5 Best Areas for Cycling in Japan
Cycling in Japan: how to rent a bicycle and use bike-share
Traveling tourist sites by bicycle is one of the best ways to enjoy Japan. Here are 5 best areas in Japan for cycling and tips about best season, rules and how to choose a cycling tour and rent a bike
From now on, I would like to introduce unique and less known things to do and hidden gems in Japan with a variety of themes in dozen parts. This article with the theme of cycling in Japan is the first part of our exclusive project “Unique Experience Japan”. I believe that these travel information will help everyone from first time visitors and advanced travelers in Japan to family and solo travelers.
Cycling is one of the most popular activities and ways to move on overseas travels, and you can have a wonderful experience by cycling in Japan. It sounds great to travel some nice tourist sites while enjoying cycling, isn’t it?
You can enjoy various Japanese attractions including food, history, rich nature, etc. through cycling, depending on areas or routes you choose. The personalized cycling tours will be more unique and unforgettable experience.
You can see different faces of Japan in every season since the island country has beautiful distinct four seasons: for example, cherry blossoms in spring and tint leaves in autumn.
In addition to enjoying the tourist attractions, there is another benefit to get from cycling. A bicycle is one of the best useful ways to move in both city and countryside areas in Japan. You can freely move from place to place by bicycle while trains and buses are bound by time table and the complicated transportation map. Moreover, a rented bike is much cheaper than train, bus and other transportation. It is served from only 200–300 yen per hour in Japan.
For those who worry about losing yourself and need directions in the strange country, it is highly recommended to take part in cycling tours with guides especially for first time travelers to Japan.
Here are 5 best areas in Japan for cycling and tips including best season, rules and how to choose a cycling tour and rent a bike.
1. Yoyogi Park and around (Tokyo)
Theme: Nature, History and Onsen
Speaking of cycling in Tokyo and Japan with rich nature, Yoyogi Park is one of the best spots, which is located right in the center of the city near Shibuya and Harajuku. Everyone from kids to adults can enjoy cycling in and around the park since there are three options of bike for adults, children and tandem at Cycling Center very affordably: 210 yen per hour (Adult), 100 yen per hour (Child), 210 yen per one round (Tandem).
The enormous park Yoyogi Park itself is the best popular park among both domestic and international visitors while it is known as the Central Park in Tokyo. However, it is less known that the park is perfect for cycling. In addition to the quiet and rich nature, various themed festivals are held in the park where plenty of stalls offer food and drinks. The park is also a famous cherry blossom viewing spot in Tokyo during spring.
The most attractive part in the Yoyogi area is Meiji Shrine, the Tokyo’s most popular shrine. It is situated in the site of Yoyogi Park, which is featured by the large torii gate, the majestic main hall and a bunch Sake barrels.
There are cool cafes and shops loved by Tokyo’s hipsters around Yoyogi Park, and Little nap COFFEE STAND, located in the southwest of the park, is highly recommended to drop by for the finest quality coffee. How about taking a break inside the chic shop or taking out a cup of coffee?
Yoyogi Hanchimangu Shrine, one of the most sacred shrines in Tokyo, is also what you should go cycling. It takes only a couple of minutes to get there from the coffee shop by bike. There are several spots to see enclosed by various species of trees in the shrine where people used to live for about 5,000 years ago.
More nice restaurants and shops scatter to the west of the shrine. It is strongly recommended to experience the Japanese traditional culture. Daikokuyu, one of a few public bath facilities in Tokyo, is a nostalgic Onsen spot visited by Tokyoites for a long time. Soaking in the bath after sweating a lot by cycling feels fantastic.
2. Imperial Palace and around (Tokyo)
Theme: History, Architect and Nature
The area around the current Imperial Palace, which is near Tokyo Station, is one of the most recommended to enjoy cycling with nature and history in Tokyo. The Tokyo Imperial Palace, where the Edo Castle built in 1457 used to be located, is surrounded by rich greenery and modernistic buildings built between the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century.
There are many docking ports for a rental bike around the area where you can rent a bike anytime 24 hours a day. The bicycle rental is served by the bike sharing Community Cycle, which is also known as Chiyokuru in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo.
You can see the old wooden bridge named Hirakawa Bridge at the north of the Imperial Palace. It is the only bridge which is still in the same condition as it was back the Edo Period (1603–1867). It is for free to cross the bridge, pass an old gate and admit the East Garden in the Imperial Palace. There are historical buildings, a traditional Japanese garden and the remains of Edo Castle stone wall in the East Garden.
On the other hand, you should not miss the Sakuradamon Gate which is located at the south of the palace. The gate, built in 1636, is the biggest one of the existing gates in the palace and the only one that is allowed to pass by bike.
The Imperial Parace’s outer course between the Hirakawa Bridge and the Sakuradamon Gate is best for cycling (it is also a popular place to run among Tokyoites). Additionally, you can stop by some modern architecture spots on the west side of the palace: for example, National Diet Building (built in 1936) and National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Crafts Gallery (originally built in 1910 and scheduled to move to Kanazawa City, Ichikawa Prefecture in 2020).
