Slovenian joyride on Tokyo streets - Tomos Intercontinental
Today, Facebook reminded me of my first 2-wheel rides. 1st 2-wheel ride in Europe when I was a kid, and 1st 2-wheel ride in Tokyo 2 decades later happened to fall into the same category: 50cc Slovenian moped Tomos.
After acquiring a production license from Puch to produce moped models under the Tomos name in 1954, Tomos produced various vehicles, including motorcycles, mopeds, outboard motors and Citroën cars for the domestic market. Since 1966, Tomos production expanded to the Netherlands, and little did I know that those mopeds are being exported to Japan!
Growing up in the area of former Yugoslavia, it is not surprising that Tomos was the first 2-wheel
motorized vehicle I ever rode on. My big and cool (about 15 years old at the time) cousin had a similar blue Tomos and he took me for a ride around the apartment block in Bosnia as soon as I was able to sit behind him and grip his waist safely. Kind of. I was 5 and mesmerized! 10 years later, my generation was too young to drive a larger vehicle, therefore many friends drove Tomos mopeds that usually belonged to their parents (from their teenage years as well). I'll never forget my school-friend Dario's blue Tomos with moody engine and no breaks, on which he tandem drove us for a few kilometers from a bus stop to our BBQ place by the river.
These mopeds have always been used for overcoming small distance in mainly rural areas. Who would have guessed that one day, this moped will show me beauty of Tokyo streets and ignite the wish to stick to 2-wheelers?!
Then 5 years ago, I spotted a Tomos parked in front of a shop in Shibuya!
The owner of the shop explained that he got the moped from a dealership in Harajuku and that Tomos even has a small fan base in Japan. I was ecstatic! As I rushed to the office, a friend who at the time ran an exciting community marketplace startup asked me whether I have a wish to get anything special in Japan, and the answer was clear: I want a Tomos!
Harada-san, who later created the online auction service Smaoku ( recently acquired by Mercari), made my wish come true. Through his website, he asked the community for a spare Tomos, and only a few weeks later, I got a lovely yellow moped for free from Murakami-san, who hasn't been using the 2-wheeler since he upgraded to cars. Furthermore, Murakami-san is currently (among other projects) working on self-driving vehicles as part of Yahoo! Japan direction.
Slovenian-Japanese parking lot relations; The picture of Murakami-san handing me his Tomos and ownership papers was taken by my Slovenian friend Rok, who helped me pick up the bike together with his friend and colleague, Kinoshita-san. I got a great bike through support of wonderful people from the 2 countries.
Adding another example of Slovenian assembly in Japan: A photo taken by my friend Matjaž Tančič, a Slovenian photographer living in Beijing, who practically came to visit Tokyo just to take my Tomos for a spin:
Tomos (named Boštjan) was the reason I initially took the drivers license in Japan, upgraded it to chuugata (400cc) license, and have just decided it's time for another upgrade.
I gained much more than just an awesome bike through this experience. Friendship with Harada-san and Murakami-san was the outtake that the developing startup scene and affection for bikes nurtured more than anything. Eternally grateful - it was a life changer > definitely to the better!