Friday, September 12, 2008


Sometimes, the view of my other nation are strikingly refreshing. Although I sometimes bemoan some of the problems in Japan, you have to admit that the following is a breath of fresh air.

In Japan, the use of bicycles is quite high amongst the population. In response to this, there are many different models of bicycle - one to fit more utilitarian needs than going fast and smooth for long distances while you lose blood flow to your genitals (aka. a road bike) or being robust enough to handle rough downhill terrain and/or jumps (aka. a mountain bike). In Japan, many housewives need a bicycle that allows them to go to the store, pick up the kids, and generally get around during the day. Welcome to the "mamachari", a Japanese portmanteau of "Mama" and "charinko" ("charinko" is the older Japanese word for bicycle; the description below doesn't quite get this one right, but makes for a great mental image of a "mother's chariot").

h/t: Treehugger:
I confess - I own a mamachari. It is a really simple bicycle that you see all over Japan. Usually mothers use them for quick trips to the grocery store or to bring the kids to kindergarden. Thus the name, a combination of "mama" and "chariot". Nope, the mamachari is not particularly sexy, but it is easy to ride and always comes with a basket up front. Plus a baby seat. Or sometimes two babyseats: one up front and one in the back. When the government tried to ban the mamachari with two babyseats, mothers all over Japan protested in a massive campaign. The government had to back down (no kidding), and a discussion finally started about how this country should build more bikeroads.
These aren't really new things, either. When I was going to school in Japan (wa~ay back in the 1980s and early 1990s) I would see women riding these around my (rather residential) neighborhood. I would also see the occasional mamachari with an electric motor to provide the assist needed to get a bike with a full front basket of groceries as well as an elementary schooler in the rear up a 6% or 7% grade. These things aren't going to make any records in the traditional areas of performance, but if you include "carrying capacity" or "utility" among the factors counted, the mamachari will give road bikes and mountain bikes (hell, even my so-called hybrid bike) a run for their money!

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