Japanese Bike Culture


Today we’re going to tell you about bike culture in Japan and I know you might think this is not interesting But honestly this really is interesting stick with us you’re gonna learn lots of cool stuff. First, let us show you ’bout our bikes. [funky music] Dope shit here, son. My ride is sweet! It’s got razzle tassels on it. What! Check this out. Look at your-yeah, man [S] They spinnin’! Hey, Ducky! [ring ring] What? You can even do tricks on this bike. Show them, Ducky. I’ve been working on this bike stunt. Check this out. [crowd cheering, music] [M] Oh my god, I can’t belive you landed that! [S] Whaaat? [M] Oh my god! [M] So cool. [S] I know this kinda sounds not cool so far, but this is cool, just wait! Honestly! [drum effects, mellow music] What’s up? Checkin’ out my sweet ride? [ring,ring] Can’t say I blame you. This puppy here It’s called a mamachari. Literally, that means…mom chariot. She may not look like much at first. You might think this is just a regular bike, but you would be wrong. The mamachari gives me robot legs. This is an electric assist bike, and that means when I pedal, it actually helps me pedal. They’re not like a moped, you don’t require like an extra license to get this. It’s literally battery powered into the pedal. The first time we saw these was in Kobe. We saw this little, tiny Japanese mom biking up a gigantic hill. She was a mom with two kids one kid in the front, one kid in the back and she did not have gigantic, buff legs. She was just a thin, little mom! And she was going up this hill without breaking a sweat. Without standing up. You know when you have to like stand up to make it up a hill? We thought Japanese women are apparently extremely buff and very thin. We just didn’t know that this bike actually existed. It’s for moms in Japan to go to their groceries, to pick up their kids, and it is basically their vehicle. And now that we have these, I understand why they’re amazing. We don’t need a car. We use our bikes to do all the grocery shopping, to carry our heavy gear, to put our dog in to take him to the vet. It’s amazing. Now, having bionic robot legs is not cheap. These bikes go for around a thousand bucks and the price goes, of course, higher depending on the kind you got. However, you can’t just walk into the store and just buy one that day and walk out with it. There is a process. Bike fact: You are not allowed to ride your bike drunk. Don’t think about it. It’s against the law. And if a police officer catches you, you get in trouble. So don’t do it. [funky music is back] So, when we bought our bikes it was a bit of a weird process. Because we went to Yodobashi, which is this big electronics store and when we bought our bikes, we gave them a thousand dollars for each bike. And then they wound up saying, “Ok, we’ll give you your bike in four days,” and I was thought, hold on a second this is really weird. Usually, I give you money, you give me the thing, and then our relationship is over. But it didn’t work that way. We had to fill out a form with our names and with our addresses and our identification because they had to register our bike first with the local authorities. So, all of our bikes have stickers on them with ID numbers, and like even QR codes. And we’re not gonna show you all that specific information because I’m not sure if you can hack into us that way so I’m just gonna keep that all blurred out. Now, there are a couple of reasons to register your bikes with the local authorities. And one of those reasons is if you lose your bike or if it gets stolen. Because then the police can find your bike a lot easier if it’s registered to your name and address. So be careful if you wind up buying a secondhand bike from somebody. You can’t just give them money and get your bike. There has to be this whole transfer process or it might look like you’ve stolen someone’s bike. Now, even though there are tons of bikes in Japan bike theft here isn’t really as big of an issue as it was for me back in say, Toronto. From what we’ve read, most of the theft that happens is kind of accidental. So like if someone’s really really drunk, they’ll grab the bike that they think is their’s and it winds up being yours by accident. So, that kind of is what’s more common when it comes to theft. Which is why you should lock your bike up. And it’s really easy, you don’t actually have to buy a true lock a lot of bikes come with built-in locks, you see, at the back tires. So you have your little key that pops in and out. Super cool! See, I told you this was a cool video! You’re learning lots of interesting stuff! Oh man, there’s a puppy. Look at the puppy. [S] What a nice dog. [M] You wanna park your bike and say hi to him? Can I say hi to the doggy? (x2) Oh! Hello! Hello, beautiful dog! Hello! (x2) Oh