Dec 26, 2017
Riding a Bike in Japan
Motenai! Don't let that bike go to waste!
I am not fond of driving.
This includes in the US and in Japan (even if I have only driven in left hand traffic while on a bicycle and at the Indy 500 ride at Tokyo Disneyland).
In the US, I really had a hard time getting away with not owning a car or driving. I have a drivers license there, but sold my car when I was living in Portland, OR, unemployed, and in a good location for taking a bus or riding a bike downtown for any temp work. I was able to get by with only a bicycle in San Diego, CA. I lived close enough to work but it wasn't easy on my social life.
It requires an intentional plan about where you live and work if you want to use public transportation or ride a bike so you can live car free.
Don't be scared of biking in Japan!
I'm pleased to say, in Japan for the most part, we don't need a car and are not generally expected to own one. This really depends on where you live and your daily routine, but as the majority of the population lives in cities, it's not a problem. In the countryside, it's almost necessary, just because public transportation isn't as frequent or close, if it exists nearby at all.
Sometimes if there isn't public transportation nearby or running on a convenient schedule, a bicycle is a valid means of transportation. During the rainy season and winter months, or if there are steep hills involved, this isn't as easy. It's a matter of convenience vs. cost of maintaining a car for some people.
In the public transportation vs. bicycle debate, sometimes public transportation isn't an option between point A to point B. This was the case in my first position working in Japan. Bicycle or 50 minute walk, if it wasn't by car. The bicycle obviously wins in this contest.
The minimum age to get a drivers license in Japan is 18, so all drivers are done with high school, or close to it by the time they can drive. In Japan, elementary school students usually walk and junior high school students usually ride bikes to school. High school students sometimes bike and sometimes ride public transportation, depending on how far their school is from home. Schools crowded with moms dropping off the kids are not even an issue here, like in the states.
In a lot of cases, I've found it's faster than taking a bus to get somewhere by simple Dutch style bicycle with no gears.
I live in a mostly flat city, although it's more of a car city, maybe due to the frequent rain compared with the Tokyo region. I prefer going by bike to get exercise and save money. I also feel it relieves stress where sitting in a car (especially in traffic) just frustrates me.
Another bonus if we walk or ride a bike when we are reimbursed for transportation costs at work, is that we can keep that cash for something else.
Bikes in Japan are cheap and often abandoned.
Maybe I'll save up for a nicer bike with gears? Most basic bikes cost around 10,000 yen, what you might get for one month of transportation reimbursement while working full time. (Or save in transportation costs each month if you switch from taking a train to riding a bike!)
I do feel it's a pain sometimes to use a kappa (rain suit) and go by bike on rainy and cold days, but this is only recently. I think I will either find a nicer and properly fitting kappa or just allow enough time to walk with an umbrella or take a bus on those rainy days.
Even if you don't need a car most of the time, if you want to go for a road trip or buy bulky items, renting a car can be an affordable option.
I like snacks, Engrish, cats, plants eating buildings, riding a bike, photography, painting, onsen, traveling, playing board games with my nerdy Japanese husband, and living in Japan. I blog at https://helloalissa.wordpress.com/
rainy cold winter can be the pits when it comes to biking, but I'm just like you. I don't like driving.
@edthethe It can be uncomfortable riding in the rain (or super humid summer weather) for sure, but when I compare it with riding the bus (when there is usually more traffic because it's rainy), I'd usually choose the bike.