Consider yourself lucky if you get the chance to ride a bicycle in Japan if you are a tourist. Chances are high you will have your own if you live here.
Riding a bicycle in a big city such as Tokyo is not that simple, since you have to get a bit prepared in order to do it legally. Here are the steps to get your ride at a peace of mind.
Japan is one of the little countries where cars drive on the left side of the street. This applies for pedestrians as well as for cyclist. Be sure to switch your mind appropriately in case you are used to driving on the right.
Anywhere that is not a designated bicycle parking area is considered illegal parking for bicycles in Japan. Space is scarce and bicycles often cause others trouble when left around carelessly. Make sure not to leave your bicycle just ‘somewhere’, i.e. directly in front of a store but look out for signs that state ‘自転車駐車場’ (jitensha chuushajo) or ‘二輪車駐車場'(nirinsha chuushajo’).
Riding your bike at night without headlamps, holding an umbrella or listening to music while riding is considered illegal and might cost you a fine of up to ¥20,000. The same goes for talking on the phone while riding a bicycle and the most severe punishment is for riding under the influence which might earn you up to five years of imprisonment or a fine of ¥1,000,000.
‘Futarinori’ (二人乗り), the practice of two people riding on the same bicycle is illegal, too, and both will be fined if caught.
You can not ride a bicycle that is not registered, so make sure to register it beforehand and if you are renting one ask in advance whether it is registered or not.
Basically, the most important thing is to exercise some common sense and to ride safely. Additionally, you should be extra careful in Japan and show respect to everyone around you and do not ride dangerously.