On a cold and rainy morning in southern Japan, 20 bleary eyed JETs dragged themselves out to Ehime Prefecture’s northernmost point and looked out over the swirling sea and stormy skies.
“We’re going to cycle 140km…in THIS?!”
As if the rain wasn’t enough for us to worry about, we looked up at the Kurushima-kaikyo, the longest in the chain of suspension bridges that make up the Shimanami-kaido, linking Ehime to Hiroshima over a series of islands. As the wind whipped around its cables, it almost seemed to be shaking.
But the gloomy weather wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of the hardy Ehime gang. Decked in their best rain gear and wrapped in bright orange Cambodian scarves (to represent the mikan oranges for which Ehime is famous), they took to the road and fought through the wind and rain in the name of PEPY.
The first event of its kind, the PEPY Ride Japan: JETs on Jitenshas took place this weekend (April 25/26) to coincide with Earth Day a few days beforehand, and saw 5 teams of JETs participating in cycling trips in their respective prefectures (Ehime, Akita, Aichi, Hyogo, and Kagoshima) while raising funds for, and awareness of PEPY. The team leaders spent the weeks beforehand planning and organizing one or two day trips for their teams, involving cycling, BBQs, camping, cherry blossom viewing, and much more! This was a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors, spend time with friends, make new friends, and discover the treasures our prefectures have to offer. Here in Ehime we certainly found some treasures.
In spite of the gloomy and foggy weather, the peaceful swishing of the Seto Inland Sea around the small and quiet islands sprinkled through it was calm and relaxing. Once the rain cleared up in the afternoon, the warm wet clouds gave the aquatic area a misty and magical feel, and we floated over the huge causeway, one island to the next. The wind which shook us to our bones on Day 1 of our ride, on Day 2 whistled through the tensely strung bridge cables causing them to hum and sing like a thousand people blowing on bottle tops. The clouds broke in places and the sunshine burst through and sparkled all over the sea like shattered glass. And on the final leg of our journey, on the second day, the sun and rain joined forces to arch a beautiful rainbow across the final bridge. While the changeable weather kept us on our toes, the thinking behind the event was sparking thoughts in people’s minds. Many participants expressed an interest in cycling in Japan, some seemed keen to visit Cambodia and the PEPY school, or wanted to find out more about what PEPY was about, others asked about BEE (Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth) a organization with many ties to PEPY, some wanted to be involved in promoting PEPY, and others simply rediscovered the joys of cycling. The event was open to both experienced and inexperienced cyclists, which meant a wide variety of reactions came forth from the group. Some found it hard, some found it easy, but everyone found it rewarding and appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the countryside on two wheels. The event echoed the very beginnings of PEPY itself, with a bike ride through the countryside taking its participants to areas inaccessible by car or bus and allowing them the time to really enjoy the scenery.
The great thing about this ride was that it proved that you don’t have to be the world’s greatest cyclist to enjoy cycling. It’s something that can be done any time (even in the worst conditions), anywhere, by anyone. And you don’t need the most expensive cycling gear to do it either. All you need is two wheels, a road, and high spirits to keep you on the go. Thanks to the hard work and determination of the team leaders, and the commitment and perseverance of the team members, this year’s event has set a high standard for events to come and raised around $2,000 for PEPY. A massive “otsukaresamadeshita” to all involved!