Onba – オンバ

Look at this cart:

Onba

 

It is called a Onba and one can find it on Ogijima.

Onba are carts that are more or less made from scraps (I assume that one buys the frame and then “customize” it with boxes and such) and that older people from Ogijima (and elsewhere? I don’t remember ever seeing one elsewhere, although I’m sure they can be found. Can anybody help me on this one?) use to walk around the island when they need to carry a more or less heavy load.

As you may already know, if you’re not new to this blog, the islands streets are very narrow and no traditional vehicle can go through most of them (there’s only one real road, and it doesn’t even totally circle the island) and in the village of Ogi-chō itself, not only streets are narrow, but they’re also steep most of the time, so even a bicycle is not that practical.

Ogijima's street
A typical street on Ogijima

 

In other words, Onba are one of the most convenient thing to carry things around the island. One other important factor pleading against bikes or simply bags is that Ogijima‘s population’s average age is above 60 (75 years old could be considered a realistic figure here). So Onba are basically the go-to thing in the village, especially because one can also use them to keep one’s balance or to sit down if needed (remember, the age factor). As such, they really are ubiquitous on the island!

 

Onba

I’m telling you that Onba are ubiquitous on the island and…
this picture was taken on the same day as the first one, but hours later and in a completely different spot on the island. Despite that, the more I look at both pictures, the more I’m convinced that they represent the exact same Onba.

 

I’ll end this post on a linguistic note. The term Onba comes from Ubaguruma (乳母車) which means Stroller. The first two Kanji alone (乳母) being pronounced Onba and meaning Wet-nurse. Even if Onba are not specific to Ogijima, it is my understanding that the term is (or at least to the area). Once again, I’ll welcome any correction or precision gladly.

Finally, you may be wondering why I’m talking about Onba like this? Well, you’ll see very soon…

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