Tokyo is a bustling metropolis known for its famous sites, hip fashion, and stores and cafes you won’t find anywhere else in the country. The bright lights of the capital draw tourists not just from overseas, but from locales around Japan as well, and while most travellers use conventional means of transport to get here, some standout efforts to visit Tokyo make the national news.
This week, the news put the spotlight on a man from Kagoshima on the island of Kyushu, who was arrested by police in Tokyo’s neighbouring Kanagawa Prefecture on Aug 10, after trying to make it to Tokyo on a stolen mamachari bicycle.
Mamachari, which takes its name from “mama chariot“, are everyday bicycles used by school students and mothers running errands, and are easily identified by their front baskets, large wheels and upright seating style.
These bicycles aren’t commonly used for speed nor long journeys, so police were surprised to find that the man they’d arrested had travelled over 1,000 kilometers from Kumamoto Prefecture on the mamachari before he was apprehended in the resort town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Upon questioning, the man said he had stolen the bicycle, valued at around 10,000 yen, from the garage of a 25-year-old agricultural trainee in Tamana City, Kumamoto Prefecture, on May 24. Initially, he had set out on foot from Kagoshima Prefecture but resorted to stealing the bicycle after walking became difficult.
Asked why he was travelling to Tokyo, the man said “I’m from a remote island and had never been to Tokyo, so I wanted to see it.”
The unemployed 53-year-old with no fixed address probably would’ve made it to Tokyo, had it not been for the fact that police thought he looked suspicious when they spotted him pushing the mamachari up a slope with an umbrella hooked onto the bike, which they thought was odd for a sunny day with temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius.
The man admitted to stealing the bicycle after he was stopped for questioning, and he was taken to Odawara Police Station, roughly 87 kilometers south of Tokyo.
It’s estimated that if the man used the Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel that runs beneath the Kanmon Straits separating Kyushu from the mainland, he would’ve travelled approximately 1,065 kilometers on the mamachari before he was apprehended in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The journey from Tanami City to Hakone took him 78 days, just a day over 11 weeks, and although he committed a crime, his plight to see Tokyo touched people around Japan.
“He said he just wanted to see Tokyo — this makes me cry!”
“It’s such a youthful goal, to want to head out to Tokyo on a mamachari.”
“I want to know this man’s backstory.”
“They need to make a movie out of this!”
“He had such a short distance to go…”
“I wish they could let him off so he can fulfil his dream of seeing Tokyo.”
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