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From the interior of São Paulo to the roads of the world

Passionate about riding and traveling on a motorcycle, Cecilia attended Japanese school, and trained in kendo during her childhood and adolescence (photo: personal archive/Cecilia Kondo)

From Yamanashi province, Japan, to Brazil. Cecilia Kondo's parents, aged 59, settled in Pereira Barreto (SP), 626 km from the capital, having been born in a city where a large community of descendants is concentrated. She lived on a farm with the families of her father's two brothers.

There, she attended Japanese school (nihon gakkou) and grew up speaking the language. “My father, my mother and Bachan only spoke Nihongo ”. She spoke “very well” and knew how to read too. “Reading manga helped a lot.” Cecilia says it was “easy”, as the kanji is accompanied by writing in hiragana . And she adds: “But even so, there were many words that we learned, because we read”.

Contact with Japanese culture

From the age of five to 16, she practiced kendo at the community association, ACEP - Associação Cultural e Esportiva Pereira Barreto. Her father and uncle were senseis . The training and dedication were serious, so much so that she participated in competitions in São Paulo (SP) and other cities, such as Brasília (DF) and Curitiba (PR).

The trip to the capital of São Paulo was made by train, from Santa Fé do Sul (SP), about 90 km from Pereira Barreto, to Luz station, from where they took a chartered bus that left them at the Yamanashi association, in Freedom. “We spread out a bunch of mattresses and everyone slept together,” she says.

To other cities, the route was by bus. And, to charter buses, they participated in events to raise money, such as Bon Odori (a festival held annually during the summer, between July and August, in Japan). Mothers and wives of kendo , baseball and athletics athletes helped prepare food to sell.

Passion for motorcycle

“I started riding motorbikes when I was around 12 years old, when I got a scooter, called the Motovi Puch 50cc”. At the age of 16, she received a brand new RX 125 from her father. “That's why I still like motorbikes today, I used to ride there a lot”, she explains.

The RX 125 was Cecilia's first motorcycle and received it as a gift from her father; It still exists today (photo: personal archive/Cecilia Kondo)

Later, she took her first trip on two wheels, from her hometown to Araçatuba, where she attended Dentistry college. After graduating, she took the RX 125 back to Pereira Barreto. She moved to São Paulo and stopped riding her motorcycle when she started working. She decided to dedicate herself to her career and soon got married and had a son.

In 2004, more or less 20 years later, once when she took the Governador Carvalho Pinto Highway, which connects Guararema to Taubaté (SP), she saw a person riding a Harley Davidson and felt like having a motorcycle again. Cecilia had separated her husband and was looking for something she liked to do, a hobby. “After a month of 'dating' a motorcycle [a Virago 250] with a 'for sale' sign at a tire shop in Santana [a neighborhood in the North Zone of the city] , I decided to buy it. From then on, I never stopped riding my motorcycle. The passion only grew.”

Thus, the first trip with the new acquisition was to Paraty (RJ), during Carnival. It was from then on that she thought she would always want to travel by motorcycle. “Before, I didn’t travel much, but after I met my current partner, I gradually stopped working on Saturdays and started taking long trips with him.”

Later, in 2019, she started to enjoy hiking. In other words, take more difficult off-road routes, with various obstacles, including rocks, sand, mud and even steps. In addition, she began to participate in groups of women motorcyclists, such as Aceleradas and Ladies of The Road. “Acceleradas accept any type of motorcycle, from small to pillion, and it is a movement that encourages other women to ride even more”, she explains. .

Nisei visited countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, the United States and Peru on two wheels, as well as northern Brazil. “Counting everything, from childhood to today, I must have driven around 400,000 km or more, not to mention that I walk straight into the city, right? But in terms of travel, that's not enough. I have friends who will probably pass this mark, because they are younger than me and have already ridden a lot.”

Nisei visited several places on two wheels, such as the city of San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile (photo: personal archive/Cecilia Kondo)

Dedication and overcoming

Thinking about the profession, she decided to take a digital marketing course. Around this same time, motorcycling became more popular, with more women riding motorbikes and increasingly posting on social media. And, because she hadn't seen any other woman take trips as incredible as she did, she also became interested in showing her experiences on Instagram, becoming known as Japagirl Rider .

Known as Japagirl Rider, Cecilia trains to always improve (photo: personal archive/Cecilia Kondo)

The idea was to invest in work, but at the same time, I was thinking about the possibility of selling online. In 2018, after traveling along the Carretera Austral, a highway in Chile, the blog project emerged as an investment and business. Little by little, she published everything from old trips to the most current ones.

The following year, Cecilia no longer wanted to work as a dentist, because she started traveling a lot and considered dedicating herself solely to motorcycling. Thus, the desire to take a sabbatical year in Alaska arose. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic canceled this plan and travel resumed at the end of 2020.

For Japagirl Rider, traveling by motorcycle means overcoming and being in contact with nature. “It’s a different feeling,” she says. While in Europe she had comfort, in Roraima she camped, took a dirt road, etc. “Because I know that not just anyone does it, so this is much more important for me. We are constantly showing that we can do it. That’s why I train, to improve.” And, by doing things from the heart, it is possible to conquer the world.


© 2024 Tatiana Maebuchi

Brazil Cecilia Kondo Japanese Brazilians motorcycles São Paulo
About the Author

Born in São Paulo, Tatiana Maebuchi is a third generation Japanese Brazilian on her mother’s side, and fourth generation on her father’s side. She is a journalist with a degree from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica in São Paulo, and has written for magazines, websites, and media marketing. She is also a travel blogger. As a member of the communications team of the Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture and Social Welfare (Bunkyo), Maebuchi helped contribute to the dissemination of Japanese culture.

Updated July 2015

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