My mama-chari

btw: The name mama-chari comes from the word 'mama' (mother) and 'charinko' (slang for bicycle).

So in an effort to save money and to keep a relatively constant level of fitness, I am riding my bicycle to and from work every day.

In Japan, almost every person (man, woman and child) owns a bicycle and they are almost all the same. The basic models cost about 10,000yen ($100US) and

Mothers use them to carry children to school and to carry groceries from the supermarket ...

(I don't know this cute child, but
this picture shows a child in a seat on the front of a bicycle)

... fathers use them to get to the train stations every morning before work

... high school students use them to meet friends and gather in social places.

The bicycles don't have gears, and every bicycle is fitted with a light and a basket on the front!

Of course because almost everyone in Japan has a bicycle, parking can be a bit of a nightmare, but most train stations have huge parking lots for bicycles (like the one below). Near my local station, parking costs 2000yen per month, or 150yen per day (depending on how often you want to park there).

And of course, if you park your bicycle illegally it will be taken away by the authorities and impounded. The fee to free your poor bicycle is around 2500yen and the locations of these impound lots are usually quite far away, so it definitely pays to park your bicycle properly!

Other interesting Japan bicycle facts...

#1 there are entire magazines devoted to the humble mama-chari.

#2 occasionally, the seats of foreign women's bicycles are stolen as souvenirs!

#3 you can buy special pockets to hold your tiny dog comfortably on your bicycle!

#4 in parts of Tokyo (the most crowded city in Japan where space for traditional parking lots is scarce) electronic vertical bicycle parking lots have been built to store lots of mama-chari.


  1. Oh my goodness. This is quite possibly the coolest thing ever. Especially the parking lots. That's amazing, and certainly more cost efficient and environment friendly as well. :)

  2. Right? I kind of wish we had those electronic parking towers in Osaka too. But there are these really sweet old men who patrol the bicycle parking lots in Osaka and they greet me with a big "Ohayou gozaimasu" (good morning) every day. I would miss that if we went electronic I suppose :)


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