Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido

Posted on Aug 1, 2018
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Posted on Aug 1, 2018
0 56
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 (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

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

  1. Hi Rob, I would like to look around the cycling course around Niseko May 22nd. Is there a bicycle rental company you can recommend? If you know the route around 40km, please recommend it. Thank you so much.

  2. Hi there. Thanks for this website and information; it’s great. I’m planning to do a 4-week bikepacking trip in July this year, starting in Sapporo. Do you have any recommendations on where people can leave extra things like a bike case and small suitcase for the time? I’ve contacted hotels about left luggage but no response yet.

    Thanks!

    1. Hey Jim, great to hear you’re planning on a trip up here in Hokkaido. We don’t have any specific recommendation, other than that if you’re planning to come back to stay at any given hotel after your trip, you’ll have no issues storing a bike box there. Sorry to hear that you haven’t heard back from hotels – they’re notorious for not replying to emails! You may have better luck calling them on the phone for confirmation. Hope this helps!

    2. I stayed at the JR Inn Chitose last August ( 2023) and they were happy to store my bike box for a month as long as I had a reservation booked.

  3. Hi Rob, I will be cycling around Hokkaido for 4 weeks in July with a travel bike, camping. For the flight back to Europe I wonder how I can transport the flightready boxed bike + packed panniers to the airport from an accommodation / bike shop in Chitose City. I have read how Virginia does it with her folding bike, but will it be possible to take such a lage box onto a train?

  4. Hi Rob. Hope all is well. Flights all booked up for Hokkaido from 1-15 June & plan on doing the ‘Far East Trans-Hokkaido (Nemuro-Sapporo)’ route on our Brompton’s, camping all the way; will food/water be easily accessible on a daily basis on this route or would you recommend carrying the essentials like oatmeal & pasta as ‘back-up’? FYI we will be taking our stoves anyway so we can make fresh coffee in the mornings but just wondering what to prepare food wise?

    1. Hi Mark, excellent! Just note that in early June, some of the official campgrounds may not yet be officially open – that’s not an issue though. Just camp in the campground anyway. If you’re accustomed to wild camping when bicycle touring, then you’ll have no problem whatsoever. Any park is fair game! Food and water is always available though! You’ll pass a convenience store at the extreme least every two days (most days you’ll pass at least one convenience store). Convenience stores will have everything you need, albeit fresh veges and fruit tend to be more expensive than at supermarkets (still very reasonable compared to all other developed countries at the moment due to the weak yen!). About every four days or so you should pass through a town with a larger supermarket, where prices are slightly cheaper. Pasta can be bought at convenience stores. Oatmeal can be bought at supermarkets. All that said, when cycle touring in Hokkaido, I usually do carry a day’s worth of backup food just in case we want to explore somewhere further afield from our route where we might not see a convenience store for a couple of days. Hope this helps!

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Frequently Asked Questions about Cycle Touring in Hokkaido Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

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.