When living in and around a sprawling metropolis such as Tokyo, getting from A to B can mean that you spend half of your day on trains, underground or on busses. Since the advent of smartphones most of this time is gazing into a screen, meaning that you often miss out on the marvels that this city has to offer. Navigate the city by bicycle however, and you can soon know Tokyo as well as any local, finding places that your Suica card can’t.
Cycling is a fun, healthy pastime that can be enjoyed alone, with friends, or even with the whole family. Whether you are a full-blooded cycling enthusiast or barely off your stabilizers, you can find many routes to enjoy what the city has to offer when you aren’t chained to the Yamanote line.
A good place to begin may be city cycle tours. Various companies offer fun tours that take in the main city highlights. While they are predominantly aimed at tourists, there is no reason why residents can’t take part. These tours are generally offered in English, and bikes are provided. As the fitness of participants differs greatly, tours tend to be taken slowly. If you have small children some places provide rear attached wagons so they can accompany you. Of course there are fees for each participant (usually around 10,000 JPY per person) so it may not be advisable to use tours as a long term cycling solution, but it can help you decide if cycling is indeed something for you.
The following websites are examples for information purposes only and are not be considered as endorsements.
If you already have your own bike(s), and want to simply enjoy the spring weather at your own pace, there are a few smallish routes around the city. One of the most relaxing is the Imperial Palace cycling route. Every Sunday from 10:00 to 15:00 Uchibori dori, the street in front of the Imperial Palace gardens, is closed between Iwada Bridge and the Hirakawa Gate making a 3 kilometer cycling track. This is a leisurely route predominantly frequented by families enjoying the moats and pine trees that surround the castle. If you do not have your own bicycle you can borrow one for free by filling out a simple form at reception (see map).
If you are after something a little longer, check out the Cycle Tokyo website for further ideas.
If you are getting a bit more serious about your riding, why not join a cycling group? Perhaps the best known in Tokyo is Half Fast Cycling (formerly Don’s Half-Fast Flash-Mob Weekend Urban Bicycle Rides). Their philosophy is “We not too fast; we not too slow. We jus’… half-fast” meaning that those looking for race training are discouraged, but so are dawdlers. Group trips are on weekends starting at 11:00 and range from 30km beginner rides to 100km flat intermediate rides up to 150km hill climbs, all ending at the Roppongi Hills Grand Hyatt. Rides are generally urban and take two to six hours depending on how much socializing they do and how many beer stops they make which, guessing by their punning name, may be a few.
One of the best things about cycling in Tokyo is the interesting surroundings. However, if you head just outside of the city you can find some outrageously gorgeous beauty spots that are doable for riders of all abilities. Check out Time Out Magazine’s tips for scenic routes, including the staggeringly beautiful Lake Tama and Showa Kinen Koen where bicycles can be rented for as little as 460 JPY.
Before you hit the road, be sure to check out the rules and regulations of cycling in Japan.