Saturday, January 30, 2010

Buried treasures in Osu Nagoya

Namikoshi Park in Osu, Nagoya

Cycling around Nagoya City affords me the opportunity to discover nooks and crannies that I would not easily find inside an automobile. The Osu section of Nagoya, a popular shopping district comparable to Tokyo's Harajuku, never disappointments. I've been visiting Osu on an almost weekly basis since I moved to this City over 18 years ago, yet, I can always count on finding a little surprise around the corner. On top of that, Osu has been in a perpetual state of flux since about 1999. Old shops close, new ones open, nothing stays the same. So it was with no small pleasure that I discovered a tiny park located about 300 meters from the Osu Kannon shrine.

Park sign

The Namikoshi Park site is less than a 1000 square feet in area and you'll miss it if you cycle by and blink. What caught my attention was the bulbous hill in the center of the park which indicates it was once an ancient burial mound. According to a sign on premises, Namikoshi was the first public park opened in Nagoya city back in 1879. It remained the most popular park for 30 years until overshadowed by the much larger Tsurumai park about 3 kilometers away. All that remains of the park is this mound, ad old gnarly tree and a sign. Overall, I'd say it was a good find.

Old steps leading up the burial mound

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Final call for the Love Wheels Nagoya Calendar

Mica - Miss August

I have less than 15 Nagoya Love Wheels Cycling Calendars left. I want to get rid of them by the end of this month. Don't be the only kid on the block without a cycling calendar brimming with young perky Japanese girls and their rides. Order 5 copies and get a sweet discount. Remember, shipping is FREE....anywhere on god's green earth! Order Here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why I do as my wife says

I go to the gym every morning. It's one of my secrets to staying beautifully fit and handsome. I'll cycle to the gym unless I'm with Mrs. Crankee, then we take the Honda. Today I was going alone and decided to bring my Surly Steamroller.

"You need to pick something up for me, so you'd better take the car", she said.

"But it's such a nice day and I want to ride my bike", I whined. I do that a lot.

She won, I lost. Surprise.

Well, 3o minutes into my warm up stretches, I hear a loud bang and thud. I look out the second floor window of the gym and stared at the spot on the corner where I usually chain my bike, right by the Chez Toto restaurant street sign. This is what I saw:

Where I usually chain my bike

Apparently some poor sap lost control of his car, plowed though the Chez Toto sign, jumped the curb onto the sidewalk, continued straight down the block, destroyed the awning belonging to a seafood restaurant, crossed the street and crashed through a small fence. The couple in the car didn't seem terribly hurt, but the wreck they left behind them will certainly give their insurance carrier a fit. First thing I did was email the wife and thank her for forcing me to bring the car instead of the bike.

Smashed awning

Had my bike been chained by the street sign I would have been spending the afternoon picking up bits of Surly and cursing my bad fortune. Unfortunately, Muto san, one of the gym employees, wasn't so lucky, his scooter now looks like Godzilla slept on it.

"Ah, no worries, I was planning on buying a new one anyway." he said.

Damn Japanese optimism.

This is a good place to park

Monday, January 18, 2010

Frozen cats

Last Saturday night's alley cat race went off well except for the slight cold weather. Turn out was about 30 strays. I'm noticing more new faces lately and quite a few young ones. One of the top winners that night was a high school kid. Good to see the young'ems getting some exercise.

Emi & Rie showing off their cap collection

Friday, January 15, 2010

Racing makes you hot

Yeah I know it's too damn cold for an Alley Cat Race, but do you think General Washington told his men he wasn't crossing no friggin frozen Delaware river just to fight some pansy-ass redcoats? No. He manned up, rowed that dingy across that cold river and the rest is grammar school history. And to honor those men who braved the cold to fight for your freedoms, the NUTs people will be holding their monthly alley cat thingamajig at Shirakawa park this Saturday at 9:00 PM. Bring a bike, a sweater and a dingy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Purrrfect combination

Hello Kitty

It seems that the only thing that will distract a cycling enthusiast more than a sparkling new Vanilla track bike is a hot Asian girl riding one. Which is a good thing since it means I'll be selling more Nagoya Love Wheels 2010 calendars, which incidentally have been selling like mad. In the last two weeks, I've shipped calendars to Finland, Thailand, and every place in between. Just about every continent now has a copy of the Love Wheels Nagoya Calendar. Local cycling beauty Emi (pictured above) has told me that she will not bathe until every bike pedaling primate has ordered a copy of the calendar and slobbered all over her photo (she's miss March by the way). Still lots in stock. So do us all a favor and help Emi clean up her act. Order your Calendar now!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

But seriously...

It's no small task writing about cycling culture in a land that is famous for absorbing, borrowing, pilfering and genetically modifying ideas from other cultures. The Japanese are nothing if not inventive. Take for example the camera. We all know that the best cameras in the world are made in Japan. But did you know that the idea for the modern Japanese camera came from a 19th century American invention used to extract boils with electrodes? How a boil burning gadget morphed into a Nikon D3000 is a mystery lost to time. What we do know is that the result is a big improvement over the original idea, and that is at the heart of the Japanese spirit: Improve what the white devil creates. Take for instance the idea of cross-dressing cycling. We've all seen pictures of men in drag cycling in events from Portland to Portafino. According to legend, the first cross-dressing cyclist was an engineering student from Caltech who lost a bet to an art history major from Whittier College. The student cycled from Pasadena to Pomona and was never heard from again. And faster than a Williamsburgh Fixie rider buying the latest Rapha $300 toe-clip warmers, the cross-dressing phenomenon spread to every corner of the globe. So it was with warm comfort that I witnessed my Japanese pedal brothers eagerly accept the challenge to work through and improve on this most irreverent of cycling styles. The results? Well, judge for yourself.

Greasy Geishas

Occi, Sal (aka Tracy) and Necco, the Charlie's Angels of Nagoya City, have done us all proud in carrying on the Japanese tradition of outstanding workmanship and quality improvement. I mean, who else but the Japanese would have dreamed up the idea of sequin and bullhorn handlebars? Bravo sons of Yamato, bravo!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Big deal, new year, so what?

In case you're wondering if I've made any New Year's resolutions, let me put you at ease now. The answer is NO.

Well, kind of, NO. Not exactly. Whatever.

All of us (and by "us" I mean me) at the Crankee blog have been busy working on interesting (and by "interesting" I mean boring) stories for the blog. We'll have more interviews with Japanese custom bike makers, a look into the glamourous world of Japanese bicycle messengers and and interview with one of the coolest bike mechanics in the far east. At least Crankee thinks he's cool. We also plan to expand the Crankee Store with hard to find Japanese bike gear and accessories (including messenger bags made entirely from recycled feelings of inadequacies, very eco-friendly) As always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed. Here's to a better year ahead, and fewer saddle burns behind.