05.05.2015 22:22

In the Japanese language, there are a handful of words that have no direct translation into English or German - unsurprisingly for a language and culture that evolved over hundreds of years in almost complete isolation. One of the best known ones is 頑張る, a verb that usually means something like enduring a hardship, especially under the aspect of not giving up. It is a pretty fundamental concept in the Japanese society. People 頑張る when they learn in school, university, or after that. People 頑張る when they do some work that they don't really want to do. People 頑張る when they partake in a Marathon race, or other endurance events. Being able to 頑張る is regarded as a virtue, which drives people to stay in the office late at night, even if they don't have any work to do. Cynics say it's also what makes people do the same thing, over and over, for years and years, without changing anything.

It is not surprising, then, that virtually every time I head out of town, I see some people doing some kind of ultra-distance marathon running along the river. It's not always obvious what race they take part in, but those people here had a helpful tag indicating they were doing a 100 miles race, which would be roughly 161km:

At that time, I was heading to 青梅 (Oume), a city in the far west of the Tokyo metropolitan area. There is a rather mild mountain path connecting 青梅 to 五日市 (Itsukaichi), and since it was cherry blossom time, I figured going along the rivers would be a good idea, since they were all nicely lined with blooming trees:

However, living on essentially a giant underwater mountain range amidst the vastness of the pacific ocean means that water and land tend to mingle a lot, and just when I arrived in 青梅, the downpour started:

It didn't stop until after sunset, so I went back home in the darkness. Two weeks later, I started a second attempt. The forecast mentioned something like a 40% chance of rain, which seemed better than a coin flip. But of course, the coin fell onto the wrong side, and I had to abort again, this time even earlier:

Last Sunday then, the third attempt. This time, the forecast was a lot rosier, and the very same places had a much nicer tint in the sky, even if they had lost the pink shades of the cherry blossom:

The people of 青梅 where busy with some local festivities, that as far as I can tell involved banging on drums, eating Yakisoba, and closing off the main streets:

The climb itself is pretty nice, a bit over 400m of elevation gain with a fairly constant 8% grade, there's really no ups and downs, just grinding at the same pace until the top. The chart is from 青梅 station to 武蔵五日市:

The road is closed off for motor vehicles on the north side, so no roaring motorcycle engines around here, at the expense of slight debris on the road:

At the top, the forest gives way for a look back onto 青梅, so basically the reverse of what I had seen twice before from the other side. Note that since this is Japan, no view is nice enough to be spared a high voltage power line. Form follows function, even in the mountains, but that wouldn't stop me from sneaking in a "cyclist selfie":

From there, it's just rolling down the road, and following back the 浅川 / 多摩川 up to the high rise buildings.

So there it is, a total of 340km for a small, quiet climb. I don't know whether it's worth all the trouble or not, but at least I did 頑張る.