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While Washington and overseas motorcycle manufacturers see the nation’s regulations as trade barriers, bikers in Japan call them just plain unfair.

On Japan’s expressways, tandem riding on motorcycles is banned, and the maximum speed is limited to 80 kph. Four-wheeled vehicles, except for large trucks and minicars, are allowed to run at 100 kph.

Riders, as well as motorcycle makers and their sales representatives, have struggled against these regulations since the early 1990s. In 1991, the Japan Motorcycle Users Association and 25 other biker groups first submitted a request to the National Police Agency to abolish those regulations.

During the next three years, more than 10 organizations at home and abroad, including the Japan Automobile Federation, the American Motorcyclist Association and the German Embassy in Japan, filed requests with the NPA and other government agencies, seeking a review of the nation’s motorcycle rules. “Of course, safety is the priority. But because of excessive traffic regulations, the economical and transportational advantages of motorcycles haven’t been fully utilized,” said Shigeru Ogoshi of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which consists of the nation’s 13 major car and motorcycle manufacturers.

JAMA has asked the NPA to review the speed limit and the ban on tandem riding five times since 1992. “The removal of these restrictions would challenge the people and industries in Japan to embrace a greater sense of self-responsibility,” Ogoshi said.

Tateo Ueno, a spokesman for Harley Davidson Japan, said Japan and South Korea are the only industrialized countries where tandem riding is banned on expressways. Following a request from Harley Davidson to relax Japan’s motorcycle environment, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo took the matter to the Office of Trade and Investment Ombudsman in 1993.

The governmental office is headed by the prime minister to mediate grievances over trade matters. The petition included requests to abolish the ban on tandem riding and the 80 kph speed limit on expressways, but negotiations between the U.S. Embassy and the NPA have been deadlocked and no reviews have been conducted.

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