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A memorable place: Tsujimori Cycle, the century-old “face” of Higashinotoin - Rokkaku Corner

See & Do

adaptive_reuse

A memorable place: Tsujimori Cycle, the century-old “face” of Higashinotoin - Rokkaku Corner

Content Partner

KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.

Content Partner

KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.

 At the northeast corner of Higashinotoin and Rokkaku (downtown Kyoto), in a Kyoto-style machiya house, is Tsujimori Cycle, a bicycle shop that has continued for over a hundred years since early twentieth century. This machiya has now undergone a renovation that took six years to complete until June, 2020. The shop’s owner Daisuke Miyamoto shared his thoughts and hopes for this bicycle shop’s next hundred years as “Cycle Hub.”

It started from childhood memories

Miyamoto: This house was originally the home of my maternal grandmother. I used to come to play here often since I was little. I have many memories here.

The first owner, my great-grandfather, started the bicycle shop. The younger brother of my grandmother was the second owner, and when he fell ill, we were thinking we had no option but to close the shop. It’s a shame, I thought. And that was what brought me to work here. At the time, it wasn’t like bicycles were really in trend like they are today. I just thought it would be a waste to close it and, since I had always been really close to my grandmother, I didn’t want her to get sad. I just thought it might make her happy if I managed to continue it.
 
Customers are of all different age groups. We repair and sell a wide variety of bicycles from full-fledged road bikes to electric bicycles and kids’ bikes.
 Before taking over Tsujimori Cycle, Mr. Miyamoto worked in retail at a company. Being fond of using his hands and making things, he used to always fix his bicycle, motorcycle, and car on his own. But fixing other people’s bicycles, as a job, comes with responsibility. I asked him if he didn’t have any worries at the beginning.

Miyamoto: At the beginning, I didn’t have specialized knowledge of bicycles; the second owner was ill and couldn’t teach me. So sometimes I brought components to other places to learn about them, and I scoured books. Then I reached the point where I had to really use my hands on bikes to learn more. So I accepted all jobs that came my way.

 Mr. Miyamoto says that Tsujimori Cycle only had about two to three customers a day when he first began there. On some days, he just chatted with his neighbors until closing time.
Still, he became familiar with many faces in the area as he daily exchanged greetings with people coming and going on the street. These people were often not even riding bicycles, but eventually they became his customers or brought other customers to him.

Miyamoto: The second owner told me, much later, that he didn’t think I would keep this up so long. He said he was sure I’d quit right away (laughter).
 
 From then on, Tsujimori Cycle gained familiar customers little by little. And as society started to become more environment-minded and bicycles gained more attention, the shop began to recover its former popularity.

Transmission and regeneration

 A bicycle has stood on the shop’s eave as a symbol of Tsujimori Cycle since the time of the second owner, and it is still there today. Sightseers who pass by often look up and take photos of it. Some people even come to draw sketches.
The street to the right is Rokkaku-dori, which runs west to east. To the left is Higashinotoin-dori, running north to south.
The bicycle that decorated the shop since the time of establishment was replaced right after World War II by another one, which still stands today on the side facing Rokkaku-dori as a symbol of Tsujimori Cycle.
 The bicycle that decorated the shop since the time of establishment was replaced right after World War II by another one, which still stands today on the side facing Rokkaku-dori as a symbol of Tsujimori Cycle.

 Old things take a lot of work to maintain. When Mr. Miyamoto had a carpenter check the earthquake resistance of this machiya house that was over a hundred years old, it became clear that the pillars and the show window area facing Rokkaku-dori had become very weak.

Miyamoto: I had a carpenter come and repair the place several times, but he said that the pillars themselves were not good anymore. He also said that the show window area would collapse onto Rokkaku-dori if there was a big earthquake. If that happened, it would block the street, and that would affect the people around here, which would be terrible. So, while thankful to the house for enduring so long, we started a major renovation from around 2014.
 

Becoming Cycle Hub

 In 2014, during the quake-proof renovation, Mr. Miyamoto installed stairs at the center of the shop on the first floor—a major construction that was purposed to turn the entire second floor into a bicycle showroom.
 
Miyamoto: When the quake-proofing that began in 2014 had been completed and the new stairs were in place, I was now ready to make the show room. I stocked up a whole lot of bicycles there. But just then, someone came up with the idea of making the place not just a “bicycle shop” but a “cycle hub”—a place where people could relax and interact over bicycles (laughter). Since I came this far, I might as well do it, I thought, notwithstanding the huge stock of bicycles that I had already purchased.
 
 Mr. Miyamoto laughed merrily as he described what happened at the time.
 
 Tsujimori Cycle has survived in this community since early twentieth century. Its next hundred years had to be one in which it “kept what was important” while becoming “a place to cultivate new culture.” For this purpose, Mr. Miyamoto traveled abroad to look at bicycle shops all over European cities. There he saw that many took the form of a “café with a bicycle shop.”
 
 Since Mr. Miyamoto himself enjoyed coffee, he and a bicycle parts manufacturer, which was going to become a tenant, approached Blue Bottle Coffee Japan.
 
Miyamoto: We reached out to Blue Bottle, wishing to make this shop a lively place. The current president immediately said that he would like to come and see the place once, and he did. As we were talking, it turned out that he had passed by here in the past and remembered being impressed that there was such an old bicycle shop. “I would never have thought that this was the place!” he said. I am thankful to this building; it was because of its memorable appearance that we were able to partner with Blue Bottle.
 

The future of the neighborhood’s good old bicycle shop

Miyamoto: It used to be normal for repairs to be performed right on the spot. We wouldn’t ask customers to come back after a certain amount of time to pick up their bikes. We would just be like, “I’ll do that now, so have a seat please.” So I’ve also adopted a style of chatting with the customer while doing the repair. Some female customers have told me about their romances, and others have sought my counsel on personal problems (laughs).
 
Miyamoto: I’ve been working here for twenty years, and I’ve seen kids in the neighborhood grow up. A boy who used to run up to me, calling me Onichan (literally ‘big brother,’ a way to affectionately call an older male), eventually entered puberty and didn’t even greet me with his eyes for some time. Then he entered high school where, I suppose, he learned manners through extracurricular activities; he started saying “konnichiwa” to me again. As I observe people like him, I start to feel like I have been living together with the people of the community by entering their lives just a tiny bit, though just as a bicycle shop guy. That might be one of the fun parts of this job. I bet my grandmother didn’t think it would turn out this way.
 
 Mr. Miyamoto’s sunny character and skills bring many customers to Tsujimori Cycle today. 
 
 Now that Tsujimori Cycle and its unique store atmosphere have been reborn as Cycle Hub, Mr. Miyamoto says he wishes to make this a place where not only locals but also newcomers could find new values and stimuli through bicycles. And, in the big picture of things, I think we could still call this bicycle shop’s presence the “face” of Higashinotoin-Rokkaku.
 
 It’s convenient to have a bicycle, whether you’re commuting or just wanting to get some fresh air in Kyoto City. Yet aside from being a convenient vehicle, a bicycle can become like a partner to its owner. At Higashinotoin-Rokkaku stands a local bicycle shop that could give your partner the proper care it needs.
 
 I bet you would feel more and more a “Kyotoite” once you start knowing “familiar faces” in the central part of this city.
 
Tsujimori Cycle 
Address: Higashinotoin-Rokkaku-agaru Sanmonji-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City 604-8135 
Hours: 9:00 to 18:00 
Closed: Sundays and national holidays

Creatives who contributed to this article:
Text written and photos taken by
Asako Kohara

November 7th, 2020
 

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KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.

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Adaptive Reuse

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