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If you are in for an adventure paired with lengthy, quirky, brutal honest thoughts then you are in the right place my friend.

My name is Arisa and was a cosplayer for 12 years before becoming a mom of 2 beautiful girls and i love sharing about Beauty, fashion and everything about Japan because i'm currently based in Kyoto!
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Owning our first Mamachari + guide



It took us long enough but we finally caved in earlier this summer and bought an Electical assisted bicycle aka Electric bicycle or even more popularly known in Japan as the "mamachari".
Not sure what's the origin of "mamachari" term but it does sound like a derivative of the words "mother and chariot" but after googling around it just seems to be a slang for "mom's bike" among Japanese people lol. If anyone knows, do fill me in, thanks in advance!

If you live in Japan and don't own a bike, i can only say you are missing out like really ALOT. It not only gives you the freedom of mobility but also allows you to explore all the small nooks and crannies in your area that you wouldn't even stop by with a bulky car. 

Because let's face it i used to be a car driver myself back in Malaysia and once i'm in the car, my goal is to only reach the end point without stopping in between unless it's a long road trip (we all need toilet, food & gas breaks), just go and come back, end of story. The beauty of cycling is being able to randomly hop on and off your bike whenever something catches the corner of your eye, you don't have to worry when making a random U-turn because it's compact enough whereas with a car you'll probably need to do it legally or you'll get into an accident and in Japan there's no such thing as just parking by the road and getting off unlike in Malaysia (we are champions in breaking all the road rules lol, our illegal U-turn & roadside parking skills are πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘). 

Why did it took me 2 years to finally get one? The first year when i moved to Japan, i was heavily pregnant and the idea of riding a bike sounds pretty uncomfortable though i've seen many pregger moms cycling around like normal (each to their own, i'm just clumsy with a huge belly). The following year #lilpenguin was less than a year old, i didn't really have the confidence to ride around with her but driving yes, because we have baby car seats and it's somewhat "fully protected" inside the car while on a bike we are "fully exposed", just like a motorcyclist. And did you know that in Japan bicycle accidents in Japan is VERY COMMON, you can easily google for the demographics for it. 

You'll often see news reports about it on TV so it's not something new. 
It's not just caused by reckless cyclists (we'll get to that later in this post) alone but also because of other vehicle drivers. One case i remembered quite clearly happened in Nagoya where an elderly driver reversed in full speed ended up knocking and running over the cyclist who so happened to at the wrong place and time. It does sound scary thinking about all these posibilities when cycling around but rest assured, as long you are alert at all times (not on your phone) and not speeding, then things should be alright.

Take it this way, the road safety rules you learn from driving applies more or less the same for riding a bike as well, just keep that in mind.

Not going to bore you guys further, i'm gonna head straight into the topic and share a little bit of what i've learned from researching, buying and riding a mamachari in Japan, read on if you have been contemplating to get one for some time!

How and where to buy a Mamachari?

Before buying anything, first ground rule is to ALWAYS.DO.YOUR.RESEARCH especially if it's something costly and you gotta commit to it for some time. If you are not sure where to start when it comes to bicycles you can always visit Yodobashi/ Bic camera or a bicycle shop near your place (google is your bff) to survey the price range and models available, this would give you a rough price comparison threshold in mind. There's also 2 kinds of bicycles available, one is the manual version and the other is eletrical assisted (EA for short) like the one we currently own. 

Not every kind of bicycle design can be made to hold a baby/ child seat at the front and back so make sure to let the store staff know what exactly you are looking for so they can recommend something suitable! 

Mamachari bikes have a special design to carry up to 2 children with a front basket for storage and the wheels are often slightly smaller & wider compared to normal bikes (basic physics- center of gravity) but there are ones slightly larger like mine for taller riders. 

An average EA mamachari usually costs around 100,000yen-200,000yen while manual ones goes way cheaper but you'll regret your decision when you have to cycle uphill with 2 kids on tow lol. Trust me on this, i've tried with one 10kg kid at the back once and my legs nearly died so electric bike all the way now and always make sure it's fully charged. 

