Tips for Cycling in Japan

Tips for a successful bike tour in Japan

Every country has differences in the culture which can pose various challenges to bike tourists, but that usually aren’t evident until after some time. Hopefully these tips can help other cyclists so that they are prepared when they roll across the border.

Tip #1

Convenience stories (conbini) are the key to survival in Japan

  • 7/11, Family Mart, Lawsons Station are the three most popular conbini in Japan. They have everything you need.
    • Food for cooking, snacks, drinks, food ready to eat
    • Hot coffee, ice coffee, canned coffee
    • Wifi, toilets

Tip #2

Don’t litter!!!

  • The Japanese really take littering seriously, and there aren’t always garbage cans around. 
  • Carry your trash and throw it out later.
  • Many Japanese that smoke don’t even ash on the street buy carry portable ashtrays

Tip #3

if you lose something, you will most likely get it back.

  • If you lose something, go to the nearest Police Koban, the little police huts you see all over the place. In all likelihood, someone will hand it in.
  • Japan has a very high return rate of lost things, even wallets with money in them. Something 85% chance of getting it back.

Tip #4

Getting a bike bag will allow you to take busses, trains & ferries more easily

  • In Japan, you can only take folding bikes onto the train if they are in a bag and completely covered.
  • I use the 305g Compact Rinko Bag Quick Carry that cost $50 to get on busses and ferries without paying extra.
  • The downside is you’d still need to carry all you luggage as well as the bike.
  • There are some cycle friendly trains where you don’t need to have a bag, click here.

Tip #5

People in Japan say no indirectly

  • Japanese people are very polite and it is considered rude to make someone else lose face (look bad). Thus, saying no in a direct manner is liable to make someone feel stupid.
  • Judge each situation carefully.

Tip #6

Learn some basic Japanese words and numbers.

  • Konnichiwa = hello
  • Arrigato = thank you
  • Sayonara = goodbye
  • Sumimasen = excuse me (most commonly), sorry
  • Gomei Nasai = sorry

1 = ichi
2 = ni
3 = san
4 = shi
5 = go
6 = roku
7 = shichi
8 = hachi
9 = kyu/ku
10 = ju

Tip #7

Hotels and hostels can be quite expensive in Japan compared to the rest of Asia.

Tip #8

Don’t get your bike “towed”, park in the proper place.

  •  When parking your bike in cities, be aware of where you are parking, as many places are not allowed to park.
  • City bylaw often goes around and collects bikes not parked in the right place.
  • I always lock mine to railings, and have never had a problem but that doesn’t mean you will be as lucky.

Tip #9

Don’t miss out on festivals in Japan if you have the chance to go to one. Here are some of the bigger ones.

  • March/April: Cherry blossom festival (everywhere)
  • May: Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo)
  • May: Hakata Dontaku Matsuri (Fukuoka)
  • July: Gion Matsuri festival (Kyoto)
  • July: Tenjin Matsuri (Osaka)
  • August: Awa Odori (Tokushima)
  • August: Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori City)
  • August: Tanabata Matsuri (Sendai City, Miyagi)
  • September: Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (Kishiwada, Osaka)
About the Author
Traveller. Cyclist. Expat. Over 15 years experience living abroad in six different countries. I've travelled to over 40+ countries and met countless travellers, cyclists, and other expats. As a passionate cyclist I've had opportunities to bike tour in some truly amazing places. While definitely not an expert at bike touring, I'm passionate about sharing bike touring stories and helping others learn hacks, tricks, and techniques to improve their touring experience. I look forward to you joining me on this journey of learning about and becoming a better bike tourist.

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