October 3, 2016
by Shiori Iwawaki, Hinako Uematsu, Mina Ito
Have you ever ridden a rickshaw? There are many different kinds of rickshaws in the world. A rickshaw is generally a vehicle pulled by one man and has space for only two or three passengers. It is called jinrikisha in Japanese. Min Kyoto visitors are able to go around tourist attractions by rickshaw, and the driver act as a guide to various places. In Kyoto we can usually see rickshaws in the Arashiyama, Gion and Okazaki areas. Rickshaws are very famous because they are historical, popular in Kyoto for tourism and present a good opportunity to learn about the city.
Rickshaws were hand-drawn taxi-cabs used in the past in Singapore. The name “rickshaw” was changed to jinrikisha, the Japanese name for the vehicle, which literally translated means “man-powered carriage.” Some say the rickshaw was invented by Jonathan Gable, an American missionary who designed it for his wife. It came to Singapore in 1880. In the same year, it was brought to Shimla in the Himalayas, and later appeared in Beijing around 1886. It was a primary source of income for thousands of Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore between the 1880s to the 1930s. The rickshaw became a major vehicle for public transport. They were very popular in China and were first used as private vehicles by aristocratic families. Some had iron-rimmed wheels and cabs made of pine wood. They were expensive to buy at $25 in 1881. They competed with two-wheeled horse carriages, but in the old days, the rickshaw was cheaper and faster.
Nowadays rickshaws are used mainly for tourists. Okayama Prefecture first used rickshaws in 1970; after that rickshaws came to Kyoto and people got to know about them. At first, the rickshaw business began as transport that was suited for tasteful townscapes, and soon became a tourist attraction in Kyoto. The most well-known rickshaw company is “Ebisuya” and they possess 228 rickshaws.
Many tourists use rickshaws in Japan because it relaxing and comfortable. When riding a rickshaw, the passenger’s eye level is much higher than usual, so views of the surrounding scenery or different and enjoyable. In addition, Kyoto has many hills in historical places so it is easier to go by rickshaw. Also it is killing two birds with one stone, in other words, you can listen to the explanation and history without walking on the street. These days many tourists come to Kyoto, so there are plenty of English. guides. Rickshaw drivers need knowledge about history, seasonal hi lights and many other things. Furthermore, rickshaw drivers need the skill to talk with people and make them happy.
We interviewed a rickshaw driver to find out more about rickshaws. By interviewing him, we could find out many new things that we could not find on the internet. We asked a rickshaw driver named Mr. Kyuragi about the various aspects of his job. He works in Arashiyama and mentioned that the most rewarding part of his job were the smiles of his customers. Of course there are many hard things about a rickshaw job such as the study of Kyoto history, building up stamina and staying in good physical condition, or improving communication skills. However, these are essential things to make the customer feel satisfied. Also he is always careful about customers’ feelings. He tries to talk to them about something that relates to each customer so that the experience of riding a rickshaw will be memorable for them. Nowadays it is said that on some days the number foreign customers are up to 70% a day, so it has become important to communicate with them in foreign languages.
When we went to Kyoto we learned that driving rickshaws is rewarding work. The driver tries to help people who come to Arashiyama in order to for them to have better travel experiences. We are very proud of Kyoto rickshaw drivers and hope the history of rickshaw will continue in the future.
*For three people provide two rickshaws