Bespoke spokes sparkle
Whether people are turning bicycles into fashion statements to stand out from the pedaling crowd, or whether more people are taking to two wheels because bicycles were fashionable in the first place is a chicken-and-egg conundrum for many young people in Osaka.
With 83 percent of Osakans owning bicycles--the highest ratio in any of the nation's prefectures, including Tokyo--bicycles have clearly become indispensible part of or modes of transport in the daily lives of the city's residents.
Against such a background, I've noticed many young people in the city riding bicycles, not only as a mode of transport, but also as fashion accessaries--just like the designer bags they carry.
A 22-year-old man in the Horie fashion district of the city wears a blue T-shirt that matches the color of the tires on his mountain bike.
The man, who says he likes wild fashion styles, also coordinates his cap and chain-style lock with an animal print design.
A 24-year-old woman modified her fixed-gear bicycle with parts in vivid pink and green.
"I can fit colorful parts onto my bicycle although it's difficult to use these colors for my clothes," she said.
A 31-year-old man's remodeled chopper bicycle is difficult to ride as it has problems with steep hills, and U-turns are hard to execute.
"I fell in love with this muscular design," he says. "I don't mind the inconvenience. It's not for convenience but fashion, really."
Cycle Shop 203 in Osaka deals with bicycles with neat designs and attracts fashion-conscious customers. The shop is painted with the French tricolor flag--in recognition of the world-famous Tour de France bicycle race--and looks just like a boutique.
The owner of the shop says his customers include women with an interest in fashion magazines.
Bicycles are enjoying a resurgence in popularity as the price of gasoline gets higher and higher and the values of a so-called low-carbon society continue to be promoted--not to mention the health benefits that go with regular exercise.
With even luxury goods companies such as Chanel selling bicycles, it seems that riding a bicycle as a fashion statement is steadily on the increase in Osaka.