box retail and vacant parking lots along with wide roads and unrestricted traffic made me feel as though i were riding through some shitty suburb in middle america, not middle nippon. It was a nostalgic trip that was only broken occasionally when i realized that everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road and that there were bicycle lanes on the sidewalk, but it really wasn't that different from Edina or Hopkins or Urbandale. I was swept away by the charm of the highway strip.