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Take a 'Jinrikisha' Rickshaw Ride in Nara

Nara is a beautiful city that offers lots of fun and exciting things to do. One of the most popular ways to go sightseeing in Nara is by rickshaw. These classic two-wheeled carts can accommodate up to two passengers and are human-powered! Taking a rickshaw around some of the sites in Nara city, including Nara park and Nara-machi, is as convenient as it is memorable. For a taste of what to expect, check out the video below.



At one time, this was the most inexpensive and popular mode of transportation, and the industry is credited with providing many male laborers with employment opportunities during the late 19th to the mid-20th century, not just in Japan, but in many cities across Asia.


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History of the Rickshaw

Though France invented a type of rickshaw known as a “vinaigrette” during the 17th century, the modern version is thought to have originated in Japan during the 1860s. The name of the inventor is a topic of hot debate, but most consider Jonathan Scobie (or Jonathan Goble) as the creator. He was an American Baptist missionary to Japan, and as the story goes, he created the rickshaw or jinrikisha (human-powered vehicle) to transport his ill wife through the streets of Yokohama.


As we mentioned, the origins of the invention are somewhat unclear, and the topic is debated widely; most agree that it was created in Japan in 1869. By 1870, Tokyo’s government was issuing permits for building and selling rickshaws. Within two short years, there were around 40,000 of them in service, and they quickly replaced palanquins as Japan’s leading source of transportation.

The Jinrikisha in Japanese Culture

Rickshaws began to decline in popularity by the 1930s with the invention of more automated forms of transportation, such as trains and automobiles. At the end of World War II, when cars and fuel were scarce, they made a slight comeback.

Sure, they’ve disappeared from many areas, but this tradition has stayed alive in tourist spots, not just in Nara, but places such as Asakusa in Tokyo and in Kyoto, most notably the geisha districts and Arashiyama. Most of the time, when rickshaws are seen today, the men are more like tour guides who take their clients past the top spots and explain what their passengers are seeing. Much the same, rickshaws are one of the most popular things to do in Nara among tourists. It’s a great way to explore Nara park and really get a feel for our local community.


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Rickshaw Fun Facts

If you’re looking for exciting Nara activities, then a rickshaw ride should be near the top of your list. These rides last either 10 or 30 minutes, depending on which service you choose, and make for a great way to spend the afternoon in Nara.

Before we leave, check out some fun facts about rickshaws:


  • Jinrikisha translates to “human-powered vehicle”

  • There are three main types of rickshaws: the human-pulled version, a cycle rickshaw, and the electric rickshaw

  • Pulled rickshaws are commonly found in tourist areas of Japan today and in other large cities around the world

  • The men who pull these carts are known as shafu

  • The average rickshaw shafu walks between 20 and 30 miles per day

  • The carts weigh about 90 kilograms without passengers and around 200 kg with passengers

  • They travel at an average speed of about 5mph or 8kph

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We would like thank Yamato Nara for collaborating with us to make this video. As well as being incredibly strong, their shafu runners are super friendly, entertaining and speak more than good enough English to converse and tell you about the sites they are taking you around. You can book one of their operators directly via their webpage. If you need any assistance in booking, just drop us a line and we will happily assist you. Alternatively, just like regular taxis, rickshaws will also wait in certain places around the city to pick up customers. The two most common spots in Nara city are at the top of the 52 steps in front of Kohfuku-ji Temple's 5 story pagoda and at the entrance to Todai-ji Temple.

 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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