Culling of the Fold

I’ve actually had a couple food-related blog posts in the making for quite a while now but instead today’s update will be JIT. Inspiration hit me at an opportune moment so I will be able to publish my first rant since the the VR one. My muse for this one is the availability of cycling helmets in Japan, or rather, lack thereof. I’m sure some people will jump at my throat for that notion, pointing out that I haven’t even been trying to find one. While that was true until today, I recently was able to confirm my suspicion that cycling helmets simply do not exist on this very plane of existence.

To give you some background, cycling in Tokyo is like cycling in Hell (forget Norway), only there are cars instead of demons and pavement instead of lava. Possibly. I haven’t been to Hell lately so the details aren’t that clear to me. There are absolutely no rules on the road for bikes, never mind cycling lanes. Sometimes there is enough space to ride on a narrow lane next to the cars, sometimes there is a bus lane, other times there is fuck-all. The locals park cars wherever they see fit, as putting hazard flashers on is a sign of territorial acquisition. This not only blocks the lane you’re riding on, you can also never be sure if someone is going to open the car door as you pass by, sending you flying into nevermore. Sidewalks are narrow as shit and offer zero peripheral visibility so if someone decides to take a large enough step out of the pachinko parlor you will run him over. Cyclists can ride both on the sidewalk and on the road, ignoring all road laws, including, but not limited to traffic lights. Not only can they do as they like, they fucking will. This creates a very confusing environment where one is never sure where to go and what to do, as standard rule-based anticipation changes into a game rock-paper-scissors where you wager your life. My blood pressure has already jumped twenty points and this was only supposed to be the introduction.

Helmites abound

For the aforementioned reasons among others, I got the feeling walking home that I’d rather not take the bike to work again before I can at least protect my head on a placebo level. For this noble purpose, I went helmet hunting in three bike shops, only to realize that my efforts were futile.

I entered the first bike shop asking for a 兜 (kabuto). While the clerk did understand what I was looking for and replied with a nicely japanized “ヘルメット?” (herumetto/helmet), I probably should have known better than to use Japanese vocabulary learned from playing medieval RPGs when attempting to buy a modern piece of headgear. A kabuto is a helmet all right, just slightly closer to an iron helm with horns that one might wear when saving a princess from a dragon. After confirming that his idea of a helmet was more what I was looking for, he kindly pointed out that there are some for sale behind me, but they are only for children. Ok, fine. After receiving the same answer from the other two bike shops as well, however, it was no longer fine. I was enraged. And when I’m enraged I log in and rant about it on the internet.

Funny part was, all three shops had helmets for kids. All clerks pointed at the children’s helmet rack and glanced at me like I was some kind of weirdo, which is true, but not for that particular reason. From that, I was able to deduce that at quite an early stage during the human aging process, the head loses all value. At least in Japan. Now that I think about it, it kind of does make sense. I should make a chart about it: Negative correlation of age and head value. This is true science.

It’s quite unnerving to think that there isn’t enough demand in a nation of 130 million people for fucking bike shops to bother selling helmets. My theory is that cycling accidents are the major reason behind the dwindling Japanese population. I’m not giving up yet, though. I don’t feel like dying in traffic here if I can help it, and wearing a piece of plastic on my head that doesn’t really hinder me in any way is going to help me with that goal. What’s the Tokyo equivalent for Spotaka?


  1. I’m sure a pink little herumetto would look just adorable on your head, wouldn’t it?

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