Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 24 : Sep/Oct 2008  > Columns  >  Pera Pera Corner  >  Go Ride a Bike!


Pera Pera Corner

By Pauline Kitamura

Go Ride a Bike!


A great way to experience a city is to hop on a jitensha (bicycle). In Japan, however, bikes are predominantly used for transportation as opposed to recreation. It’s therefore important to keep in mind a few pointers when riding in town, including how to say “bicycle.”

In Japanese, the word “bike” pronounced baiku refers to a motorcycle – not a bicycle. If you want to find out where you can rent a bicycle, you would ask “Jitensha wo doko de kariremasuka?”

Bike rentals, however, are not very common in Japan. If you’re here for a while, it may be best to go out and buy a bike. While mountain bikes and hybrid city bikes are common in North America, the king (or queen) of bikes in Japan is the mamachari. “Mama” literally means mom, and “chari” (or charinko) is the slang for bicycle.
These are relatively cheap cookie-cutter bikes and are an indispensable mode of daily transportation used to go to the train station, grocery shopping and, for the super mama, simultaneously hauling (unbelievably) up to two children in the front and back carriers. You can usually pick up a mamachari for a reasonable ¥10,000-15,000.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in Japan you can’t just park anywhere. There are jitensha churinjou (bicycle parking areas) near almost every train station although a permit or kyoka is required. Without one, your bike will immediately be carried off to the bike pound. If you park your bike, make sure it’s far away from the station and not in a “tow-zone.”

Other points to remember: helmets are not required, bike lights are mandatory at night, futarinori or double-riding is prohibited and, if on a mamachari, stay on the sidewalk and try not to ride on the road.


Renting a bike
A perfect way to explore the city or countryside is hop on a bike. Rent a bike, or if in Japan, buy a cheap bike and pedal away.

Gathering your buddies / 友達に声を掛けよう

I’m going bike touring in Kyushu next month! Do you want to come?
Raigetsu, Kyushu ni jitensha tsuringu ni ikimasu. Issho ni ikimasuka?

At the bike rental shop / 自転車をレンタルする時

I’d like to rent a bike for the day.
Jitensha wo ichinichi rentaru shitai desu.

I’ll be riding in the city so I’d like a hybrid or city bike.
Machinaka de noru node marchinoriyou no jitensha ga hitsuyou desu.

This bike is too small for me.
Kono jitensha watashiniwa chiisasugimasu.

Oh no, I have a flat tire.
Ah- taiya ga panku shite shimatta.
Do you have a tire repair kit and a bike pump?
Panku shuuri setto to kuuki ire wo motte imasuka?

On the road/ ツーリング中

Which way are you headed?
Dochira ni mukatte imasuka?

Where did you come from?
Dochira kara kitandesuka?

Where did you park your bike?
Jitensha wa dokoni oite kita?

My legs are exhausted. Let’s take a break.
Mou ashi ga tsukareta. Chotto kyukei wo shimashou.