A rickshaw ride; why is it called that?

The word has no Western roots. It comes from the Japanese - jin-riki-sha. “Jin” is the word meaning “person. “Riki” means “power”; “sha” is “vehicle.” The rickshaw is literally “human driven car.” Westerners who first saw jin-riki-sha cut the “jin” and made it ricksha, or rickshaw.

Rickshaws are not as ancient as many people believe, invented around 1868 after Japanese people observed similar vehicles used in France in the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly to move cargo.

Unlike the horse drawn carriages or human carried palanquins (kago), used almost exclusively by the wealthy, rickshaws became popular because they were relatively inexpensive. Young, healthy drivers pull their customers twice as fast as walking. They were therefore used as a taxi service, not unlike the kinds of services found now.

Today rickshaw services are available in many tourist sites such as Asakusa in Tokyo and Arashiyama in Kyoto. They are provided as guided services to show around major landmarks and offered in many historical towns including Kamakura, Kurashiki, Miyajima, Otaru and Yufuin.

A rickshaw ride in Japan is a very authentic historical experience!

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