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Bike Culture in Japan is Awesome

March 12, 2017

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Hi everyone!

Is this a TL;DR? We used to do those often in Korea, after being comfortable with living there, but we’ve shied away from them here in Japan because we’re still new here, and we’re still trying to figure things out. But I feel like we’re comfortable enough to talk about bike culture here, as kind of a baby TL;DR, an entry TL;DR for us.

Also, we really like riding our bikes in Japan. Very much so. We had bikes in Korea and didn’t feel comfortable riding them around, except in parks. They weren’t a safe means of transportation by any means. And in Toronto I didn’t ride my bike around, because I know so many people that got their bikes stolen, and if mine was stolen I don’t think I’d behave appropriately. In Japan, though, I’m neither worried about my safety or about bike theft. Biking is a great way to get around, and we’re amazed at how well incorporated bikes are in the city.

I mean, we see lots of bikes everywhere. People are always biking around. And what’s amazing is that you don’t see bikes scattered all over the place. No bikes chained to trees or stop signs or anything like that. Bikes are parked out of the way, oftentimes in bike parking lots. We only showed you one of them in this video, but there are so many more out there. I’m pretty sure in one of our Eat Your Sushi videos I waited in line for bike parking. Yes, waited in line for bike parking. That parking spot has TONS of parking in it, but on the weekends and on holidays it’s always packed. What’s cool about it is that there’s an upstairs and a downstairs. And there’s a man at the bottom of the stairs that, when you walk up to him with your bike, he’ll either tell you to park upstairs or down. Upstairs is tough, because you gotta push your bike up the ramp. Downstairs is mostly for mothers or the elderly or disabled.

Fun story: one day when I was bringing my bike up to the old man who always tells me to go upstairs, I had a serious case of ball sticking, especially after getting off my bike, so I was walking a little funny to destick. He interpreted that as a limp, and told me to park downstairs rather than upstairs. At first I though “score!” but then I realized that I didn’t get lucky: he thought I was injured. And then I felt terrible. And I didn’t know how to say “hey I’m not injured I just got ball stick!” My Japanese isn’t at that level yet. So I took my spot in shame and felt terrible about depriving someone of the spot.

More stories: you’ll often see little police stations. Super tiny ones, small boxes that can fit maybe 10 people in there, tops, if they’re all standing. They’re called kōban (交番, police kiosks), and there’s one right across the street from our favourite Izakaya, Bakawarai. Well, if you sit by the booth at Bakawarai and look out towards the police booth, you’ll see them pull over a lot of bikers. Ride your bike past them at night without a light on? BAM! They’ll stop you for a ticket. We’ve seen it happen often.

Other interesting things to note: if you’re buying a used bike off of someone, you’ve got a lot of steps to go through for the change of bicycle ownership process, all of which must be done by new owner. You’ll need
• The bicycle itself
• ID card of new owner (driver’s license, zairyu card, etc.)
• Old owner’s registration card (防犯登録お客様控え, bouhan touroku okyakusama hikae | 登録カード, touroku kaado)
• Deed of transfer (譲渡証証明書, joutoshoumeisho)
• Bicycle warranty (保証書, hoshousho)
• Processing fee (around 500 yen; depends on prefecture)

Ok, so that’s it for us being informative. DID YOU SEE THAT DOGGY?! WHAT A GOOD DOG! I wanted to hug it and love it forever. It’s funny, because when I saw the dog I stopped doing everything and thought to myself, “I gotta pet that doggy,” and, interestingly, the dog looked at me and stopped walking. Just stopped. The owner tugged at it but doggy wouldn’t budge. He stared at me in the eye and said to himself “goddammit I gotta hug that bearded manchild.” We couldn’t carry on with our lives until we had our moment together. And it was special. I’m glad you could see it on camera.

If you’re down for some more footage, here are some mistakes and outtakes. Yay!

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Bike Culture in Japan is Awesome

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  1. You guys are the best. I alway have to hug puppies and anything sweet and fuzzy really, made me smile! :)

    7 months ago
  2. In Perth WA, bike culture brings in good money for businesses, but up until two weeks ago, I’d never seen an electrically-driven bike here. My friend let me try hers and I’ve wanted one since.
    Is bike culture like this everywhere in Japan or is it mainly Tokyo and surrounding areas? (Sorry if I missed it in your video.) Where I live, the urban landscape is relatively spread out so it makes getting around with any other vehicle that is not a car, difficult, or very time consuming. And the public infrastructure isn’t here like it is in Japan/your video for it to be practical for bike riders to park their ‘vehicle’. Unless I lived in areas like Mt Lawley, Leederville, or Fremantle, where shops and businesses are closer in proximity to one another as well as being ‘trendy areas’ with decent nightlife during the week, people riding bikes do so not as a leisurely exercise but as a way of getting fit. Majority of bike riders I’ve seen look like they’re training for the Tour de France (and are mostly men). And maybe because of our climate, and unlike your lovely outfit Martina, if I get on my bike, I wear the most casual outfit I can manage (i.e. that I don’t mind sweating profusely in), which means I’m limited in my social engagements or just day-to-day responsibilities if I relied solely on bike transportation.

    7 months ago
  3. Surpsiginly similar to Finland! Though there is no such thing as bike registration here. But you are required to use a light and a reflector and helmet (of couse not everyone does, and police often have more important things to do than to monitor stuff like that). But you CAN get a ticket while riding a bike; it’s about 20 euros.

    I’ve seen some electrical bikes (like the ones you guys have) in my city, but I think they are marketed more towards the elderly people. They are pretty expensive in here too.

    I don’t ride my bike in the winter, mostly because it gets so cold and I don’t like my face freezing. It can also get very slippery in the winter, though it can be helped by changing to different tires.