In spring, beautiful cherry blossoms flourish around the Chidorigafuchi moat which you can view from the street on the western side of the Imperial Palace.
The Imperial Palace area is recommended for the fusions of tradition & modernity and city & nature. With this cycling tour below, a guide introduces from how to rent a bike to the background and history of those sites above. The special discount coupon is available only for you: 5DC2FHGN
3. Sawara and Narita (Chiba)
Theme: History and Tradition
Sawara, the small old town located near the Japan’s largest and most used international airport Narita Airport, is a hidden gem for foreign tourists and one of the best areas for cycling in Japan. The good-old Edo’s atmosphere with the traditional canal and historical district has been still well preserved. There are numerous Japanese traditional houses in the town. Tourist Information Center in Sawara lends a bike for 500 yen a day.
The narrow river named Onogawa River also runs through the town of Sawara and the town has thrived as water transport hub. You can enjoy cycling seeing the serene waterways around the town which were used for transportation during the Edo Period (1603–1867). Hand rowing boat ride service on the Onogawa River is still available for sightseeing, so once take off a bike and sail around the historical town. Toyohashi Bridge (a.k.a. Ja Ja Bridge) over the river is one of the highlights in the town, which provided water to the rice fields before. Now, you can see the interesting view of water falling into the river from the bridge.
Sawara is known for the house which the great person Tadataka Ino lived in. He is a surveyor and cartographer who completed a map of Japan for the first time. You can enter and see his historical house, which was founded in the mid 18th Century, for free. The old town is also famous for its Japanese festival held twice a year in July and October, which is regarded as one of the greatest festivals in Japan. Over 10 festival floats are used in Sawara festival and each of them are about 4 meters high. You can see and take a photo of the big floats at the museum of festival float out of the period.
Don’t forget to cycle to the other historical spot Suwa Shrine that was built in the end of the 16th Century. After passing the giant torii gate, you will face the long staircase with over 120 steps to the main hall of the shrine. The shrine is surrounded by rich nature and offers a nice view at the bottom even if you are too tired to go upstairs.
There are many Japanese food restaurants in Sawara, and it is recommended to eat its regional food Soba or Eel dishes for lunch. If you are interested in Japanese Sake, cycle to Tokun Sake Brewery, the Japanese Sake brewery with its tradition and history of 190 years. The finest Sake are made from the quality rice grown in the riverside district. The Sake tour is held every a half an hour for free and you can try tasting. Purchase the Sake there instead of drinking if you don’t want to go back to the station on foot. It is prohibited to drink and ride a bike in Japan.
It takes only about 30 mins from Narita Airport to get to Sawara, so why don’t you visit it if you have some time till your flight or stay overnight around the airport.
You can get guided to those attractive spots above and travel in Sawara smoothly by bike with this cycling tour!! The special discount coupon is available only for you: 5DC2FHGN
4. Sakai (Osaka)
Theme: History, Tradition and Technology
Osaka is the most famous and visited city in Western Japan, and the bustling city has numerous spots perfect for cycling. Sakai, Osaka is located in a little south of the central Osaka, and the Mozu area in Sakai offers you a unique cycling experience with ancient history of Japan and a bicycle. It spends only 300 yen to rent a bike a day at the bike port near Mozu Station.
Sakai City and Mozu are famous for their important heritage Mozu Ancient Tomb Cluster including Daisenryo Kofun Ancient Tomb, the gigantic ancient tomb of the 16th Japanese emperor Emperor Nintoku (reign: AD 313–399). A Kofun (ancient tomb), a keyhole-shaped mounded tomb, was made from the late 3rd Century for giving people in authority burial. The Mozu area will be one of the Japan’s hottest tourist spots as the ancient remains have been just listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites as Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan in this July.
Daisenryo Ancient Tomb is looked on as one of the three largest mounded tombs in the world, together with the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in China and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. There are about 160,000 ancient tombs all over Japan and about 90 main ones are located in the area in Osaka. You can experience to cycle all the way around the largest mounded ancient tombs only there in the world. It is too large to see the whole tomb while cycling, which is 3 km around it.
Moving to Daisen Park next to Daisenryo Ancient Tomb, you can get to Sakai City Museum to see the whole picture of the gigantic tomb. Is there something like an observatory? No. The museum provides you the chance to enjoy the Daisenryo Ancient Tomb tour with a bird’s eye view in multiple languages with VR technology. There is also a Japanese traditional garden in Daisen Park where you can see the picturesque scenery with greenery and a pond. For a break, how about stopping by nice tea houses before getting out of the park? Two tea houses named Shinan and Oubaian are located in the park, where you can taste Matcha green tea and Japanese-style desserts and experience a quick tea ceremony for only 300 yen.
Bicycle Museum Cycle Center at the edge of the park is one of the highlights in the Mozu area while the Osaka’s hidden town has no shortage of tourist attractions. Why on earth is the Japan’s only bicycle-themed museum located in such a place? As a matter of fact, a bicycle is closely associated to a Kofun ancient tomb. Sakai City has the largest market share of bicycle in Japan and is called the Town of Bicycle. The enormous ancient tombs were made by massive people with iron-made tools like a hoe.
