Unicycling Growing More Popular from Kids Up
March 26, 1999
The one-wheeled sport is taking off in Japan. (Japan Unicycling Association)
Unicycling may seem to many like an unusual sport, but for children in Japan, which boasts the world's highest ratio of unicycling fans in the population, it is one of the most familiar. The number of unicyclists, particularly among elementary schoolchildren, has shot up since 1992, when the activity was added to the elementary school physical education curriculum. The boom is now reaching into the adult sphere--in many cases when children get their parents hooked on one-wheeling. According to the Japan Unicycling Association, there are now several million unicyclists in Japan.
Boom Sparked in Elementary Schools
It naturally follows that the majority of Japan's unicycling population are elementary schoolchildren. One sixth-grade boy says, "Unicycling is tough but worth the challenge. It's a lot of fun because you can do things like turn suddenly and go backwards." For children, one fascination of unicycling is that it allows them to do tricks not possible on their bikes.
Follow the Kids
Many adults like Shigefumi take up the sport after watching their children master it. Unicycling is actually easier than it appears--the average person can learn to ride the vehicle with an hour's practice each day for a week. Nowadays there are families that enjoy it together. One mother says: "I've become able to ride around on a unicycle without too much trouble--and I'm a person who can't stay steady on a bike!"
The unicycle is not only fun, but has considerable benefits for health. One-wheeling provides a good workout, and helps train riders' concentration, balance, and agility. Moreover, pedaling on it is much easier on the heart than jogging.
World's Only Ekiden Unicycle Race
The number of participants has been growing year by year. When the first race was held five years ago, 350 people took part; at the 1999 race this number had nearly doubled to 613. The Adachi Unicycle Association, which sponsors the event, hopes that this race will continue to grow to a national level, becoming an event where prefectural representatives compete against each other, and that eventually unicycling will become an Olympic sport.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.