yes. What’s the name? Momo-chan. Suzu-chan. [S] Oh, hello! [M] Hi! [S] Oh, you’re beautiful. [M] Hi! Oh, you’re not supposed to jump. [M] Look at you. [S] How old? [S] Five years! [M] Our dog is very old. [S, M] Our dog is thirteen. [M] Oh yes. [S] Yeah, small dog. [S, M] Pekingese. [S] Yes. Oh, you’re beautiful. [S,M] Yes. [S] Oh, yes. Ok. Hug. [M] Kisses and hugs. [S] Ok, sorry. Ok. You wanna dance? [S] No, ok. Sorry. [M] Go on your walk. [M] Thank you! [S] Thank you so much. [S] Bye, bye beautiful dog! [M] That was an important interruption. [S] How do I let all the doggies of the world know that I love each and every one of them? [M] There’s uh, a little bit left over here. Of Momo-chan. [S] I love all the doggies. Random bike fact: You can ride your bike and say hi to doggies! Bike fact: It is illegal to bike with an umbrella in one hand in Japan in the middle of a rainstorm. But you know what? Everyone does it anyways and the cops don’t stop anyone, ’cause it rains pretty hard in Japan and people use their bikes like a normal vehicle. Or you can get a full body gigantic condom like we have. It’s pretty hilarious. Bike fact: If you are riding your bike at night you have to have a light on your bike. We’ve seen lots of police officers stop bikes that don’t have lights on them so make sure you head on over to Daiso, put on a $1 light at least and don’t break the law. [funky music playing [M] Let’s talk bike parking in Japan. If you don’t want to have your bike either towed away or ticketed, you need to park in a legal bike parking spot. If you try to park in just any ol’ location in the streets of Tokyo, you’re gonna get a ticket and when they put the ticket on your bike, you could take it and you could tear it up and throw it in the wind and say “I’m not gonna pay for this!” but guess what? Your bike is registered to your home address so they’re just gonna mail you that bike ticket and you’re gonna have to pay for it anyway. Now this kind of parking lot is the most basic kind of bike parking. It’s open. It’s usually near like a park or behind like a major building like Yodobashi or Don Quijote. And it’s open to the elements so if you leave your bike here all day and it gets rained upon… that’s gonna kind of suck. So here’s how it works: Every single parking spot has a number. You come up with your bike and you put your bike into the area and you push it hard enough until you see this kind of like, lock mechanism go over your bike tire. Go out and do your business. And then when you come back, take a look to see what your number is in this case, my number is 197. You head over to the pay machine, you type in 197, enter, and it will tell you how much you owe. So a lot of places are free for the first two hours and then after that they’ll charge you sometimes $1 an hour, sometimes $2 an hour. It really depends on the place. You can take a look at the sign. The most that we have ever paid for bike parking in Japan was $7 and that’s because we left our bikes there overnight and got them the next afternoon. ‘Cause we drank too much so we missed the subway home So we couldn’t actually…[mumbles] Anyways, so 7 bucks isn’t that bad. Most of the time it’s either free if we go for groceries or it costs us like a buck or two. Bike fact: Bikes in Japan can bike on the sidewalk and also on the road but you’re not supposed to treat your bike like a car in the sense that, if you come to an intersection, and you wanna turn with all the cars because there’s no one coming, you’re actually supposed to cross the crosswalk with everybody else. So yeah, that kinda sucks. But you know what, no one’s coming [whispers]…just go for it. I didn’t say that. I did. [S] Are you advising that people break the law? [M] No. I’d never advise something like that. [blows raspberry sound] Huge pile of flies! [laughter] So that’s it for our video on bike culture in Japan. We’re gonna talk a little bit more about it on our blog post you can click on the link in our info box and let me know what bike culture is like in your country. Do your bikes get stolen all the time? Are you allowed to bike with an umbrella in one hand? Please let us known in the comments section and if you live in Japan, let us know if your bike’s ever been stolen or if you have an amazing mamachari like this. [ringing bike bell] ring ring [hip hop play in the background] Every time I go into the room, ring ring. That’s a song, isn’t it? [S] Huh? [M] That’s a rap song, isn’t it? [S] Yeah, you’re a rapper now. [M] Ok, what song am I doing? Ready- [M]>hums intro to Snoop Dogg’s Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang and rings the bell on the bike




Comments
  1. Thank you so much to +Allison Fang and +msrjjon for the English subtitles! We really appreciate the help. Thank you!

