“Pottering” in Japan (that is, “puttering about on two wheels”)

outside Matsumoto

On a ride outside Matsumoto. (c) Site author.

If you read many Japanese blogs on the subject of bicycles, you will no doubt come across the term ポタリング (potaringu). Since this is a relatively new term, you won’t find it in many dictionaries, but a quick internet search reveals that the term is widely used and evolved from the English idea of “pottering about”. In Japan, it applies specifically to leisurely and somewhat aimless rides on two wheels.  The Japanese Wikipedia entry describes it as an activity similar to “strolling”, but on a bicycle or motorbike. A Kotobank entry narrows the usage to bicycles exclusively, and describes it as the activity of riding around wherever one feels like going, just for the purpose of sightseeing.

Either way, “pottering” is something I have had the pleasure of doing many a time during my stays in Japan.  One afternoon I remember quite fondly was on a visit to Matsumoto, a beautiful “little” city, situated in a basin below the Japan Alps in Nagano Prefecture.  Before I went there, I really only knew four things about Matsumoto: 1) it has a famous castle, designated as a National Treasure,  2) it is the home of the “Suzuki Method” for teaching violin, 3) the area is known for wasabi, and 4) it was the site of a terrible Sarin gas terror attack.  While thoughts of the latter did float through my mind a bit when I was first making plans to go, these evaporated quickly as we emerged out of the station into the sunny, crisp April air and began to wander around.  I had read in advance that free rental bikes were available near the station, and a few of us decided to head out in search of the wasabi fields.

We had no maps, but asked at the station about which general direction to head if we hoped to come across a wasabi farm.  Because we were traveling around the country for a couple of weeks, we had no particular use for fresh wasabi, but we liked the idea of trying out the wasabi-flavored ice cream.  True to the idea of “pottering”, we rode for some time on quiet, country roads, selecting which to take by whim, and relished the fresh smells and sunshine.  The wasabi farm itself was fun as well, but it was definitely once of those trips that was all about getting there.

Wasabi farm

Wasabi farm, outside of Matsumoto. (c) Site Author

Fresh wasabi for sale

Fresh wasabi for sale. (c) Site Author

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2 thoughts on ““Pottering” in Japan (that is, “puttering about on two wheels”)

  1. Pingback: The Gios Antico mini velo | Japan's Bicycle Culture (日本での自転車文化)

  2. Pingback: An Intro to Shimanami Kaidō (しまなみ海道) | Japan's Bicycle Culture (日本での自転車文化)

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