Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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Posted on Aug 1, 2018

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Reading time: 3 min
Where we can, we try to pitch in our two cents in the Facebook group discussions and respond to queries here on The Hokkaido Wilds website. A few queries do get repeated, however. So here's some nuggets of wisdom about taking a bike on a train in Hokkaido, registering a bike in Japan, and other small but significant kinks in the perfectly planned Hokkaido cycle tour.

Last updated Dec 14, 2018

Note: This is a work in progress. Please make a comment below if you have any specific questions you’d like answered. We’ll strive to respond as soon as possible.

Can I use a bear/cow/hiking bell on my handlebars while cycling in the city in Hokkaido?

Short answer: There is no clear law regarding hiking and/or bear bells on bikes in Hokkaido. You’ll probably be fine.

Long answer: See this post.

Is it illegal to ride a tandem in Hokkaido?

  • Short answer: On almost all public roads, yes, it is illegal – you are not allowed to ride a tandem (sorry Graeme and Betty). On designated cycleways, no, it is not illegal – you can ride a tandem. BUT, I would find it impossibly unlikely that tandem bicycle riders would encounter the law being enforced. See Tokyo by Bike’s reasoning here. Furthermore, upon calling the Sapporo Cycling Association, a representative said they couldn’t imagine police calling well-equipped tandem tourers out (they’d certainly never heard of it happening).
  • Long answer (with references): As far as Japan national road law is concerned, it is permissible for as many people to ride a vehicle as there are seats to do so (See Article 57 of the national Road Traffic Act – in Japanese). Bicycles are classed as vehicles, so for all intents and purposes, the Road Traffic Act allows as many people on a bike as there are saddles/seats. However, the national Road Traffic Act has a provision which allows for prefectural bylaws to override the national Road Traffic Act in regards to ‘light’ vehicles (keisharyou – 軽車両), of which bicycles are a variety (Article 57-2) . Unfortunately, according to Hokkaido road law, two- and three-wheeled cycles are not allowed to have more than one person riding them at the same time (Article 10-1 (p.10) of the Hokkaido Road Traffic Law).
    • NOTE: This rule does not apply if 1) you are on a signposted, designated cycleway or combined cycle/pedestrian pathway (as defined by Chapter 6, Article 48-14 of the Road Act) or 2) you are 16yrs and over carrying up to two children 6yrs and under on approved bicycle seats or 3) you are operating a business whereby you offer transport to up to two people on a bike with appropriate apparatus to do so (Article 10-1 (p.10) of the Hokkaido Road Traffic Law). Furthermore, if your bike has 4 wheels (or more), then you can have as many people on it as there are seats.

Do I need to register my bicycle in Hokkaido/Japan?

  • Short answer: For most people reading this page, the answer is no. If you don’t live in Japan, you do not need to register your bicycle.
  • Long answer: I just called the Hokkaido Police to find out a definite answer to this issue. I said “What if someone from overseas, who has no Japan address or phone number, comes to Japan for cycle touring for a few months? They plan to be here for an indefinite period of time, but will not have a Japanese address or telephone number during that time.”

    Here is what I was told (paraphrased): “Bicycle registration is only required by law if the owner of the bicycle has a Japanese residential address and phone number. In order to register your bicycle in Japan, you must have a Japanese residential address and telephone number. Therefore, because the cycle tourist has no Japanese address or telephone number, they cannot register their bicycle. If they are stopped by police for any reason, they should explain the situation – i.e., that they have no Japan address or phone – and that will be no problem at all.”

    Just to make sure, I just called the Tokyo-based Tokyo Bicycle Registration Association (http://www.bouhan-net.com), and they confirmed what the Hokkaido Police told me – officially you can’t do bicycle registration without some form of Japan-issued ID that shows a Japanese address and telephone number. A bike shop will probably happily take 500yen from you and do the registration for you, using your current hotel address…but you are under no obligation to register a bike if you’re not living in Japan.

Can I take a bike on a train in Hokkaido/Japan?

  • Short answer: Yes, but it needs to be partially dismantled and fully covered in a dedicated bicycle bag. 
  • Long answer: Take a look at our in-depth post here.

Comments | Queries | Discussion

2 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido”

  1. Rob, are you able to suggest some options to use as a base for day rides of around 60-100kms into the surrounding countryside and mountains? We are a group of road cyclists rather than cycle tourers, looking to spend 4-5 days doing day rides from each of maybe three different bases. Many thanks. Phil T.

    1. Hi Philip, I would suggest looking into Niseko (southwestern Hokkaido), Furano (central Hokkaido), and Utoro (eastern Hokkaido). There would be at least half a day driving between each of these locations though. Take a look at the Hokkaido Cycle Tourism website for some nice road-cycling routes (here).

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