  2. The only kind of bikers where I live in CA are intense 6am marathon group bikers wearing neon or students getting to school. Lol. My city has pretty good bike lanes, but anywhere else and people will run you down. "Murica.

  3. Simon and Martina Martina what lipstick do use in this video where did you get and what shade is it in. it looks magical ✨✨🌈🌈

  4. In Australia we have MAMILs, which stands for Middle Aged Men In Lycra, where middle-aged men with families going through a mid-life crisis buy high-end road bikes as opposed to a sports car. They often travel in packs, you usually see more of them in spring, when they come out of hibernation.

  5. I wish it was easier to find step-through bikes in America, i am very short and have very low hips so bikes are very difficult for me 🙁 it took a long time for me to start learning to ride since they just didn't make bikes that fit me here. (And! My bike was the smallest bike they had, and we still had to use a saw to bring it down lower)

  6. Only in Japan, "most bike stealing is the result of a mistake"
    I wanna know if they look for the rightful owner once they figured it out.

  7. So /that's/ the secret.  I always look at the moms in amazement and feel so weak and puny lol.  Now I know.  I brought my bike from the States.  I can't afford the "mom chariot", but it'd be great to have one.  My bike hasn't been stolen, but it's probably not worth a lot here.  It was like $200 (maybe less) in the US.  I had it in the house at first (wheel covers and brushing it off), but now I store it outside (all weather, full body and wheel cover).  It's locked to a gate, but someone with big wire cutters and determination could get it.

  8. I would die if I tried to ride a bike in my area😢. There aren't any sidewalks outside of the housing complexes so you have to drive. It is expensive and environmentally unfriendly. I would like to be able to walk or ride a bike instead🚶🚴

  9. Tokyo traumatized me, for a month after the trip I had to check my back every few seconds in fear of a bike coming behind me.
    Here they just ring until you move away on the sidewalk, but in Tokyo they stealthily ride behind you (ninja bikes!) and hope that you notice them by accident to let them pass.
    And you feel like crap when you put 1 and 1 together: "Yes, the sound I've been hearing in the background for the last few minutes must have been that bike"
    Stupid nice japanese people 😀

  10. Where I come from, biking in the city could literally kill you. If the traffic doesn't the potholes will. If you escape the heat, there's crime. But things are slowly getting better. Slowly. Maybe my grandchildren may bike safely to work one day. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  11. I live in Portland, Oregon, where lots of people ride bikes in the rain. The electric assist bikes are pretty common, as well as wheelbarrow or elongated bikes to ride with kids on the same bike. But I've never seen anyone bike while holding an umbrella! They either wear a raincoat and rain pants or those rain capes are pretty popular.

  12. Bikes in the us are "for" kids and people who bike for exercise, they do need to be seen more as a form of transport instead of the exception or for juvinilles

  13. That thing about bikes being registered is very interesting and seems clever, but the rest was very familiar to me as a Swede (like built-in locks, that you can't bike drunk and the bike parking lots (except I've never ever paid for that).

  14. I bike in the Boston area, it’s mostly fine in the bike paths but when you have to bike on the street with cars it’s terrifying. I’ve had cars almost run me off the road several times, and I’m not even in my bike that often. I also hear horror stories of people getting car-doored on the regular. You don’t learn bike safety in drivers ed and drivers don’t get ticketed for ignoring bikers, so that needs to change. Thankfully these days when a road is being redone the city will actually move the bike lanes between the street parking and the sidewalk (instead of the other way around.) Bike theft isn’t a big problem here, but people do use those giant u-bar locks to be on the safe side.

  15. Your videos make me smile so much! The "robot legs" punchline got me by surprise too. 😀
    Thanks for sharing your cool experiences with us!

