Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Mamachari

Yesterday Kurt purchased our "family car" aka the Mamachari.

What exactly is a Mamachari?  Well....

"First up the word mamachari is a typical Japanese mash up of the words mama, meaning mother and chari, a less polite word for bicycle.

The mamachari is a cultural icon, it's the Japanese equivalent of the family station wagon. Its the family workhorse used on shopping runs, for riding to the local station, taking the kids to school or picking them up from sports practice. Without it families around the country would be in a right pickle.

The defining features include, a top tube bent low that is easy to step over, a shopping basket on the front, a luggage rack on the back, mudguards, chain guards, dynamo lights, an integrated lock, a bell and a hefty rear stand that keeps the bike stable and upright when parked.

Oh, I forgot, one of the most defining features of the mamachari which is brakes that go "SCREEEEEEEEEEEECH!" when even slightly feathered, startling everyone within earshot.

After purchasing a mamachari, the upgrade of choice is a child seat. These can be mounted on the rear luggage rack or behind/between/in front of the handlebars. It's not unusual for a mamachari to sport two child seats, and on occasion you'll spot one with three! When the government implemented a ban recently on carrying two children on a mamachari mothers across Japan campaigned against the ruling and the government was forced to back down.

Our mamachari is of a newer breed designed with passengers in mind from the beginning. The child seat at the front is mounted low between the handlebars for added stability and when not in use as a child seat it converts into a decent sized basket. But as children soon outgrow the front seat we've had to add a second child seat to the rear of the bike.

Usually priced between Y10,000 and Y20,000 mamachari are essentially considered a disposable item. They're regularly left exposed to the elements for long periods of time, and for the most part are poorly maintained, even putting air in the tires seems a chore. Most people would throw a mamachari away or abandon it after years of neglect rather than undertaking simple preventative maintenance to extend the bikes useful life.

When buying a bicycle most Japanese don't consider anything other than a mamachari and initially I found this odd because when I think of bicycles I think recreation, mountain biking, commuting, racing, or for getting air off the top of a set of stairs. But in Japan I realized I'm in the minority, as even your average Japanese male purchases a bike for its utility, for making short trips to the station with a briefcase in the basket and carrying groceries home from the supermarket etc."

Kurt purposely bought one that both of us could ride.  Well, it will be a couple months before I could ride it of course...  We currently only have one seat in the back, but we need to find a solution so both kids can ride.  It will make trips to the yochien go a lot faster.

Yesterday, Kurt let the kids take turns going for a ride and they LOVED it.  Kurt was also SHOCKED how quickly he could get to places.  Places that take a good 20 minutes by train, only took 10 minutes by bike.

 Gap store at the Jiyugaoka Station

Shrine that Kurt and Kelsie found.

 Turtles by a pond Kurt and Kelsie visited.

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