lifestyle

Getting around the neighborhood by bike comes with plenty of rules in Japan

17 Comments
By Liam Carrigan

I recently had a meeting with my boss to mark six months since I began working at my new job here in Nagano. Things seemed to be going well, when my boss uttered that all too familiar phrase: “Liam, get on your bike!” (For those unfamiliar with UK slang, “Get on your bike” typically means: “Get out!” or “You’re fired!”

Thankfully, it didn’t mean I was getting a pink slip. He literally meant that he thought it was time I bought a bike.

As much as I love working in the countryside and the far more sedate pace that comes with it compared to the hustle and bustle of Osaka, getting around can be a bit of a problem — especially when it comes to getting in and out of work in the morning.

Now, where I live, there are basically no buses and the train only runs twice per hour. My schools are nowhere near the train and bus stops anyway. So, I guess I can understand why the bosses are keen for me to get a bicycle on the road as soon as possible.

At the moment, I walk to and from the schools I work at each day. My furthest school is about five kilometers away so I can comfortably reach it in about an hour or so.

However, the more I thought about what my boss said, the more it made sense: buying a bike wouldn’t just make getting in and out of work easier, it would give me a lot more free time before and after work, too. Not to mention that riding on a sunny day — fresh air, breezes, a little exercise and all that — is quite good fun, too.

Bike-Parking.jpg

Today I want to share info with you how one goes about acquiring a bike in Japan, making it roadworthy and ensuring full compliance with the laws of the land. It’s probably not as simple here as it may be in your home country. It’s often said that the Japanese have rules upon rules for everything — and cycling is no different. It’s not as simple as just buying a bike and pedaling it.

Indeed, as we lay out in our Japan 101 section: Japanese cycling laws are stringent. Much more so than those I was used to back in Scotland, probably because bike use is far more common here.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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17 Comments
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For the rule obsessed Japanese riding a bicycle is just the opportunity to ‘not follow the rules’

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm surprised that you needed someone else to point out to you that having a bike would be a good idea given that........

buying a bike wouldn’t just make getting in and out of work easier, it would give me a lot more free time before and after work,

5 ( +5 / -0 )

For a bargain bike that's not a mamachari, I recommend a second-hand shop called "buychari" on Yahoo Auctions. They have a chain of shops in the big cities, but you'll get a much better deal bidding on something they've put online.

Cycling is just one of many hobbies where Japanese go all-in at the start, so that there are lots of high-end second-hand bikes out there that have barely been ridden.

With the mountains so close in Nagano, I hope the guy did not buy a mamachari. There is so much to explore in this prefecture. So little public transport too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Who spends 1hr each way walking to and from work without thinking "oh maybe a bike or scooter would be a better option"... until the boss pointed it out?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

drinking alcohol then cycling to any degree is outlawed and carries severe penalties.

Ha ha ha - never heard of anyone getting stopped for drunk cycling.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Rules on paper, not in practice.

You can basically do what you want on a bike in Japan. The cops don't do anything.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not to be a wet blanket, but I also remember starting a teaching job in Oita many years ago making about 36 grand (good money for a 23 yo), and the Japanese teacher who supervised me advising me to ride a bike to work (maybe 45 minutes up a big hill as well) and discouraging me from driving because "in Japan if you cause an accident you may owe millions of yen". Of course the other junior Japanese teachers all drove to work. But hey, it is fine to condescend to the stupid gaijin.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Insurance is surprisingly affordable too. I think I pay something like 4000 yen/year. Well worth it I figure.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Teach the natives these first then post these articles.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hahahaha!!! This needs to be clarified: Riding a bike comes with plenty of LIP-SERVICE rules and laws in Japan; most police don't even know what the laws are, as a survey a couple of years back indicated, and they certainly don't stop people infringing on them. Just last Sunday at the Osaka marathon, despite signs being up about not parking bicycles along the Midosuji (under the ignored signs that already exist), there were, sure enough, a bunch of bicycles parked along the road. For the first time EVER I saw some being removed, and of course it was only because of a well-publicised event. I guarantee if police started handing out fines for laws broken by cyclists the nation would be in the black in TEN MINUTES.

Police will check if you have a stolen bike, they'll occasionally remind someone to get/turn on a light at night, will tell kids it's one person per bike if they see double (won't tell adults), and that's it. They do not tell people with bags hanging from handlebars they are breaking the law, don't go after people on sidewalks less than three meters in width, don't go after people on the wrong side of the road, don't go after people with screaming brakes (because they've worn out), don't go after the people with umbrellas attached, don't usually check people who are walking out of izakayas and getting on bikes, etc. And they don't go after all the people who just illegally park their bikes (private companies, like JR, might have them towed, though).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Who spends 1hr each way walking to and from work without thinking "oh maybe a bike or scooter would be a better option"... until the boss pointed it out?

Agree. Maybe the writer comes from a country where bicycles are not that common, whereas in Japan basically everyone has them outside of a few city centres. The idea of walking 5km in rural Japan when you can hope on a bike and do it a fraction of the time is puzzling.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Or may be he enjoys walking? I always walked to work, and most other places, until I moved jobs and the distance was too great. As a rule of thumb I considered anything less than 6k was walking distance.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Insurance isn't optional in Hyogo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ah_so: "Agree. Maybe the writer comes from a country where bicycles are not that common, whereas in Japan basically everyone has them outside of a few city centres."

The author's name is Liam. My guess is that if he's not from Ireland or Scotland (he does say UK), his descendants were. Scotland invented the bicycle, and that aside I don't know a single nation that has less bicycles than Japan, save third world nations where families have very little by way of possessions. What's more likely is that the person just didn't realise it was okay until it was suggested. He works at schools, and a lot of schools don't allow kids to ride bikes until high schools, even in small towns. It is odd that he would not have asked before it was suggested, though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Three words: dockless electric scooters, lol

https://www.npr.org/2018/08/29/643058414/dockless-scooters-gain-popularity-and-scorn-across-the-u-s

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 I don't know a single nation that has less bicycles than Japan, 

You can't move for bicycles in Japan. They're everywhere. Railway stations usually have large bicycle parks attached for commuters. This is pretty unusual elsewhere.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There was some debate whether to give cyclist fine or not, when

Police - Stop! You are fined!

Cyclist - For what?

Police - You broke the law, No lights, No Reflector, No helmet

Cyclist - But I don't pay the Road Tax

Police (Got Angry) - You will do soon. Plus the fine.

Cyclist (Points out) - Hey, catch those kids, they're on one Bicycle without helmet and lights

Police - they're just kids, leave them, but i am giving u fine

Cyclist (frustrated) - Let's go to lawyer, vehicle office or Government office whatever right now!

That's how it started debate few days later on news.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

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