Mobility on the Move

Rickshaws in Asia

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The rickshaw initiated an explosion in personal mobility in Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Invented in Japan in 1869, by 1872 there were forty thousand and by 1875 over one hundred thousand of the new two-wheel vehicles on the streets of Tokyo. The number reached a peak in 1896 with 210,000 countrywide. The rickshaw (in Japanese, jinrikisha) quickly spread to Asia, to Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1874, to Singapore and Calcutta in 1880. By 1900, the rickshaw had spread throughout the continent, bringing with it new mobility to an emerging urban middle class. Moreover, for many people in Asia, the rickshaw alongside the locomotive, came to symbolize modernity. This article will explore routes of diffusion, focusing on the role played by Akiha Daisuke and his adopted son, Akiha Daisuke II, Japan's largest exporters of rickshaws, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies

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