Bicycles? What Bicycles?

Tokushima is very proud of their Awa dancing. You can find dancers everwhere.

Taking advantage of a few days off, last Thursday we went downtown to check out the cool 100 yen shop we’ve been told about and do some other shopping as well.

Having never ridden bicycles downtown before, and seeing no parking signs everywhere, we were a little lost as to where to park, so we opted to follow Zen Navigation. Just ahead of us were two women on bicycles, and in the spirit of Dirk Gently, we followed them. Unfortunately, they had no interest in being downtown. As they biked further away from our desired destination, we had to find someone else to follow.

Turning and seeing about two dozen bicycles lined up in front of a store, we felt safe to park among the throng, and we merrily went away to do our shopping.

The 100 yen shop was indeed wonderful and I bought a bookend and magazine rack to try and tidy up the closet I use as a study/library. The bad news was that we forgot to take along our coupon for the foreign grocery store. We had planned to stock up on curry-making supplies. Ah, well. The coupon is still good for a month.

After getting lost in the department store, wandering through the library and civc centre, and running into a person dressed as a bear, we finally made our way back to our bicycles. Only to discover we had not made our way back to our bicycles. Our bicycles had, in fact, made their way elsewhere.

Only in Japan is the first thought that springs to mind upon discovering a missing bicycle, “Oh, the police must have taken it.”

A couple of bikes remained in front of the store, but not many at all. It turns out that when the city is trying to get ready for the biggest festival of the year (it begins on Sunday), it allows no leniency for illegally parked bicycles.

Ummm … now what?

David took photos of pigeons and left me to call our landlady in order to explain that we had been foolish. As I don’t know how to say that in Japanese, I first called my boss to get the proper wording. And she reassured us that every teacher she’s ever employed has had their bicycle stolen or impounded for illegal parking.

A pigeon in the park.

Our kind and understanding landlady drove downtown to pick us up and take us out to the bike barn where all the towed bicycles hang out. Until she arrived we wandered over to the base of Mt. Bizan and had a peek around the Tokushima tourist bureau souvenir shop (“Aw, look down there you’ve got a little shop; I like a little shop.”)

On the way to the impound building our landlady got lost, so it’s a good thing David had our phone’s GPS running, so he knew how to get us back home again. But we made it there, and our landlady tried to play the “dumb foreigner” card to get us out of paying the fine (1500 yen a piece), but the bike barn workers wouldn’t stand for it. We paid our fine without complaining. Our landlady complained for us; we understood that our bikes might just get towed, although we hadn’t thought it was a very big risk considering the dozens of bikes lined up along the wall.

We had a grand adventure going home. The “barn” was not so far away, but we had never been in that part of town before. It was fun to see a new part of town. On the way, though, we wanted to photograph the wall where our bikes weren’t.

Where our bikes should have been.

By the time we went back, a couple dozen more bikes were already lined up by the wall. As I looked at them, I felt a mix of feelings. A touch of sympathy for what those owners will soon be going through, and a touch of superiority. And a helping of humble pie for ignoring the rules.

The best news of all – we now have a map of downtown explaining to us where exactly we are allowed to park.