18 January 2010

I Want You Under My Wheels

FACT: The Japanese verb for "to run somebody over" is hiku (轢く). The kanji for hiku is made up of two kanjis: "car" (車) and "fun" (楽しい, or 樂しい in it's classical form).

If you have ever driven, rode a bike or walked in Saga City, even if for a single day, you've almost been hit by a car. You might not even have been aware of it, but your life was in grave danger. If expressed as a percentage, there is a 99% chance as a cyclist that you will be hit within 24 hours if you don't absolutely watch where your going, because god knows the drivers aren't.

FACT: This isn't just a(nother) gaijin complain-a-thon!

Saga is also well known in Kyushu for it's drivers. A quick search around the Japanese internets for the words 佐賀 (Saga) 運転 (driving) 怖い (frightening) gets some interesting responses.

"Saga has a lot of wild drivers, so it's scary -- (*breaks down in tears*)"

One user, asked their worst memory in the entire island of Kyushu, gave Saga drivers as one of many Sagan examples:

"The drivers are bad and cars are scary. Crash, SA-GAAAAAA."

On the same page, another user wrote,

"Sagan drivers have the worst manners in Kyushu. Go back to driving school and learn from the beginning!"

So as you can see, Saga well known for it's colourful driving culture.

For example, the other I was riding my bike to the mall, and I passed the entrance to a parking lot. The driver was sitting across the sidewalk (stupid mistake #1), well across the solid line marked with "止まれ" , or "STOP!" (stupid mistake #2). She was looking right to see if traffic was coming her way and kept her head at a 45° angle as she began to pull out (stupid mistake #3), barely avoiding hitting me (stupid mistake #4-- well, while technically #3 and #4 are the same, almost hitting *me* put her own life in immediate danger). A half second away from being under her wheels, I swung my hands wildly, and said "What the HELL do you think you're doing??" in English. She had a stupid look of shock and horror on her face similar to Sadako's victims in "The Ring".


A couple of weeks ago, I was riding to the station with my friend, and we almost got hit twice within three kilometres. This is not a joke. Luckily my friend was in-between me and the car both times, which would have probably provided cushioning for me to survive if worst came to worst, but between a guy not looking to see if anyone was coming before pulling out (and already well across the solid line marked, of course, with STOP!), and a guy flagrantly going through a red light in front of the biggest train station in the prefecture, it's almost comically ridiculous.

One theory is, that similar to the film Maximum Overdrive, the cars in Saga have somehow gained senscience and are waging a terrible war against mankind which have enslaved them for over a century; their hapless drivers watching in horror from behind the wheel as pedestrian after pedestrian, cyclist after cyclist is mowed down like so many toy soldiers under the feet of wanton boys.

On the highway home from Fukuoka, there's a big sign saying "Be careful. Fatalities due to car accidents are increasing." Right there on the highway bus, I muttered between my teeth, "No shit!"

And when I say I have close calls on a nearly daily basis, I'm not kidding. I have no idea how I've made it this far. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a victim here. I'm a survivor. And I used to live in Montreal! I know stereotypically bad drivers when I see them.


stereoheads said...

You're not alone.
I have had, and regularly have the exact same situations happen to me (in Miyazaki).

A turning point in my life happened because of someone pulling out. They were looking right readying to merge, and I was cycling slowly from the left on a T intersection. The car STARTED pulling out when I was in front of it. He went so far as to force me into the oncoming traffic lane and I actually had to lift my leg up and put it on the hood of his car. He stopped just before making contact with the frame of my bicycle.
The worst part was I had made eye contact with his front seat passenger and assumed the passenger would notify him "hey dude there's a bike coming".

So now I have a "no eye contact, stop immediately" rule when cycling. EVEN when I am cycling on the highway.

Always wear your helmet boys and girls!

Dr. Furious said...


As far as I can tell, 60-70% of people in Kyushu are perfectly fine drivers, but those that aren't, really aren't.

Claytonian said...

That is a brilliant book mock-up

Dr. Furious said...

Haha! Thanks! Took me like an hour to make that. :|