So what was the Tokyo Toy Run? Basically, it’s an event whereby a lot of bikers got together, brought toys and such and did a convoy down to a worthy cause. For this inaugural run, it was to the Elizabeth Sanders childrens home in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture. This, as far as we could tell, was the first biker toy run in Japan. I don’t know why, but I find that in itself somewhat incredible.
The event was pretty much suggested, organised and run from the forum around which the Gaijin Riders gather – gaijinriders.com. The original post went up on September 9th but for some reason I didn’t really get it into my head until late November. By that time the core team had put together a rough plan, decided on the beneficiary, and were hashing out routes and other guidelines. You can see in the thread, now spread across a lot of pages, and see how this evolved, and the sheer enthusiasm behind it.
Eventually, things were hashed out in the forum, and then put onto a wiki entry which became the go to place for decided items.
I got up far too early and went down to NAPS Yokohama on route one to meet a chap from the forums called Manuel, sporting a nice Honda CB 1300 with things like Garmin GPS and ETC units – things my bike only dreams of. Introductions done, and a swift coffee drunk, we headed into Tokyo on a combination of toll and local roads, making good time to Tokyo tower with Manuel regularly having to slow up for me – I don’t ride very fast.
We arrived at Tokyo tower at about 7.20am having seen some other people going our way en route; there were already about 20 bikes there and once we all parked up, everyone was chatting like we’d known each other for years, that initial exchange with the new people such of myself between forum pseudonyms/avatars , and people’s real names and faces and bikes.
Despite the hour, there were a lot of people rolling up – more than I somehow expected. One number I heard then was just over 60 and I could believe it. The feeling was very, very upbeat, and the bikes seemed to be getting more tinsel and attention by the minute. The only thing moving quicker was the volume of toys being packed into the back of the Hilux which was to act as the support vehicle, but without which would have left a lot of toys seeking transportation.
The core team then went through the few rules for the run, explained the route, the requirements for two-ups to go by a slightly different route whilst in central Tokyo and the basic logistics, along with a brief handout. Oh yes, and getting through the toll gates. There were only a couple, but as one of the ETC-less I was wondering how that would work, so I just asked around for other non ETC people, and quickly four of us decided we’d group, and one would pay for four, and we’d at least be able to hurry ourselves through, and it seemed like a few other ad hoc groups were forming around this idea, and then we were away.
This is really the first time I’ve ever been in a group of more than five, and it was quite a rush to be honest, roughly two columns of staggered bikes in Azabu, patiently waiting to get through the first pay toll gate. Again, plenty of passers-by staring, some taking photos with their keitais, some whilst walking their dogs, a few even asking what the event was. Up to the expressway it was fun seeing all these bikes who had patiently and considerately waited for us all to get through, and then us all take off down the road, trying not to block up too much of the lanes, and let cars through. The turn offs were well marked by the coordinators, and then we were off down and over the ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Haneda and over more bridges to the quite bizarre Daikoku Futou services.
This is essentially several stacked rings of tarmac, with a car park and services in the middle. And a welcome respite, toilet break and time for a cup of coffee. It was another chance to talk to more of the other bikers, talk bikes and exchange routes.
As we prepared to roll out, I was towards the rear of the column and so it was readily apparent just how many bikes there were, and how many bikers, and, especially with that Hilux, how many toys we were bringing. All the bikes seemed to have toys in boxes, strapped to pillion space, in panniers, just all over them. Riders in Santa outfits, elf hats, metres of tinsel and various other decorations. I actually wish I’d done more to my bike than the tinsel on the handlebars and around the rear seat bag. Now that the morning traffic was truly in flow, we must have made quite a bizarre sight.
One thing I’ve come to learn about a lot of bikers, is that a decent percentage of them are great photographers. The sheer number of dSLRs coming out for action shots and people getting sensible stationary positions for drive-by shots was impressive, and I’m sure there’s going to be an impressive collection going on line in the next couple of weeks. Next stop,