This blog is about travelling through Japan on a foldable bicycle (Brompton) but also by train, ferry, plane, bus or any other transport, if sea, weather, mountains or the like come between me and my desire to ride.
I have tried to summarise information that could be potentially helpful also for other bicycle travellers through Japan, such as list of bicycle roads, helpful web pages etc. Once I start my ride, I will upload the actual routes taken, together with some pictures and description.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Bicycle Roads in Japan

I really only know about Tokyo and surroundings, but at least here, the best places where to find cycling roads are rivers. Rivers in Japan are practically all heavily built up (supposedly with the exception of Shimanto gawa in Shikoku), with dikes and the like, but this also means that there is often a small asphalted road on top of the dike. Which is used by bicycles, pedestrians ..., but not cars and motorcycles.

Around Tokyo at least the following rivers have bicycle lanes. Some of them easier to navigate some of them less so, simply because they have a lot of crossing roads where one needs to get off or wind through bollards every few hundred meters. But still they are nice and quiet roads.

In Tokyo:
  • Kanda-gawa (at least from around Waseda University out through Shinjuku and on to Kichijoji). Ending in the nice park in Kichijoji
    • Ride to Kichijoji
    • From there one can then also continue on the cycle roads described below: Tamagawa Josui canal and Sayama / Tama lake
  • Zenpukuji River (this splits off the cycle lane along Kanda-gawa somewhat after Shinjuku and goes nearly parallel to the Kanda-gawa river, through some really nice parks along the river, up to a an other very nice park with a small lake, Zenpukuji park. At some point in between there is no longer a lane along the river, but coming to the final park really repays for it. 
  • Meguro-gawa (approx. from Shibuya down to Shinagawa)
  • No gawa (starting on Tamagawa at Futakotamagawa and going up to Kokubunji)
    • If you can, stop at the onsen in Chofu, one of the nicest in Tokyo
  • Arakawa (very long from approximately Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture down to the sea, a bit boring in Tokyo area, more like a bicycle highway)
  • Edogawa (also very long and even more to the east than Arakawa cycling road)
  • Tokyo Rivers

Outside of Tokyo to the West (Kanagawa / Tokyo):

  • Tamagawa (quite long from the sea in Kawazaki up to nearly Tachikawa)
  • Tsurumi river (from somewhere beyond Tsurukawa - just have a look at Google maps, it trails out at some point in the middle of nowhere of Machida - down to the sea in Yokohama. It actually goes right through Shin-Yokohama)
  • Sakai river (from about Aihara down to the sea at Enoshima, quite a long ride).
  • Sagami river (parallel to the East to Sakai river. It is also okay, but I prefer Sakai river. I think the river is just nicer as it is less built up, and there are also less industrial plants)
  • Along the beach from Enoshima in direction Odawara. Actually there is a real cycle lane right on the beach, for maybe about 10 - 15 km. Afterwards on to Odawara there is only the normal street, with quite some traffic. But the part right on the beach, which starts right in Enoshima, is very nice.
  • Sakawa river in Odawara, and one can also make a round and come back to Odawara along the Kari river.

Outside of Tokyo to the North (Tokyo):

  • Tamagawa Josui canal. This is a canal that runs from Tamagawa - approximately from Tachikawa - to Kichijoiji). Technically speaking there isn't a cycling road, but rather on one side of the canal a very quiet neighbourhood road. While on the other side there is road number 7. It can also be nicely combined with the ride along Kanda-gawa (see above) or the ride out to Sayama / Tama lake (see below). It's also nicely in the shadows of big trees for most of the ride. 
  • Kichijoiji Sayama /Tama lake. A long cycling road starting a little bit after Kichijoji, just north of the Edo Tatemono Museum park and running all the way up to Tama and Sayama lake, partially in Saitama. 
  • Minami Asa river (from Takao to Hachioji), where one can link on to the Tamagawa route described above

Outside of Tokyo to the East (Ibaraki, Chiba):
  • Tone gawa (aparently one could start in Gunma prefecture and ride down to the sea. I think a real cycling road is only from about Sekiyado down to the pacific, but that is still quite a long track)
    • Also some rivers flowing into Tone gawa have their own cycling roads, like for example Kinu river, flowing into Tone gawa at Moriya
  • Tsukuba rin rin road (actually not along a river but on an out of use rail way track. From Iwase to the Kasumigaura lake. From there one can link up to a cycle road around the lake)
  • Around the Kasumigaura Lake (this could also be easily linked with the Tone river

These are just a few I know about. But remember, in general a river is a good bet for a cycle road. 

By the way, in case you wondered "gawa" or also "kawa" 川 in Japanese means river.

Many of the above ones I have already used, below more that I found on the internet, organised per region:

Across Japan
  • The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has a map with official bicycle roads in Japan on their web page. On one hand side this seems to be the most comprehensive list of longer bicycle lanes in Japan (135 in total). On the other hand side, this web page is not very well done and thus quite difficult to understand where each of these cycling lanes are. It seems that the invention of Google Maps has not yet reached the MLIT, which might be caused by the fact that the page was apparently not updated since Heisei 16 (2004 !!!) (and unfortunately since I first published this post, the link has now disappeared... but those cycling lanes actually still exist.)
    • MLIT list of bicycle roads
    • One of them is the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, which in bits and pieces comes from Shimizu all the way down to Wakayama.
  • Also check out this other post where I have listed some more resources for bike tour planning.
  • And then checkout all the planning notes that can be accessed by region through this blog post including an approximate map.


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