News On Japan

Monthly Earnings Reach 1.27 Million Yen for Some Rickshaw Pullers

TOKYO, Jun 24 (News On Japan) - As the streets of Asakusa bustle with rickshaws, some pullers are earning as much as 1.27 million yen a month. However, this seemingly lucrative career has a challenging side.

In Tokyo's Asakusa district, the rickshaw stands are crowded with foreign tourists.

"We heard it was recommended and really wanted to try it! We're so excited!" said a parent and child visiting from Israel.

As they rounded a corner facing the Kaminarimon, the towering Sky Tree came into view, part of their guided tour of Asakusa.

Tokyo Rickshaw, an operating company with 70 pullers, has seen its sales skyrocket 30-fold compared to four years ago, according to company president Ryuta Nishio, 42. This surge has led to an influx of applicants, with over 50 hopefuls applying in busy months. One key reason is the high earnings potential.

"Even a 20-year-old part-timer can earn over 1 million yen a month," said Nishio, attributing this to the booming inbound tourism. Yet, he cautions, "Unless you're absolutely committed, it's better not to pursue this."

The selection process is rigorous, with only a third of applicants passing the initial interview. Subsequent training, lasting several months, further weeds out those unfit for the job. Currently, 45 trainees are undergoing training, with women making up 30% of this group.

Sora Aoyama, 18, is in her seventh training session, struggling with controlling the rickshaw on a steep bridge. Meanwhile, Kanta Miyake, 22, in his ninth session, finds direction changes challenging. The dropout rate is high, with about 80% failing to complete the training.

Despite these challenges, the potential for high earnings keeps many striving. Rickshaw rides are priced at 5,000 yen for 10 minutes and 20,000 yen for an hour for two passengers. The pullers earn an hourly wage between 1,300 yen and 4,000 yen, based on their experience.

Riko Arai, 20, in her second year as a puller, says, "I earn about 10,000 yen a day on average. The more effort you put in, the more you earn."

Tokyo Rickshaw motivates its pullers with various bonuses for surpassing daily sales targets and the number of working days. Top earners, like Yuichiro Harada, 21, can make over 1 million yen a month. Harada, who has been a puller for two years, once earned 1.27 million yen in a month.

Harada's success stems from his exceptional skills and multilingual abilities, speaking five languages, including English, Chinese, Korean, and Indonesian. He says, "When I first came to Asakusa, I could only say 'hello' and 'yes.' I learned languages by asking customers to teach me."

His smooth rides and engaging personality make him a favorite among tourists. One American tourist commented, "He's an excellent driver."

Harada’s dedication to constantly updating his knowledge of Asakusa’s attractions and his engaging personality have earned him many repeat customers. On a busy day, he can earn up to 70,000 yen.

Looking ahead, Harada has ambitions beyond rickshaw pulling. "I want to start my own company, maybe in apparel or a café," he shared.

One trainee aspiring to achieve similar success is Moeka Shimada, a 20-year-old university student who joined the training program in March. Despite the challenges, she remains determined.

Training coach Fumitaka Hibari, 28, emphasized the importance of persistence. "I tell trainees that the breakthrough moment will come if they keep at it," he said.

The journey to becoming a skilled rickshaw puller is demanding, but for those who succeed, it offers not only financial rewards but also the fulfillment of personal dreams.

Source: ANN

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