Look, nearly everyone in America would rank our Asian-American bretheren as being a little jozunai when it comes to driving.And I’ll admit that my first couple of days here, I repeatedly blinked in amazement at what I perceived to be the worst driving I’ve ever seen.
That’s in addition to the bicycles, which nearly everyone rides with the seat all the way down and on the sidewalk.From an American point of view, this is doubly idiotic, regardless of how omnipresent the behavior is. And of course, fundamentally, Japan is a bicycle culture. Bikes are omnipresent and the primary form of transportation. Women ride them to work wearing skirts and suits.
No Need for Giant Parking Garages at a Japanese Train Station
I even caught a story on the morning news about efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while biking, and holding an umbrella while riding, complete with experiments testing stopping distance, reaction time, etc. But all of this just reinforced my perception of the Japanese being driving-wa jozunai.
But like most other things about Japan, I had it all wrong.
The Japanese are the best drivers in the world.
Think I’m wrong? You are looking at one of the many streets in Daimyo, Tenjin. Typical street, some are smaller, some a little larger. And before you say, hell, I've driven down streets like that, try this - this is a two way street. And sidewalk. And bike lane.
So you think the Japanese are bad drivers? I’ll give YOU a car and send you driving down a sidewalk and then make you pass another car coming the other way while avoiding dozens bicycles and pedestrians who are oblivious to your presence.Then I’ll occasionally stop a delivery truck in the middle of the sidewalk and make you repeat until you get it right.
Don’t worry, I’ll bring a snack and something to read…
In the meantime, bow down and respect the Mario Andretti’s of Western Japan.And as for the bicycles, I couldn’t raise my seat on my rented bike and, consumed with frustration, rode off imagining myself in Ring #2 at Barnum & Bailey with a pair of giant red shoes and a seltzer bottle.That is, until I realized the reason for this idiotic setup – what you lose in power and speed, you make up for in control.A good thing when you are sharing the sidewalk with dozens of pedestrians and having to stop on a dime repeatedly.
Oh, and your face won’t get sliced up by a thousand umbrellas.So you’ve got that going for you, which is nice.
And by the way, they regularly ride while holding an umbrella. I can barely take my hands off the handle bars to signal a turn. These people ride one-handed in the rain through a crowded street shared with cars and a thousand pedestrians.
Or maybe I’m just getting too Japanese for my own good.Today at school I found myself pronouncing English with a Japanese accent when I spoke to another student from America on the way to lunch.Uh-oh….