Friday, October 23, 2009

The impermanence of things

The well ran dry for a bit when it came to blog post ideas. Then, after an impromptu trip to hardware/furniture/bicycle megastore Musashi, something new and exciting to talk about popped into my head-- bikes!

I'm one of the rare few who own neither a car nor a bicycle. I don't know why-- I used to have a bike and rode it pretty frequently as a kid until around age 12, when teenage suburban laziness set in and thus I had no real interest in going anywhere if it wasn't by car. One I hit 16 and could drive myself, forget it!

Around that time, my bike riding just sort of fell by the wayside and never resumed, even after I-- involuntarily, due to a reckless tailgater-- gave up the car permanently. I lived in a city with good-enough public transit and enough things within walking distance that it might have sped things up a bit, but it wasn't really necessary. And it didn't help that I was slightly terrified of San Francisco drivers' recklessness and all-too-frequent blindness to anything crossing the street.

So what better place to get back into bike riding than Japan? Even in Kanazawa, which is very sprawly and car-oriented outside of the dense city center, you will find that Japan is one of the, if not the most bike friendly country in the developed world. Bikes are everywhere; they're cheap, they're plentiful, and (best of all for a chicken like me!) you can ride them on the sidewalk, avoiding all that crazy street traffic. This is especially good for me, as our building is situated on a fairly busy 4-lane street on a direct route from the train station, with a fairly high speed limit and all of the craziness that might suggest. Biking on our street is not for the faint of heart, although I occasionally see it happen.

Like I was saying, Andrea and I happened to be at Musashi-- an odd big box store that resembles a cross between Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Ikea-- when we saw their outdoor bicycle display. She immediately fell in love with one cute little model with a basket on the front. Meanwhile, I became interested in the folding bikes, simply for ease of storage and the possibility of shipping it home later on when we move back to the States. Then, I saw it-- one folding bike, a Musashi house brand, that looked just as good as the others. Best of all, it was only 9500 yen brand new, or around 100 bucks. That was by far the lowest price I'd seen on one of its kind! Considering that we've found it next to impossible to find used bikes for sale anywhere in Kanazawa, this was probably as good as it would get, price and quality-wise.

We both had to wait for our respective paydays to return to claim our models of choice. That day (today) finally came, and we took off with anticipation to Higashi-Kanazawa station, just down the road from Musashi. When we came up to the bicycle area, our hearts sank-- our favorite models were gone, taken off display, presumably meaning "sold out." While Andrea found one close enough to her original favorite, all of the other remaining bikes they had were almost twice as expensive as the one I had my eye on, which is more than I'm willing to spend at this point. It never crossed our mind that they might be gone so quickly, although perhaps it should have.

Despite being a wealthy country with an endless array of every conceivable consumer good, Japan has an odd habit of pulling certain things off the shelves for no reason, or intentionally limiting supply, or making things available for a limited time only. This is most obvious at the grocery store-- a certain product might be available for 2 weeks straight in great abundance, then mysteriously disappear for weeks, then suddenly reappear for a few days, then disappear for a few days, etc. This happened with soy ice cream at the train station's grocery store, a good I happen to know isn't in particularly high demand in this country. But it's true of lots of other things-- just because there's 20 of something innocuous today doesn't mean it will be there tomorrow.

The lesson, kids? When you're in Japan, don't take any purchasable good for granted, because it may very well disappear for no discernible reason whatsoever, especially at the least opportune time. I'll keep my eye out for another great bike deal, but I'm not keeping my hopes up.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! You'll find another folding model soon.

    We'd love to read about street corners. Go for it. Even the weather.