Not going to lie, an EA bike IS EXPENSIVE but you can get them half the price by purchasing them second-hand from bicycle shops like cycle shop EIRIN or even online in Facebook groups like how i got mine for about 50k yen+ (the previous owner was moving country & so happened we were living in the same city), it's still ouch for me but it's worth the investment because i can get more things and get around easily compared to pushing a stroller and not going to lie that kids love riding on bikes more than their strollers especially once they start walking πŸ˜‚

I still remember the first time when we brought back our bike and took lil penguin out for a test run, she cried so much because she was scared but after 10 minutes she didn't want to get off at all. It went on for a whole month, she cried when we tried to take her off the bike lol she refused to get off and it was hilarious. It's all better now and she also just learned to climb up on her own, not sure how because my bike is like TALL πŸ™€

Here is a detailed guide i found online that covers the basics to purchasing an Electric assisted bicycle, everything you need to know about an EA bike is on it and do check out the Q&A in the comment section of the post, there's some useful replies there.   

If you decided to get a 2nd hand bike like me, make sure to give it a test ride before purchasing and also to ask as much details about it.

Eg: when it was purchased, last serviced, were the wheels/ brakes changed, is the battery new, any warranty and is it a registered bike, was it in an accident before, etc

Make sure IT IS registered to the seller because bicycle thefts are pretty common in Japan (suprise!) and upon purchasing, both of you would need to go to any nearest bicycle shop to get the ownership transferredover. It usually costs about 500 yen if i'm not mistaken to get a short paperwork done, relatively quick and easy, so no sweat. The procedure is standard regardless if you are a Japanese or a foreigner, they'll just need your name, address and contact number.

Any bikes bought (new or 2nd hand) needs to be registered, this is for safety reasons and if it does go missing *choi touchwood* chances of it being found and traced back is higher because your information is on it. The danna forgot to register his bike which was given to him by a friend and after it got stolen early 2019, making a police report was useless because there isn't any registration number on the bike; the thief really hit jackpot man. And the danna never locks his bike because he had (past tense liao) too much faith in Japanese people being "an honest bunch" HAHA after that incident and many more, he definitely changed his mind lol. 


Things to know about a mamachari

IT. IS. HEAVY. PERIOD.

If it drops on your ankle/leg, better bid adieu to it. Your kid who's strapped onto it would likely to come out without a scratch but you on the other hand not so much. I gotta admit that i had a few accidents myself every now and then, but minor ones luckily and it usually happens when the bike is stationary lol; my balancing skills sucks. It's generally quite heavy for me because we got a bigger bike (a size the danna can use as well) and the amount of damage i got on my legs...lost count liao, bruised here and there. We should have gotten a smaller one but then again we bought it 2nd hand at a cheap price so can't complain lah πŸ˜‚ 
I can live with bruises all over my legs, it's just a small price to pay for convenience lol, and it's not my intention to scare you guys off ok? Just highlighting the importance of pick the right size so that you can balance the heavy bike properly especially if you have a kid riding at the back as well. 

My bike is about 15kg + penguin's weight, 10kg+ so when i have to get off my bike and push both together, it feels like im pushing a fridge around lol

Essential Bike Accesories

What are they you may ask? 
It's something not listed out but definitely hits you when you when it comes lol, like being stuck in a downpour and realising you don't have any protective gear for yourself and kid. 
  • Child seat rain cover
  • Adult size long rain coat
  • Waterproof basket cover
  • Phone holder
  • Bicycle lock (if your bike doesn't come with built in lock)
  • Bicycle cover
  • Children helmet (getting them to wear one is another issue)
  • Tire pump
  • Umbrella holder (this one you'll need to be careful because there is a law restriction for it)
  • Arm covers (to prevent getting sunburnt)
  • Seat cover (to prevent the original seat from tearing)
These are the additional costs that comes with owning a bicycle, you will definitely save on not having to pay hefty road taxes and gas, but the money will be spent elsewhere πŸ˜‚ again, most of these items are expensive as well. 

Child seat rain cover, the cheapest i've found on Amazon with decent reviews costed me about RM100+, for plastic with a zip; there are better designed ones but those easily cost double or triple the price i've paid (example in the picture below) lol.  And riding a bike with an average raincoat is proven useless, so those cheap raincoats from Daiso or the konbini can go into the trashbin. The hood part is too short so the wind will constantly blow it off your head and it doesn't protect your face one bit, especially if you wear glasses then you are pretty much riding around with less than 20% visibility capacity thanks to the rain hitting your face directly.  



There is a bicycle accesorry brand in Japan that's quite popular- MARUTO and they basically have everything you need, if you are willing to pay abit more. That includes paying RM100 for a raincoat πŸ˜‚ I'm too scared to even count back the total amount I've spent on Amazon for getting all the stuff listed above. Uniqlo does sell some nice long raincoats, but be prepared to pay RM200+ for it. 

