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RICKSHAWS propelled by a Japanese runner are fast trotting into a thing of the past. A few of the footmen can still be seen in quaint and shrine-studded towns like Kamakura, but most of them have run right out of the oriental scene. The rickshaw men have relaxed a sukoshi (little). They've hopped onto the seat of a bicycle and now pedal their fares. Some of the rickshaw bikes are even slung with a motor now, and this undoubtedly marks the beginning of a new and fabulous era.

The drivers huff and puff when the road tips upward and they smile contentedly when coasting downhill. And while rickshaw-san keeps the wheels whirling, the passenger sits back, soaks in the sunshine, and enjoys the scenery. Train and taxi travel are faster, but for an ichiban ride the GI goes by rickshaw. 100 yen, about two bits, takes him a long way.

For the rainy weather - and there is takusan rainy weather in Japan - the rickshaw driver tosses a canopy over the buggy. And there the passenger sits, in a kind of rectangular tent, as cozy as baby-san bundled onto mama-san's back.

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