Cycling is very common in Japan especially when transport is very expensive. For example in Tokyo, a 10-minute train ride on the Toei Subway line (a private line) can cost up to 280 yen. Therefore, many Tokyoites prefer to walk or cycle than to take public transport.
Getting a bicycle is rather easy. There are many bicycle shops located in Tokyo so you can easily pick the ones that you favor. If you have noticed, many people use the mama-chari, a type of bicycle that has distinctive features. Its front tube is curved down so that it is easier to get off the bicycle. It also has a basket attached in the front to place your belongings. It comes with a front light that is powered by the energy from your pedaling. It may seem a little too out-of-fashion, but as a tool for transportation, it works well as I have observed many who were able to cycle up the steep slopes effortlessly.
Some of you might have heard the hassle of cycling in Japan – that one have to register their bicycles before being able to use it. After the law was established in 1994, anyone who owns a bicycle has to register it with his or her local city ward. However, it is not that much of a difficulty. If you have purchased it from a bicycle shop, all you need to do is to pay the shop 500 yen and fill in some simple forms (name, address, phone number) and you get a sticker placed on your bicycle. If you purchased it online, fill up this form before heading down to any bicycle shop. Once again, you have to pay 500 yen and it is done.
The sticker that you will get after registering your bicycle
Central Tokyo is not very big; meaning you can cycle the diameter of the JR Yamanote Line in about 1 hour. There are dedicated cycling routes on both pavements and the roads. Though one qualm that I have is that there are many slopes in Tokyo, making cycling slightly more difficult.
A nice route that I recommend is from Takadanobaba to Iidabashi. Technically, this route is tracing the Tozai Line. At Takadanobaba, you will be greeted with a large variety of food stores and cafes. As you cycle onwards, you will reach Waseda station. Waseda has many fast food chains and food stores too, as it is perpetually crowded with college students from the nearby Waseda University.
Photo: Andrew Buckingham on Flickr
Photo: Taichiro Ueki on Flickr
Pedaling for another 10 minutes will lead you to Kagurazaka, a nice and quaint place with a mixture of both Japan’s old and new. Get lost in the small alleys of Kagurazaka and feel yourself transported back into the past; while cycling on the main road enables you to see the modern Japan. Iidabashi is just a short ride away from Kagurazaka. Iidabashi is also nearby to the Imperial Garden, Yasukuni Shrine and many other cultural hotspots.
There are certainly many other cycling routes in Tokyo. Hop on to a bicycle, cycle, turn into every nook of Tokyo and enjoy!