Phone holders is a must especially if you rely on google maps to get around, it's safer to have your phone strapped securely rather than cycling with one hand and the other holding a phone. I've seen some cyclists doing that before and they always nearly hit someone/ something because they can't fully concentrate on the road while constantly looking up and down from the phone. 

If you park your bicycle outdoors make sure to have a cover ready, you can get those cheap plastic covers from Daiso but those literally tears apart easily (wind blow also can koyak* lol) compared to good quality ones. There are several reasons why it's necessary to always cover your bike. Aside from preventing dust settling on your bike, this is to also prevent premature rusting from being out in the rain too often (and for EA bikes, the wiring might get water damage) and when it's super hot with direct sunlight especially during summer, the plastic/ rubber parts of your bike will start to fade, crack or melt. Replacing those parts would probably cost more than getting the stuff needed to prevent it lol. 

*tear

Coming to the umbrella holder part, okay i know it's tempting to get one because not all of us are born natural acrobats like some Japanese people, who are able to cycle in full speed with one hand only (while the other holds an umbrella- It's actually illegal to do so lol). 
It's baffling and yes, i've even tried it myself once which just resulted me falling off my bike or my umbrella being blown away, so never again. 

There's actually a certain height restriction while using an umbrella holder with a bicyle (and even the Japanese aren't aware of it lol), if it's too long, then can be considered a road hazard and if you do get caught with it, you'll be fined by the police. You can buy the holder but just make sure your umbrella length isn't the long type.


Things to be aware of when cycling (especially in the city)

This is my favourite part lol, another sorry to burst your perfect image Japan bubble; not my intention but it's something you'll need to mentally prepare yourself for to deal with. 
Not every road has a cycling path allocated, so you'll need to "pandai-pandai" cycle at the corner edge of the busy road and try to not get hit by a reckless car drivers (plenty around) coming from behind or suddenly cutting lane in front of you, if such circumstances arises most people would normally just cycle on the walkway (though there is a no cycling sign up), especially mamachari-s because it's way safer compared to cycling on the busy road with a little one on board. You can however take other routes like going through housing alleys, narrow streets if it's available to your destination, if there is none then you don't have a choice but to brave main road traffic as well. 

Some times you'll come across cars parked on the cycling pathway (buses, taxis, delivery trucks or just random cars) so you'll need to go around them, when doing so i really wish my bicycle came with a side-view mirror so i can't see the incoming cars from behind. This part i must admit was the scariest part of riding in the city. 

When there are cycling pathways allocated next to the walkways *bless them*, you'll often find selfish (VERY ANNOYING kind) people hogging them by slowly walking in big groups and blocking the entire pathway. Seriously this can easily cause an human accident especially if the cyclist can't break on time and this particular bunch of people hates it when you ring the bell on them. Lost count of how many stink faces i've received from them despite it being my right of path because it's a freaking designated cycling pathway. So yea, makes you want to shout at them from afar "oi lu buta ah?? Mak bapak punya jalan ka?". 

Not sure if it's just me but i actually hardly see much Japanese cyclist using their bells even though there are these bunch of "jama*" people blocking their pathway instead they would rather slowly follow them from behind for like a few meters before finding a way to go around them, it's really weird.   

*nuisance 

Then again i've seen some cyclist (speeding ones) constantly giving the rest of us heart attacks with their insane speed and close encounters (almost brushing shoulders kind of close), those you'll see constantly pushing their bells all the way, sibeh annoying. 

Not forgetting the infamous grumpy Japanese oji-chans, when you think bumping into them while walking and getting scolded the shit out of you for no reason is bad enough, try one on a bicycle. I still remember my encounter with one on the first day i rode my bike home, the pathway is huge like 3-4 bikes can fit without issues and out of nowhere this grumpy old fella cycles so close by just to scold me. Like wtf? And he literally tried to knock me off my bike in the process too. Total mental fella, they need serious help or some anger management therapy.  So yea, if you see one coming your way, TURN AND MAKE A RUN FOR IT. 

