Japan is a country of mountains and stunning scenery. If you have ever spent time in Japan you would have noticed the amount of people getting around on bicycles. Although 70% of Japan is mountainous many of the towns and cities are built in flat valleys. This means that cycling is a great, cheap and healthy way to get around. If you have cycled in London or New York you may feel that cycling is not safe in cities, however in Japan that is different. You will find that drivers in Japan are very courteous and bikes are accepted on the roads.
If you are having a holiday in Japan, you probably won’t have your own bicycle. Don’t worry as there are many places to hire bikes across Japan. Although there are many convenient ways of travelling around Japan, cycling is the best for time saving and also seeing the country first hand. The best place to find a bicycle rental shop is by main train stations. Take photo ID with you as some places will require this to rent you the bicycle. The most common type of bike available is the ‘Mamachari’ or Mums bike.
Typically the Mamachari has just one gear, a basket and a kickstand. The fee for hiring a mamachari is usually around 1000-2000 Yen per day, or you can hire by the hour or half day for a reduced fee. Some shops may stock mountain bikes, but these will be more expensive to rent. Some hotels, hostels or ryokan may also offer bikes for hire, either for free or for a fee, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you have rented a bike it is good to know about bicycle storage. There are many places to securely park your bike around the cities. Be careful not to park the bike in a non-parking area. Each day the council sends people around who collect these illegally parked bikes and put them in ‘bike jail’. To get the bike back, you have to pay a high fee.
It is important to be aware of things not to do on your rental bike. Technically you should always cycle on the road, unless it is signed to use the pavement. Many people still will cycle on pavements as it is easier, but keep in mind you aren’t meant to. As with walking you should not smoke while cycling, it can be dangerous! Also do not cycle whilst holding an umbrella. Again this could lead to an accident and you could hurt someone else. You also shouldn’t let anyone sit on your handlebars or back luggage rack. Only allow people to sit on bicycle seats, i.e. on a child’s seat attached to the bike. Be careful about bicycle theft, although crime rates are low in Japan is still happens, so use a good secure lock.
There are many good areas to cycle in Japan if you don’t just want to do it for ease of travel. There are a few cycling companies who offer guided cycle tours. These usually include food, bicycle hire, a helmet and gloves and insurance. If you are interested in going on longer routes with guidance then try Cycling in Japan Tours. They have a lot of routes to offer and even show how easy or difficult they might be. Some example routes are through Kyoto or from Fuji to Izu.