In the Netherlands, Japanese tourists are warmly welcomed — they are probably our favourite visitors. The thousands of Japanese visiting the Netherlands each year bring in good business and have a flattering appreciation of Dutch culture. Their interest in flowers and windmills has even resulted in a Dutch theme park being built in Japan. Huis ten Bosch (named after the Dutch royal palace in The Hague) lies on Hario Island, and features canals, amusement rides and a park planted in seasonal flowers.
However, Japanese not only take interest in our windmills and flowers. Dutch bicycles are also popular. Cycling through Amsterdam, I often see Japanese tourists taking pictures of typical Amsterdam bicycle rental shops. In the past, such a sight always made me wonder: how long will it take before the Japanese take home this aspect of Dutch Culture, just like they did with Huis ten Bosch?
It turns out I was being ethnocentric. From my recent contacts with Japanese bicycle specialist Shuichi, I learned cycling has been part of Japanese culture all along.
As in the Netherlands, Japanese cycling culture focuses on functionality. Every day, the Japanese ride their bikes to get to work or to bring kids to school, and they do it their every day clothes. The bicycle is also a part of Japanese family life; special Mama Bicycles, with V shaped steering wheels that fit foldable child seats, are becoming more popular.
I warmly recommend a visit to Shuichi’s Mama Bicycle blog; it gives a great idea of cycling in Japan. And Shuichi or his daughter (in the picture) are happy to tell you more.