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WORDS: Vincent Flanagan | PHOTOS: Shu Takenouchi, Kei Tsuji
Kyoto, home to numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines, quiet narrow streets and busy boulevards. An intriguing place to wander and wonder about the stories that could be told. There is a mixture of the ancient and modern in the fashion, food and feel. Mountains surround the city on three sides, providing an almost kaleidoscopic vista. Be it the season, the light, or the time of day, it is always compelling. Floating between the ridge lines, like cotton candy tossed by a playful child are small puffy tufts of clouds. Etched in the hillsides by annual bonfires you see large kanji characters pointing the way for ancient souls to return to heaven. All these scenes replicated on scrolls and sliding doors and passed on through the ages.
I’ve been riding the roads in this part of Japan for over 20 years and still marvel when I find a new unridden road. I am always amazed that I can easily leave a city of over a million people and ride unhindered by traffic, chasing dogs or swooping magpies. The scenery in the narrow valleys is never constant, the roads twist and wind following the contours of the land. Sometimes engineering intervenes with tunnels and on virtually every corner there is a convex mirror giving you a warped eyed view of the future. I have heard people talk about the wasteful spending on construction and meaningless roads. To the contrary it gives us another nice place to pedal and no reason to complain. I never tire of riding these roads and all the better to share it with others.