A magnificent building located at the junction of Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar Road, the Jinrikisha Station once served as a central depot for one of the earliest public transports in Singapore – rickshaws.
The name Jinrikisha is a Japanese word , which means human-powered vehicle.
The Jinrikisha Station was built in 1903 by then Municipal Engineer Samuel Tomlinson and Municipal Architect DM Craik. The design was unique with the brick walls exposed and a octagonal cupola on top of the square tower.
Ever since they were first imported from Shanghai in 1880, rickshaws gained popularity rapidly because of their mobility and affordable prices. The rickshaw business flourished and the Jinrikisha Station was set up in order to allow travellers to get to the dock or other parts of the city easily using the rickshaws.
The rickshaw business was able to provide tens of thousands of jobs but the rickshaw pullers, renting the rickshaws from the business owners, had a hard life, earning meagre income and often had to subject to long working hours, physical fatigue and unpredictable weathers.
After World War II, rickshaws in many parts of the world were outlawed because they were seen as an oppression to the poor, and also due to them adding congestion to the roads. Likewise in Singapore, the British government issued a ban in 1947 and phased out the rickshaw business, replacing with other transports such as the trishaw, trams and buses.
The Jinrikisha Station was restored by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 1987. Today, there are restaurants, pubs, music lounges, KTVs and offices in the building.
In 2007, Hong Kong movie superstar Jackie Chan paid SGD11 million for the ownership of the historical building.
Published: 02 April 2011