This is part one of a two part series of true stories experienced along the Tamagawa River which begins in the mountains snaking its way through Tokyo and home to runners, walkers and cyclists alike.
There is so much to see in Japan. Some of it planned, a lot unexpected. After coming across a line of fire engines, ambulances and police cars recently during a bike ride along the Tamagawa it got me to thinking of the darker side of Tokyo that I have unwittingly experienced. No, I am not talking about Kabukicho, the red light district in Shinjuku where all your fetish needs can be fulfilled for a price. What I am talking about are two firsthand, sinister experiences atop my trusty steel steed.
Just Hanging Around
About three years ago I was out with a new cycling buddy, Jimmie from the UK. He and his family had moved to Tokyo a few months earlier. We met during a large group bike ride and hit it off immediately. We were both cycling fanatics, creative and family men. He lived nearby and I suggested we meet one early Sunday morning for a bike ride. My plan, take him along the Tamagawa River (same river as in the video) and into the mountains for one of my favorite four-hour rides.
We met at 6 am and leisurely worked our way up river talking about cycling and family. Rounding a corner where the river snakes from left to right, our path did the same. Just as we turned the final corner we nearly ran into a police officer standing in the path. He was directing traffic. “Not sure what traffic there would be on a pedestrian path,” I said out loud to Jimmie. The police officer muttered something in Japanese which I didn’t quite catch as we slowly rode past.
We continued on as the path straightened out and took us in the direction of the river before a sharp right turn. On the left about 50 meters from the path are a row of old style Japanese homes surrounded by a forest of oak and bamboo. I have ridden past this countless number of times and thought to myself, “What a great spot to live, quiet, nature and great views of the river and Mt Fuji on a clear day.”
It was this morning ride with Jimmie that would forever change my view of this otherwise tranquil setting. Looking to the left and about to say to Jimmie my exact thought on this location we both slowed down to a near halt. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We looked to one another to make sure it was not some sort of hallucination. Nope, it was real.
In the otherwise pristine location was a body hanging from an old oak tree, limp and lifeless sucking out the surrounding beauty. Wanting to look away, it was like a car crash, I couldn’t help but stare. I didn’t look for too long, it felt like I was infringing upon something intimate, yet dark and sinister.
Someone really put thought into this by taking their own life in such a beautiful location. Beauty and death. Was there a moment where by taking in the beauty he could have let the moment of wanting to die pass? He must have been so far past that point and simply wanted to die.
Stunned we continued riding for a few hundred meters before I broke the silence saying, “Sorry you had to see that during one of your first riding experiences in Japan.” He waved it off as no big deal, but it was a big deal. It was dark, sad and not something either of us wanted to experience ever again.
We rode the rest of the day without incident and continued to ride the same route for a few years before Jimmie returned to the UK with his family.
Now I cannot speak for Jimmie, but to this day whenever I pass by this spot I feel a sense of darkness. Even after replacing the old homes with new and chopping down the forest including THAT tree, this experience will forever be etched in my mind.
Come back for part two of, “Tales From the Dark Side of Tokyo.”