Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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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 Mar 19, 2020

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 | UPDATE (2020/03/19): From April 1st 2020, to tandem bicycles are legal to ride in Hokkaido! So no, it’s not illegal to ride a tandem bicycle in Hokkaido. An amendment to the Hokkaido road bylaw has made this possible (see the Hokkaido Police announcement here | Our translation here). Yes, but it doesn’t matter – ride your tandem and you’ll be just fine.


  • For elsewhere in Japan (LONG ANSWER, with references): Elsewhere, it may be technically illegal to ride a tandem bicycle on public roads. That is, on almost all public roads outside of Hokkaido, yes, it is illegal to ride – 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 last year (before the bylaw change in Hokkaido), a representative said they couldn’t imagine police calling well-equipped tandem tourers out (they’d certainly never heard of it happening). Also, Kai in the comments below tells us “we have been touring on our tandem for 3 weeks in June 2019 all around Hokkaido without any harassment. We got the looks of lots of police, however they were not interested in stopping us and treated us like any other cyclist. Great trip.”

    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).

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 (, 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

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

  1. Hello – I am mainly planning to hike near Furano or Niseko, but would like to know if there are mountain bike rental and riding opportunities at the hotels or in the towns at those locations. Some of the links in one of the earlier blogs seem not to work so I was wondering if you could suggest a few resources. By mountain biking I mean quite modest trails (fire roads and the like, nothing technical) or side roads rather than main highways, or perhaps paths around a lake. I prefer MTB to road bikes simply for peace of mind (less risk of flat, and ability to go off road if the mood strikes). Thank you for any tips for Furano or Niseko or if I’ve missed any obvious other places that are worth the effort for scenic but non technical trail ride riding.

    1. My quick advice: Given your limited time in Hokkaido, would be to focus on hiking around Furano (in particular the Tokachi Range and Asahidake area) and enjoying some road cycling in the area. At this point in time, the mountain biking anywhere in Hokkaido is limited to gravel forestry roads – they’re interesting enough, but don’t usually offer views along the way. Cycling around the Furano/Biei agricultural areas on quiet farming roads however is very pleasant and offers good views.

      The hiking in the Tokachi Range is superb, so I’d recommend putting more emphasis on the hiking.

      For bicycle rental in Furano, you could try Furano Nature Club:

      Just my two cents, and I hope this helps.

  2. Meilang and Lincoln

    Hi, Rob —
    We’re a reasonably fit couple of septuagenarians who plan to celebrate the 47th anniversary of our elopement (from Taiwan via Japan) with a train/cycle tour in Hokkaido, arriving CTS October 20 and drifting down to Tokyo overland sometime in mid-November. We’re experienced car-campers in Canada, where we now live, but are new to cycle camping. We are also somewhat fanatical devotees of worldwide onsen, whether wild or (tastefully) acculturated. Inspired by your wonderful website, we’re considering an onsen-inflected run to the east of Chitose, then doubling back via Sapporo and the coast to wind up in Hakodate and points south.
    We’re wondering if the weather will still be OK for such a circuit. Will there still be autumn foliage? Snow?
    We won’t be bringing our own bikes, so were looking to rent from bike shops in various towns, which we’ll link up to by rail or bus. We’re not even sure what kind of bikes we’ll need — touring? e-bike or e-assisted pedal bike? “fat tire” or other off-road adaptations? We’re thining to try out various options on this trip and then, once we know what we’re comfortable with, to buy bikes of our own in Taiwan, our next stop and a cycle-manufacturing hub. If it all works out well, we might even ship them back to Canada and ditch our car.
    Does all this sound doable, or are we just fancifully “spinning our wheels?” Thanks for any tips you can suggest.

  3. Hi Rob Your web looks amazing and I am so grateful to have found it. We are planning for a three weeks bike touring in Hokkaido and we will start in Tomokai arriving by ferry. The initial itinerary I plotted in the map is going east to Akan national park then onto Shiretoko National park and continue along the coast to Wakkanai then onto Ishikari Sapporo along the coast again and then to Otaru where we will catch the ferry to Niigata. This ideal itinerary is fairly long and I don’t want to rush all the way through. What would be your advise to shorten? Skip the Wakkanai tip or maybe don’t go as far East as I am proposing? your advice greatly appreciated

  4. Hello Rob!

    Just stumbled upon your page and I can’t be more grateful.

