I am fortunate that one of my new house mates just bought a geared bike and is letting me borrow his old mamachari. The mamachari may not be quite as sexy as this Lamborghini Countach I stumbled upon in my neighborhood, but I would still choose this mamachari bicycle over any car for exploration in Kyoto.
Mamacharis are not only ridden by moms as the name might suggest. They are the main source of transportation for all age groups and both genders in Japan. There are plenty of cars in Japan, but I’m sure the number of cars is not anywhere close to the number of mamachari bicycles. Mamacharis are single gear, simple mechanisms that are very low cost, efficient, and easy to keep functioning.
Not having ridden a single gear bike regularly since I was a child, I already find myself longing for one of the many standard and sometimes quite funky, geared bikes that can also be found in Japan. But even with this single geared mamachari, I’m sure I’ll be staying in great biking shape, sprinting all over Kyoto as fast as I can make this bike’s single sprocket spin.
I used to like to think that the word mamachari came from the the English words mama and chariot, but I have since learned that though mama does come from mama, chari comes from another word.
I have heard different ideas on where chari comes from, from different Japanese persons. But my friend Hiro gave me the true answer a long time ago. I need to check with him again to make sure I get the specifics right. I’ll be adding a lot more about Japanese bicycles here and on the podcast in the future
Photo Details: A small group of uniformed staff from Art Sports, a Japanese exotic car broker, were transporting an old, but very well-preserved Lamborghini Countach and a white Porsche Carrera near my new residence in Kyoto. They had just pulled over to grab some drinks from a bank of vending machines on Oike Dori as I was cycling past.
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