The mamachari is a cultural icon. It’s the Japanese equivalent of the family station wagon. It’s the family workhorse used on shopping runs, for riding to the local train station, taking the kids to school or picking them up from sports practice. Elias and Hitomi rented this Japanese mamachari with electric-assist from Familybike Seattle a budding non-profit that decreases barriers to bicycling for families of all income levels.
I asked dad Elias why he rides bicycles with his family?
“Mostly because I’m selfish. I like riding bicycles and it’s a way for me to spend time with the family at the same time. I’m hoping my kids grow up and like cycling as well.”
“They always want to know where we’re going. Every time I’ve taken the kids out on the bike it’s to get something to eat or to a park.”
“It’s interesting — when my wife and I first met — I actually brought my bicycle to Japan. I was riding and she rode a lot as well. One of the first things we did was ride together. We rode to some hot springs that were pretty far away.”
“I had a carbon fiber bicycle I brought and she had a mamachari — a Japanese mom’s bike. When she moved to the US we didn’t really ride much because she wasn’t interested in riding fast so we did kayaking instead.”
“When we first met and were dating in Japan we mostly got around the city by bicycle. I actually got a bus pass from the city of Sendai and I sold it for money. They tried stopping us from selling them. I was riding my bicycle and that’s how I wanted to get around in Sendai.”
Hitomi says, “We hope the kids will like riding when they’re older. We hope we won’t have to take them everywhere by car.”
Big brother Leo says “Jitensha ga suki”. Dad translates — ‘jitensha’ means ‘bicycle’. “He said he likes bicycles”.