“Motorcycle Day - Smile-On” is an annual event held in combination with “Motorcycle Day” (officially August 19, actually known as Baiku-no-Hi = “Bike Day” in Japan). This is a date designated by the Japanese government in 1989 as part of the quest to help stamp out road accidents involving motorcycles. The specific goals of “Smile-On” are to enlighten both motorcycle riders and the general public concerning the importance of road safety, raise social awareness of Motorcycle Day and share knowledge of the extensive pleasures and appeal that motorcycles are capable of instilling in our daily lives.
Chosen as this year’s event site was Sanagi Shinjuku, a prime Tokyo venue near Shinjuku Station – the world’s largest terminal train station measured in terms of the number of embarking and disembarking passengers (approx. 3.47 million persons daily).
For Smile-On, a special outdoor exhibition area was set up between the main event area and Shinjuku Station, with each major domestic motorcycle manufacturer able to display one of its top-notch products. This was done to mount pointed appeals for the functional beauty of motorcycles to both persons heading toward Shinjuku Station and those getting off trains and walking out of and away from the terminal.
JAMA Opening Message
For the Smile-On opening ceremony, appearing for the sponsor side was Hiroyuki Yanagi, Chairman of JAMA Motorcycle Committee, who delivered the welcome address. Chairman Yanagi, who serves as President and CEO of Yamaha Motor Co., mobilized that occasion to reflect upon his own experiences, delivering comments such as, “Manufacturing motorcycles is a truly stimulating challenge.” Drawing from his own background as a rider, meanwhile, he emphasized the “great joys” gained from piloting such top-caliber machines.
Chairman Yanagi also touched upon the fact that Moto GP racing has grown to enjoy greater popularity than the F1 circuit in Europe, with an increasing number of fans flocking to see motorcycle races in Japan as well. He noted: “Watching motorcycles compete at such events is genuinely fun and inspiring.”
At the same time, however, Mr. Yanagi took time to stress: “We must also remember that the grand premise for engineering motorcycles to be both inspiring and fun to ride and watch lies in the proper operation of those machines with full safety and peace of mind. As an industry, while creating products that consistently deliver greater interest and excitement, it is also our mission to support and contribute to an environment that will inspire our customers to ride their motorcycles in the most correct and responsible ways.”
Message from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
Representing the day’s special guests was Akihiro Nakamura, Director of the Traffic Affairs Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). He primarily reported on the current status of road accidents occurring within Metropolitan Tokyo, along with the safety countermeasures being adopted and advanced in that domain.
According to Director Nakamura, for the road accidents during the period of January through July in Tokyo this year, the statistics regrettably indicate slight increases in the three key categories (number of accidents, number of fatalities and number of injuries) compared to the same seven months in 2016. The number of fatalities in those accidents was tracked at 90 persons, with 16 of those occurring when riding motorcycles.
Nationwide in Japan, the number of road traffic accidents for January-July is gauged at being approximately 268,000 (a decline of 3.8% from the same period last year), with fatalities of around 2,000 persons (down 6.2%) and injuries at 330,000 persons (down 4.2%). The number of fatalities during those months that occurred while riding motorcycles was found to be 334 persons (down 9.5%).
Director Nakamura went on to explain how over 50% of the deaths in fatal accidents occurring while operating motorcycles result from head injuries, thereby underscoring the importance of properly wearing helmets when boarding these machines. Another 30% of those fatalities were from damage to the chest and abdomen areas, suggesting the need for more extensive use of protectors designed to shield that part of the body.
Talk Show I
The MPD presentation was followed by a talk show session featuring comedian Junior Chihara (43), an avid motorcycle rider for over 20 years, and poster girl idol Akina Minami (28), who has begun to ride and compete in racing carts. These two famous personalities discussed their experiences with motorcycles and the appeal of riding them.
MPD Road Safety Clinic
Next up on the stage was MPD motoring safety mascot “Pipo-kun,” who quizzed the audience on traffic safety and engaged in a dialogue aimed at explaining the background and reasons for motorcycle accidents to help prevent such mishaps.
Pipo-kun discussed the reason that regular motor vehicles turning right at intersections are prone to collide with motorcycles traveling straight ahead (right turns because vehicles are driven on the left side of the road in Japan, as in Great Britain).
