A bicycle is a must-have for people who live in Tokyo. For foreigners, especially, a bicycle can be a much more economical and convenient alternative to public transit or the daunting task of getting a driver’s license. With a bicycle, you can speedily commute to work, avoid rush hour crowds, run errands, or explore new parts of the city! Here’s a useful guide to getting you started on your bike journey in Japan. 

bikin rules in japan

Tokyo Biking Rules and Guidelines

With few lanes specifically for cyclists, narrow streets, and many bustling intersections, you might wonder: how can such a thriving bike culture survive in Tokyo? While you may not expect it, Tokyo is very bike friendly, largely due to public safety efforts being abided carefully. Here are some of the most relevant laws and common practices. 

  • Riders are technically not allowed to ride on the sidewalks. 

However, you will see everyone doing so – even police officers. Just remember that pedestrians always have the right of way. 

  • You must have a bell on your bike. 

You can get ticketed for this, so make sure you purchase one along with your bike.

  • Do not carry an umbrella while riding. 
  • Do not text, listen to music, or use your phone while riding. 
  • Riding doubles or cycling side by side is strictly prohibited unless you are riding with a child under six years old in a child seat.
  • Park only in designated bicycle parking areas. 

These often cost a small sum after a half hour to an hour, and many lots offer monthly passes. (Read more about where to park in our article here).

  • Riding any train, including the shinkansen, with a bicycle is permitted, free of charge, so long as you store it in a  “Rinko bag” (or 輪行バッグ). 

If you plan on commuting on the train with a bicycle regularly, we’d recommend purchasing a foldable bike, as you’ll have to remove either the front or both wheels of an average bike to fit inside the bag. 

Where to Find a Bicycle in Tokyo

So you’re ready to purchase your first bicycle! Here are a few places to find them.

Unsure what you’re looking for? One of the most popular and inexpensive bikes for day-to-day use is the mamachari (which is a mashup of the words “mother” and “bicycle”). These come with a basket, kickstand, lock, and an upright bicycle seat. If these aren’t your speed, you can also find inexpensive road bikes, or dole out a little extra cash for a stylish custom model. 

1. Buying a New Bicycle in Tokyo

  • Don Quijote. You can find a reasonably priced and decent quality mamachari model (and a few more high-end options) at your favorite overstocked and brightly lit megastore. While not all outlets carry bicycles, you can always find them at Shibuya’s MEGA Don Quijote.  
  • Y’s Road in Shinjuku is one of Japan’s largest bicycle store chains, carries all of the top brands, and has a wide range of mountain bikes, road bikes, and folding bikes. 
  • Cycle Spot and Cycle Base Asahi are two very popular bicycle outlets with stores dotting Tokyo. You can find options at both low and high price points and their staff are all experts, offering bicycle maintenance and repairs. Cycle Spot has membership plans for its customers, as well, as provides discounted or free bicycle services. 
  • If you are looking for a more high-end, custom-built bike, check out Level in Arakawa-ku.  

2. Buying Second-Hand Bike in Tokyo

  • Look online! You can often find people selling their old bikes in Facebook groups like Mottainai Japan, the Mercari app, or Craigslist.
  • Tokyo Silver Jinzai centers are state-sponsored bicycle reconditioning spots where skilled retired senior citizens are enlisted in repairing impounded bicycles to be resold two to three days a month at sites across Tokyo. Check here to find the one nearest to you.
    • The Minato Ward Silver Jinzai Center holds bicycle sales on the Second Sunday of every month between 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Arrive early to sign up for a lottery ticket and to grab the cheapest models when your number is called. 
japanese bicycle in tokyo

Bicycle Registration in Japan

After purchasing, you’ll need to register your bike with your local police office, or jitensha bouhan touroku (自転車 防犯登録). Luckily, this process is straightforward and inexpensive, costing only around 500 yen. For a more complete guide on registering your bike, check out our article here.

When buying a new bike:

  1. Fill out a registration form at the time of purchase. The bicycle shop will forward the form to your local police office for you and give you a registration sticker for your bike. You will need to present a valid ID and/or Residence Card. If you are buying the bike online, bring these ID documents, as well as a receipt of purchase, to your local police station to fill out the form. 
  2. Pay the fee and you’ll receive your registration sticker.
  3. Place the registration sticker on your bike. This will act as a license plate, and if your bike is ever lost or stolen, it can be found using this number.
  4. Keep your receipt, in case you are stopped before your paperwork has been officially filed. 

When buying a secondhand bike: 

  1. Complete all of the steps above.
  2. Fill out a “Transfer of Ownership” form (自転車譲渡証明書 – jitensha jouto shoumeisho) at the bike shop or police station with the previous owner. If they are unable to join you, you can bring their details instead. Just make sure to check with the police station beforehand about what information is needed.
  1. Insurance (Jitensha hoken) 

As of April 2022, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has required all bicycle riders to enroll in bicycle insurance (自転車保険) to pay for any damage or injury to others in case of an accident. 

Bicycle insurance is fairly cheap (with plans as low as 340 yen a month) and can be purchased at a Japanese convenience store, through a phone carrier, major bike retailers, or through a quick google search. Some workplaces can also complete this process for you if you regularly use your bike to work. 

Bicycle Maintainance in Japan

Have a problem you need fixing? Here are some useful phrases and vocabulary when you bring your bicycle in for repairs. 

I need my flat tire fixed パンクしたタイヤの修理が必要です Panku shita taiya no shuuri ga hitsuyou desu
My brakes need adjustmentブレーキの調節が必要ですBureeki no chousetsu ga hitsuyou desu
My chain has snappedチェーンが壊れてしまいましたChain ga kowarete shimaimashita
I want to buy a ______ を買いたいんですが___ o kaitai ndesu ga
My ____ has broken___ が壊れてしまいました___ ga kowarete shimaimashita
Flat tireパンクPanku
Puncture Repair Kitパンク修理セットPanku shuri kitto
Inner tubeインナーチューブInna chubu
Bike chainチェーンChein

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