Yamada Bicycles Kurashiki

The classic bike for every era

By Kenji Chida    - 2 min read

Bicycles represent our first taste of freedom to move around and see the world. My daughter wrote a letter to Santa asking for a bicycle for Christmas so she could keep up with her friends as they went to the local children’s center. I thought of Mr. Yamada and his little shop in Kurashiki. I remember as a kid watching old Hollywood movies from the 1950’s and 1960’s where a child would get a bicycle for Christmas with a big red ribbon wrapped around it. When it came to bicycles, maybe Mr. Yamada was one of Santa's little helpers.

When I got to his shop I knew this was the kind of place that those Christmas bicycles came from. The owner makes the only handmade bicycles in Japan and his simplest model features the old “kick brake” where to stop you have to reverse pedal. The kick brake is like the manual transmission of the bicycle world. A lot people started out with it but few can still use one.

The mix of vibrant colors on some of the bicycles had me expecting Dennis the Menace to walk out at any minute. If you want to get a little taste of the glory days of the bicycle then you should visit Yamada Bicycles. They are all order made and available in a variety of sizes and colors. If you like cycling and would like to get away from the mass produced bikes then spend a few minutes in the shop figuring out what your dream bike would look like.

I stare at the bicycles thinking of what I would want. Streamers on the handle bars, straws on the spokes and a sissy bar all seem like good places to start. Unless I could do it myself, this is the only shop I know that could offer such grandeur.

The shopping scene has certainly changed substantially in Kurashiki. There are so many places where you can buy a bicycle these days, yet Yamada Bicycles endures. Mr. Yamada's genuine smile and bubbly demeanor certainly makes up for the glitter and glamour of the big shopping centers. Yamada Bicycles takes us back to simple leg power and green transportation. I do hope that Yamada Bicycles adds tourist destination to its moniker of handmade bicycle shop.

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Kenji Chida

Kenji Chida @kenji.chida

I was born and raised in Baltimore City, Maryland in the USA after which I moved to New York City at the age of 21. I lived, studied and worked in New York for five years then moved to Okayama in 1998 at the age of 26. After living in Japan for 5 years I decided to try to naturalize. I was granted Japanese citizenship at the age of 33. I am interested in education, political philosophy, and Japanese society. I enjoy playing softball with my kids, driving and motorcycles. I can't say I enjoy running but I often join local 5k races. I want more people from abroad to come to Japan for a visit and I hope that some portion of that group decides to stay. Japan is for everyone!

Join the discussion

Mackenzie Scott 9 years ago
I can't believe nobody has linked to this song yet!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk4rLp9mHQc
yukurina 9 years ago
I read "Yamada Bicycles" for the first time, I think that my friend's name is Yamada. Then, feeling of one's lot. So, I'm not riding bicycle now, but I want to go cycling after reading.
inasen 9 years ago
When I read this aricle I was moved, I was surprised when I knew Yamada Bicycle is all custom made, any color and any size. I want the bicycle only one of all over the world. I like boost for Yamada Bicycles. I want to ride a Yamada Bicycles's bicycle.
chinatsu 9 years ago
I couldn't ride a bicycle when I was 7 years old. Bicyle is difficult to ride for me. But,my father like cycling to holiday. My father like cycling and my brother,and so I thought that practice of bicyle. I red this story,I remembered that I had practiced bicyle. A nice memory for me.
kazupon 9 years ago
I think that this article is very worthy since the thing of an old times has been improoved recently for "Ecology".
It is regrettable that the price of bicycles was not written.