Nearly eleven years ago, the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake struck the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. The magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami, and the combined disasters ended up killing over 18,000 people. As of January, 2022, it remains the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan, as well as one of the largest in the world.
What does that terrible natural disaster have to do with motorbikes? It’s the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 that caused the Tokyo Metro subway system to reconsider some of its safety mitigations for the future, one of which involves emergency response motorbikes.
In the event that something terrible should happen in the future, the organization realized that many vehicles wouldn’t be able to easily traverse the many kilometers of underground tunnels that are part of the Tokyo Metro system. Four-wheeled vehicles, in particular, simply wouldn’t have as easy a time getting around all those tight spaces. Add in the possibility of rubble and partial collapse, and the answer was clear: Tokyo Metro needed to establish a motorcycle corps.
Thus, in 2013, Tokyo Metro established its first-ever motorcycle corps. As of December, 2021, the small group consists of about 60 individuals who are ready and able to ride the tunnels on any one of the 14 Tokyo Metro official motorbikes designated for this purpose.
What bikes did Tokyo Metro choose for its fleet? The Yamaha Serow 250 is named for a Japanese animal frequently described in English as a “goat-antelope.” It’s an agile, nimble creature native to Japan that’s able to traverse difficult spots with ease. Likewise, the Serow 250 is a 249cc single-cylinder trail bike, designed not to blink when you ask it to access those hard-to-reach areas.
Prior to the global pandemic, Tokyo Metro’s Motorcycle Corps riders trained with Japanese police riders approximately once a month, to ensure they were in good shape for whenever they’re needed next. So far, that time hasn’t come—but when it does, the Serow fleet is ready to deploy.