Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bicycle repair guy: Daiki Mochizuki

This is an entry by Henry Osborn, on behalf of Bikes for Japan


Daiki Mochizuki (blog: works at bicycle and motorbike repair shop in Omiya. Having originally trained to be a dancer, Daiki discovered bikes when he started cycling as part of rehabilitation, when recovering from a leg injury. He started repairing bikes at the shop - mainly for the police and postal services - three years ago. In his twenties, Daiki has two young kids - a girl called Shino and a boy called Ren. After a week of following the plights of thousands of families following the Tohoku earthquake he decided to drop what he was doing, and drove up to Sendai by himself without any set plans ahead to see what he could do to help people there. He took his tools and as many bicycle parts with him as he could carry, while everyone else was heading the other way. He arrived in Sendai and tracked down a shelter in Tagajo-shi - a big shelter housing around 1,000 people. He set up a site and told people he’d come to fix their bikes. He started repairing the bicycles brought to him for free, returning to Tokyo a few days later. He's been doing this every week since then. Driving up at midnight, staying for 2 days, fixing as many bikes as he can, then coming back to work at his shop in Omiya.

Daiki now has 4 other colleagues from the repair shop voluntarily working with him. They take it in turns to travel up to Sendai together. They've so far worked with 4 shelters. Each time they go to a shelter, if they work around the clock they can fix up about 40 bikes per day. There are always more bikes in need of repair, and never enough time or hands to go around. The bike shops in the areas were all destroyed and have no parts coming in so there are no other on-site support channels available. All the activities they have done so far have been completely self-funded.

What difference can a bicycle make?
In the affected areas up until the tsunami hit people mainly used cars to get around. Unlike in cities or towns, where train stations are close together, in rural areas and along the coasts stations are far apart. You simply can't get around without a car. Most people's cars were either swept away or destroyed by the tsunami. Even if people still have their cars they have no gasoline. A lot of roads remain inaccessible by car. So bicycles are really the only way people can travel over anything more than a short distance.

Families need bicycles to go out and get food and supplies, and to carry them back. Many are staying in places several miles away from the closest stores or distribution points. For individuals who are trying to find their family members and friends, a bicycle gives them a way to go out and search for them. For people who have lost their homes and businesses, it gives them a way to travel to and from the site where their buildings used to stand, to begin the clean-up and to gather what is left of their belongings. For those who have become unemployed and who are looking for new jobs, it gives them a way to get out to a job interview further inland where towns are less damaged. For school children, it gives them a way to get to their classes. For young kids who have suffered extreme stress in the aftermath of the disaster, having a bike to ride around and play on gives them something fun to do, something to look forward to in their day. They really need more kid's bikes as almost all the bicycles around are for adults.

Although some public organizations have already donated bikes, there is still a massive need for bicycles. The Osaka local government made a donation of a few hundred bicycles. Yamaha have given 200. However, these bikes are all distributed under a reservation/time-shared basis at the shelters. There are waiting lists stretching for days, so most people are not able to access them. There are still over 200,000 people living in shelters across Tohoku.

Collecting bicycles for Tohoku
In an effort to do what he can to increase the number of available bikes for people who really need them, Daiki has started trying to collect used bicycles in Tokyo, which he can repair and take with him up to Sendai in his truck. In between fixing bikes and his trips up to Sendai, finding people with bikes to give is time consuming. So far he has managed to get a total of 30 bikes, having spoken to over 100 people. We’ve decided to help him out by reaching out to people we know, asking for bike donations, picking them up around Tokyo, and helping him get them up to Tohoku.

What you can do to help
If you have bikes which you are not using and which you’d like to donate, let us know and we will come to pick them up (either by truck or rider), directly at your address this or the following Sundays running up to Golden Week. Please contact me directly at with the following details:

i) Your name, address, and contact details
ii) The number of bikes for donation, the type (mountain, road, shopping bike etc.)
iii) Please specify whether the bikes are for adults or kids
iv) Please state the condition they are in (immediately ride-able upon pick-up, or in need of repair). Daiki is confident he can fix even the most “boro-boro” bikes so please don’t worry too much about their condition!
v) What time it would be possible to pick the bikes up at your address this or the following Sundays (between 9pm to 6pm)

Once we have an idea of how many bikes there are for collecting each Sunday, and the pick-up points around Tokyo, we’ll get back to you individually within the next few days to let you know when we can stop by. If there are many bikes clustered around a small area, we may ask you to kindly bring the bikes to a convenient local collection point. If anyone has any questions please reach out to me any time.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind support.

Henry Osborn / Bikes for Japan

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