Friday, February 27, 2015

Rickshaws and the Finger Lakes

This month's focus on Japan has made me rummage around in my photos, and cookbooks, and other materials---including running across this tidbit.

This isn't a food-related post but it is going to surprise you, I think.

Antique Rickshaw
Did you know that rickshaws weren't invented in Japan?

They were invented here in New York, in the Finger Lakes ---near Keuka Lake to be exact.  Very close to where our cottage is located.  It's detailed in a history book that we have about Keuka Lake.

I wrote in to Conde Nast Traveler --back in 1999--to share the information with them, and they actually published my letter to the magazine.  (I was surprised when they did!)

So here is their article where Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha, wrote:  "Most Westerners probably imagine that emperors and aristocrats throughout Asia have ridden around in rickshaws for as long as Europeans have ridden in horse-drawn carriages. But, in fact, they weren't invented until 1870.  Before that, wealthy and powerful Japanese were carted around in palanquins, on the shoulders of several men.  The palanquin offered the advantage of a smooth ride over any terrain, but the rickshaw was better suited to the modern age:  It went faster and cut the required labor in half.  Within a few years of its introduction, the rickshaw had spread throughout Asia, although it never gained a following in the West.  Even today, the rickshaw -- like its cousin the pedicab -- is a common sight in India, China, Singapore, and Vietnam.  In Japan, the country where it originated, the rare vehicle survives only as a nostalgic reminder of an earlier age."
And here is my letter they published with a cute drawing.  They titled it Unknown Beginnings.  And this is what I wrote:
"Did you know that the rickshaw was actually invented in the United States? I was drawn to The Way It Was [September 1999], which featured Tokyo in 1894, because the photograph was faulous and because the column was written by Arthur Golden (I am reading his novel right now).  He says that the rickshaw originated in Tokyo, which is technically true, but there is a lovely story I discovered about its invention.  It was made here -- in a little town next to our cottage on Keuka Lake -- and then assembled and sent to Japan because an American living there wanted to ease his ill wife's discomfort.  She had to be carried on a palanquin, on the shoulders of two men, which jostled her around."
A fun fact, don't you think?


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