Photo: iStock/ Kardd
lifestyle

Choosing your own bicycle in Japan

16 Comments
By Jeion Paguio

Japan is a country for people who love bicycles. High gas prices, convenient roads, and safety laws make cycling a cheaper alternative than cars or trains for many people.

Moreover, riding bicycles allows you to explore anything interesting en route and get a more local feel while connecting the major points of interest in any big city or neighborhood.

The question is: Which bicycle is best for you? Choosing a bike can be confusing, but we’ve narrowed it down to what kind of riding you plan to do, your lifestyle and your budget.

How to choose your bike

The most important thing to consider is the purpose of your rides. Are you planning to use your bike only to get to the supermarket or the station? Then perhaps a trusty mama-chari (mom’s bike) is the right bike for you. Regarding your lifestyle, road bikes are a better match if you’re looking to get more fit and cover longer distances.

Next, think about your budget. Second-hand shops in your area or Sayonara sales groups on Facebook might yield something reasonable, but this is usually a hit-or-miss situation. On the other hand, buying brand new gives you the luxury of choice. Mama-charis are the cheapest option, with single-speed bikes starting at ¥20,000. Depending on the brand, road bikes in Japan are around ¥80,000. Some of them are even on par with the price of a motorcycle.

Types of bikes

While there are tons of other types of bikes from single-speed city bikes to custom steel models, we round up the four of the most common types you’ll see on the road.

Mama-chari

iStock-1314682741.jpg
This “chariot” is the ultimate definition of a utilitarian ride. Photo: iStock/ Satoshi-K

If you only plan to use your bike to ride short distances to your local supermarket or train station, consider a mama-chari. A mama-chari is Japanese slang for “mom’s bike,” which is basically who they’re built for. If you see a mom carting a kid around on a bicycle, it’s a mama-chari. It’s also one of the most common types of bikes you’ll see while walking the streets of Japan.

Mama-charis provide the convenience of carrying your groceries, helping you bring your kids to kindergarten and making short commutes. These bikes are popular because they are great for running errands. Typically equipped with a basket, they can be further customized to add up to two children’s seats.

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16 Comments
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We hope to rent bicycles in Japan . . . . hope they have accommodations for people of different size . . . .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Electric bicycles can be rented in most cities.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan is a country for people who love bicycles

No, it is not.

Depending on the place you will have to deal with no dedicated lines, confusing rules, impossible terrain, no parking space and being held responsible for anything that could happen to a pedestrian in any accident you may get involved, riding a bicycle in Japan have a lot of difficulties that would be very hard to justify in a country that actually supported cycling.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

Buying a bike is like buying a suit. Once you decide on which bike ask for a expert to fit the bike to standard.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

your body type

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Bicycles don't release emissions.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There are more bicycles than people. More than 200 million. Insurance is now required.

I paid ¥27,000 for a Chinese 20-gear mountain bike and rode nearly every day for 25 years. Mountains, cities, countryside.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan is a terrible place for riding a bike.

Japan is not only Tokyo. I once lived in smaller capitals (Toyama, Nagoya) and wouldnt even think about commuting by car/motorcycle, with the pleasant, welcoming sidewalks, you can take your time to enjoy the 3 seasons (impossible to bike with 1m high snow).

←←← This is what a normal capital outside of Tokyo & Osaka looks like

0 ( +4 / -4 )

if you don't look Japanese, you get stopped by the police. Japan is a terrible place for riding a bike.

I cycle or walk everywhere. I have never, not once, ever been stopped by the police while riding my bike, and I could not look more non-Japanese if I tried. As finally rich points out, not everywhere in Japan is Tokyo.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

An occasional bicycle ride is fun, but driving a sports car is even more fun.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Japan is a country for people who love bicycles

Uh no, it is not. The severe lack of dedicated bicycle infrastructure in cities and lack of adherence to road and traffic rules make cycling in Japan a hazardous mess. My sibling and I rented bikes when on hols there a few years ago thinking it was a great way to save money amd get around...it turned out to be one of our biggest mistakes to date. Cyclists on sidewalks; not checking left and right before crossing; cars not yielding to cyclists or properly sharing the roads with cyclists...did I mention the lack of dedicated cycle lanes? Terrifying. And you can't take your bike on trains. I'll stick to cycling in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam where there are excellent bicycle infrastructures.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Japan is a country for people who love bicycles

Utter garbage, The worst thing about cycling in Japan are the idiots who don't follow traffic rules - riding against traffic flow, riding while looking at a phone, expecting pedestrians to get out of their way while illegally riding on the pavement - and the cops to SFA to enforce any of this.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

@factchecker - that doesn’t really rebut the statement you’re trying to rebut though. All it’s doing is complaining about cyclists… which btw I tend to agree with all of those complaints. However, I do agree that Japan needs far better infrastructure for cyclists in order to be able to say Japan is a country for people who love bicycles. I love going for a ride here, but it’s far from what I would call a perfect place for cyclists.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The greatest threat of injury in Kansai is from 'cyclists'. They ride all over the road swerving wildly, on either side, on the pavements, without lights at night, looking at their phones, going idiotically fast, often with a passenger, and sometimes drunk. The police do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about it. My advice to anyone coming to live in Japan is: keep your eyes open, look over your shoulder all the time. I have seen a very elderly lady get mown down by a junior high school boy, who stopped and looked confused and did nothing to help.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Mamacharis used to be about 10,000 for the cheapies until a couple of years ago but now the cheapest ones hit at 18,000 yen. Thank you inflation.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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