  16. an other law they have about biking in Japan, you are not allowed to rent out your bike to others,
    IF you get caught biking someone elses bike you will get a ticket and the bike might get thrown in to bike jail.

  17. I live in Mississauga so you know what it's like with bikes here. =)  I learned an awful lot about bikes in Japan!  Thank you so much for doing this video.  You should have seen my mouth drop when I was all, "You have to PAY to park your bike???". 
    I do like the idea of assisted biking though.  Niiiiice.  Dang expensive bikes though.  
    I'd like to know what it's actually like actually cycling in an actual Japanese city during actual rush hour.  Like….it it insane like the Netherlands?  Is it freaky scary with all the traffic?  I'm sure you wouldn't be able to cycle on the sidewalks with all the people, right?  
    Also….I've heard you have to do something special if you want to put your bike on the subway? You can't just schlep it on there you have to get it a ticket and put it in a bag and stuff?

  18. Hi, I'm from Singapore. In my country, our bicycle culture is most people actually like to use cheap mountain bikes/ racers/ electric bicycles that have throttles and just in case you don't know electric skate scooters are considered as bicycles in Singapore but are not allowed to run on the roads. Bicycles on the other end, are allowed on both roads and pavements, electric bicycles are only allowed on the roads, shared paths and cycling paths but are not allowed on walking paths. Sometimes you still see chariots around, is just that chariots in Singapore are usually used by ladies. I am using a trail bike for off road rides sometimes. In terms of behaviour, I would say it depends because we have 3 different races in my country we have Chinese, Malays, and Indians and on top of that, we do have many foreign workers here as well. Foreign workers are allowed to ride bicycles and no license for bicycles are required. Only electric bicycles will need a license plate

  19. If someone steals your bike, why wouldn't they just remove the ID tag on it? The idea that registration is for the public's benefit is the justification, but I bet they charge you a fee (aka tax) to register it.

  20. I live in Eastern Kentucky and if I tried to ride my bike in my holler (a valley between mountains where houses are) I’d either get hit driven into a mountain or driven in the river. But! I am moving to Cincinnati next year so hopefully I’ll be able to ride it more!

  21. Wait do you lock your bike with a private lock as well? Cuz otherwise someone could pay 2 bucks for your parking and then take your bike, right?

  22. I have never heard of "chari" being derived from "chariot", but I like it. It is a lot better than the other 3 theories of how "charinko" came to mean bicycles.

  23. its really cool to see bikes with mobility aids! i have limited mobility, and the repetitive motion can be really hard on my legs. i bet biking is a bit easier on martinas body too!

  24. Japan is not particularly friendly to bicycles as far as the infrastructure goes specially if you compare to Sweden or Denmark but people still use them a lot.
    It's quite similar to US.
    They design and build bike path to get rid of the bicycle from the road, not to encourage more use of it.
    As a result, they tend to build paths just for the recreation, not for connecting the points people would use most(such as residential area to the shopping center or school etc).
    Perhaps people who plan the bike paths don't even use bicycles, both in Japan and US.

  25. I live in wyoming U.S.A., so seeing bicks is realy rare. Everything is very spread out and hilly so even trying to ride a bick in our "citys" is very difficult. Witch is very sad.

  26. You guys could make talking about a piece of bread interesting…. oh wait. THEY DID! I adore you guys

  27. I gotta say.. this was a delightful video, and it reminded me of the fun things we learned about bikes while on our short trip there. But you didn't mention the uber-awesome bike-powered headlights! That's what really blew us away while there. Seriously, how are those not a thing in the States?

  28. mm.. you can tell them just to give you the bike at the moment. You can register your bike at just about any bike shop for about 500 yen, and they will usually be done in an hour or so. Interestingly, Yodobashi will register your bike, while Bic will not. Perhaps the important thing to note is that the police will often move your bike instead of just putting a ticket, and they place they move it will usually be very far away and inconvenient to get to. (Worse yet, if you didn't register your bike, you'll probably never find it). As for riding on the sidewalk, technically it's only legal is the road in that area is "dangerous to ride on" – which is vague. In practice, usually police let it slide – but if you hit one, you will basically automatically be found at fault.

