Tokyo’s cycling roads and why you should think about living near one

I know, I know, you’ve already read my thoughts about the benefits of cycling in Tokyo: it’s healthy exercise, you can get more errands done quickly, and you’ll start to see parts of the city you wouldn’t normally have experienced.

Part of my intention in writing these bicycle-oriented articles is to hopefully see some people pick up cycling as a fun hobby or alternative to public transportation. The other key take-away I want you to keep in mind after reading this is that Tokyo is full of things that you can easily gloss over (there is just too much to see and do in the city, and it’s ok to not be 100% plugged in all the time), and that everyone will have a different perspective of this city.

If it weren’t for my bicycle I wouldn’t have the ability to just get up and go explore the city. Photo: Scott Kouchi

If you are also following our Facebook page where we highlight various apartments in our listing database, you might have noticed that we tend to mention when an apartment is near a cycling road. In this article I want to kind of delve into what a cycling road in Tokyo is and the possible benefits that come with living near one.

I love downtown Tokyo as much as the next guy, but cycling through this can be a pain. Photo: Scott Kouchi

While cycling through the city streets is necessary to get to downtown locations, in Tokyo you’ll find a series of pedestrian paths along rivers. Namely, the Arakawa River, Sumida River, Edo River, and Tama River. There are paths along other smaller rivers like the Shakujii River, however, only the larger rivers have true dedicated cycling roads.

A jogger taking advantage of the open space along the Arakawa River Cycling Road. Photo: Scott Kouchi

What I mean by this is that these are paved roads with no (or very little) motor vehicle access. In a few spots they allow cars to cross the road to get to parking spaces along the river, but other than that it’s just cyclists, joggers, and walkers. This gives you kilometers and kilometers of road to just enjoy cycling without having to worry about stoplights, city traffic, and smartphone zombies.

Here’s a rough path of the paved section of the Arakawa River Cycling Road. You can go further north, but some of the road will also turn into regular traffic roads. Also, for some reason Google Maps doesn’t do cycling routes in Tokyo so it’s set to walking – sorry about that.

I was raised in the suburbs and by no stretch do I consider myself a true city mouse, so sometimes the sheer density of buildings in Tokyo can feel a bit suffocating. Thankfully, the Arakawa River Cycling Road is just a 5 minute ride away, then I’m out in the open. This stretch of open space, where I can get away from skyscrapers and city traffic has been a huge boost to my mental health.

If you follow the Arakawa River to Tokyo Bay, you can ride underneath the metropolitan highway. It’s a pretty cool and unique way to experience Tokyo! The path ends at Kasai Rinkai Park as well, making for a pretty scenic destination. Photo: Scott Kouchi

There are even a few notable cycling destinations along the routes where you can stop for a bite to eat or a coffee and to chat with other cycling enthusiasts. Along the Arakawa River Cycling Road that’s Kitchen Toretate (キチンとれたて) in the Adachi City Agricultural Park. At towards the end (or beginning, really) of the Arakawa River Cycling Road is the Kasai Rinkai Park, a popular gathering point for those going on a group ride.

Even if you are not training for the next triathlon or Tour of Japan, these roads are very accessible for every type of cyclist. I’ve seen families out on Sunday afternoon rides, old grandpas carrying fishing gear to test their luck in the river, and squads of youths cycling out to their baseball game at the fields along the river.

Along the major rivers (Arakawa, Sumida, Tama) you’ll find plenty of open fields where children gather to play team sports. It’s quite common for families to bike out together to the field to cheer on their son/daughter. Photo: Scott Kouchi

There are tons of options for picking up a bicycle around Tokyo. SEO Cycle, Cycle Spot, and Cycle Base are all chain shops that you can find across Japan. Within Tokyo, if you’re into boutique shopping you can check out Tokyo Bike, Blue Lug, and Diner Tokyo. Used bicycles are also a great option, and you can find deals at Suginami Green Cycle, Yoyogi Recycle Garden, and Cycle Paradise.

I know not everybody is raring to jump on a bicycle to explore Tokyo or train for a race. But, every little bit of information about the city helps when you’re trying to find a new apartment or home. Remember to use the Map function on our listings to get a general idea of where the particular property is located. That way you can check out if there are any landmarks like a cycling road nearby! Or if you’re curious about the different neighborhoods in Tokyo, read through our Area Guides for info on things like average rent, closest train stations, and nearby shopping options in a variety of Tokyo’s diverse neighborhoods!

And finally, if you want to keep up-to-date with the latest of my adventures through Tokyo, follow me on twitter at @howtotokyo! Feel free to ask me questions about living in Tokyo, adjusting to life in Japan, or where I think the best burger joints in Tokyo are!