    7 months ago
  4. Bike culture in Vancouver is huge. Mayor bike lane (not his actual name) loves bike lanes and got a lot put in when he came into office. They’re… alright. However, a lot of them took up former 2 lane traffic and converted the 2nd lane into 1 lane car traffic. That can suck at times. Dad says biking in downtown Vancouver is really safe now since there are walls to protect cyclists. It’s great since a bunch of food startups are coming up and use the bike lanes to safely transport food. Also, we have bike share which is great if you live in downtown. You’ll find some areas with bike lockers, and lots of places to park a bike. Just make sure not to leave it there overnight. Wheels and bikes can get stolen and put up on Craigslist.

    The only problem here is that we have a problem with inconsiderate cyclists. Too many think that they “own the road” and are above common traffic rules. I almost got ran over by one even though it was my right of way to cross the street and his side was a red light. Also, lot of drivers don’t care about the safety of cyclists. My dad flew after someone opened their car door without looking.

    7 months ago
  5. Bike culture in rural Southern Ontario is pretty prevalent. Many kids and adults bike everywhere where I live and there’s tons of trails as well. There’s a “buggy lane” on most roads so bikes are usually given a proper berth by cars on the highway. About 50% Amish kick-scooters out where I am as well. In town here, you can leave your bike wherever, unlocked, and come back in three days and it will still be there and someone might even have put a garbage bag on it to protect it if there was rain. I actually had to call the police to remove a bike that had been sitting on Main St. for 3 months because I was worried something had happened to the owner because it would have stayed out there forever (not like I knew who it was, or I would have just called them XD). The cop was new and seemed confused until I told him , “This is *insert town name here* and it will rust before it gets stolen.” He came back the next month and picked it up – LOL!

    7 months ago
  6. Bike culture is non-existent here (Prince Edward Island, Canada) since it’s mainly a rural province. Pretty much everyone here owns a car, so riding a bike is for leisure/exercise and not your main transportation. In town though, I’m seeing more bikes lately, so hopefully the culture will catch up on this trend. You have to wear helmets here, and you can’t ride on sidewalks if you’re over 14.

    7 months ago
    • OH PEI! Can you tell me what it’s like to live there? We’re talking about where we want to retire, and we talked about PEI. How is it in the winter?

      7 months ago
      • Winter can be long, snow usually starts in November or December. It can get cold, of course, like a lot of places in Canada. One time I wore my winter jacket in May, but then I’m a wimp against the cold, lol~
        Summers are pretty great. There are nice beaches, and it doesn’t usually get too hot, and there’s more festivals and events going on.
        Culture’s changing here too, there are more immigrants here now than when I was growing up, so who knows what things will be like in the future? Anyways, hope that helps a little :-)

        7 months ago
  7. We live down in Okinawa.. I’m not too familiar with the bike laws down here, I’m assuming they’re the same as mainland Japan. I have seen people park their bikes literally anywhere! Haha I haven’t seen a bike parking lot yet. My bike is sky blue, with white wall tires and the loudest bell in the world (with an owl :3).. Her name is Sugar Tank. Loved the video BTW!

    7 months ago
  8. Omg that is so smart to have to register your bike. I wish they had this in Amsterdam! I lived there for five months and within one week I had two bikes stolen. So sad.

    8 months ago
  9. As a racing cyclist here in the UK I wish we had even half of the infrastructure here.

    Our cycle lanes/bike paths are either way to narrow, only 10m long (like wtf seriously whats the point, its just a line on the road at this point) or non-existant. There’s never any parking and police don’t seem to care if a cyclist is hit by a car.

    Case in point, a friend of mine was hit by a car one a training ride and fractured her pelvis and femur, the driver just got a £125 fine and 2 points on their licence, there were bigger parking fines being handed out that day in the same court.

    It looks amazing over there though, would love to visit. I wonder what the provisions are for competive cyclists that are out training though? As racing bikes are majorly different to these ‘mum bikes’ and are designed to go a lot faster.

    Anyway thanks for the great video
    Regards :)
    An avid fan who has been racing bikes competitively for 9 years

    8 months ago
  10. Long story short: The bike culture in Germany is the same. The only difference are those parking spots. Tokyo is huge. German cities are small and have enough place for bikes to be parked. We don’t have special parking spots. Sometimes there is a sign, that one is not allowed to park the bike at fence or so on.
    We take it so serious, that kids in middle school have to a bike test (like a driver’s license but for kids) . Its actually cool and I got one, too (but its not as important as a driver’s license XD).
    In Germany, there is a huge complain about bikers. We say, that cyclists are more dangerous than cars 0.o (the are really ruthless – is it the right word?!) As a pedestrian I had to get used to cyclists shout and swear at me, just because they didn’t ring their freaking bell and rode way to fast.
    I love to ride a bike, I can rent at those special bike stations. We have a lot of those here in the city. Its not that cheap. But I like to ride on sunny mornings along the river. I just use those bikes for fun because I walk to my work place.
    Oh and great vid! I like those vids about normal life in Tokyo.

    8 months ago
  11. So jealous! I live in an area where biking isn’t super popular unfortunately ):

    8 months ago
  12. My, they take their biking and fines pretty serious in Japan. Here in The Netherlands not having proper lighting on your bike will cost you €45 per light (front and rear). Also the light isn’t just to avoid fines, but be seen by other drivers, cyclists in the dark are near invisible, especially in bad weather.

    Luckily most bike parking is free around here. You usually only pay for bike parking at guarded indoor bikeparks, at the train station, for example, and that’ll cost you under € 2 for a whole day. Still there will be plenty of free, albeit outdoor an unguarded, bike parking as well.

    8 months ago