  29. Bike culture in Sardinia is “you got a bike, you park it without at least two locks per tire= you got no bike, suck it and go home”

  30. In Sweden biking is very common, but the number of bikers change from city to city. I went to university in Lund (south Sweden, 45 minute train ride from Copenhagen) and it's a bike town because it's a university town and the only inhabitants are students and old people lol. So in the city centre we had the centre's only straight road where both cars and buses are allowed. And a few special side roads where only buses can go. All other side roads is for walking/biking. And if you're walking and is gonna cross the street YOU BETTER LOOK BEHIND YOURSELF OR ELSE YOU'RE GONNA GET MOWED DOWN BY A BIKE, kind regards from a biker who may have mowed down people BECAUSE THEY WALKED STRAIGHT UP IN THE BIKING LANE WALK IN THE WALKING LANES FFS

    ahem.

    But Lund pales in comparsion to Copenhagen. They have special bike lanes and special bike laws. If you're in the bike lane, you MUST keep to the right side of the road. If you happen to bike on the left side you'll get a fine. And for the love of god, DO NOT WALK IN THE BIKE LANES, kind regards, was once saved by my crush because we were walking towards the trainstation late at night in a group and we hadn't seen a single bike for 5 minutes.

  31. The electric assist bikes are great! I live in the Netherlands and go to work on my bike. It's like a 15 km journey one way and in my part of the country there is often a lot of wind. With the electric bike I can still have some activity in the morning but I don't arrive at my work all exhausted from the trip 😁

  32. Thanks so much for this video. I haven't ridden a bike in years, and can't get around quite as easily as I used to (dammit MS for giving me feeble pins!), but after seeing you two show how fabulous an electric bike is, I bit the bullet and bought one for myself. Oh the sweet joy of feeling the wind in my hair!!

  33. May I ask where Simon is originally from? When he's alone talking about the bikes, he sounds very much like he's from Wisconsin or Illinois!

  34. The idea of paying for bike parking is insane to me. Like its bad enough paying for car parking & that takes up a significant amount of space. A bike is tiny. I feel like not having to pay for petrol or parking is the main reason people would bike where I live. shocked face

  35. Pretty cool. I like the style of Japanese bikes, they look comfortable to ride. Here in my part of the USA everyone seems to want mountain bikes or racing speed bikes.

  36. The intro, amazing. Also Martina, you look so gorgeous in this video (well you always do) but damn, you're on spot here.
    When I was in Japan I had a bike too, but I didn't register it, a friend just passed it down to me. It wasn't a fancy bike at all though. Nobody ever questioned me about it.
    My friends from other countries were super confused by all the bike-rules, but appart from the parking a lot of the rules are the same as in Germany.
    Also I just love dogs, they are so full of love for everyone.

  37. Awesome video 👍 I’m going to Japan next year in May and I was wondering if I can buy a Mamachari electric bike in Japan and have it ship in Toronto? Is it even worth it to buy it in Japan? Thanks

  38. in Chile you can't park your bike anywhere… because they will steal it… and we don't need a licence plate on them or anything that japan has 🙁 i wish we had all that stuff… we can ride bikes with any stuff we want… and, we must ride them in the streets where cars circulate, or the police fine us… ooh and i almost forgot, we must use helmets and a reflective vest (its super anoying)… and well it's quite dangerous to bike in Chile, so we must equip our bikes well, just for our safe… i think that's all..

  39. Tweekers here in WA will steal your bike locked or not. Operation of a bike while drunk is super common also. Biking while snowing or icy out keeps me from getting one. English springer spaniel is my favorite puppy.

  40. The idea of paying for bike parking is only ever logical if the local council cannot afford to write off the cost of installation and/or the facilities are top quality, well-maintained and with every consideration in mind. Even then, it should be dirt cheap, like 50 cents a day per bike.

    The fact that they charge more than some car parking schemes and haven't even bothered to cover the area is frankly insulting.

