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Archive for the ‘Neighborhoods’ Category

Photo #25 – Train out of Saga Arashiyama Station in Kyoto

Train heads into the moutains just west of Saga Arashiyama Station in Kyoto, Japan.

This photo corresponds with Episode 4 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 4 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


This train is heading into the mountains and will eventually reach Kameoka, the same destination the Sagano Torokko Romantic Train ends up if you choose to take the scenic route along the Hozugawa River.

This stretch of track is located in the Sagano area and the photo was taken as I bicycled down into the north end of the Arashiyama district of Kyoto. Saga Arashiyama Station is only about 300 meters behind this train as it heads west into the mountains and away from the camera. I must admit I had no idea I was so close to the station at the moment I took the photo. The wonders of GPS and my new geotagging hobby. :-)

The Saga Arashiyama Station is one of the boarding points for the Sagano Torokko Romantic Train. You will see the scenic train referenced with different names in English, but always some combination of the words I used here.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

Photo #22 – Lamborghini vs. Mama’s Chariot (Mamachari)

Lamborghini Countach and Japanese Mamachari Bicycle
This photo corresponds with Episode 4 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 4 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


I am fortunate that one of my new house mates just bought a geared bike and is letting me borrow his old mamachari. The mamachari may not be quite as sexy as this Lamborghini Countach I stumbled upon in my neighborhood, but I would still choose this mamachari bicycle over any car for exploration in Kyoto.

Mamacharis are not only ridden by moms as the name might suggest. They are the main source of transportation for all age groups and both genders in Japan. There are plenty of cars in Japan, but I’m sure the number of cars is not anywhere close to the number of mamachari bicycles. Mamacharis are single gear, simple mechanisms that are very low cost, efficient, and easy to keep functioning.

Not having ridden a single gear bike regularly since I was a child, I already find myself longing for one of the many standard and sometimes quite funky, geared bikes that can also be found in Japan. But even with this single geared mamachari, I’m sure I’ll be staying in great biking shape, sprinting all over Kyoto as fast as I can make this bike’s single sprocket spin.

I used to like to think that the word mamachari came from the the English words mama and chariot, but I have since learned that though mama does come from mama, chari comes from another word.

I have heard different ideas on where chari comes from, from different Japanese persons. But my friend Hiro gave me the true answer a long time ago. I need to check with him again to make sure I get the specifics right. I’ll be adding a lot more about Japanese bicycles here and on the podcast in the future

Photo Details: A small group of uniformed staff from Art Sports, a Japanese exotic car broker, were transporting an old, but very well-preserved Lamborghini Countach and a white Porsche Carrera near my new residence in Kyoto. They had just pulled over to grab some drinks from a bank of vending machines on Oike Dori as I was cycling past.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

Photo #21 – Keep it Movin’! (Preschool Kids in Kyoto, Japan)

Preschool kids in Kyoto, Japan

This photo corresponds with Episode 4 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 4 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


A group of kids on a Kyoto field trip are herded back on small buses after enjoying some time at a Kyoto playground on the street running along Nijo Castle’s northern perimeter. Peach, lavender, and white caps helped keep everyone organized.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

Photo #20 – Kyoto Community Playground

Japanese preschool kids on Kyoto playground

This photo corresponds with Episode 4 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 4 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


These Japanese preschool kids are wrapping up a visit to a Kyoto community playground before hopping back on buses to go back to school.

The kids were definitely amused by my observation of them as they marched past. A few “Hellos” were tossed out to me. With Japanese kids, I figure they will be more delighted if I return their greetings in English so they can feel a sense of interaction in another language. However, younger kids can be a little spooked by my reply. I sometimes see an expression of confusion develop on the children’s faces as they suddenly realize they don’t know how to proceed beyond hello.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

Photo #19 – Japanese Bicycle Snatching Truck

Japanese bicycling snatching truck.

This photo corresponds with Episode 4 of the Savage Japan Podcast. Episode 4 can be heard here at SavageJapan.com or here at SavageSnowPodcast.com.


This Kato truck attempting to grab an unwary bicyclist in Japan would make a fine Tonka toy.

It is illegal to bicycle on many sidewalks in Japan. These silent trucks creep up on bicyclists before snatching them up and flinging them out on the road. I have been pursued by one of these trucks, but haven’t been caught yet.

Actually, it is my understanding that it is illegal to bicycle on all sidewalks in Kyoto unless there is a specific bike lane marked on the sidewalk. Everyone rides their bikes on the sidewalks though.

There are some sidewalks where bicycle riding is strongly frowned upon near the city center and the crowds there make it obviously inappropriate.

Oddly, the places downtown where you really cannot ride a bike on the sidewalk are also places where they will not let you ride a bicycle on the street. The city pays people to stand out on the road and yell at bicyclists to stop biking. They have signs with English written on them too in case you are a gaijin.

I was startled when a guy in a light green uniform jumped out next to me on Shijo Dori one afternoon. My brain was seriously confused as it was trying to make sense of him and his sign telling me that bicycling was not allowed. It seemed like something he should be doing if I was on the sidewalk.

You are not completely forbidden from moving through those areas with a bicycle. It seems to be acceptable etiquette to walk and push your bicycle through the crowded sidewalks (though that is not easy and is also bothersome to pedestrians).

In Kyoto you quickly learn to take the side streets around Shijo and Kawaramachi, not so much because of any rules, but because there are simply too many people and too many cars for it to be a pleasant route for a bike.

The exception is late in the evening when no one is around and you can do whatever you want. But the side streets and alleys are much more interesting for biking through, so unless I’m in a real hurry and feel I really need to take those streets, I stay off the “Louis Vuitton Streets” at night too.

One neat navigation curiosity about Kyoto is that it was initially designed after the ancient Chinese city Changan (now Xian) and the main streets are aligned like a chess board. You can take any number of routes and they will all be a similar distance and take a similar amount of time. Right, Left, Right; or Right, Straight, Left; or Straight, Right, Straight, all end up at the exact same place and often involve the same number of traffic lights. :-)

Photo Details: I would bet some company in Japan already makes a toy modeled after this vehicle. During a ride around Nijo Castle, I encountered this bicycle snatching Kato truck in hot pursuit of a bicyclist on the north side of the castle.

Just southeast of Nijo Castle near where I’m now living in Kyoto, there is also a giant fire station with an awesome lineup of bright red firetrucks parked neatly within. I’m waiting to catch the firetrucks when the light is better there, so this Japanese Tonka Toy truck is my first vehicle photo for the site.

I have no images of the castle yet. Nijo Castle is not a typical Japanese castle high on a hill or prominently displayed to the community. It’s hidden behind massive stone walls. You can see the double-moated grounds of Nijo Castle in the satellite map below, just south of where I was standing when I snapped this picture.

Japan Photo Journal – Living in Japan
Dan Savage [Email]

Grab anywhere on map to scroll around precise spot where above photo was taken. Zoom in & out with buttons in left corner. To learn more about geotagging your own photos, visit LearningtoGeotag.com.

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