Even the places we know well can look totally different when we approach them in a different way. On this occasion, Kiyoko Eto has joined the ‘bread and coffee’ themed ride. She works with food and travel photography and is familiar with the streets of Tokyo. The course is roughly 27 kilometers, allowing her to visit shops she already loves as well as a few new one’s that have caught her eye.
“I usually only ride my bike around my neighborhood, so this is my first time cycling whilst taking photos, never mind doing that in Tokyo”.
The start and goal of the course is KINTO REC STORE Tokyo in Nakameguro, which carries products that have both an outdoor and sports design sense. Soon after setting off, Kiyoko shared her sentiments as we passed the junction at Yarigasaki.
“I feel quite moved to be cycling through places like Nakameguro and Daikanyama so freely!”
Taking not only the main roads, but also the narrower streets in residential areas, she cycle in the direction of Ebisu and Hiroo. The first place we stop at is Nem Coffee & Espresso, located in a peaceful residential district near Arisugawa Park. It is a nicely ventilated space, with a shifting flow of customers, some dropping in for a coffee before heading to work on this weekday morning, while others read books or pop in for takeaways.
“If I lived near a cafe like this, I would definitely be a regular. I’d feel comfortable dropping in on a daily basis, but because it also has a slightly special atmosphere, it’s the ideal place to enjoy a coffee. As it’s located in Hiroo, there are lots of foreign customers, but there are also groups of mothers and young men popping in by themselves. I think this diversity of the clientele contributes to why I feel so at home here.”
After she filled our KINTO travel tumblers with iced coffee she fix them to our bicycles drink holder, and set off in the direction of Azabu Jūban. As Tokyo Tower grows in size, soaring into the sky ahead of us, the mobility our bicycles give us comes into its own.
“I love that if I think I’d like to see Tokyo Tower from another angle, I can just set right off. If I were on foot I would give up, and it’s tricky to find parking if I were to come by car. This mobility is definitely a highlight of cycling.”
In Ginza, she head to coffee shop Miyazawa, where Kiyoko has been coming since she first moved to Tokyo. It is famous for its egg sandwiches, but Kiyoko’s favorite is the fried prawn sandwich.
“The camera shop that takes care of my equipment is in Ginza, so I come to this area a lot. I tend to come here after I’ve been to the camera shop, or if I have to wait an hour or so for the camera cleaning.”
You can tell from the atmosphere that Miyazawa is well-loved by its regulars.
“Many of the customers work in Ginza but some folks who once worked in the area but retired also stop by to enjoy their old stomping grounds. It seems like people can breathe a sigh of relief when they come here — myself included.”
Having filled our bellies, she emerge from the urban throngs to the imperial palace. The vista instantly opens up, and we feel at ease in the open space.
“It’s such a refreshing area. I can understand why some people come here solely for the purpose of running or cycling.”
She buy some coffee beans at Glitch Coffee and Roaster TOKYO, a specialist coffee shop in Jimbōchō.
“We discussed my preferences thoroughly, so I took a chance and went for some beans that I wouldn’t usually choose by myself. This is the sort of shop I’d come to buy coffee beans as a gift.”
It also feels indulgent to be able to watch the barista’s skillful movements up close.
Passing through Yotsuya, and then past the front of the National Stadium, the final place we stop by is the bakery Levain in Tomigaya.
“I’ve tried the bread from Levain before, but I’ve never been inside the shop. It feels pretty good to go to the bakery by bicycle, so you get some exercise too,” she laughs.
Inside the shop, someone unexpectedly calls Kiyoko’s name. A staff member from Levain had been to visit Kiyoko’s exhibition previously held at a nearby gallery.
“The exhibition was a collection of photographs I had taken in South Korea. I was happy to be recognized for my work ‘with the bibimbap (mix meat, vegetable and rice)!’” she laughs. “This is also a shop with a long, well-loved history. I’m glad I could finally make it.”
Finally, in the afternoon, she arrive back at KINTO REC STORE Tokyo.
“Usually, I take the train to get around the city, but having now cycled around, I have discovered many places that are tucked away, and noticed things I haven’t been aware of before. While I’m used to seeing the city as a series of points based on the stations, it felt refreshing to see those points joined up.”
While she cycled a total of 27 kilometers, thanks to stopping off at different shops and taking breaks to take photos, the distance didn’t feel as hard as expected, and if anything, Kiyoko was able to ride comfortably to the end.
“This has helped me realize that places I thought were difficult to reach by train or bus from my own neighborhood are actually easily accessible by bicycle. I have a feeling the places I go, and my range of activities will change if I start cycling more regularly.”
The great thing about cycling is the unexpected discoveries you make, whether or not you have a destination in mind. Why not head out on your bike, treating it as a longish walk, but one which takes you further?
KINTO REC STORE Tokyo
1-20-5 Oobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Nem Coffee & Espresso
4-5-6 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
1F Nishiginzakaikan 805025 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
GLITCH COFFEE & ROASTERS
1F Komura Building, 3-16 Kanda Nishiko-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Levain Tomigaya Branch
1F GS Haimu Yoyogi Hachiman, 2-43-13 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo