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Bicycling Tour of Tokyo: 3 Sightseeing Cycle Guides for Seeing Tokyo this Spring!

Bicycling Tour of Tokyo: 3 Sightseeing Cycle Guides for Seeing Tokyo this Spring!

Date published: 25 March 2019
Last updated: 22 March 2019

When you get a city that's jam-packed with interesting sights, quirky and distinct districts, agreeable spring weather and terrain that's as flat as a pancake, the result is a cyclist's dream. Eastern Tokyo is exactly that.

The following piece will outline three great cycling tour providers in Eastern Tokyo where you can experience a varied mix of Tokyo's highlights from the comfort of your saddle, under the direction of knowledgeable, English-speaking local guides. We'll also highlight a few of the top spring sights that you will come across while cycling in this part of Tokyo, so you can catch a glimpse of what exactly is in store for you!

Each of the bicycling tours is guided but will give you plenty of time to stop, snap a few pics, get a bite to eat and generally soak up the vibes of each district. Let's start in Asakusabashi.

1. Off-Street Cycling Tokyo

1. Off-Street Cycling Tokyo

Off-Street Cycling is located in Asakusabashi, a neighborhood that’s famous for its traditional doll shops, wholesale stores and jewelry components. They are a small start-up company run by entrepreneur and owner, Shoto Hachiya. They currently offer two separate tours of the surrounding area with a maximum of six guests per guide to ensure that you get an intimate and informative experience.

The first cycling tour route—known as "The Tokyo Good Old Bike Tour"—leaves from Asakusabashi station before travelling along 15km worth of Eastern Tokyo's most popular sites and districts. These include Asakusa (where you'll see Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji), Ushijima Shrine, Yanaka (where you can indulge in some local soba), Nezu, Ueno and Tokyo's electric town Akihabara.

The second bicycling tour—"Tokyo Historical Cycling Tour"—delivers exactly what it says on tin, so to speak. On this tour you will visit the historical districts of Ryogoku (home to the National Sumo Area – the Kokugikan), the Tsukiji Outer Market (where you'll get well acquainted with some of the world's freshest seafood), then on to the Tokyo Tower area and the Tokyo Imperial Palace before returning to Asakusabashi via Akihabara. This option likewise covers a distance of roughly 15km. Both tours cost ¥8000 (around $80).

The customer base at Off-Street is typically groups of adults, couples and some solo tourists. All guests must be over the age of 15. The reasons for this are twofold; there is an importance on safety as some of the cycling will involve travelling on the roads; and they only have two separate sizes of bike available, the smaller of which is suitable for teenagers and folks who are more petite in stature.

Booking Process: How to book your Off-Street Cycling Tokyo guide
Only one of the bicycling tours will operate each day and this is subject to availability, so we recommend trying to get your booking in early if there is a specific tour that you would like to go on. How early is early? Well if you are reserving from overseas, you can via the online booking channel up to six months before your selected date to be on the safe side. However, if need be bookings can still be made up to 24 hours before the tour starts.

The booking process can be completed entirely online, where you can also check the available tours, available guides, and access other pertinent information via an online chat service. Both tours are available Monday through Sunday, provided no bicycling tour has been booked on your day of choice. As mentioned, if more than six people book for one Tokyo cycling tour, they will include an extra guide. Once you have made your reservation you will receive a confirmation email with details of the meeting spot which will be in front of Asakusabashi station.

Bonus: Bicycle Rentals in Tokyo!
Off-Street Cycling also offers a bicycle rental service, although the number of bikes may be limited, especially if there's a tour on that day. Bike rental in Asakusabashi from 10am – 4pm would cost ¥2,220 for one day and they'll also provide you with a map which highlights various points of interest. This spring Shoto recommends going along the Sumida River—which has a cycling course in sight of the cherry blossoms that run along the river's banks—and Ushijima Shrine in particular.

All in all, Off-Street Cycling is a great option for tourists that want to get a good view of the variety East Tokyo has to offer, from the fresh perspective of young locals. As Shoto says himself, "There are unique aspects to each district of Eastern Tokyo, our cycling tours give you an experience that's like visiting many cities in 1 day!"

