Circling Mt Fuji on mamachari bikes

Circling Mt Fuji on mamachari bikes

I get on really well with my only brother. Joe is two years younger than me and we share a lot of interests. We’ve both lived in Japan and have invested considerable time and effort in learning the language. So we both jumped at the chance to have some kind of adventure when we learned we’d both booked trips to Japan at the same time. We wanted to give new life to an old idea from the past. Many years ago we’d discussed the idea of travelling the length of Japan on a mamachari. Mamachari? It’s the most common form of bicycle in Japan – Wikipedia claims they’re called ‘city bikes’ in English – and the name is a compound of mother and bicycle. Joe and I only had three days together and we wanted to do something fun on mamacharis. “Why don’t we ride around Mt Fuji?” Joe asked. “Perfect,” I replied. And thus the plan was set in motion. We also decided that we’d shoot video along the way, pool our vision and then each cut a video from the shared footage. That’s my edit above – you’ll find Joe’s edit below.

The ride was extremely tough. The majority of the first section was uphill and me knees were permanently bent despite the seat pole being jacked up as high as possible. We shot a lot of video while riding with one hand on the handlebars and the other clutching a camera. Any shots that included the two of us required one of us to dismount, set the camera up, hit record, ride into shot and then return to grab the camera. There was a constant battle between a desire to shoot decent vision and reaching our destination.

Joe's camera gear
This is the gear that Joe brought with him on the trip. Not pictured is the Pocket WiFi that allowed us to use Google Maps, my iPhone 6s and my Macbook that we used to download clips from the four cameras at the end of each day.

I’ve been chipping away at this edit for about a month. And it’s had a few incarnations. I had a lot of internal dialogue about what shape this video would take. Should I narrate it? Should I use text boxes to tell the story? At one point I decided that I’d perforate the ride around Mt Fuji with vignettes – some would reveal details about our previous adventures – but, I struggled to make this edit flow and I ended up going back to a chronological account of the trip. I captioned all of the dialogue in three colours that was influenced by the colours of the bikes that my brother and I rode. I decided against using narration and music in the edit – although I did bookend the video with the same piece of royalty-free production music. So, this meant that I relied on the Australian Story method of telling the story with the vision I’d shot.

I would have loved to have mentioned that my brother and I once climbed Mt Fuji from opposite sides and met on top near the post office. Likewise, it would have been great to have shared the outcome of our last multi-day cycling adventure we had – we both contracted malaria. But, I couldn’t find the right places to slot in these little factoids. So in the end, I had to leave them out. I also had a nice sequence from a few days before our trip when I headed down to Mt Fuji to try to secure some second-hand mamacharis in advance. I visited about seven shops and only found overpriced brand new bikes. Ultimately, I couldn’t find a place in the edit to include this sequence without using narration, so this also ended up on the cutting room floor. I also made the decision to blur a couple of faces in the video because I’m not sure if they realised that my brother was filming them.