Avoiding police in Japan

  • I had my first run in with Japanese police on my OneWheel. I've ridden by several policeman in Japan, and they usually just look at my blankly. But, today, 2 gentlemen on bikes told me I couldn't ride on the road or sidewalk - just in specially designated skate parks.

    I tried to explain that my OneWheel isn't a skateboard - it's more like an electric bike or unicycle. But, they didn't flinch. They said the law only allows bikes, people, and cars on the road. Since they didn't know what I was riding, it's no allowed. I asked if I can get a permit. They said no.

    I politely thanked them for clarifying the rules for me, then carried my OneWheel around the corner out of sight and rode away.

    Going forward, my strategy will be simply to avoid police, pretend not to see them, pretend I don't speak Japanese (which won't be hard), or to simply speed away without looking at them. Since police are generally on bikes, I'm sure I could outrun them pretty easily.

    But, if you don't hear from me again, assume I'm in jail after a high-speed OneWheel and bike chase through the streets of Tokyo!

  • I had three encounters with Japanese police last week which I'll write about in my Tokyo post.

    I kept telling them it was simply "omacha" which means Toy, but they were like "I know there's a motor in there. It needs a license plate. and you need a license. dont ride it around people."

  • !But, if you don't hear from me again, assume I'm in jail after a high-speed OneWheel and bike chase through the streets of Tokyo!!

    Hahaha, I literally died

  • @utsu - interesting idea about needing a license plate and license. I'm getting my Japanese drivers license next week. I'll take my OneWheel along and ask them if & how I can get a permit for it. Sounds like there isn't a clear story yet. I'm sure they are having the same problem with people riding Solowheels in Tokyo, but I see them occasionally.

  • Yeah, Japan is kind of like that. Forward in some ways, very pedant in others. Culturally, I can see how the onewheel is a big nono (think about Japan like this; "what would happen if everyone did what I am doing?" You can quickly see why some things are verboten). Plus, if you are white you will already be standing out like crazy, they'd probably arrest you for that alone if they could, simply for disturbing the peace :D

    I'd suggest moving to Shibuya or Harajuku or something like that. Your apartment might be 1K instead of a 1LDK, but the police there have seen it all and are much cooler than out in the burbs.


  • I was at the Police station in Japan getting a driver's license today, so I asked about riding a OneWheel in Tokyo.

    They said it's ok to ride in parks (any park, not just skate parks) but it's not ok to ride on the road. I asked specifically about sidewalks and bike lanes and roads, and they said ダメですよ (it's not allowed).

    I asked them about the Solowheel too, since it's more unicycle like than skateboard like. They said it's the same.

    Apparently, this has nothing to do with being a skateboard. There simply is no rule for these new devices yet, thus they are not allowed.

    It's not a bicycle, thus not allowed in bike lanes. It's not a pedestrian, this not allowed on sidewalks. It's not a car or scooter, thus not allowed on the road. You get the idea :)

    I tried "it's like an electric unicycle, and unicycles are like bicycles". But that doesn't work in Japan. Only bicycles are bicycles. And obviously electric bicycles are bicycles - hence the name.

    I could think of more angles and questions, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that the officer was not nearly as interested as I was in persuing the conversation. In Japan, you have to learn when to simply bow, say "arigatou gozaimasu", and walk away politely... then ride anyway and feign ignorance :-)

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