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Rental bike services


UpdateMarch 5, 2018
ReleaseFebruary 21, 2018

Cycling has been gaining popularity around the world as gasoline prices soared and people have become more eco-conscious and health-conscious. If you ride a bike and feel the wind on your face, you will make a lot of discoveries that you have never noticed before when you walk or drive. Renting a bike is less expensive than taking a bus or taxi and it will be a convenient tool for your trip without worrying about time. Why don’t you rent a bike and make your trip a fun and safe one?

Bike rental in Japan

Many tourist spots have been using a bike rental system in Japan. If you ride a bike, you can visit more places than walking. And, it is more fun to get around the town using your own two feet and eyes on the bike rather than just taking a bus or a taxi. You can usually rent a bike at a tourist information center, local government office, bicycle shop, train station, or a souvenir shop. Some hotels or inns make the bikes available to guests for sightseeing. Some even offers bike rental to travelers free of charge.

Bike rental itself is nothing new in Japan. But, recently, we have seen a spike in the popularity of bike rental services. Before, most of the bikes for rent were so-called “Mama-chari” (which means mom’s bicycle and refers to non-stylish bike), a bike that even a woman wearing a skirt can ride. But now, more and more rental shops have bicycles with speed gears, electric bicycles, mountain bikes, or top brand bikes. Speaking of “Mama-chari,” it seems that this type of bike can only be seen in Japan. “Mama-chari” focuses more on safety than on speed and is designed to carry large or heavy luggage or for mothers to carry their children.

One-way drop-off bike rental system is now becoming more and more common in many tourist spots in Japan. It is great that you don’t have to worry about returning the bike to where you rent it. If you get tired after riding a bike too far, you can just leave it and take other transportation. Bike-route maps with model courses written in English and other languages are also available at an increasing number of tourist places. Guided tours in English are becoming popular, too.

In Japan, bicycles basically have to ride on the same road as cars unless a sidewalk is specifically allowed for bikes. There are still few bike lanes in Japan. So, people end up riding on the sidewalk when the road is full of cars. In foreign cities that have cycling lanes, people are not accustomed to riding bikes on the sidewalk. So, it is important to be careful with pedestrians when you ride on the sidewalk in Japan. Parking a bike is another problem in Japan where there is not enough number of parking stations.

Joys of bike rental

Aside from a few issues with roads in Japan, you can enjoy cycling in a quiet and relaxing countryside away from big and busy cities.

If you ride through magnificent Hokkaido, you will enjoy the dynamic nature of Japan. In Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, you can rent a bike for free and drop it off at your destination. You can conveniently see around the locations of the movie “Okuribito” (“Departures”) with a bike.
Bike rental while traveling will give a great chance to those who don’t usually ride a bike to try high-end road bikes or mountain bikes. In Niigata, there is Niigata Island Full-circle Cycling Road with a circuit of approximately 15km and it is open to bikers. Here, you can rent a stylish bike such as Raleigh, Louis Garneau, Bianchi, or other top brand bikes.
Tandem bicycle is basically prohibited on public roads in Japan. But, in Nagano, it is exceptionally allowed and you can rent a tandem bicycle at many tourist spots. Karuizawa has many places to see and it is a good town for bike ride as most of the roads are flat.
In the Oku-Biwako area in Shiga, you can rent a bike at one of JR stations and drop it off at other stations within the wide designated area in the northern Shiga. This area still retains the beautiful scenery of nature and old Japanese villages. You can also find many statues of the Goddess of Kannon along the way. It is fun to ride a bike in this beautiful area. In autumn, this whole area will be colored in beautiful red tones.
In the central part of Kyoto, the roads are mostly flat and traffic is always heavy. So, riding a bike is a good option. A popular course is to tour around temples and shrines including Kiyomizu-dera Temple or the Gion area.
Setouchi-Shimanami Kaido sea route, a cycling path that crosses Kurushima channel that connects Onomichi, Hiroshima and Imabari, Ehime will give you an unforgettable bike ride. It is exciting to ride on the sea. You can rent a bike and return it at one of the thirteen bike rental terminals along the route.

Guided tours in English and other languages

Riding a bike by yourself is of course fun. But, it will be also exciting and efficient to be guided by an expert and taken too many places that you can’t miss. You can get direct information from the local people and may feel the town more familiar to you.

At Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (075-354-3636), tour guides who are well acquainted with Kyoto will guide you through the attractive old capital of Japan and anyone can participate in the tour. The guided tour includes many courses such as a back street tour, Machiya (traditional tradesman’s house) tour, Makai (mystery zones of Kyoto) tour, or Kyoto home cooking tour. A private custom tour is also available. Tokyo Great Cycling Tour (03-4590-2995) offers half-day bike tour on weekends. One of their courses, the Tokyo Bay ride visits Nihombashi, Tsukiji, Odaiba, Tokyo Tower, and Imperial Palace. You can enjoy the surprisingly quiet Tokyo on your holiday.

Those who are confident with their stamina, there is a several-day guided bike tour in English. Traveling by bicycle is an ideal way to explore safe and secure Japan and enjoy beautiful landscapes, excellent food and many Onsen (natural hot springs). Oka Tours (0422-26-6644) offers a 7 day and 6 night tour that will take you from Nikko to Kinugawa Onsen, Aizu Wakamatsu, and to Lake Hibara in Fukushima Prefecture. They also offer other several-day courses that tour around Sado Island in Niigata or Noto Peninsula. There are active adventure travel companies like Butterfield & Robinson or Backroads that design travel all over the world including bike trips in Japan. You will have a precious experience with these companies traveling deep into Japan by bike.

Even if you have been to Japan several times, you will find a different aspect of Japan and have a new experience by bike trip. Let’s enjoy Japan, traveling by rental bicycle.