  41. the mamachari daily bicycle has been optimized for utility with useful front basket and sometimes an extra one in back, of course bright lights and a cheery bell

  42. Buy your bike off Amazon Japan and it won't have a registration number. Then you can just lock it up to any light pole and the police or whoever, won't be able to tell who's bike it is.

  43. So in Germany…
    – We really try to get cities bike-friendly (the Netherlands / Amsterdam is our big inspiration we look up to)
    – You need lights and it makes me (as a cycling person) so angry if people have no light, have their front light shining too high (because it will blind oncoming traffic!) or (and that is the worst I have seen so far) bikes with a battery powered red light on the front … you think they are moving away, but they are coming at you – AAAARGH. 🙂
    – Electric Bikes are becoming popular and there are really nice ones and they can easily cost multiple thousand euros … so don't just leave them outside or they might be gone.
    – Bike theft… you can register your bike to the police, it will help them find your bike (every bike has an engraved number on their body, you will get a sticker in addition).
    – People might have one city-bike they use and don't really care about (other than conforming with the law) and it is some second hand bike that looks so uninteresting, nobody will make the effort to steal it. And they might have the other bike (Mountainbike, Speedy Bike or a great touring bike) for trips and activities on which they want to enjoy their bikes.
    – You are not allowed to ride your bike on the sidewalk (you can if you are < 8 years old).
    – If there are mandatory bike lanes (marked with a solid line), you have to use it (but only if it can be considered safe. I'll come to that.)
    – There are bike protection lanes which can be used and are beside the car lanes (they are marked with dashes).
    – You can ride your bike on the car lane (if there is no ~safe~ mandatory bike lane beside it). No car should complain, but they do, and those drivers are idiots.
    – Safe bike lanes: If there are cars parking next to your bike lane, there might be car doors opening into the bike lane and you don't want to risk it. Ride your bike on the car lane.
    – Cars HAVE TO keep AT LEAST 1.5m distance to your bicycle when overtaking you. They sometimes don't and then they are idiots.
    – To avoid cars overtaking in a risky fashion, you ride your bike in the middle of the car lane, risk the hatred of car drivers but make sure they have to use the oncoming car lane to overtake and keep their distance.

    So… I'll stop here. Riding a bike is fun in Germany. I hope you liked it or it helped somebody. Forget all the cars (yeah yeah… German cars and stuff… get rid of those space consuming things already) and ride your bike. 😀

  44. In Texas, we have don't have a good bike culture. At this apartment complex, we're required to keep our bicycles in our apartments or on our balcony/porch. There is no parking or bike rack anywhere to be found. However, we are getting better. The rich-people apartments across the street have the complementary bikes that you can use (like in Paris). But the roads are not bike-friendly. There are some bike paths popping up here and there but we have a long way to go. Stores don't have anywhere you can lock your bike up or park it so you have to get creative if you're going to try to start using a bike instead of a car.

  45. Bike culture in Chile: they can get anywhere in any direction, if you are in a car: BEWARE, you'll always be guilty even if a bike crashes you. Last but not least: if you don't chain your bike, there is a 99% probability of getting it stolen (either the seat or the whole thing)

  46. Good video but if you wanna tour a bit where are the maps …what if you wanna hire a bike did you not check them out 1k for a bike is crazy

  47. Come to uk. Don’t need to worry about leaving your bike and picking in up later. It will be stolen by then. Also don’t worry about any road rules since you are above the law.

  48. I came back to this video because I thought this is the one where you say you have a pinwheel on your bike but it's not…nevertheless, I'm getting a bike soon and I'm getting a pinwheel on it too! I love cute, bike accessories and would love to see more about it to get more ideas. P.S. I'm also getting this little rubber ducky that wears a helmet that goes on your handlebar AND LIGHTS UP!

  49. Hey, Simon and Martina! Can you make a video with just you guys cycling around town (doing errands or visiting parks)?

  50. Electric assist bicycles were developed in Japan 30 years ago, but have not yet become so popular. The penetration rate is less than 10% in 2018.
    Two kids on one bicycle, actually Japanese moms do it on a normal bicycle.

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