Spring Highlight #1: Asakusa and the Sumida River

Spring Highlight #1: Asakusa and the Sumida River

Asakusa is one of Tokyo's primary tourist magnets. As the home of Senso-ji Temple, some of Tokyo's finest eateries, Hoppi Dori (a street lined with mini beer gardens), the location of Asahi Brewing's iconic HQ, and plenty more, one doesn’t have to wonder why this northeastern borough is as popular as it is.

Two great advantages of being able to traverse the streets of Asakusa on two wheels this spring are as follows: firstly, you don't need to worry about getting caught in the herds of selfie-stick wielding pedestrians; secondly, you'll get to cycle along the Sumida River in sight of the cherry blossoms. It's one of the most picturesque sakura groves in the whole city.

2. HOP on the Saddle

2. HOP on the Saddle

For our next Tokyo bicycling tour spot, we need to move a little south to the snazzy downtown district of Toranomon, not so far from Tokyo's eponymous red and white tower. In the basement of the grandiose Toranomon Hills building is HOP on the Saddle, a tour operator that caters to people of all ages, sizes and cycling preferences.

HOP on the Saddle offers two separate cycling tour options, both costing ¥10,000. The more popular of the two is the daytime "Edo Old Town" course. This 18km route will take you through some of Tokyo's most glamourous, yet historically rich neighborhoods. You will pass through Hibiya Park (where owner Osajima-san believes "one of Tokyo’s most beautiful cherry blossom trees" resides), Ginza, the old Tsukiji fish market (where you'll get some recommendations based on your aquatic culinary preferences), Ningyocho, Nihombashi, Otemachi, Marunouchi and the Imperial Palace before returning to Toranomon.

The evening "Tokyo Bay" option shows you the more modern side of Tokyo while also offering something that's a little 'outside of the box.' On this route you will pass by Tokyo Tower before hopping on a boat at Tokyo Bay which will sail by the city's resplendent Rainbow Bridge. After that you will saddle up again at Odaiba, cycle on through to Tsukishima and back to Toranomon Hills. This option is quite different from the majority of bike tours you will find in the city.

As I alluded to earlier, HOP on the Saddle is focused on meeting the needs of groups of all shapes and sizes. They have 25 street bikes available, 2 mountain bikes, 5 cross bikes, a selection of kids’ bikes and even a baby trailer. The tours also make a point of stopping periodically (every 100m or so) to ensure that you've got enough time to take pictures, find out some information on the sights or have a drink and a snack.

Private tours are also available with HOP on the Saddle. These will cost up to ¥30,000, but are highly customizable.

Booking Process: How to reserve your HOP on the Saddle cycling guide
Both tours are available every day, with a limit of 8 people per guide. With 4 English-speaking guides available they should generally have no problems in accommodating your needs, especially if you book well in advance. However, if you want to make some last-minute arrangements, this may be possible as bookings can be made up to 24 hours before the tour departs.

With HOP on the Saddle you can call to secure your booking but the majority of the booking traffic comes via online travel agency channels and this is the staff's recommended option. Once your booking has been confirmed, you will receive information regarding the meeting spot, which will be the 3rd floor of the Toranomon Hills building (same for both tours).

HOP on the Saddle is a great option for all kinds of tourists, especially if you're travelling as a family. Of course, you will pass by a menagerie of Tokyo's downtown highlights but more importantly, with such a variety of bikes, nobody in the family has to miss out. And don't worry about safety, Osajima-san has assured me that, "Cycling in Tokyo is very safe." He finishes by adding that seeing the city "by bicycle is also the best and most convenient way, so please come and enjoy our bike tours!"

Spring Highlight #2: Tsukiji Outer Market

Spring Highlight #2: Tsukiji Outer Market

Although the world's greatest fish market has recently upped its roots and migrated over to Toyosu in the Tokyo Bay area, the old outer market at Tsukiji remains intact and any opportunity you get to walk around its charmingly cramped confines and sample some of the freshest fish in the land is one you should cherish.

