Sunday, 17 July 2011

じてんしゃ and ママチャリ (Bicycles and Mama-chariots)

In a country of over 127 million people, the use of bicycles has exceeded that of cars - some estimate that there are as many as 86 million bicycles in Japan. This has lead to many uniquely Japanese innovations - in particular the 'Mama chari' (mama chariot)  and the Eco Cycle parking system.

With so many bicycles, there are of course some problems with  bicycle parking. Many people ride their bicycle to the train station and leave it parked at the station as they ride a train to work. As you may imagine, there are many, many bicycles parked at every station!
Bicycles parked at a train station in Japan

More bicycles parked at train stations!

And along the sides of streets.

More again!

This is a particularly large bicycle parking area.
 To deal with the problem of bicycle parking, the Japanese have created the Eco Cycle parking system. It is a system of underground bicycle parking which reduces the space needed for bicycle parking
The Eco Cycle parking booth above ground - just pop in your bicycle and your money!

Your bicycle will be automatically moved to the underground storage area.


An artists impression of how the underground storage unit looks.

Storing bicycles underground clears the area above ground while keeping bicycles safe.

Another uniquely Japanese creation is the 'Mama chari'. This refers to a bicycle with one or more child seats attached. While we now have these in Australia, they have been in Japan for a long time and come in all shapes and sizes!

Standard 2-child seat Mama chari - the children travel in comfort and safety

This mama-chari has seats for two children and a basket for the groceries

It's lots of fun riding the mama-chari

The bicycle is well made and does not tip easily.

Three fit comfortably on this mama-chari

Of course, it is not only children who get to ride in the seat!

An this is an adaption of the mama-chari - the papa-chari!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

日本 の かさ - Japanese Umbrellas

Every year in Japan, there is a rainy season which begins in about June and continues until around the end of July. It is called 'tsuyu' or Plum rain, as it occurs at the same time as the plums ripening on the trees. During this time, it is summer in Japan so it becomes very humid, and Japan receives up to 80% of her annual rainfall.

During this time, umbrella's are a must in Japan, and of course, Japanese ingenuity has lead to great inventiveness in both umbrellas and umbrella bags!

During tsuyu, everyone in Japan carries an umbrella

Of course, some umbrellas are a little fancier than others - here is some umbrella bling!

Umbrella design has become quite advanced - these are not dolls, but umbrellas!

Japanese umbrellas can be very beautiful works of art

This umbrella offers full coverage

As does this one - but with a little more style perhaps?

I-brolly? An umbrella design with a sound system!

And this is the ultimate high tech umbrella - with access to the internet!
 Everyone knows that when you walk into a building with an umbrella, it often drips on the ground. This is not a problem in Japan - there are a number of ways that avoid this problem:

An umbrella stand outside a building in Japan
At a Japanese school, there is an umbrella stand in the foyer next to the shoe box (getabako)


Umbrella bag machines can be found in almost every major store - the umbrella bagger - just pop your umbrella in and it is covered by a plastic bag which catches the drips - use the bag remover on your way out!

And more recently, there has been the introduction of ... the umbrella dryer - a bit like a hand-dryer but this is especially for umbrellas!
Many people in Japan use transparent umbrellas - this allows you to hold the umbrella over your head and still see where you are walking

Transparent umbrellas are very handy when riding your bike - especially if the rain is coming toward your face
And of course, there are always crazy inventions - here are just a few unusual umbrella inventions:

The 'hands-free' umbrella
A more high-tech 'hands-free' umbrella

Why should your dog get wet when walking in the rain!


Keeping your camera safe when taking photos

Feed my fish!

Ready to make music?