The eyes of the cycling world may be turning this week to the climax of the Tour de France, yet I think that the love affair between Japan and bicycles is one that deserves much greater international appreciation.

In the West, I hardly ever get on a bicycle — I certainly would not fancy cycling along Britain’s busy streets on one. Yet transport me to Japan and every day I am to be found whizzing around the quiet, bike-friendly back streets of the suburbs on my trusty mama-chari (shopping bike — literally, “moms’ bike”), performing every errand from getting the groceries to posting letters.

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