If you live in Japan or are intrigued by the idea of travel the country on a bicycle, this article is for you.
Whether you are in the countryside or the bustling city, this simple means of transportation can change your life.
With time, Yo and I get passionate about it.
His, a fast and beautiful mountain bike, with a bright green color, which allowed him to do more than 20 km a day to get to work. (Of course, he could also take the train, but being a movement lover and crowded train haters, it was the best solution for him).
Mine, a slow, lovely (and super cheap) “Mama-Chari” (this is the name of this type of bicycle, by far the most popular), of a bright blue color, which accompanied me every day at school and on various adventures around the city.
Both when we lived in Tokyo and where we are now, an area outside the city center, we love spending the day off planning trips to do on our bikes (which over time have evolved into more suitable models for long journeys – my Mama-Chari didn’t even have gears, but no worries, she is still use her to go to the supermarket!).
Traveling by bike can really give you a completely different perspective of the place you are, not to mention that sense of satisfaction when you reach the goal, or when, when you get home, smiling, you ask yourself “Where do we go next time? “.
Like all the means of transport, even the bike has regulations that control its proper use, and since each country is different, it is important to always be updated.
So here’s what you should know here in Japan!
As you know, here in Japan, driving is on the left side. Consequently, since the bicycle is a common means of transport, it is necessary to respect the same rules as for cars in order not to risk sanctions. It also applies when it concerns the direction of traffic, stops, precedence … drive it as if you were sitting behind the wheel of a car!
Many of you who live in Japan, or who came here on vacation, will turn up their nose reading this rule.
How many times have you had to move away when a cyclist passes over the sidewalk? I’m sure a LOT of time! I always used them first, and, looking at the number of people who did the same thing (including often policemen), I never thought that we actually can not.
The official documents state, however, that bicycles must keep driving on the roads, and not on pedestrian areas unless the permit is indicated by specific signs (see photo).
Other exceptions are children under 13, elderly over 70 or disabled.
This is an example of a rule that should be interpreted slightly.
According to a study on the Japanese population, 40% of cyclists were not aware of this legislation, and personally, I am almost sure that the remaining 60%, despite being aware of it, have rarely used it.
You will hardly find a traffic controller who will stop you if you travel on the sidewalk in a quiet area of the city.
On the other side, if you decide to visit areas like Shibuya or Shinjuku, (famous for the crowd of people) crossing them on the sidewalks at a speed considered dangerous, in this case you should know that you will easily get a sanction.
The more you know….
In Japan, only children under the age of 13 are required to wear a protective helmet.
I think it’s a generally respected rule both in the city and in the countryside. It is not difficult to find mothers on bikes followed by their children with colorful helmets.
At the same time, since bicycles should drive on the road with cars, I recommend everyone to wear protection.
Prevention is always better than cure!
If in some countries, a person who rings the bell on a bike (even with the best intentions) can cause the pedestrian a shiver of annoyance, here in Japan it is more than a normal and accepted action.
Don’t be afraid to irritate pedestrians by announcing you with your bell. You are simply avoiding bad surprises or painful collisions.
For an extra touch of education, thank the person who let you go with a bowed head with “sumimasen”. An optional gesture that will surely be appreciated.
Let’s now move on to the things you CAN’T do when you’re riding your vehicle, with the respective penalties:
And I’m not referring to a confused state of drunkenness. In Japan the alcohol level must be zero!
The maximum sanction is 5 years in prison and 1,000,000 yen in fine, and in the case of foreigners, direct exit from the country with difficulty of return.
Manga and Anime lie.
Forget the romantic moments when a pair of lovely high schoolers comes home from school riding a bicycle. He is driving and she is sitting on the rear luggage rack.
If the police stop you, you will be fined 20,000 yen.
NB: In case of animals, you can transport them in special boxes!
Of cyclists around the streets with earphones in their ears, doing zig-zagging between pedestrians and cars there are too many. Don’t be one of them! Concentration first!
Risk: a broken leg (if all goes well) and 50,000 yen.
Japan is the land of umbrellas.
Whether for protection from the rain or from the sun, it is used in every season and time of the day. To help the cyclists who do not like the sun (especially the ladies, who want to keep their skin clear and beautiful), on the market you can find various accessories such as capes, face protectors, arm covers, hands covers, hats with a diameter of 180 degrees etc. .. Even for those who just can’t stay without, there are hooks where you can hang your ombrella on the handlebars of the bike.
Sanction if both hands are not used for driving: 50,000 Yen.
Do you want to reach a distant destination where you can experience outdoor cycling?
If you don’t have a car, the only way to bring your bike with you is by closing it in special bags so you can move it like a suitcase. Unfortunately, not all bicycles can be closed, and not all are light and comfortable to carry. Also consider this factor when you buy one!
(When we did the move, although we had little stuff, we were forced to rent a pickup truck. My beautiful Mama-Chari could not be close) .
ATTENTION: in case you were able to close and transport it, excellent job!! You have solved all your problems. Remember, however, not to cross the train stations during rush hour. You will very easily regret your choice.
After a year of cycling in Japan, only by reading the official documents that led me to write this post, I became aware of some rules that I very naively knew. Like the prohibition of driving on the pavement or the helmet is not mandatory.
Often they should be slightly interpreted, but nevertheless, if you want to live your bike trip in peace and security, it is important to know them and respect them as accurately as possible.
Have a nice trip!
Ele & Yo