Bicycles are a great transportation method for sightseeing in the neighborhood and for daily life because you don’t need gas and a parking space. This article introduces you to places you can buy bicycles, as well as bicycle rental services that you can easily rent.
Common types of bicycles seen in Japan
City bikes called “Mama-chari”
Price: 10,000-30,000 yen
This is a city bike with a basket on the front (like the yellow one in the picture above). This type of bicycle is so common in Japan that it is often referred to as “mama-chari”. These bicycles are inexpensive, so unless you have to ride up and down steep hills every day, or pedal long distances every day, mama-chari should be fine.
Price: 100,000-150,000 yen
A city bike with an electric power booster is available for around 100,000 yen. The ones for carrying children are a bit more expensive because they have safety features such as handlebar locks and a seat for children. I usually ride in one of these, and it is comfortable even on hills and long distances. Where I live, many people buy electric bicycles instead of cars.
Road bikes and cyclocross bikes
Price: 40,000-100,000 yen
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have been buying these types of bicycles for commuting to avoid crowded trains. This is a good choice for commuting to work or school. However, because of their popularity, they are more likely to be stolen than other types of bicycles. Be sure to use at least two locks.
Where to buy a bicycle
Apart from bicycle stores in town, you can buy bicycles at the following places.
Large supermarkets and shopping malls
Most large supermarkets and shopping malls, such as Aeon and Ito Yokado, have bicycle stores in them, and many of them not only sell bicycles but also repair them and lend out air inflators for free.
Major large supermarkets and shopping malls in Japan:
Mitsui Shopping Park (Lala Port, Lala Garden, Mitsui Outlet, etc.)
Home improvement store
Most home improvement stores sell bicycles.
Some of the large second-hand stores sell bicycles. There are also second-hand stores that specialize in selling used- bicycles.
Online shopping website
In Japan, you can find them on Amazon and Rakuten.
There are also stores that sell second-hand ones at low prices. When searching, try typing 「中古自転車」 (“second-hand bicycle”).
Sale of abandoned bicycles by local government
Bicycles that have been abandoned and not picked up by the owner within a certain period of time will be taken away by the local government. They sell abandoned bicycles at a discount. Some local governments outsource the sale to bicycle stores in town, so ask your city office or ward office for details. Asking where you can buy 「リサイクル自転車（りさいくるじてんしゃ）」[“recycled bicycles”] or 「放置自転車（ほうちじてんしゃ）」 [”abandoned bicycles”] will help you get the message across smoothly.
Points you should know before buying a bicycle
Most local governments require you to register your bicycle for security (防犯登録 / ぼうはんとうろく) and purchase bicycle insurance (自転車保険 / じてんしゃほけん) when you buy a new bicycle. The cost of security registration varies from city to city, but it usually costs around 600 yen and is valid for 7 to 10 years. You will need an ID card showing your name and current address when you register.
Bicycle insurance is usually a few hundred yen to a thousand yen per month.
If you don’t ride a bicycle every day and don’t want to buy insurance, or if you just stay for a year, consider a bike rental service instead.
Bike rental services
Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama area
Daichari (powered by HELLO CYCLING) (Japanese only *English is available on App)
You can borrow electric bikes at convenience stores or other locations by simply registering on the web or using the app. You can borrow it at a convenience store near your house and return it at a convenience store near your destination, which is very handy.
You can rent it for 70 yen/15 minutes or 1,000 yen/12 hours.
Other major areas
bike share service (by docomo cycle)
This is a rental bike service provided by docomo, a major telecommunications company. It can be used at some of the major tourist spots around Japan. Prices and rental methods vary depending on the area, but generally, you can rent a bicycle for about 170 yen for the first 30 minutes.
Ride safe and enjoy your cycling, everybody! For more information about traffic rules for bicycles in Japan, please refer to the brochure published by the Metropolitan Police Department.