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How to buy a bicycle in Japan

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If you have been living in Japan for a few months, buying a bike is a good idea. Bike riding can save you so much time and energy, especially if you live in a rural area. Where buses and trains are limited, having a bike will give you more freedom and flexibility. Plus, reducing your commute will give you more free time!

Where to buy a bike in Japan

Buy a bike from a specialist shop

Due to the universal popularity of bike riding in Japan, bike shops are everywhere! Even if you are hesitant speaking in Japanese, buying from a bike shop is the highest recommended option. The staff have the knowledge to suggest the best kind of bike for your size, weight and safety requirements. They can also help set up your bicycle insurance.

Check out used bike options

Buying a bike second hand is a great way to pick up a bargain. This is a good option if you only plan to live in Japan for a year or two.

Recycle Garden Yoyogi in Shibuya has a huge range of discount and used bicycles. Suginami Clean Cycle in Tokyo is a system where locals sell used bikes they have repaired themselves. It is a very environmental way to pick up a bargain!

You can also try local community forums and asking around your workplace. Even in small communities, there is usually someone who has a pre-used bike they will be happy to pass on to you.

Buy a bike online

Another option is to buy your bike online. This has the advantage of avoiding any awkward Japanese, but the prices may be higher. You can buy bikes from large online retailers such as Amazon and Rakuten. Please note that not all bikes will arrive pre-assembled, so check before you add to cart. Also, check of the size of the main frame and wheels before you purchase!

What type of bicycle do I need?

There a few options to choose from, depending on your requirements:

  • Mamachari – The most popular choice. This kind of bike is perfect for smooth city cycling across short distances.
  • Cross Bike – This is a little more versatile. A cross bike has more gears to adapt to hill-climbing and longer distances.
  • Mountain bike – A mountain bike is suited for rough terrain, but not the best commuter option in towns and cities.
  • Foldable bike – A foldable bike is very convenient as it can be easily transported on trains or cars. But be careful of small wheels! They may make your commute slower and more hard work!

Do I need to register my bicycle in Japan?

Yes, you need to register when you buy either a new or used bicycle. This is a legal requirement for all bike owners in Japan. Luckily, the process is pretty straightforward:

Registering new bikes

To apply for a registration certification, you need to complete a jitensha bouhan touroku form. You can fill it out on the spot if you buy from a bike shop. Alternatively, you can complete this form at your local police station. It costs around 500 yen and you will receive a certification sticker to display on your bike.

Registering used bikes

For second-hand bikes you must complete the same registration certificate form. In addition, the seller must complete a transfer of ownership form. If you are unsure, visit your local police office and they will guide you through the process.

Do I need insurance for my bicycle?

Bicycle insurance (自転車保険じてんしゃほけん) has been a legal requirement for bicycle owners in Tokyo and some other large cities since 2020. You check your local government website to confirm if it is mandatory in your area.

However, even if it is not compulsory, bike insurance is recommended. Accidents happen and it is best to protect yourself. It may be difficult to purchase bicycle insurance if you do not have a high level of Japanese, so please ask a Japanese-speaking friend (or google translate) to help you in your research.

Bike rules in Japan

You can do your best to avoid accidents by learning the different bike rules in Japan. These may be a little different from your home country. For example:

  • Ride on the same side as the direction of traffic
  • Do not use headphone or ear buds while cycling
  • Do not drink alcohol before cycling – Japan has a zero tolerance about this, and the penalties are serious
  • Do not ride while carrying an umbrella – you may see other people do this, but please do not follow suit
  • Only park your bike in designated bicycle parking areas. You may have to pay for a parking space in big cities

Where can I get my bike fixed in Japan?

If you have any issues or concerns about your bike, take it to your local bike shop for repairs. Even in limited Japanese, you can communicate the problem and the staff will investigate any issues. Odd sounds, jarring gears or low tire pressure can all lead to big problems. Your safety is a priority, so please get your bike checked as soon as possible.

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