One issue I thought deserved some re-visiting was the issue of bicycles. Yes, I gave up my dream of the impossibly-cheap folding bike. But! I did manage to settle for the somewhat-more-believably-cheap folding bike (or, if you prefer, oritatami jitensha), at our local Sports Depot. Check out what $150 gets you:
That is, it gets you surprising quality. The Ignio model at Sports Depot was the next-cheapest option to the $100 bike I could find. I had the choice of orange, white, or black-with-sparkles, so I think that choice was clear.
The way it works is you take the above locking mechanism in the middle of the frame, turn the silver handle around, and pull up. Then, boom! Turn around the handlebars and it folds in like so:
It has a couple of neat features. Unlike Andrea's bike (heh heh), I've got 6 gears to work with! Hers is completely gearless, which she good-naturedly reminds me whenever I speed past her on a bike with wheels 1/3 the size of hers.
One advantage her bike has over mine, though, is that her bell is more traditional than mine (pull the lever, and it rings several times in quick succession). Mine is a little cheaper, and thus a little harder to operate. You flick the little plastic bit, and it dings the bell one time.
You're supposed to use it when you're obstructed in front by pedestrians who are moving too slow and/or taking up too much room on the sidewalk. I'm generally too timid to use it, anyway; you attract enough weird looks from older people just by being not-Japanese. Instead, I've become a fast student in the art of delicate maneuvering between people.
Andrea's bike also has its own built in locking mechanism on the rear tire. I just have a standard separate lock-and-key.
Generally, it's enough to lock the rear tire to the bike frame, since apparently no one would go to the effort of stealing a bike that they couldn't ride. The likelihood of our bikes getting stolen at all is very low, anyway, but Kanazawa is supposed to have a bigger bicycle theft problem than your typical Japanese city. Of course, like most bikes, mine is registered with the local police department, so if they can read my scribbly kanji handwriting, they'll know where to return it if it shows up somewhere it shouldn't.
And that's all there is to it! It's intermittently cold and rainy these days, but there's still occasion to pull it out and go for a ride. A couple of our favorite restaurants are easier to get to by bike than bus, so it's helpful in that respect. Hell, just getting downtown takes the same amount of time, so might as well get some exercise out of it.
Of course, on rainy or goddamn-air-feels-like-the-Arctic days, it sits, helpfully folded up, in this corner of our (inexplicably astroturfed) balcony, sharing space with our massive air conditioning unit, a silver panel covering an emergency ladder hole, and several tension rods meant for hanging laundry.