A large number of craftworkers specialized for iron tools came to that area from across the country and became to live there at that time. The technique has been evolved into various crafts such as a knife, sword, gun and bicycle. That is why Sakai City and the Mozu area in Osaka are the best spot to enjoy cycling while touching the origin of a bike.
The Mozu, Sakai area is what you should visit if you want to touch the ancient history or the origin of bicycle. and If you want to enjoy cycling with the perfect itinerary in Sakai, Osaka, it is strongly recommended to travel with this cycling tour below! The special discount coupon is available only for you: 5DC2FHGN
5. Itoshima (Fukuoka)
Theme: Nature, History and Food
Fukuoka, the largest city in the Kyushu region, has got more popular among foreign travelers lately. Especially, Itoshima, located in the northern west of Fukuoka, is one of the hottest tourist areas and the best deeper destination to enjoy cycling in Japan. A bicycle is perfect not only for the most useful transportation in Itoshima but also for enjoying crisp air in rich nature. Itoshima offers the beautiful beaches, sacred shrine and fresh seafood as well as the breathtaking cycling courses. The theme of cycling in Itoshima is nature, history and gourmet. A rental bike is available for 500 yen for 2 hours.
In the north of Itoshima, there are two natural treasures: the Izumi River and Mt.Kaya. In June and July, Hamabo (yellow hibiscus) flourish along the Izumi River, which was formed 300 years ago. The face of the river changes by season with seasonal plants. Mt.Kaya, which is also called Mt.Itoshima Fuji, is one of the landmarks of Itoshima. On top of the mountain, Kayasan Shrine is located, from which you can see the panoramic views of the town of Itoshima.
You will see a lot of BBQ spots and oyster huts (Kakigoya) in the area. The regional specialty of Itoshima is fresh seafood including oysters and various kinds of fish. Save the best time to drink beer for last (don’t drink cycle in Japan).
Itoshima has the largest basalt cave in Japan named Keya Cave at the northernmost of the area. You can get to the cave by cruise and wander into the cave under the good condition of the sea. The 90 meters long cave is formed in the 64 meters high cliff, and the natural art can be seen inside the cave. An observatory is set on the cliff which is accessible from Kuroiso Beach. This spot is also recommended for fans of Studio Ghibli since on the way to the observatory, there is the mysterious tunnel formed by trees, which is called the Totoro’s forest by the local.
Let’s cycling along the northern coastline to the east to reach the Itoshima’s iconic beach Sakurai Futamigaura Beach. A large white torii gate of Sakurai Shrine stands against the sea and the sky floating on the water. The sacred wedded rocks are situated behind the torii gate. This is also famous for the best sunset viewing spot.
There are more other hidden gems in Itoshima, so a bike is the best option to move around it. It takes just an hour to get there from Hakata, the center of Fukuoka!
I strongly recommend to visit Itoshima for travelers who want to dig Japan deeper with nature or just avoid crowded areas in Japan. To learn knowledge about each of those spots and know nice restaurants and BBQ spots, travel in Itoshima with a local guide on this cycling tour!! The special discount coupon is available only for you: 5DC2FHGN
How to rent a bike and use bike-sharing
You can rent a bike at bike rental shops or with bike sharing services in Japan. The number of docking ports of bike-share is increasing these days and there are numerous bike stations and docking ports in the popular areas for cycling. Generally, it is needed to register with your smartphone or credit card for using bike sharing services.
It is enjoyable to ride a bicycle in all seasons except rainy days, but the best time is definitely spring and autumn with modest climate. Cycling under the crisp air of spring and autumn with views of cherry blossoms or autumn leaves is one of the best recommended activities in Japan.
There are traffic rules for cycling as well as driving in Japan. Here is the list of an essential part of the rules below:
Do ride on the left part of the road
Do turn on light after dark
Don’t ride with 2 people
Don’t ride using an umbrella
Don’t ride listening to music with head/earphones
If you don’t follow those traffic rules while on a bile, you could get fined.
About Unique Experience Japan
Unique Experience Japan is a tourism project that has come true by the collaboration beyond industry between a tour operator who provides unique tour experiences for visitors to Japan and media with the impressive knowledge of travel.
We have a strong will to provide one of a kind tours and activities for international tourists to have unforgettable travel experiences in Japan. To achieve the vision, we deliver tourist information in the form of the travel themes reviewed from the point of view like no one has done before, and provide tour plans to travellers to enjoy Japan according to each theme.
There are numbers of attractive places and experiences existing at various locations in Japan. Besides, visitors can have completely different experiences even at the same location by changing the timing or perspective of visiting. However, many of the attractions in Japan are not well-recognized by tourists yet, as most of them only visit classic or popular tourist destinations and did not reach such attractions during their trip. Our mission is to assist tourists to discover the wonderful diversity of unknown parts in Japan.
We believe that our vision and action will help you to enrich your travel experience in Japan.
If you are an active traveler or like a bike, why don’t you experience cycling in Japan with various unique themes personalized for you. For more info about travel in Japan, check these articles below!