Using the i-ROAD to Explore Some of Tokyo’s Nature-Packed Settings!

Under clear blue skies, taking off on a mini-adventure in the "i-ROAD for Two"

Test Drive Pilots

The date: A November day. The place: The Setagaya Ward district of Tokyo. Beneath deep blue skies providing the perfect definition of "crisp autumn weather," a father-daughter team took off for a spin in a yellow-colored "i-ROAD for Two." Behind the wheel was Mr. Matsuo, a Test Drive Pilot from Phase 4 of the OPEN ROAD PROJECT phase. Riding shotgun in the rear seat was his daughter, dressed in a green outfit nicely coordinated with the yellow hue of the i-ROAD.
Mr. Matsuo seemed pleased as punch as he climbed into i-ROAD for the first time in many months, fondly recalling the vehicle's impressive "sense of oneness." If the truth were told, however, although Mr. Matsuo had previously piloted a regular i-ROAD, this was his first time to drive an "i-ROAD for Two" model. Looking forward to new discoveries and experiences, the duo began the drive by heading out toward Todoroki Gorge.
The date: A November day. The place: The Setagaya Ward district of Tokyo. Beneath deep blue skies providing the perfect definition of "crisp autumn weather," a father-daughter team took off for a spin in a yellow-colored "i-ROAD for Two." Behind the wheel was Mr. Matsuo, a Test Drive Pilot from Phase 4 of the OPEN ROAD PROJECT phase. Riding shotgun in the rear seat was his daughter, dressed in a green outfit nicely coordinated with the yellow hue of the i-ROAD. Mr. Matsuo seemed pleased as punch as he climbed into i-ROAD for the first time in many months, fondly recalling the vehicle's impressive "sense of oneness." If the truth were told, however, although Mr. Matsuo had previously piloted a regular i-ROAD, this was his first time to drive an "i-ROAD for Two" model. Looking forward to new discoveries and experiences, the duo began the drive by heading out toward Todoroki Gorge.

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Seeing how Tokyo also offers impressive natural settings!

Seeing how Tokyo also offers impressive natural settings!

Within the 23 wards that form the focal part of Greater Tokyo, Todoroki Gorge qualifies as the only true "ravine" as such. Nestled in a rich natural environment, the canyon-like site has been designated as an "official site of scenic beauty" in Tokyo Metropolis. Season-wise, this test ride took place at the height of the autumnal color change time of year. Warmly welcoming the i-ROAD, for example, were rows of Japanese maples reaching out with arms of bright scarlet leaves.

Getting out of the ultra-light compact, Mr. Matsuo and his daughter went on a one-kilometer walk along the Yazawa-gawa River, crisp fallen leaves crunching under their feet. With the chirping of songbirds in the air, the stroll could not have been more pleasant. Mr. Matsuo’s daughter kept busy using her binoculars to focus in on birds in the trees, listen intently to their songs, pick up pretty leaves and acorns, and otherwise savor the hike. Standing in front of a bamboo grove, she murmured about how the Shining Princess (from the ancient Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) might be hiding somewhere among the trees. Catching up with Mr. Matsuo, whose hands were full of acorns that his daughter had picked up along the way, we asked him about his impressions so far.

"With the i-ROAD being so compact, there’s a truly intriguing and intimate sense of fit. Since I’m in the driver’s seat and my daughter’s in the back, we can’t directly see each other’s faces. Yet despite that, there’s a sense of being extremely close together. I mean, we’ve chatted much like always, with her telling me that she was recently picked to be on the relay team, how her teacher praised a picture that she drew and other fresh reports. As a parent, it’s great to directly hear and feel how my daughter is enjoying herself, even she’s speaking from the rear seat."

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Continuing the drive, the next stop was at Manganji Todoroki Temple, where Mr. Matsuo parked the i-ROAD in a local lot. This particular temple, famed for having mystical powers in matchmaking and other areas of romantic fate, was bustling with visitors that day. Gazing down at Todoroki Gorge from the main pavilion, the dazzling beauty of the autumn leaves once again glistened in full glory.

