Travel Guide

Cycling in Japan: Rules, Bike Rental, and More

Cycling can be a great way to see the sights in Japan. Like many others, Japanese cycle for commuting to work, going to school, shopping, fitness, and just enjoying their beautiful country. If you are visiting for vacation or for business, you can join them!

Whether you are going to live in Japan for a long time or visiting the country as a tourist, a cycling trip can make your stay there exceptionally delightful. On a bicycle, you can roam around everywhere and explore many hidden locations including gardens, parks, historic old towns, local shops and restaurants. 

With so many cycling/bike routes throughout the country, I particularly enjoy rural cycling. It is the best when you plan on discovering gorgeous landscapes and outdoor nature. 

Best Season to Cycle in Japan?

Spring is defiantly a perfect time to cycle in Japan. Photo Credit: m-louis .® at Flickr.

In Japan, each region has different climate. Taking this into account, I highly recommend you to do a little research online before you decide to go to Japan for a bike trip.

In northern part of Japan: Tohoku and Hokkaido, cycling at its best in spring, summer, and autumn. On the other hand, in Kanto, Kansai, Kyushu, Chubu and other regions, people tend to cycle during spring and autumn. In summer, these areas are often very hot and humid and it’s not a perfect time to enjoy a cycle trip.

In addition, people don’t cycle during the rainy season, which is in June. One interesting fact to tell you is that Hokkaido does not have a rainy season

However, people do always have to cycle all year round based on current weather condition. If it’s snowy in winter, nobody wants to cycle on the street.

In Hokkaido, you can always enjoy cycling unless it’s winter season. Please note here, winter season lasts from early December to late March.

Basic Rules and Laws including Prohibition

Photo Credit: halfrain at Flickr.

1. Like with most countries, if you go cycling in Japan, be sure that you only ride on designated paths. As a general rule, cyclists should stick to the road, though occasionally traffic conditions allow you to ride on sidewalks, keeping your speed at or below 10km/h.

2. You also need to ride with the direction of traffic. Doing otherwise is a safety hazard and can result in up to 30 days in jail or 20,000 yen fine.

3. It’s important to be fully aware and fully maneuverable while cycling. Don’t cycle while holding an umbrella and also avoid using a phone or listening to music while riding. If it’s raining, try wearing a poncho instead and stop riding if you need to take a call or get picture.

4. Bike riders under 13 are required to wear helmets but adults are not. A helmet is always advisable for safety reasons.

Biei is one of the most beautiful places in Hokkaido to cycle around.

5. When cycling after dark, you need to have your headlights and rear lights on. You should also use a bell to warn others that you are coming.

6. Bicycles are not allowed on trains unless they are foldable.

7. Cycling while drunk is a serious issue and against Japanese law. More serious instances can result in five years in prison, a 1,000,000 yen fine, or deportation for foreigners.

8. Do not cycle side by side unless there are signs indicating it is allowed.

9. Riding double is not allowed except for adults with children under 6 who are secured in a child seat while wearing a helmet.

Bike Rental in Japan

A cycle shop in Osaka. Photo Credit: m-louis .® at Flickr.

Rental bikes are becoming more and more common in Japan. This is a great choice for most sightseers and visitors.

There are many options for day rental. You can find several outside of main train stations. Many of these businesses require a photo ID, so be sure to bring one.

The most common kind of bike if a Mamachari, or a mom’s bike. These are simple bikes with only one gear, a basket, and a kickstand.

Renting one of these costs 1000-2000 yen per day, though you can often rent them by the hour or half a day for less.

Depending on the shop and the location, you may be able to rent other bikes, like mountain bikes, but these will be more expensive.

Sometimes, hostels, hotels, or yokan will offer bikes for rent. They may be free or you may have to pay a small fee.

Bicycle Parking Guide in Japan

Bikes in Sapporo. Photo Credit: 7th Groove at Flickr.

Most people who find trouble with their bicycles in Japan find it because they were illegally parked. There are designated areas for parking your bike.

If you park outside of these areas, your bike will be impounded in “bike jail”. To get I back, you’ll have to find this impound lot and pay a high fee.

Most bicycle parking is charged by the hour. Long-term plans are also available, but those interested often have to put their name on a wait-list.

Registering Your Bicycle Long Term Visitors

Cycling in Kyoto. Photo Credit: bethom33 at Flickr.

If you bring or purchase a bike, be sure to get your bike registered.

This costs around 500 yen and can save you a lot of hassle if your bike gets impounded due to improper parking, if the police want you to prove ownership, or if it gets stolen. While uncommon if you lock up your bike, theft does happen.

You can usually register your bike at the shop where you purchase it or at the local police station. It’s a simple, relatively quick process that can save you a lot of trouble later if something goes awry.

You don’t need to register your cycle if you visit Japan as a temporary visitor as in you need to have a Japanese address and telephone number. If you are stopped by police officers for any reason, just explain them that you are a tourist for a few weeks or months. To make the process faster, just show them your passport and visa. That will work.

Cycling Courses around Tokyo

Beautiful autumn leaves at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo.

1. Imperial Palace

A great, relaxing place to cycle, the Imperial Palace grounds are open to everyone. There is a specific path set aside for cycling. It is 5 km long and offers both urban and nature views.

For those who are interested but unsure about cycling in Japan, there is an event held here on Sundays called “Palace cycling” that offers free bicycles for rent.

2. Showa Memorial Park (Showa Kinen Park)

This is a huge park in west Tokyo with a lot to do. For cycling enthusiasts, it offers a 24km cycling course. The park also offers bike rentals.

The course is beautiful, offering views of the park’s lovely flowers and trees, and is very family-friendly.

3. Edogawa River Cycling Road

This 60 km path takes cyclists on both banks of the Edogawa River. The course is easy and paved, great for beginners and more experienced cyclists alike.

There are many cafes and shops along the way, so it’s a great way to see some of the Tokyo sights on a bike for a day.

4. Tamagawa River Cycling Road

This is another long cycling road, also 60 km long. It offers some great riverside views and is fairly easy. It starts near Haneda airport and follows Tamagawa River.

5. Arakawa River Cycling Road

This is a more difficult course. It is 90 km long and offers plenty of great views of Tokyo along the way, including old Edo and some spectacular views of the Tokyo Skytree.

This is not a road for beginners and is much better suited to experienced cyclists.

2 Comments

  1. Is it possible to buy a bicycle in japan as a tourist on 90 day visa? just asking since i dont have a japanese registerd adress/japanese id card.

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