Visiting Tsukiji on one of Tokyo's bicycle tours in spring is great for several reasons. En route you will get to see some of the city's prettiest blossoms, provided the season is right. And, when you get there your guides will be able to provide you with some first-class lunch recommendations. Spring also ushers in new seasonal fish that are best enjoyed during this time of year like Sakura Dai ("Red Sea Bream") and an assortment of shellfish, of which Tsukiji has no shortage.

3. Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours

3. Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours

Our last tour spot is the Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours company in Akihabara run by Akira Oka. After spending many years in the US, Akira turned his passion for cycling and for the place of his birth into a bike tour company that puts a real emphasis on showing you as much of the city as is logistically possible in one day. Akira aims to showcase the "natural, historical, modern and experiential" sides of the Japanese capital through his full-day cycling tours.

As is customary with Tokyo's bike tour providers, there are two main routes available with Tokyo Discovery, although they are constantly being iterated upon to maintain a level of freshness for repeat customers and to accommodate for changes in season. Both tour options cost ¥8,000 (although you can get a ¥1,000 discount if you pay up to 72 hours beforehand with a credit card!)
The first tour option is a 20km route by the name of the "Ueno, Nezu, Yanaka & Asakusa Tour". You will start of in the geek mecca of Akihabara before travelling through the annals of Japanese history via the Tokyo University campus, Nezu, Yanaka, Ueno Park, Asakusa, Sumida, the not-so-ancient Tokyo Skytree (the world's tallest free-standing skyscraper) and finishing up in Ryogoku where you can catch sight of one of Tokyo's most interesting history museums—The Edo-Tokyo Museum.

The second route is the "Imperial Palace and Waterfront Tour" which spans 23km of terrain in central and eastern Tokyo. This tour will have more of a focus on the present and futuristic elements of Tokyo's neomodern culture, albeit interspersed with historical sights too. From Akihabara you will cycle through the Imperial Palace area, Sakuradamon gate, Tokyo Station and Niju-bashi, Hibiya Park and Ginza before a lunch break at the Tsukiji Outer Market. Following lunch, you will cycle around Tsukishima and the Tokyo Bay area and back to Akihabara via Ningyocho. This route is one of the biggest bike tours in Tokyo and will give you real bang for your buck.

For bicycles they have a few options. There are green bikes which come in three different sizes and smaller light blue bikes which are typically for teenagers and smaller women. There is only 1 kid's bike available which would be suited to children that are around 135cm or taller.

Booking Process: How to book with Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours
Currently the two available tours run on selected dates only. The "Ueno, Nezu, Yanaka and & Asakusa Tour" operates on Wednesdays and Sundays and the "Imperial Palace and Waterfront Tour" operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays. There is a regularly updated calendar on the Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours website containing information on available tours. Upon special request they may be able to accommodate you if you wish to take one of their tours on a different day.

The booking should be carried out online directly through the company's website. Four guides are available, so they will provide at least one for every 6 guests on the tour. With fewer available days, we especially recommend booking well in advance, but if your plans change last-minute, you can still join up to 24 hours before the departure time.

Tokyo Discovery have a very ethnically varied customer base and have taken on guests of all stripes and groups of all sizes. Akira tells me that these tours are "a great way for first-timers to see many different aspects of Tokyo at a glance". He adds that "we only use nationally-licensed guides and interpreters and we are very confident in our extensive knowledge base". If you're up for a full day of cycling and a tour that has been both creatively designed and effectively implemented, then Tokyo Discovery Bike Tours may be a good fit for you.

Spring Highlight #3: Ueno Park

Spring Highlight #3: Ueno Park

And so we come to our final spring cycling highlight. Arguably Tokyo's finest hanami viewing garden is the densely tree-covered Ueno Park in Taito Ward. 47 different strands of sakura exist here and it's a great place to have a stroll or cycle around on a sunny spring day. The Shinobazu Pond area is particularly serene, so make sure to have your cameras in at the ready!

Written by:

David McElhinney

David McElhinney

David is a Northern Irish freelance writer and English teacher living in Tokyo. He loves living in Japan, reading about Japan, writing about Japan and eating Japanese food. He also spends a lot of time exercising, playing rugby and risking a litany of muscle-related injuries in yoga class.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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