September 29, 2016
by Mayu Kuwahara, Karen Takeda and Yuri Nonaka
Rickshaws in Japan
The Japanese-style rickshaw was invented by Kosuke Izumi, Kosuke Takayama and Tokujiro Suzuki in about 1868. When they went to Tokyo, they saw carriages and inspired by them to develop a jinrikusha or rickshaw. It is one kind of vehicle that has been used as a means of transportations in Japan. A rickshaw has a covered seat set between two wheels, and is pulled by a “driver.” People who pull rickshaws are called “shahu.” Rickshaws are still used in many tourist areas for sightseeing, especially in Kyoto. When customers hire a rickshaws, the rickshaw driver is expected to tell stories about local history and give advice about popular stores or restaurants because they know the best places in Kyoto.
Rickshaw Driver Youshito Ayata
We interviewed a Japanese rickshaw driver named Yoshito Ayata. He works at Ebisuya, which is a rickshaw company located near Arashiyama Station in Kyoto. He is a 20-year-old student and goes to Ritsumeikan University. He has been driving rickshaws for about one year, so he talked about his job.
Karen: Why did you decide to start working at Ebisuya?
Yoshito: It has been my dream job since I was about nine years old. When I saw the rickshaw for the first time, I thought it was super cool. Ever since that day I decided to do this job after I graduated from high school.
Mayu: What have you learned by your experience as a rickshaw driver?
Yoshito: I learned a lot of things—not only how to drive the rickshaw but also how to show hospitality. And it is very good exercise for me and I can practice foreign languages with my customers.
Karen: That is great. What do you consider when you interact with foreign customers? Is there any difference between Japanese and foreign customers?
Yoshito: There is so much difference between Japanese and foreign customers. Some foreigners think that the rickshaw is just a cheap means of transportation like in India or Thailand, so they will be surprised when they see the price. One more example, when I give them a guided tour about one area in Kyoto, most of them don’t know about the Tale of Genji nor Hyakunin-isshyu, so it is a bit hard to explain about the history.
Yuri: I see. It is so interesting.
Karen: Yes. Even Japanese don’t know a lot about Japanese history, so it must be harder to explain about Japanese history to foreign customers.
Yuri: By the way, why can you speak English so well?
Yoshito: Oh, I studied abroad in New Zealand for one year when I was a high school student. That is why I speak English better than the other drivers, so I mainly deal with foreign customers. My boss always passes them to me. But many times I interact with Chinese customers too, so I would like to improve my Chinese language. It is the hardest thing for me.
Yuri: Do you have anything that you think about concerning this job? And also I’d like to know how you felt when you drove a rickshaw for the first time.
Yoshito: I think a lot about maintaining a healthy condition, especially in the summer time. And also in the rainy season! It takes about 40 minutes to polish my rickshaw when it rains. And balancing the rickshaw for the first time was the hardest thing for me. Also the rickshaw is categorized as a light vehicle such as bicycle or scooter, so you have to follow the traffic laws, and you have to speak to the customer at the same time.
Yuri: I never thought about it. You have to run with the road traffic! So interesting.
Mayu: That is so scary!….haha. Okay then, what is the most precious thing for you when you are working?
Yoshito: When my customers could enjoy my ride from the bottom of their heart. I like their smiles very much.
Karen: Okay thanks. It’s the last question. What are the attractive points of Kyoto when being viewed from a rickshaw?
Yoshito: When you ride the rickshaw, everything seems attractive, because you can see the town from a different perspective. And I highly recommend the path that goes through the bamboo forest here, especially in the early morning when nobody is around.
Mayu: I don’t know about rickshaws much but really want to ride one someday.
Yoshito: Please come to Ebisuya!
Yuri: Yes! Thanks!
Hiring a jinrikishya in Kyoto will become one of your best memories. They are not at all like a bus or a taxi. Not only as vehicle, but also as an activity, you can get closer to Kyoto, learn about recommended places, touch culture and history, and find new attractive points from the new perspective of rickshaw. Try and go around Kyoto with Jinrikisya!!!
- 1 block tour (1200m, 12min) - 3,000yen
- 2 block tour (2200m, 22min) - 5,000yen
- 30 minute tour - 7,000yen
- 45 minute tour - 10,000yen
- 60 minute tour - 13,000yen
- 120 minite tour - 23,500yen
- 180 minute tour - 32,500yen
- 1 block tour (1200m, 12min) - 4,000yen
- 2 block tour (2200m, 22min) - 7,000yen
- 30 minute tour - 9,000yen
- 45 minute tour - 13,500yen
- 60 minute tour - 17,500yen
- 120 minite tour - 32,500yen
- 180 minute tour - 47,500yen
* cash only, credit cards not accepted
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