Otagenki Project presents: Sakura Ride 2015, 3/14/2015, 2pm, Lake Balboa, CA


A ride to honor the victims, the survivors, and the heroes of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It has been four years, but the people affected by the Earthquake, Tsunami and the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-Ichi are still far from recovered from the tragedy. It’s not over for them, so we should continue to help. There will be no entry fee but there will be a collection for JEN-NPO, a charity that has been on the ground in Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest hit areas of those affected by the event, since 3 days after the incidents. They continue to serve the people, who are still mostly in temporary housing.

Temporary housing row houses in Ishinomaki. Photo: Japan Times.

Temporary housing row houses in Ishinomaki. Photo: Japan Times.

Here’s a link to what JEN-NPO has been doing for Miyagi Prefecture.

The ride will be a family-friendly fun ride, roughly 6.5 miles, at a gentle pace. We will stop so that we can enjoy the flowering cherry trees around Lake Balboa. There are 2,000 of these trees in Beilenson Park, the park that contains the artificial lake that gives the neighborhood of Lake Balboa its name. 1,000 were planted by a Japanese audio equipment manufacturer during the building of the park complex, and 1,000 more were added by the Japanese Consulate to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of flowering cherry trees to Washington, DC by the Emperor of Japan. They are a special hybrid that is suited to warmer, drier climates than those native to Japan. Non-hybrid cherry trees tend to bloom early in our Mediterranean climate here in LA, closer to January and February.

The ride will start at the Balboa Orange Line Station. There is park-and-ride space there so hopefully there will be ample parking, and it will also serve those who are using public transit to get to the ride.

Here’s the map:

And this is the chart which shows elevation change. The course is not entirely flat but it’s fairly flat, with a few small rolling hills.

Map on Map My Ride

We are hoping to time the end of the ride so that we can pause for the sunset and pay our respects to those who lost their lives on 3/11/2011.

If you are a Facebook member, please RSVP to the ride here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Tour pour Tohoku: getting out and riding to benefit Northeast Japan recovery!

Tour pour Tohoku course video

On March 11th, 2011, the world changed for the people of Tohoku. It’s been almost 3 1/2 years, and aside from the clearing away of debris and mud, it hasn’t changed back. While the Japanese Federal Government and Prefectural governments dither over how to rebuild the region, and localities are starved for funds to actually step in and rebuild, non-governmental entities are having to pick up the slack. One of the NGOs that have been on the ground since three days after the tsunami is JEN-NPO. There are many others, but they are doing particularly good work.

In June of 2011, right after I got my Associate of Arts degree from Los Angeles Valley College in Media Arts, I began working with Stu Levy as part of the Post-Production team on the documentary Pray For Japan. I was happy to finally be able to do something concrete to help the people of Tohoku. I remembered when my Twitter blew up about the 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, only the second largest in recorded history next to the Indonesian tsunami. I felt powerless as the news rolled in. I spent a sleepless night watching news feeds online. Pray For Japan attempts to give voice to those whose voices weren’t heard much during the crisis: the people who survived the tragedy, and the volunteers who came to their aid. In my opinion, the attempt was successful.

The intent of Pray For Japan was also to raise money and awareness. Last Friday, we were able to donate the first proceeds of the film over and above expenses. Here’s a pic of Director/Producer/DP Stu Levy giving the check to Keiko Kiyama, the Managing Director of JEN-NPO.


So what does this have to do with the Otagenki Project, and our goal to get Otaku off the couch?


On Sunday, September 14th, 2014, at 5:30pm, a group of cyclists will take a 6.22 (3.11 miles out and back) mile ride along the Los Angeles County coast, from Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach. The ride will begin and end at world-famous Dockweiler State Beach. The ride is timed so that we can see a glorious Pacific sunset at its end. As there is another event in Japan going on during the same day, Tour de Tohoku, this event is called Tour pour Tohoku. The course is almost completely flat, it is buffered from traffic as it’s part of the Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail, and the distance and pace will be newbie friendly. There is a bike rental facility at Dockweiler, run by Perry’s, which will have bikes available to rent for the event.


There will be a raffle for a Huffy Nel Lusso step-through frame Eurostyle cruiser bike after the ride. All proceeds from the raffle will be able to go to JEN–NPO, because the bike was given to Otagenki Project by Huffy. As you can see, this is a very stylish ride, and is reminiscent of the kind of bikes favored in cycle-friendly towns like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Valley Bikery in Van Nuys, CA will provide assistance in assembling and fitting the bike for the winner.

This ride will be coinciding with an event going on in the Tohoku region of Japan, the Tour de Tohoku. Also occurring on September 14th on the calendar, this is a much longer course and geared more towards experienced riders. Here is a video giving a taste of what the event looked like last year.

It’s not over. Tohoku still needs our help. This way, we can help and have fun at the same time, with a ride that should be friendly for most riders. You can get more details and RSVP for the event here on Facebook. There is no entry fee but we are asking people to give donations to JEN-NPO on the honor system, and to enter the raffle.

Another Otagenki report: Northridge ride!

This was a bike ride that CICLE, Valley Bikery and CSUN Bike Collective put together a few months ago, and I’m just now putting it up. This was a total blast…a group ride is something you have to experience. Lots of fun, lots of support, and this ride was designed for noobs. You should try this in your neighborhood.

Otagenki Panel at Anime Los Angeles!


Get Genki, LA Ota-zoku!

I will be doing a panel at Anime Los Angeles about first steps into a healthier lifestyle. I will hopefully have some friends with me to talk about their experiences starting a health and fitness regime, and I’ll be providing basic ideas you can incorporate into your life. And no, you will not become a jock doing this!

All the details are here…


…or on the Anime Los Angeles 10 Guidebook app, or on the Anime Los Angeles 10 schedule PDF.

The first Otagenki Report is up! A fun bike ride in Santa Barbara!

Yesterday I was out and about in Santa Barbara at Santa Barbara Open Streets…a lower-key version of CicLAvia, the huge event that happened 3 times this year in LA. This is the first time I’ve gone to one of these events and ridden my bike. This was incredibly fun, and I think the video I brought back says it all. Cycling is great exercise, almost everyone learned to ride a bike as a kid, and it really is true that you never entirely forget how to ride a bike. Bikes are easy to find at garage sales, and most big cities have bike collectives that sell refurbished bikes cheap and teach you how to fix or even build a bike for yourself. The bike I was on when I shot this was a garage sale find, bought 10 years ago, sitting stored for years and years and only recently fixed up and made roadworthy again. With my plantar fasciitis issues, cycling is a less stressful activity on that vulnerable part of my left foot. I actually did one of my miles yesterday in 5:16 which is a personal record!

Feel the love, share the joy, and GET OFF THAT COUCH! Otagenki!