    On the first week on April, I’d like to cycle for 5 or 6 days in Hokkaido. A dream of mine is visiting Shiretoko, but I think it might be still snow-covered. Is there any route you’d recommend? My enthusiastic brain tells me that I can make Wakkanai to Abashiri and then probably even reaching Utoro and back to Abashiri (or the other way around). Do you think is doable? (I am reasonably fit).

    Also, do you know if it’s possible to rent bikes one-way?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Jorge, in early April you will still be facing some challenging road conditions, with a fair amount of snow still around. That said, it is a time of year when fit cyclists could have a very interesting cycle tour, especially out east. Lots of sea eagles! I would say just give it a go and see how it turns out. As for hiring bicycles, your best bet would be to try a bicycle hire courier service, like or or I hope this helps!

  5. Hi Rob, now that Japan is open for travellers again, we (my wife and I) are planing a 3-week bike trip starting at Sapporo-Airport. First should be the lakes loop to Sapporo and than North-East cross the island all the way to Shiretoko (round about 1100km). The roads I’m looking for are mostly paved, but we’re not staying way from gravel and trails neither as we have mountainbikes converted into travel bikes. From there with a train back to the Airport.
    Our current plan is to start Mid of May but we’re unsure if that is too early as we have mountainpasses up to 800m on the intial loop and up to 1000m on the North-East crossing. The later one should be reached by beginning of June.
    Four years ago we made a loop thru the Japanese Alps from Kyoto via Takayama – Matumoto – Nikko to Tokio starting Mid of April and encountered several closed roads where we had to walk thru the snow which wasn’t that pleasant. Only the second half of the trip it got nicly warm. Kind Regards, Martin

    1. Hi Martin, sounds like a nice plan! Mid-May is certainly not too early to cycle in Hokkaido. Many of the gravel roads will still have snow on them, but the main roads will be totally clear, including all the main mountain passes. You should never need to walk through snow in mid-May in Hokkaido 🙂 Around mid-May is also cherry blossom season here in Hokkaido, so you’ll certainly have some nice spring weather. When it rains in May it can be a bit chilly though. So make sure you do bring clothing for chillier weather. I hope this helps!

    1. Greetings Rosa. I assume you’re talking about bringing an e-bike from overseas? In this case, any restriction would be on the airline end – that is, can you carry on your e-bike’s battery? I would recommend contacting the airline you plan on flying with. I hope this helps, Rob.

  6. Hi Rob,
    I’ll be cycling in Hokkaido this summer (not yet decided which route to take) for about 5-7 days before going back home.
    I’d like to know if anyone have any experience using airport bus or taxi, whether they can carry bike bag (evoc/alanbox).
    My flight home is 8am while from what I’ve found, first train to airport bound at 6am and it took around 1 hour to arrive.
    Any recommendation what transportation I can take early in the morning to go to airport?


  7. Hi Rob
    I may stay in a hotel in Sapporo for 2 nights at the end of my next bikecamping trip in Hokkaido in order to have enough time to find a bike box. Is it difficult to find a bike box some where close to Sapporo JR station? Any suggestion? The hotel I am going to stay is quite close to Sapporo JR station. Is it a good idea to take a bus from Sapporo JR station to CTS airport? Do they have enough room to accommodate a bike in a box? If so, please kindly let me know which bus is best for this matter. CHUO BUS or Hokuto Kotsu?
    Best Regards

    1. Hey Rob.

      We use large bags from bed shops or tarps to pack a bike at the end of our trips. Much easier to find and lighter than a box.
      Never had an issue yet

  8. Hi there, we are on our way to cycle around Hokkaido for 5 weeks , starting mid september. We have researched routes (! thanks for your ideas) and have flights to Wakkanai which is our starting point. Our plan was to arrange freighting our bikes in boxes from our Tokyo hotel- but have just been told that Yamato won’t freight to Hokkaido. Do you know of any other way to get our bikes to Wakkanai? We haven’t arranged to take any luggage on the flights (Jetstar Japan and All Nippon Airways) Would it be risky to wing it and turn up at the airport with our bikes?
    Thank you – Lyn&Richard from New Zealand

    1. Hi Lyn, great to hear you’re headed up this way. You should get to see some stunning autumn colors. Too bad about Yamato – I have also heard they’re not taking bikes these days. The best bet would be to call the airlines in Japan and ask. If your ticket doesn’t include luggage at all, then you’ll probably need to arrange that in advance – that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve also seen Seino Freight offering bicycle courier services, but I’ve not used it myself before ( Another service is Cyclo-Express ( Not sure if either of these offer services in English. I hope this helps!

