Bicycles have been an important aspect of Japanese life since the 1870s, when the Japanese began modifying European imported bicycles to better fit the Asian body type. In 1927, the government declared a “Bicycle Commemoration Day”, set on November 11th. And by 1940, there were over 8 million bicycles in use in Japan.
The war took its toll on much of the country: 3 million bicycles had been lost; what remained was in very bad shape, leaving a markedly low morale among the Japanese people. But from these and other painful casualties of the war- the destruction of much beauty, hundreds of lives lost, Japan comfort women- the country and its people slowly but surely recovered.
Today, bicycles are widely used all over Japan, the most common type called the “mamachari”, or “mom’s bicycle”. They are usually equipped with a basket (for marketing and visits to the shops) or a child seat. These are bicycles for everyday use, and are available for rent all over the country.
Despite the name “mom’s bicycle”, the mamachari is suitable for use by both genders, and are usually quite affordable to rent, going from about 1000-1300 yen a day.
Mamachari are known as “utility” bikes, setting them apart from typical athletic bicycles. However, an annual Mamachari Endurance Race is held at the Tokachi International Speedway- a fun event filled with festivities and costumed cyclists.
Mamachari have also, in recent years, gained popularity outside of Japan, most notably in London, where worsening traffic has made cycling a practical choice.