Motorcycle street in Ueno, Tokyo

by Moto Japan

Last night as I was returning from an evening hangout with a friend, I caught the last train from Shibuya to Ueno, the most versatile area within our ward (Taito-ku). It was cold and slightly too far to walk home at that hour, therefore I sat into the 1st taxi and while the driver gave me attitude for having to drive such a short distance, I gazed through the window, observing grills rolled over closed motorcycle shops, lined up along the way to Iriya. Made me think:

Is this just another one of many coincidences that make Taito-ku an unbeatable perfect place for our lifestyle, or was this area purposely built over centuries to accommodate us when we moved here?

Nowadays the "Bike Town" is nothing but a shadow of its past, another foggy patch in the ghost town of once busy and vibrant "Shitamachi". Bikers paradise was established here shortly afterWorld War II, when Ueno was the central transportation hub in Tokyo. When a postwar engine maker Kyokuto Motor Company opened a successful retail outlet, competition followed, until Ueno became a go-to place for buying motorcycles and scooters.

In 1957, an entrepreneur and biker Hisharu Wakabayashi moved to Ueno district (20yr old at the time), following the bike retail hype and lower rental fees. A few years (and 24 retail shops) later, the area was commonly known as the "Corin district", referring to his megastore that covered a wide range of motorcycle brands and equipment. Mr. Wakabayashi directed Ueno motorcycle retail trends for decades, providing transportation solutions that were cheaper than cars and more fun than trains. However, every huge bubble bursts after a while, and following the economic and habitual changes of Tokyoites, the company went bankrupt and closed down about a decade ago. Nowadays the "Corin" or "Bike Town" is only known to those who come looking for it.

During the daytime, this part of Ueno is still the home of small shops that sell bikes, mainly American-type motorcycles, scooters and basic riding gear. Their accessories selection still largely accommodates daily commuters, and during a random neighborhood stroll, you can find convenient things on seasonal sale, if you're not too picky about the style and quality. The selection and sizing is pretty general (we tried shopping here, but nothing fit our disproportional bodies), therefore you can't expect too much out of it, but these streets are worth a visit if you happen to be in Ueno.

Most shop owners are very kind, excited and used to communicating with foreigners, therefore it's not a bad tourist destination for those who like bikes. If you happen to be in the area, check it out!

Remaining shops are scattered around the neighborhood, and I've pinned one that's easier to find as a reference point:

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