Even Mr. Matsuo’s daughter felt moved to pause from her leaf-gathering fun and take in the scenery. As they continued the visit, she also proved to be surprisingly familiar with the method of offering prayers, the ritual hand washing and other temple etiquette. If venturing a guess, this would appear to be evidence of frequent visits by the Matsuo family to temples and other places of worship. After she prayed, we asked the young lady what she had wished for. She replied with a smile: "That’s a secret. If I tell, it won’t come true, right?"

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i-ROAD rides prone to inspire revealing new topics?

i-ROAD rides prone to inspire revealing new topics?

From the Todoroki temple, Mr. Matsuo motored to the Futako Tamagawa area, where they stopped for a lunch break. After all that walking, both father and daughter were famished! As they grabbed a welcome bite, they also treated the i-ROAD to "lunch" (referring to a fresh power charge at a nearby parking lot). Tuning into their conversation over the meal, Mr. Matsuo’s daughter appeared to be asking for a Santa Claus set of Lego building blocks for Christmas. She also mentioned a "boyfriend" from time to time, conjuring up pangs of anxiety for us as well. Daddy Matsuo also appeared slightly perplexed by that particular turn in the chat, and offered the following candid comment: "One of the benefits of taking drives with my daughter is the opportunity to hear her mention topics unlikely to come in normal conversations."

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Offering its own special access to natural beauty, the i-ROAD begs to be taken out again and again!

Offering its own special access to natural beauty, the i-ROAD begs to be taken out again and again!

Having eased their hunger pangs, Mr. Matsuo and his daughter picked up their recharged i-ROAD and set out for Kosaka Greenbelt Park in the 4-chome district of Seta. This park, forming one section of the inclined wooded area on the Kokubunji cliff line, contains the "Old Kosaka Family Home" (the registered tangible cultural property of the ward) and a traditional garden highlighted by the flow of natural spring water.

Here, the time passes in leisurely tranquility, that day steeped in an atmosphere where the flow of sunlight seemed audible in its own distinctive tenor. Visiting on their own, grownups may be prone to get swept up in the ambiance, falling into a meditative hush. On this occasion, such thoughts were quickly extinguished by the sheer energy that children so commonly exhibit. That is, Mr. Matsuo’s daughter wasted no time in tramping around noisily as she explored the grounds, soon discovering a big spider’s web that she reported to her dad.

Finally, before they climbed back into the i-ROAD to head back, we took a moment to ask this father-daughter combination about their impressions of the day’s activities.
Reported Mr. Matsuo: "It was truly enjoyable. Although I normally ride around locally by bicycle, this car greatly expands my activity sphere. With the i-ROAD, there are any number of nice spots I’d like to visit – Komazawa Park, Kinuta Park and many others. It was also a joy to engage in a different level of communication with my daughter than usual. Today alone, there were several times when I realized just how much she has grown up. This makes me more determined than ever to take such outings with her, as often as we can, until the day arrives that she no longer wants to hang out with her dad any more!"

We next asked his daughter, with her reply simple and to the point: "That was really fun!" Her content expression, and the acorns and dried fallen leaves clutched in her hands, were clear messages of the sense of satisfaction with the day’s events. Perhaps tuckered out by the walking, she had a sleepy look on her face as she got back into the rear of the i-ROAD. Looking as if she might doze off in no time at all, the day’s jaunt came to an end.

For such a modern city, Tokyo is surprising fertile in natural settings. However, most of those locations are tough to get to by train, and the extensive walking to follow can be discouraging. Going to all the trouble of driving there in oversized cars is also a bit much, which is too bad because most such spots remain largely unchanged from the distant past. In that sense, the i-ROAD appears to be necessary for taking off on such "mini-adventures" around the Japanese Capital. And, as seen in the case of Mr. Matsuo and his daughter, expanding the activity range can also naturally lead to fond and lasting memories for both parents and their children.

TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Yuta Nishida

ISSUED : 06 December 2016

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