Hiroshi Ito & Toru Hara

It’s obvious from the abundance of bikes scattered around Hiroshi Ito & Toru Hara’s Tokyo design studio that cycling is embedded as part of their daily lives, connecting them to all the subtleties this unique city has to offer.


Hiroshi's & Toru's Ride

Taking us through the Setagaya area of the city and travelling directly north towards the Musashino Plateau. These are the borders from metropolis to suburbia, or what was once countryside. The lines are not distinct but you will definitely sense the change, both physically and visually in the character of the area. Defined by multiple historic waterways, where fish and birds coexist – during the summertime you’ll even find children swimming. In this more natural environment flowers and trees thrive and many local roads are still only single-lane alleys. Farmland here is also still in abundance, you can actually smell the soil when it catches a spring wind as you cycle by.

Distance: 23 km
Elevation: +34 m
Estimated time: 2 hrs

Route available at Rapha Tokyo Clubhouse

At Groovisions they have forged their own path since beginning in 1993, working with some of the worlds best known brands, yet by their own admission still retaining a sense of the amateur, uninfluenced by the abundance of design trends.

It’s maintaining this freedom from the constraints of design that allows them to create unique work inspired by the primary coloured pop culture of the city that surrounds them. This freedom they strive for also translates in the way they experience Tokyo by bicycle, “You can connect to everything directly, it allows you to really feel the geography and understand the city in detail.” The ever-present climbs, the meandering twists and turns, the intriguing chaos of Tokyo is a perfect playground for exploration by bike “Unlike cars, you can make an immediate decision to stop and explore.” Encouraging spontaneity and adventure, changing the way you see things.

“The city is interwoven with so many backstreets and hidden places. You could spend a lifetime here and be continuously discovering.”

"You can connect to everything directly, it allows you to really feel the geography and understand the city in detail.”

Hiroshi Ito

Tokyo grew organically without any real planning from an amalgamation of different towns – a very Japanese concept, unlike the macro planning of many western cities. “If the city was well organised, there wouldn’t be as many interesting places.” Places that never get exposure because they’re hidden. “In a city like Tokyo it happens all the time if you’re cycling.” And the importance of discovering the place by yourself is what makes it so special.

Tokyo may be the most populated city on earth, but Japan is an extremely mountainous country with cities growing in the scattering of at areas that exist. So by default, all cities are naturally close to the mountains and Tokyo is no exception. “When you ride in the mountains, you can see the city, which feels like an imposter.” It can switch the importance of your perspective fairly quickly.

When you graduate to longer rides the sense of distance changes with the relative size of the city in your head changing dramatically and your perception of the bike changes with it.

As a designer, Ito first began accumulating bikes as design objects, gradually his interest grew from mountain bikes toward more refined road bikes, which was when Hara eventually began to take interest. With the choices he makes Ito looks to the rebels of bicycle design, bikes that break with the norm. “Where the bicycle can touch people in a way that you can see through the form of the bike what the designer was thinking.” Especially with smaller brands, “I can really empathise with their breaking convention.”

Both designers live toward the edge of the city, each day’s journey will depend on their feelings and they will often explore different routes on returning home. “Because there are so many natural landmarks, like waterways, railways and main roads I can take very random routes and still nd my way eventually.” In the evening, as darkness falls and house lights begin to illuminate there’s a very present feeling of ‘life’. Because the city is so crammed and chaotic, roads are narrow and houses tightly packed, you’re so close, almost riding through people lives, the aroma of food being prepared, people returning home from work, “there are so many scenes taking place, it’s restorative and helps reset my mind. It’s not unusual that my choice of food will be influenced, suddenly inspired by a nearby aroma.”

Cycling itself doesn’t directly influence their work, but the activity enables the opportunity for creative thought where ideas can blossom “I ride bikes because it feels good.” explains Ito “It’s the freest form of transportation in the world and symbolises freedom to me. That’s why it’s important. Just knowing that bicycles are part of my life is a great state of mind.”