Bicycle Valet, Tokyo

On my way to and from my hotel to Tokyo’s Metro line, I pass a supermarket. Outside is a large bicycle parkade. Here young mothers with a couple of kids (usually without helmets) strapped on front and back, flawlessly coiffed matrons, and elderly obaasans pedal in, park and begin their shopping.

Tending the lot is a full-time, uniformed white-gloved attendant. Likely retired from his previous position as a company man, he now spends his entire day fussing over the bicycles, moving them a millimeter or two in one direction then another millimeter or two back until the shoppers return, mount and push off.

Bicycle Valet Photo Credit to

Bicycle Valet Photo Credit to

Like a life-long craftsman patiently absorbed in every step of creating his wares, the attendant’s obsessive-compulsive traits are more highly prized—even cultivated and venerated—in Japan. Anywhere else his meticulous attention might well be classified as a disorder requiring serious pharmaceutical intervention.

I never tire of watching him. I smile with quiet joy to find a kindred spirit—a member of my tribe. A lucky one blessed to have found a niche which perfectly suits his gift.

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