Such accidents occur because it is tougher for the human eye to perceive the speed of moving objects coming from straight ahead than it is to judge movement in a sideways direction. Standing on a train platform, for example, when a train passes through the station without stopping it is easier to visually perceive the speed of the train as it passes right before the eyes (from the side) than it is to estimate that velocity with the train in the distance at it approaches (straight ahead).
In other words, the driver of a car attempting to turn right at an intersection will perceive the speed of a motorcycle approaching head on to be slower than it actually is. What’s more, because the smaller size of motorcycles generates the illusion of the machines being further away than they really are, situations occur in which drivers attempt to turn right too soon and collide with motorcycles traveling toward them.
Following this rather technical advice, Pipo-kun encouraged visitors to “Pitch in to personally support a brighter motoring future free of road accidents.”
“Kumamon” Special Appearance and Presentation
“Kumamon” is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan (also the location of a major Honda Motor Co. motorcycle plant). This adorable and cuddly character enjoys a particularly keen following among young children, with Kumamon’s appearance at Smile-On 2017 earning a thunderous round of applause and cheers.
This day Kumamon also took part in a quiz to plea for greater road safety. As one of the questions posed to the mascot: “If operating a motorcycle at reduced speed, is it OK to glance at your smartphone?” Naturally, the correct answer to that query is a resounding “No” (and Kumamon got this query right). Any cellphone or other portable device should only be used after stopping and shutting off the vehicle engine.
The next question was: “For motorcycle riding, is most any type of helmet acceptable to wear?” Again, Kumamon responded “No” – which was right. Only helmets labeled with a special mark certifying them as “motorcycle-friendly” can be worn.
The mascot also gave the correct reply to: “Is tandem riding acceptable on motorbikes with displacement of 50cc or less?” Once again, “No.” Next: “After shutting off the engine, can motorcycles be pushed by hand in the opposite direction on one-way streets?” The answer to that question is “Yes.” In this way, both Kumamon and the members of the audience were able to raise their awareness and knowledge of road safety.
Talk Show II
The day’s second talk show session brought together the trio of long-term Japan resident and celebrity Panzetta Girolalmo from Italy (long noted for his chic appearance), fashion model Nana Suzuki and fashion director Hiroshi Morioka.
Discussing motorcycle rider clothing selections, these panelists were in full agreement that staying simple and natural in the key to fashionable motorcycling. Specific advice included choosing “relaxed looks” and resisting the temptation to “go overboard to appear trendy.”
At event site, displays were presented of “relaxed sensation motorcycle riding gear fashions” recommended by the individual machine manufacturer.
Also showcased were the latest available chest protectors, all expertly designed to be slim lightweight and sensibly stylish.
Bakuon!! Animation Talk Show
Bakuon!! (“Explosive Roar”) is a humorous comic strip depicting the adventures of a group of outgoing girl high school students of various different personalities and interest, who known for their passion with riding motorcycles. It commenced in serial format from 2011, and continues to be published today.
The 10th volume in a series of independent volumes of the comic strip just happened to be published on August 18 – the day before Motorcycle Day ~ Smile-On 2017.
Bakuon!! was also produced and broadcast as an animated television series from April to June of last year, further swelling the ranks of loyal fans of the saga. At this talk show, the appearance on stage of voice actress Mimana Uchiyama, whose talents are featured in the animated version, was greeted with major applause.
The discussions focused primarily on the subject of how the production team set out to best generate a sense of genuine and lasting affection for motorcycles through the process of creating this animation. For example, all production staffers, voice actors and others involved in the project not previously licensed to operate motorcycles took the time to obtain such certification. As this came to pass, the sight of motorcycles parked around town sparked thoughts in their minds of just what kinds of people might be riding those machines and other new thoughts and flashes of inspiration.
Also appearing in the Bakuon!! comic strip series are models from various major motorcycle manufacturers. For the TV animation, real exhaust roar and other sound effects were recorded from the actual units of the motorcycles featured.
Ms. Uchiyama and Mr. Takahashi went on to mention how they are extremely eager to produce a second run of the TV animation adaptation of Bakuon!!, and were all smiles when that suggestion earned loud applause from the audience.
In this way, Motorcycle Day ~ Smile-On 2017 turned out to be another resounding success. The event was clearly effective in conveying the passionate desire among all those who truly love motorcycles and the culture surrounding them to fully savor the pleasures and appeal that these machines offer in total and enduring safety and peace of mind.