Katsue Oshiro and Matsuri Kuniyoshi are Okinawa’s two female police motorcyclists.
Why did you become motorcycle police officers?
K.O. “I joined the police force because I wanted a career that would let me help others. When I got to choose my specialty, I decided to become a motorcycle officer, even though I’d never ridden a bike before. It looked like such a cool thing to do as a career.”
M.K. “I rode a motorbike when I was in high school, and even got caught by the police a couple of times. I decided that I wanted to ride bikes for a living, and joined the police with the one goal of becoming a motorcycle police officer.”
What special training do police riders receive?
“The police bikes we use are 750cc Honda VFR’s. Once you’ve added sirens, lights, speakers and panniers, they become quite large and heavy. We do a lot of training to improve our maneuverability on the bikes. We have to be able to turn them around in tight spaces and weave through traffic. We’re also trained to ride fast; on the expressway we sometimes get up to 140 kilometers an hour to catch speeding vehicles.”
When you start the sirens and flashing lights, do some vehicles refuse to pull over?
“It doesn’t happen very often, but if they don’t stop we follow them until they either give up or lose control of the vehicle.”
What are the main problems that you have to deal with?
“Motorists in Okinawa are getting a lot better about using their seat belts, but now we have a big problem with people using their cellular phones while they are driving. Motorbike riders need to wear helmets that are fitted properly, and chinstraps must be fastened. We also have to deal with people who have made illegal modifications to their car by adding extra-wide tires or exhaust systems that are not designed for their vehicle.
In general, people need to relax and drive more safely. If everyone sticks to the rules then we’ll have fewer accidents on Okinawa.”
Why are roads on Okinawa so slippery when wet?
Older Okinawan roads, especially those in the northern part of the island, had coral rock mixed into the asphalt. These roads can get very slippery. Newer roads in Okinawa are built with higher quality asphalt so they give more grip. It’s still common sense, however, to slow down when the road is wet.
Have you ever seen the TV show CHiPs that’s about the Californian Highway Patrol motorcycle police?
We’ve never seen it, but our boss, Taba-san, is a big fan of Francis “Ponch” Poncherello.
(Interview first published in Okinawa Living Magazine April 2006)