Transportation in Japan is expensive. Rental cars, trains, and busses can often drain your wallet faster than those rotation sushi places we all seem to love. So what is the alternative if you want to travel around Japan but save on pricey bus and train tickets?

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

Rent an electric bike.

What is an electric bike?

An electric bike is just like a normal bike… except with a special pedal assist function. They come with a battery on the bike, so that when you press down on the pedal, the bike automatically moves forward. These kinds of bikes are popular among Japanese mothers who have to bike their children to and from school, the grocery store, or the station fairly regularly.

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Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

Basically, electric bikes are a fun, eco-friendly way to travel semi-long distances around Japan.

They can hold a charge for at least six hours (depending on how strong you have the electric assist on the bike).

Why should you rent one?

Before you balk at the thought of renting a bike, most bikes rent for between 500yen and 1,000yen for a day. Considering the fact that busses and trains go for 150yen (at least), once you’ve biked to a couple different spots, you’ve already made your money back.

I like to rent an electric bike once a month or so (weather permitting) to bike around the Shibuya area. It’s a great way to get some exercise, see the sites, and go at my own pace. My electric bike rental place of choice is near the Kasuga Station. It costs 1,000yen for the day for an electric bike.

Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

Finding a place to rent an electric bike can be complicated. My favorite guides is Cycle Tokyo. The site lists the location, prices, and websites of different rental places.

Before you rent a bike in Tokyo:

  • Bring your passport or foreigner registration card
  • Get a map of places you want to go (or bring an iPhone or smartphone)
  • Bring layers that can be removed or added on easily

Why should you rent a bike in Tokyo

  1. It’s a fun, engaging way to see the city
  2. It gives you a chance to see “behind the scenes” in Tokyo
  3. You can have a flexible schedule
  4. Great for solo travelers, dates, or groups of friends
  5. More refreshing than stressing over train and bus schedules
  6. Less walking
Photo by Grace Buchele Mineta

As I mentioned before, weather permitting, I like to try to rent an electric bike once a month. Electric bikes are better than regular bikes (or at least I think so), because they have the pedal assist function. When you press down on the bike pedal, the bike moves forward automatically.

As a result, you can bike for several miles without a strain on your legs. The charge for an electric bike typically holds for about six hours (depending on what strength you put the bike on).

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