Japan is home to a number of iconic things, from katana to ninja, to sushi, there are plenty of awesome things from Japan’s rich history that are worth looking into. However, one of the most underappreciated things in Japan’s history is the rickshaw.
However, not many people actually know what a rickshaw actually is, and what kind of purpose it actually serves.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what a rickshaw is, then you have come to the right place, because we are going to help you to become an expert on this iconic part of Japan’s history. Read on below to find out what a rickshaw is, once and for all!
What Is A Rickshaw?
Put simply, a rickshaw is a two-wheeled vehicle that is drawn by one or two people. This makes them very unique in comparison to horse-drawn carts.
Rickshaws are most commonly used to carry one or two passengers around, rather than being used to carry around cargo.
Are Rickshaws Still Used?
While rickshaws are not used with quite as much regularity as they were when first invented, they are still easy to find in large cities such as Tokyo, where tourists will often choose to ride about in them to experience a flavor of the past.
Rickshaws are also proving to be more popular, year on year, because they prove to be much cheaper to hire than an average taxi in cities such as Tokyo. This has meant that rickshaws have seen a very slight resurgence.
Are There Different Types Of Rickshaw?
Aside from the standard rickshaws, which are drawn by an on-foot driver, there are also various other types of rickshaws out there. One of the different varieties of rickshaws is the cycle rickshaw.
This is a slight variation on the standard rickshaw, with the major difference being that the cart is drawn by a rider on a bike attached to the front.
Auto Rickshaws have also been very popular. These are motorized rickshaws that are powered by a driver sitting at the front of the vehicle and driving the cart onward.
These have proven to be immensely popular because they did not require the exertion of anyone pulling the cart, and they could also seat two passengers at the back.
Auto Rickshaws are now largely being replaced by electric rickshaws, which are electric-powered rickshaws that are popular in cities because they can be rented for very low prices, and have a very low carbon footprint, especially when compared to auto rickshaws.
When Was The Rickshaw First Invented?
Rickshaws were actually not first invented in Japan and were instead invented in France, as a way to carry both people and goods around large cities like Paris.
These early rickshaws varied quite massively from the rickshaws we generally associate with Japan, as they were not only pulled from the front but also pushed from behind.
However, Rickshaws were first invented in Japan around the year 1869 and were invented completely independent of the knowledge of the rickshaws that existed in France. This meant that they differed significantly, such as with the rickshaws being drawn entirely from the front.
The invention of the rickshaw was very significant in Japan because they came about very shortly after a ban on wheeled vehicles was lifted.
Rickshaws were also present around the very earliest days of Japan’s technical advancement which took place rapidly within that period.
Who Invented The Rickshaw?
It is still largely unclear who exactly invented the rickshaw in Japan, as there are no concrete documents pointing to the inventor.
The person most commonly believed to have invented the rickshaw is Izumi Yosuke, who built the first rickshaw alongside Suzuki Tokujiro, and Takayama Kosuke after they were inspired by horse-drawn carriages, which they wanted to find a more cost-effective alternative for.
Others that are believed to have been responsible for the invention of the rickshaw include Jonathan Goble, who was an American Baptist missionary who wanted a way to carry his wife around Japan.
Other inventors were believed to have invented the vehicle outside of Japan in places such as Massachusetts and New Jersey in The United States.
Is Pulling A Rickshaw A Difficult Job?
As you can likely imagine, pulling a rickshaw can be an incredibly tiring and stressful job. It requires immense physical strength not just to support the weight of each passenger, but also to be able to consistently lift the rickshaw while also moving at fast paces.
Rickshaw drivers are often championed for being very passionate and committed to their work, and being able to see the arduous task of pulling a rickshaw to the very end.
However, many people believe that those that pull rickshaws for a living are paid too little for the intense labor they subject themselves to. Though rickshaw pulling is not considered an inhumane act, there are plenty that believe it should be paid more fairly.
To Wrap Up
So, there you have it, a rickshaw is actually a very simple two-wheeled vehicle that allows one driver to pull around up to two passengers on foot.
This makes it a very environmentally friendly transport option (see also, ‘Why Does Japan Drive on the Left?’) and is still quite common in major cities as a tourist attraction, and as a reminder of the past.
Rickshaws have seen a number of changes in their time, with some powered by foot, gas, or electricity. These changes have meant that rickshaws have gone in and out of popular use for many generations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Fast Can A Rickshaw Go?
The speed of an average rickshaw is entirely dependent on how fast the person pulling the rickshaw is moving. However, most rickshaw pullers will choose to move at a consistent speed to conserve energy.
How Many Wheels Does A Rickshaw Have?
Rickshaws are commonly known for having only two wheels, with the carriage being powered by a person pulling it from in front (what else is Japan known for? Click here to find out more).
Why Do Auto Rickshaws Have 3 Wheels?
Auto rickshaws are slightly different from standard rickshaws because the single extra wheel at the front allows the rickshaw to be powered using petroleum.