A penny farthing rider in Tokyo

For a country renowned for its conformity, Japan throws up a wonderful array of contradictions, meaning one can never be completely sure of what’s round the next corner.

Japanese penny farthing rider

Surprises that, despite Tokyo’s many faults, make it a continually fascinating city to live in.

Japanese penny farthing rider

And it’s even better when you get to know one or two causes of said surprises — especially so when they turn out to be a person whose character is as decent as their bicycle is large.

Japanese penny farthing rider


  1. Josee says

    How does he get off the bicycle? And god forbid if he loses his balance and falls off his bicycle…..I think I will lose a limb if I fall off that machine…

    • says

      With great difficulty I think.

      Nah, he’s obviously got used to it by now, but it still doesn’t look easy.

  2. Taki says

    Is that the Tama river? It looks close to my in-laws :) Here in Canada, I think only seen a penny farthing maybe ~4 times…

    • says

      Yes, it’s the Tama River. The photo was taken south of Kunitachi I think.

      This is the only penny farthing I’ve seen in Tokyo. Or anywhere for that matter.

  3. winnie says

    I like the 2nd picture the most!! The expression of the smaller biker is amusing!!
    And such a great contrast between both of them.

    I cannot imagine if I am going to ride this! It’s cool, but too dangerous for my heart to take it!
    I also wonder how is he going to get off the bike?

    • says

      Yeah, I like the expression on the other cyclist too. Pretty much my section the first time I saw him too.

      Me too. Really don’t think I’d fancy having a go. Plus getting off looked very difficult, which puts me off having a go even more…

  4. says

    A land of contradictions, you got that right! The moment you think you have figured Japan out, they throw a penny farthing, a punk rocker or a salaryman with a smile at you :-)

    • says

      It certainly is. It’s the only proper one I’ve seen outside a museum. And definitely the only one I’ve seen being used.

  5. Cbasse says

    First of all, I really enjoy this blog! I have always found the Ordinary to be an interesting bicycle; so much so that I have ordered one myself. I saw an earlier post from 2009 of this same bicycle. Do you see this rider often in Tokyo?

    • says


      I did, yes. In fact after posting the earlier photo, he found it online and contacted me via Twitter. So the next time I spotted him I introduced myself, we got chatting, and became friends. We’d often head along the river to a nearby brewery, have a couple of beers and a good chat, then work our way back. Needless to say he didn’t use the penny farthing on those days!

      But tragically he died a year or so ago. A man who embraced life with a real passion cut down way too young. Horribly sad. Always think of him when I cycle in that area…

      • Cbasse says

        Thank you for sharing. He seemed like a very interesting person; how unfortunate…

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