    2. Rob thanks for such a helpful reply! We have solved our issue by talking to both airlines, and have purchased oversized baggage retrospectively, quite expensive. But happy! Lyn

  9. Rob, We have been touring on our tandem for 3 weeks in June 2019 all around Hokkaido without any harassment. We got the looks of lots of police, however they were not interested in stopping us and treated us like any other cyclist. Great trip. Kai

  10. Hi Rob

    Thanks for your helpful page. Do you know if there are luggage transfer companies that could transfer our bags from one hotel to the other whilst we cycle the region?

    Kind regards

  11. Hi Rob , thank you for this website .
    If you were to get another small wheel travel or folding or suitcase or minivelo bike which would it be ?
    Brompton , Bike Friday , Moulton , ect .
    And how would you spec the gearing and tires ?

    1. Hi Rosa, good question! If I was going to replace my Tern Verge Tour folding bike, I’d probably replace it with either the same bike (i.e., the Tern Verge Tour), or get a Bike Friday. Either way, I’d get a 20inch wheel folding bike. The Tern Verge Tour is great because it fits quite fat tires, which are great for gravel touring. If I was to get another folding bike in addition to the Tern Verge Tour, then I’d definitely get a Brompton. The Brompton wouldn’t be as good for gravel touring, but would be an awesome paved-road tourer. If I was feeling extra rich, I’d get a custom rear-end for the Brompton, which could take a Shimano Alfine hub or similar (see this link).

  12. Thanks for the great info. My question is where can we use our credit card to get yen in Hokkaido or do we need to bring cash with us?

    1. Hi Margie, thanks for the question. Yes, you can get cash out using a foreign credit card. The most reliable option is ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores. These are very common in mid- to large-sized cities in Hokkaido. You should encounter a 7-Eleven on or near your route at least a couple of times a week, no matter where you go in Hokkaido. Counter-intuitively, bank ATMs are the least likely to take foreign cards. Other convenience stores such as Lawson, Family Mart, and Seicomart also sometimes have ATMs that take foreign credit cards, but the stores that do are fewer and more far between.

  13. Hi Rob,
    Your site is proving invaluable to the last minute planning of our June (40th birthday/finished the master’s degree) cycling trip. There are three of us flying over from Vancouver, Canada. I have four questions for you if you have time!
    1. Can we put our bike boxes on the train into the city from CTS rather than ride in?
    2. Do you recommend a specific hotel or guest house that would be bike-friendly and potentially willing to store folded up cardboard bike boxes and extra gear while we are out touring?
    3. What would be a good second leg of our tour? (details below)
    – arrive June 10, start cycling the beach/Niseko Hills route and be back in Sapporo on June 14th (so, 4 riding days) (one friend is flying out on 15th)
    – on 15th, resume riding from Sapporo and be back by the 18th (that’s 4 more riding days)
    4. Finally, we are not going to camp… doable?
    Thanks so much. I used to follow your instagram account until getting rid of social media – makes me wish I was still riding and exploring Asia on a regular basis!
    Chris (+ Joffre & Rob)

    1. Great to hear, Chris.

      1. Can we put our bike boxes on the train into the city from CTS rather than ride in?
      Yes. So long as the bike is covered (either bike bag or box), you’re set (

      2. Do you recommend a specific hotel or guest house that would be bike-friendly and potentially willing to store folded up cardboard bike boxes and extra gear while we are out touring?
      I don’t personally know of any…but I’m sure there must be…try posting this question on

      3. What would be a good second leg of our tour?
      Really depends on what you want to see/do, and how many kms per day you want to do. What about bringing a very basic tarp or super compact bike bag – you could cycle across Hokkaido to Abashiri if you’re willing to put in some big days ( Or cycle up to the top of Japan ( Then get a train back from either of those places.

