You may have seen John riding around on his bike in Osaka. He's hard to miss.
John's bike is a hand-me-down from a traveling band on their way through Asia. He told me that they brought this bike with them to Japan: it had been the length of China before getting here. John let them stay at his place while they were here. "They didn't have much money," he said, "When it came time to shipping the bike back, they couldn't afford it, so they left it with me."
He also said that the previous owner was sad to leave it, and after standing out in the shoutengai for 10 minutes, I understood why. The bike, unlike anything I've ever seen before, is a charming device. People who would otherwise just walk by suddenly ask "Can you really ride it? Can I have a go? Can I have a photo?" Watching people talk about the bike, jump on the front, ask questions, etc. suddenly made me very philosophical about life: why can't there be more objects like this, which draw peoples curiosity and facilitate friendly interaction between total strangers?
John is only more than happy to show people how he rides it, and always invites people to either have a go or jump on the front for a spin. Don't be shy, I had a go, and it was a perfect pleasure.
Below is a photo of me on the front.
No, I'm not sure how drunk the cameraman was.