Thu, Jul 26, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Cyclist’s flags win him friends on Japan trip

By Lee Li-fa and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Taiwanese cyclist Lai Chang-hsin, right, stands next to a Japanese man holding the national flags of Japan and the Republic of China that are attached to Lai’s bike during his tour around Japan, in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Lai Chang-hsin

Peddling a bicycle flying the national flags of Japan and the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwanese cycling enthusiast Lai Chang-hsin (賴長信) returned to Taiwan on Saturday after riding his way across Japan to send out words of blessing, while coming home with memories to last a lifetime.

A renowned cyclist who gained a reputation by cycling across Italy, France, New Zealand and the US, Lai took his bicycle to Japan in April for a 88-day journey across the four main islands — Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu and Hokkaido — pedaling a total of 5,663km.

Areas affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March last year, including the prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, were at the top of Lai’s “must-see list” because he wanted to view the reconstruction efforts and convey his regards to the locals.

Having written “Go! Japan” in Japanese on the flags attached to his bike, Lai received a warm welcome wherever he went.

Lai said he would sometimes find a piece of dessert left by unidentified people on his bike when he stopped for a brief toilet break and he receive several offers to be treated to local delicacies.

Lai said a convenience store clerk even volunteered to finance his trip, only “because he came from Taiwan.”

During Lai’s travels in Kyushu, which is home to former Japanese representative to Taiwan Major General Yoichi Nagano, he received an invitation from Nagano for dinner at his home when he happened to meet the former envoy on the street.

Nagano and his wife not only prepared a traditional kimono for Lai, but also uncorked a bottle of well-matured Kaoliang liquor from Kinmen County for him.

In the midst of dinner, Lai said the Naganos told him how deeply touched the Japanese were by Taiwan’s generous post-quake assistance and care.

“We were really moved by the Taiwanese,” Lai quoted the couple as saying.

The cycling trip, in addition to filling Lai’s heart with warm memories, also connected him with a fellow biking enthusiast.

On his last stage, Hokkaido Island, Lai met a 24-year-old Japanese cyclist who was also on a cross-country bicycle trip.

The pair rode side by side for six days in a row, Lai said, adding they exchanged contact information in the hope of maintaining a long-distance friendship.

Having traveled across countries in Europe and the US, Lai said no other journeys were as memorable as this one to Japan.

“Not only did I not feel a bit of tiredness [during the trip], I’m also expecting to return there in the near future,” he said.

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