Interview with Mr. Ikehara at Cycle Plaza Ikehara
Mr Ikehara is the owner of the cycle shop in Ishikawa, Uruma city called Cycle Plaza Ikehara. He has run the business for many years. Many of OISTers have visited his shop to buy and maintain their bikes. He shared with us some interesting stories as well as his recommendations for those who are considering cycling in Okinawa.
Photos: bikes sold at his shop
People in Okinawa seldom cycle
Okinawa is known to be a prefecture with distinctive transportation situation and is very often referred as a “automobile society” since people normally choose cars as means of transportation due to lack of public transportation. Some years ago, TV crews from mainland Japan visited Okinawa to report on cycling in Okinawa. The TV crews were surprised to find out that people in the prefecture often use cars even just to visit a supermarket located a few hundred metres away from their homes. At the same time, they realised that they had seldom seen people riding bicycles on the island.
Okinawa is not an ideal place for cycling?
After their investigation trip in Okinawa, they concluded that there may be three reasons why Okinawan people seldom cycle and the prefecture became an “automobile society”.
The first reason is that the landscape of the island is undulating. Great deal of the island is occupied by hilly terrain, tableland, and marine terrace [*1]. Thus, it may be hard to travel these ups-and-downs with ordinary bicycles.
The second reason is that the metal parts of the bicycles can easily get rusty because of the salty water contained in strong winds blowing from the ocean. In Okinawa, metal parts such as bicycle chains can easily get rusty if bicycles are left outside.
The third reason is the combination of the prefecture’s warm climate and high humidity. Okinawan summer can be very muggy. The average annual percentage of humidity is 75.0% [*2] The combination of these two climate conditions doesn’t attract so many people to cycle on the island.
Bicycles are being developed using new technology
Although Okinawa might not be an easy place to cycle, there are tools to make it so much easier. Thanks to the development of the technology, there are so many bicycles out in the market with “electric assist function” which assists the rider’s pedal-power.
Mr Ikehara told us stories about electric assisted bicycles. One day, an elderly man in his 80’s visited his shop asking for an electric assisted bicycle. The man told Mr Ikehara that he saw another elderly man about his age pedaling up a steep hill on his bicycle without a struggle while the man himself was pushing his bicycle up the hill. He approached the man to ask how he could cycle up the hill so smoothly. The man told him about the electric assisted bicycle he was riding. The elderly man then rushed to Mr Ikehara’s shop to purchase an electric assisted bicycle for himself too. Now, Mr Ikehara often sees this elderly man enjoying pedaling his new bicycle as he passes by his shop every day.
Mr Ikehara also owned an electric assisted bicycle himself. He used the bicycle to take his two daughters to a day care centre. He clearly recalls that he was astonished by the assisting power of the bicycle when he first rode on the bicycle. The assisting power was so strong that he felt as though he was riding the bicycle without his daughters on the bicycle. He thinks electric assisted bicycles are suitable for people with children, and even for travelling the Okinawan undulating landscape.
Photos: electric assisted bikes displayed in his shop
What kind of services are available at his shop?
His shop provides various services from maintenance to ordering bicycles on your behalf. They sell baby seats to be installed on bicycles, various components for bicycles, racks(carriers) to be installed on cars to carry bicycles, used bicycles, etc. Below are some of the services his shop provides.
- Rental bikes
- Trekking bikes
- Road bikes
- Electric assisted bikes
- Monthly rental(OIST special discount!)
*all the rental bikes come with a helmet, a lock, and a puncture repair kit
- Used bikes
He also buys used bicycles from private persons if they are in good condition. If you cannot take your bicycle with you to the next destination, it may be a good idea to consult Mr Ikehara about your bicycle.
- Ordering bikes/components
Even if you cannot find bicycle you like in his shop, he can order a bicycle on your behalf.
Photo: a puncture repair kit that comes with a rental bike
If you seek for advice on cycling in Okinawa, we recommend you to visit his shop. We are certain that you will get valuable advice!
- Cycle Plaza Ikehara website: https://cyp-ikehara.com/
- Cycle Plaza Ikehara on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CyclePlazaIkeharaOkinawa/
[*1] Okinawa General Bureau, Cabinet Office: http://www.dc.ogb.go.jp/Kyoku/yamakawaumi/vijon/1-1.pdf