      4. Finally, we are not going to camp… doable?
      There are minshuku (民宿) pretty much everywhere in small towns, if you are OK with the uncertainty of whether there’ll be somewhere to stay or not. They are essentially Japan’s equivalent of AirBnB, but have been around before the Internet was a twinkle in Berner Lee’s eye. They can be pretty good value, like $70 per person per night, including a huuuuuge dinner and breakfast. Not all minshuku have online booking options though…and if they do, they’ll be in Japanese. There are, of course, larger ryokan Japanese inns (旅館) and hotels in larger cities.

      I hope this helps!

  14. Hi Rob. First & foremost many thanks for an excellent & informative website – brilliant! I live & work in Thailand (18 years on Koh Samui) & plan on doing a 2-3 weeks trip to Hokkaido on my Brompton in either September this year or June next; I notice that you already have a number of ‘recommended’ routes but was wondering what route(s) you would recommend if I wanted to get up into the mountains / National Parks as well including some of the coastal routes & nearby islands? Please note that my Brompton is geared/set-up for touring in the mountains so no issues there & obviously the beauty of the Brompton is the ease of jumping on & off all forms of transport if need to connect / combine the routes…

    Many thanks in advance Paul for any advice you can give on the above.

    Cheers – Mark.

    1. Coast and islands (plus hiking on Rishiri), I would recommend hands down the Rishiri and Rebun route. Great hiking on Rishiri: Here’s a PDF topomap for Rishiri that we put together:

      For some hiking in and around the Tokachi/Daisetsu area, consider the central Hokkaido hikes we have on the site – all those are accessible by bike (although will mostly be out and back to trailheads).

      1. Thanks Rob – very much appreciated.

        Would you say this is all ‘doable’ on a Brompton? Also, is there a Brompton reputable dealer / place to by spares / repairs etc in Sapporo?

        Thanks again mate – your site has inspired me to ride Hokoiddo!



        1. Would you say this is all ‘doable’ on a Brompton?

          Most certainly! I wouldn’t bat an eyelid doing all the long routes (except for the trans-Hokkaido bikepacking route) on my 20″ folder.

          Is there a Brompton reputable dealer / place to by spares / repairs etc in Sapporo?

          Yes – the Shugakuso Store in Sapporo is very good, has plenty of parts etc. See the first store on this list:

          1. Brilliant Rob! Thanks mate – I really do appreciate you taking the time to reply with your knowledge & advice on cycling in Hokkaido.

            Top man.


  15. Pamela James-Martin

    Hi Rob
    My husband and I are looking to bring our road bikes to Hokkaido for around 2-3 weeks. We want to time it so we get at least the beginning of autumn. We would prefer to spend a few days in 3 or 4 locations and do day rides, but would also like to go to Daisetsusan national park. What timing would be the best to catch some autumn colours? What means are there to get transfers of bikes and luggage from one location to another in Hokkaido.

    1. Hi Pamela, around mid-September is the best time for autumn colors in the Daisetsuzan National Park. Early October is good for autumn colors in the lower areas around Sapporo etc. Transferring bikes is a little bit complicated in Hokkaido, but not impossible. The most convenient is the train (see this post: You’ll need a lightweight bike bag of some sort to put your bike in. Also note that train stations don’t allow bikes to be rolled onto the platform, and unfortunately you can’t roll a bike onto a train directly. You’ll need to ferry your gear and bikes from the ticket gates to the platform (sometimes up stairs). Long distance buses are another option – they will also require bikes to be put into bike bags. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Patrick, from what I understand from their website (in Japanese:, you pay the extra charge for the bike, but your total checked luggage including the bike needs to be within 20kg in total. It looks like you pay 1000yen for every extra 5kg over and above 21kg ( Not a bad deal. As for recommended airlines, it pays to just check all the options to see who has the best deal for the dates you want to fly. All airlines that operate within Japan are super good at handling bikes nicely.

  16. 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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REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido Difficulty Rating





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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.