Cycling can be a sport, leisure, or physical activity. Roam through your local area or engage in a journey with specialized designs to fit different needs. Here is a quick guide on how you can start your cycling travel experience.
Tokyo on a Bike
Tokyo is such an extraordinary place to venture to and one of the best ways of really experiencing this marvelous city is by just riding a bicycle. Cycling enables you to travel with ease, unbounded by overly packed trains or long traffic delays. It frees you to explore Tokyo in another perspective, from the towering buildings of modern Japan to the calm, culturally preserved countryside.
Bicycles have been a part of Japanese culture; used by people of all age groups and social status. The existence of one of some of the world renown bike manufacturers like Tokyobike speaks for itself.
The most widely used bicycle and probably the most common is the Mamachari (Mom's bicycle). It is simple, inexpensive and can be spotted almost anywhere from the urban city to the suburbs. In 2013, there were about 71 million bicycles in Japan, Mamachari being the majority.
(※) National Police Agency , ”自転車施策をとりまく環境 (Environment surrounding Bicycle Measures)”, p.2
Riding Bicycles has also proven to be both beneficial to both man and nature:
Riding your bicycle can help build muscle, burns fat, strengthen your legs, develop a strong and healthy heart and increase endurance and stamina. Cycling has also been proven to be effective in alleviating stress, reducing anxiety, clearing your mind and improving your mood.
Cycling requires raw pedaling; therefore, no harmful vehicle smoke released into the atmosphere when a person is riding his or her bicycle. Making sure that to use your bicycle twice or thrice a week is one of the simplest ways to lower your environmental footprint. Noise pollution is reduced as well.
Tokyo Bicycle Routes
To truly capture Tokyo's natural beauty aside from its majestic concrete jungle, here are some of the best bicycle routes that can be accessed in Tokyo, Japan:
Seaside, Rivers and Canals
Arakawa Route: Running alongside the Arakawa river, the Arakawa route is an 80 km cycling track that leads to Tokyo Bay if you head towards south and towards Saitama if you head north. The climax of this ride is the beautiful cherry blossom park at Sakuratsutsumi Park.
You can also include a visit to Kiba Park, have lunch at Kiyosumi Garden, and ride to the beautiful bridges of Kameido Tenmangu Shrine.
Kanda River Route: This route is usually taken from Takadanobaba and ends at Inokashira Park. Shrines, temples and parks can be found along the route, a good place to stop over for sightseeing and pictures.
Tamagawa River Bank Route: Aside from the great view of the cleanest river in Tokyo, Tamagawa River has easy-to-cycle paths. It is best to cycle from the river to Nakahara Kaido and choose between Haneda or Futakotamagawa district routes. Both have a beautiful view and relaxing places to rest before tracking more of the river.
There are a lot of architectural wonders in Tokyo, and below is the list of locations you can reach by cycling:
Tsukiji Honganji Temple next to the old fish market area
Prada Tokyo, a crystal-shaped building
SunnyHills, the wooden structure that looks a pineapple
If you are game for a steep hill cycling challenge, this one's for you. Tour the cozy backstreets at Kagurazaka, the hilly Bunkyo ward, visit a samurai feudal lord’s mansion and see the old towns of Yanesen.
Other routes you might consider are the following:
Showa Koen Route: Showa Kinen Park is located near Tachikawa station. You can spend your entire day at this 14 km route park, which is filled with garden sceneries and water parks that are good for both adults and children. Best to pack lunch to enjoy the whole day at the playgrounds. The awesome part is, dogs are welcome too! Just don't forget the leash.
Imperial Palace Route: If you're on a tight schedule throughout the week and the weekends are your only time to bike around the city, the Imperial Palace Route should take care of the business. The route is very accessible in central Tokyo, the roads are quite spacious, and since the route is a loop, it's well suited for bikers who don't want to bike long distances. You can bring your own bicycle or borrow it from the reception desk for free. All you have to do is fill out a form and select a suitable bicycle for you. They usually have choices from city bikes to mountain bicycles and even bicycles for kids too. Enjoy your time cycling and appreciate the view of both the Imperial Palace and the surrounding skyscrapers.
Where to get your Bike
Sometimes carrying a bike might be a little too inconvenient to get to cycling routes, especially far ones; however in Tokyo, it shouldn't be a problem because there are bicycle stores and rental shops you can always run to.
TokyoBike Rentals Yanaka
TokyoBike is a store built by the Tokyo Bike firm for bikers who wish to buy or rent bikes in a whole new level of sophistication. The bike may be pretty expensive, but it sure will give you a smooth ride.
Price: ¥1,000 per day
Deposit: Insurance money is not required
It is probably the cheapest bicycle rental shop that can be found in Tokyo. It's available in 4 different locations in Tokyo.
Prices: ¥200 for 4 hours, ¥300 fee for a whole day cycling, for three days - ¥600 and for seven days - ¥1200
Deposit: Insurance money is not required
Mujirushi Ryouhin MUJI Shop
The bicycle rental shop is a 1-minute walk from JR Yurakucho Station. Mamachari bicycles are available for rent here. You have to reserve in advance and bring your passport as it is required upon rental.
Prices: ¥525 per day on the weekdays and ¥1050 per day on weekends and holidays
Deposit: ¥3000 insurance is required
But if you're willing to buy a bicycle to save more for future cyclings around Tokyo, there are also bicycle stores nearby for locals and tourists. Here are a small list of the best stores to buy your bike:
- TokyoBike Shops
You can shop online or visit their stores in Yanaka, Nakameguro, Setagaya-ku and Musashino City. TokyoBike has a good selection of bike parts and bike accessories, also offers repair services, and has test-drive units for each model and size inside their store.
- Yodobashi Camera Bike Shop
Offers a vast range of bikes at reasonable prices, plus they have English speaking staff to assist you. Yodobashi Camera stores are all over Japan, find one near you.
- Y's Round
A bicycle store packed with all sorts of bikes that a cyclist can ever imagine. No worries about how to find it because it operates numerous shops in Tokyo.
Perfect Season to go Biking
Riding bicycles can be great in any season, except on rainy days, but if you want to capture the city at its best on a bike, spring and autumn are the best seasons for you. Cycling during spring in particular is the most recommended in Japan because you will be able to view the beautiful cherry blossoms at their peak.
Cycling Tours and Clubs
If you want to enjoy the grand sceneries of Tokyo together with other cycling enthusiasts, you can always book yourself for a biking tour around the city.You can also join cycling clubs in the area; to name there are the Tokyo Cycling Club, Tokyo Running Swimming Cycling Club and many more.
Important Tips in Bicycle travels
It is very important that as a cyclist, you should use the streets and not the sidewalks. However, there are some places that permit the use of sidewalks - just be sure to look for the sign indicating that the sidewalks are for the use by both pedestrians and cyclists. Helmets, though important, are optional and are not provided by the rental shop most of the time.
Bicycle parking areas can be commonly located near railway stations and shopping centers. If there is no designated parking lot, do not copy the bikes that are parked at no parking areas as illegally parked bicycles may be removed by the local authorities and you will have to pay to retrieve your bicycle back. Instead, park your bicycle where it can not be a hindrance to other vehicles or businesses. If you are worried, you can check with the bike rental shop to see what the rules are about parking in the city.
There are a lot of things you have been missing out on when you start settling on riding on trains or cars, but on a bike you'll be able to see new perspectives and appreciate the scenery of this beautiful country. Just follow the rules and you'll have a great time cycling around the city of Japan. Enjoy your cycling!