This is a three part story from Laura Winberry about the Speedvagen CX Team’s trip to Japan last fall to race, share and learn with their teammates there.
In between Biwa and the countryside, there were also a brief, somewhat overwhelming thirty-eight hours spent in the cluttered Dōtonbori zone of Osaka. A former pleasure district, Dōtonbori is associated with the word kuidaore, which means roughly “to ruin oneself by extravagance in food.” Dōtonbori itself seemed to be associated with everything in excess—men’s hairstyles, women’s clothing fads, overall consumerism, raucous extroversion—overstimulation and sensory overload at their finest. Especially after having been transplanted from the Zen of Daisuke’s abode and surrounding cowboy country into this Osakan scream in the matter of a few hours. But, finding peace in an inherently peaceful place is, well, somewhat easier. It’s when things get loud in every direction and shit hits the fan spinning out of control above your head that the internal quietness becomes more difficult to seek, discover, keep. When life gets hairy, that’s when we practice. Which is exactly what I did while wandering the drag queen dinosaur of a stretch that is Osaka’s Dōtonbori.
Where’s that word for tightness in the throat when you want to cry but swallow the sea instead? I needed it. I need it. Walking past young and old wholly dedicated to neon slot machines, blaring music diluting their sense of space and time and reality, I remember my throat tightening. I remember thinking to myself: we are screwed. In certain situations of negative overstimulation, I often come to this conclusion about our species. This was one of those situations. But you swim through it, right? It’s all the same. One thing is no different from the next. It’s all in how we perceive it. And even then, perception is something we create in order to assimilate what we don’t understand, what we fear. So I’ve heard. In that case, walking through Dōtonbori is, essentially, the same as wading through sandy pain on the shores of Biwa, is the same as patient communion with Yatsugatake fog, is the same as tires trying to grip through mud and grass and deep ruts. The same as a bike made from James Dean and lightning. The same as all the things we think we understand and all the things we don’t.
So I walked, throat and all. I made intuition-based lefts and rights, down one alley into the next and the next. Not remembering where I’d come from. Only knowing when I had arrived. And I did. I did arrive. In the recesses of this byzantine mess of towering structures and glazed crowds, this sea of chaos, I found myself at the calm in the middle of the shitstorm. Like pastoral Sacha with slight upturned lips, standing in the centrifugal movement of cyclocross. Of it all. I opened my eyes and in front of me sat a Buddha carved from stone. Water and moss cascaded his long earlobes and trickled his joyful chest. I put my hand to their cool softness. In the distance, I could still hear the ching of dreams being fed to a selfish and unforgiving world, the call of the wild beyond. Conscious and full breaths resumed. I closed my eyes, touching middle finger to thumb on each hand. Felt the tightness in my throat. Then let the sea go.