Today Justen got a much needed new bicycle. Call it a belated birthday present. See the smile on his face? (Click the photo to enlarge)
I was reminded of how big a role the bicycle plays in Japan's "mass transit" system. In urban Japan where having a place to park a real car would be a luxury for most, the bicycle is not unlike the family car. It hauls groceries, little kids, pets, you name it! I have grown accustomed to seeing the mother taking her kids to school or preschool by bicycle with the baby seated strapped in front of her behind the handlebars, and an older child strapped in back of her in a child seat. This "bicycle-for-three" is a common sight.
What happens when it rains? The mother shelters the baby and herself with an unbrella in one hand, while steering with the other. The child in back holds his own umbrella. Add a few sacks of groceries to this situation--one in the basket in front of the baby, the other in the lap of the child behind--and the bicycle begins to look like part of a travelling caravan. Still, this is not an uncommon sight. But the other day I saw one that surprised even me: on a rainy day a mother and two children each with their own umbrella were mounted on a bicycle with groceries in their laps. Okay so far. But wait! With one hand steering the bike and the other holding an umbrella, the mother was talking on a cell phone cradled under her chin! Remember this is drippy, wet pavement weather! And there are pedestrians, cars, and scooters to contend with as well! Don't believe me? Oh how I wish I had my camera with to show you what it looked like!