A to Wa of Japan: Week 32

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with  ほ (ho) and we looked at Horyuji (法隆寺).This week we are looking at things beginning with ま (ma). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

Japan Australia suggested Matsumoto Castle (松本城 / a castle in Nagano Prefecture), Magome (馬籠宿 / a stop on the ancient Nakasendo route), matsuri (祭 / festival), and Matsue (松江 / the capital of Shimane Prefecture); Jay Dee suggested Matsumoto Castle, maguro (鮪 / tuna), Machida (町田 / a city in Tokyo), maiko (舞妓 / an apprentice geisha), matcha (抹茶 / powdered green tea), and Marugame Castle (丸亀城 / a castle in Kagawa Prefecture); and Paul suggested manga (漫画 / Japanese comics); Mamachari ( ママチャリ / a popular type of bicycle), and Crown Princess Masako (皇太子徳仁親王妃雅子).

There were some great suggestions this week, and in the end I decided to write about…

Mamachari ( ママチャリ)

This week was a big week for me as, having recently decided to learn to cycle, I finally got a bike of my own! For those of you who don’t know, I didn’t learn to ride a bike when I was a kid, so I’ve grown up not riding one. I really started to wish I could ride a bike when I moved to Nagoya, as it seemed like everyone had one, but I was scared to try to learn and I didn’t want to buy a bike and be stuck with it if I couldn’t do it. In hindsight (wonderful hindsight!) I really should have tried while I was in Japan. Anyway, now I’m in Bristol and there are lots of cyclists here too, so I finally decided to give it a go. The bike I have acquired this week needs some work doing, but it’s better than no bike at all and I can’t wait to get out there and learn to ride it properly!

So, what has all this got to do with Japan? Well, there is a certain kind of bike you will see a lot in Japan, and it’s known as a ‘mamachari’. ‘Chari’ is a casual or slang word for bicycle (the proper word is ‘jitensha’, 自転車), and ‘mama’ means ‘mother’, so a ‘mamachari’ is literally a ‘mother’s bike’. However, mamachari in Japan are for everyone – you certainly don’t have to be a mum to ride one!


Mamachari photo by Shayyy galáxico (Flickr)

Mamachari usually have baskets on the front, and sometimes the back, and often have various kinds of child seats attached to them. A typical mamachari will look something like this:

Mamachari illustration

(Image: mamachari.co.nz)

Last month I read the exciting news that mamachari were coming to the UK (see this Japan Today article). The article announced that Noah Fisher of Mamachari Bicycles in London had set out on a mission to bring affordable mamachari bikes to the UK, and had finally succeeded. Although initially it seemed Fisher wouldn’t be able to import Japanese bikes, he later found out that he could do so if they were refurbished second-hand ones. Thus, Mamachari Bicycles was born, and they began trading in July. Bicycles are selling from £100, and all of them come with standard accessories such as mud-guards, chain-guards and lights.

If you want to know more about Mamachari Bicycles, I’d suggest visiting their shop in London, or going along to the Japanese Bike Picnic next Sunday in Hampshire. Mamachari bicycles are also available in New Zealand by the looks of things, although I don’t think the two companies are connected. Of course, if you’re in japan you can just pick up a mamachari of your own wherever you are – they are literally everywhere! This Japan Guide page about bicycles in Japan is useful, as is this Tofugu article about riding a bike in Japan.

Bikes full of snow...

Mamachari in Sapporo, February 2009

I’m happy with my hybrid bike for now, but if I ever decided to get a different bike I’d be very tempted by a mamachari! I think my hybrid does need a basket though, so I might have to look at getting one for it. Something like this would make it look more like a mamachari…

Do you have any experience of riding a bike in Japan? Do you have a mamachari? Leave a comment and let me know!


(Image: Tokyo By Bike)


Next week we’ll start with み (mi), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with み. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese words.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

10 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 32

  1. Mama-chari! Ha ha ha, nice choise, Ali 🙂

    suggestion for み
    Mishima Yukiko(三島由紀夫/ famous Japanese author), Miura-hantou(三浦半島/ a peninsula located in Kanagawa-ken), Mike-neko(三毛猫 / calico cat), Miso(味噌 / Miso)、Mifune Toshiro(三船敏郎 / famous Japanese actor, he was well known for working with film director Akira Kurosawa),


  2. I still remember my first mamachari. When I first arrived to Japan I had no car so it was either a bus or my good old mamachari to get around. Great memories! A few suggestions for next week:

    Miyajima (one of the three great views of Japan)
    Mihama (a town in Fukui)
    Mito (home to one of Japan’s best three gardens ~ Kairaku-en)
    Miyazaki Hayao (Japanese film director, animator, and manga artist)


  3. Miiiiimiiiimiiiimiiimiiii. Cicada sound? Okay, my mi suggestions are:

    Mitaka (a city in Tokyo that’s home to the Ghibli Museum and many anime studios), Mikasa (an old warship that’s open for tours in Yokosuka), Minatomirai 21 (the futuristic new area in Yokohama that has Landmark Tower), miko (Shinto priestesses), Miwa Akihiro (that yellow haired singer and drag queen), Mitsukoshi (department store). I think that’s it for this time.


  4. Hi,

    Thanks – I enjoyed this post.

    Can I suggest:

    Miso (soup/paste etc)
    Mizoguchi Kenji – classic film director
    Miike Takeshi – modern film director
    Miyabe Miyuki – popular novelist
    Miyamoto Musashi – legendary samurai/swordsman


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