I've too heard tons of stories about people saying that mamachari riders are reckless because they tend to zoom pass in high speed with their EA bikes. This sounds really like the usual general assumption given that all women drivers are terrible drivers and they are implying the same for bike riders too. That's sexist and stereotypical. 
There are good ones and there are terrible ones but it's not right to dismiss all as terrible.
Honestly to date, I've met like less than a handful of reckless mamachari riders which is lesser compared to single speeding riders whom i come across on a daily basis. You want reckless? Try seeing those high school/ college kid riders πŸ™ˆ

Important Note: 
This one i must stress because it's very, very important. In Japan when the traffic light turns green for those driving straight on the road are also allowed to turn (left or right) at the intersection, and there's usually a pedestrian walkway (which also turns green at the same time). For those walking can easily see the incoming cars turning, but you can still walk across as it is your right of way and after you pass the car will go on its way. But for bicyle riders it's best to not just dash across the pedestrian walkway without stopping to see if there are any incoming turning cars. When i was driving a while ago, i nearly got into an accident because as we all know, cars have blind spots so we can't see from a certain angle and IF you as a cyclist so happen to be coming from that particular blind spot without stopping, the car is likely going to hit you upon turning. Always STOP your bike and look first before crossing.  

If this paragraph doesn't make sense, here is a short scenario:
  • Pedestrians finish crossing the road
  • Car finally can turn in and go
  • While turning, out of nowhere a speeding bicycle dashes across in front of the car
  • The car will likely hit the cyclist if the driver can't brake on time

Bicycle Parking

This is Japan, the country that cycled half of Malaya during world war 2 lol of course they'll have tons of bicycle parking lots ready. In fact i found it easier for me to park my bike compared to a car. 
Most grocery stores parking slots are often free for the first hour, but for others it starts from 100yen and goes by the hour or some fix rate, depending on establishments. 

What i don't recommend is randomly parking your bike anywhere just to save money because:- 
  1. The cops might confiscated it first if not the thieves
  2. It might be a nuisance to others especially if it's on private property grounds
  3. Say hello to a fine (more money fly out than you save lol)
So don't stinge, just go find a proper bicycle parking lot; even if it's just a "5-minutes" run unless it's outside of the konbini lol. That one has special parking lot for bikes in front of their stores. 

One thing to also know about bicyle parkings is that they are often really narrow and cramped (rows and rows of bicycles sandwiched together) so you'll need to watch your head especially if there ones that has top & bottom slots. My bike model is heavy so i always park on the bottom slot, takes alot of effort just trying to slot my front wheel into the lock lol and without realising i nearly blinded myself in the process; hit my head/face a couple of times no thanks to the parked bicycle hovering above mine. Maybe short people don't get these problems so they might find my warning irrelevant but if you are 165cm and above, heed this warning! Lol.

These kind lol, watch your face & head
 
So freaking painful to be hit on the head/ face with that metal bar wei. 
Makes me appreciate those auto bike parking lots even more now, the kind where you just have slide your bike in at the door and get a ticket, it will auto park for you underground, wish they had more of those around Kyoto and not just around Kyoto station only. 

Gotta love these underground auto bicycle parking lots

Riding a bicycle around can be indeed overwhelming especially if it's your first time in a foreign country, it's always good to practice around your neigbourhood/ park until you are confident enough before hiting the real roads. It took me like a few months of practice before i even rode more than 1km (this was my distance limit in the begining). Just because most of us grew up cycling as kids doesn't mean it will come back to us "naturally" as adults, no it doesn't. Something we haven't practiced in over 20 years, takes time so don't feel like you are failing when you can't get it right the first few times.  

Also best to practice without your child on board first, until you are steady enough then slowly upgrade to riding short distances with your child on board. Remember baby steps!

EA bikes tend to be "faster" but you can set the mode according to your comfort level, just make sure it's not on speed mode especially during practice rounds. 

If you are not ready to commit just yet (everyone needs to justify their expenditure, EA mamachari ain't cheap too), you can try renting one from a bicycle rental shop. Give a try like a couple times a week and see if it's for you, because not everyone likes the idea of cycling as some prefer to drive and it also depends on the area/ neighbourhood you are living in. 


I've also found this old news article online which seems relevant to my post, so do give it a read HERE 
It states that you can actually sign up for a 3 hour bicycle safety course 

Here are some useful websites links to get you started as well

Hope you guys found this entry useful!

Thank you as always for reading to the end. If you like my works, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee on KO-FI. Your generous contribution is what keeps this independent blog running. 
Also you can get some phone and desktop wallpapers on my KO-FI account, feel free to download & use them*!

*for personal use only





Yours Truly,

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