Japan's rickshaw sector: Women pull their weight
Only a few women in Tokyo work as rickshaw runners. But thanks to postings on social media, more and more Japanese women are venturing into the traditionally male-dominated profession.
Surrounded by cars
Although rickshaw pulling is traditionally considered a man's job, in Tokyo's tourist district of Asakusa you now see more and more women who have dared to jump in front of the cart. One of them is Misato Otoshi, who pulls a rickshaw through traffic here. "I thought it would be fun if I, a woman, could do it too," the 30-year-old told Reuters news agency.
Two female rickshaw pullers stream a live video of their work. "The first girl who joined us was cool," Ryuta Nishio, the owner of Tokyo Rickshaw, told Reuters. "Since we posted videos of her, many women have followed her example and joined us."
Running confidently toward the future
Such social media posts also inspired Yumeka Sakurai to become a rickshaw puller: "I saw many videos of women training hard and becoming rickshaw runners. They gave me the confidence that I could do it too if I put my mind to it," the student said.
A different kind of driving lesson
A colleague shows Yumeka Sakurai how to pull a rickshaw through the streets. The 20-year-old trained for four months until she was able to work alone. Today, she is proud to transport passengers in her rickshaw.
Working up a sweat
Sweat runs down Yuka Akimoto's face as she pulls two French tourists through the city. Pulling rickshaws is hard work: rickshaw runners cover an average of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) a day, with rickshaws that, together with the passengers, can weigh up to 250 kilograms (551 pounds).
Smile for the camera!
The rickshaw runners must not only be physically fit, but also good Tokyo tour guides: They are usually hired by tourists, like this Taiwanese family that Akina Suzuki took around the Japanese capital.
Let me entertain you
Suzuki puts on a show for her passengers as she shows them Tokyo's sights. Those who win over the clientele can make a good living from pulling rickshaws: The most popular runners earn more than a million yen a month (about €6,300), three times the average wage. They actively advertise themselves on social media and thus gain regular customers who approach them personally.
Licence to pull
Today, one-third of Tokyo Rickshaw's 90 runners are women. "We treat male and female drivers completely equally," Ryuta Nishio of Tokyo Rickshaw said. But his female employees still experience sexism: Female rickshaw pullers are sexually harassed occasionally and male customers in particular sometimes question their abilities.