MATSUE, Shimane Pref. (Kyodo) Jobless people from all walks of life are finding work as drivers of Velotaxis, the pedal-driven vehicles popular in the sightseeing spots of Shimane Prefecture.
Linus-One, a Velotaxi operator in Ohda, has eight drivers, half of them in their 40s and 50s.
The taxi, first developed in Germany in 1997, is egg-shaped and can carry two adults.
The vehicle, which has been equipped with a motor to aid its running ability, circles the Izumo Oyashiro, popularly known as Izumo Grand Shrine, in Izumo and the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, a World Heritage site in Ohda.
Velotaxis charge a fare of ¥500 per kilometer for adults, but they also make money from advertising fees.
Kenichi Fukunishi, 45, president of the company, moved from Tokyo to Shimane three years ago looking for a job but couldn’t even get an interview due to his age. He said he doesn’t base his hiring decisions merely on age and employment record.
“A wide base of knowledge is required to cater to customers. Even if applicants do not have enough physical strength, a rich life experience is a big advantage for the job,” he said.
Fumiyuki Imaoka, 42, has been driving a Velotaxi since July. He worked as a chef for 20 years but had no choice but to retire because of a temporary health condition. In interviews with more than 10 companies, he was repeatedly told they preferred someone younger.
But in an interview with Linus-One, he got the job on the spot. At first, he had trouble driving up the sloping roads, but now he has confidence in his strength.
“My sales are still small, but I am happy because the president is placing his trust in me. I would like to repay his favor,” he said with a smile.
“The wind is nice. I also enjoyed the scenery,” a 35-year-old Velotaxi customer from Saitama Prefecture said near Izumo Oyashiro.
Velotaxi Japan of Tokyo said the vehicle debuted in Kyoto in 2002 and is now in 20 prefectures, including Kanagawa, Nagano and Fukuoka.