人力車

22 Mar

I was watching a TV program called 「きょうは何の日」 (lit. “What day is today?“).

This show tells something that happened in history on the same date in history. Something like “On this date in history…” might be a better translation of the show’s title.

It said that 140 years ago today, on 1870 March 22, the 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“) was invented in Japan.

(Click here to see a post I wrote about a trip we took to Yokohama about two years ago…and I took a photo of a 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“) near Yokohama Chinatown (there’s also photos of cool graffiti in that post)).

There seems to be a bit of controversy over who exactly invented the 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“).
Some say a Japanese businessman in Tokyo named Yosuke Izumi invented it, but others say it was invented by an American missionary in Yokohama named Jonathan Goble.

There seems to be evidence supporting both stories and neither can be proven conclusively.

Either way, the 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“) is 140 years old today and, although it was used as a major form of transportation in Japan back then, it is mainly only ridden by tourist (both Japanese and overseas visitors) in parts of Japan with a lot of traditional history…such as Asakusa, Kamakura, Yokohama, Kyoto, etc.
The 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“) pullers double as tour guides explaining the history of the sites to his customers.

Also, geisha can sometimes be seen riding in them as part of their image.

The 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“) was imported into other parts of Asia.
So the word “rickshaw” is famous around the world…but in Japanese, 「人力車」 is actually pronounced “jin-riki-sha“…literally “human-powered vehicle”.

Have you ever ridden in a 「人力車」 (“rickshaw“)?

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4 Responses to “人力車”

  1. Eva March 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    I just did a verification with a friend of mine and she told me that I should call the bicycle version as Trishaw instead. In chinese it would be 三輪車. The rickshaw is 人力車 which means carriage by using human’s energy. We pronounce it as “ren li che”

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 24, 2010 at 1:13 am #

      >means carriage by using human’s energy.

      Yes, as I wrote in this post, 「人力車」 means “human-powered vehicle”.

      >We pronounce it as “ren li che” (in Chinese).

      In Japanese, it’s “jin-riki-sha“. That’s the 音読み reading of those characters…which is based on Chinese…so I thought it’d be the same in Chinese.

      Like

  2. Eva March 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Yes! Rickshaw is actually very common in Indonesia. There are 2 types of rickshaw. One by using the bicycle and another using motorcycle. So we no longer use ppl to pull the carriage with his own power.

    When I was at primary school, I have a permanent rickshaw uncle to pick me up and drop me at school 🙂

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    • tokyo5 March 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

      Recently, Japan has a number of what might be described as rickshaw pulled by a bicycle.
      But they’re not called a type of rickshaw here…in Japan, it’s an 「エコタクシー」 (“Eco-taxi“).

      And I couldn’t imagine a kid going to school in Japan via rickshaw! 🙂

      BTW, in Chinese, is “rickshaw” written 「人力車」 like it is in Japanese? Is it pronounced “jin-riki-sha” there too?

      Like

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