Eat Your Kimchi

Bike Culture in Japan is Awesome

Bikes in Japan

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!