Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two-Wheeling Tokyo!

One of the most representative symbols of Tokyo is the intricate train and subway transportation system. Clean, efficient, and nearly always on time, the system is widely dubbed as the "heartbeat of Tokyo," and is also globally renowned for keeping the city running.

But recently, more people are beginning to rely less on trains as bicycles steadily gain popularity. Whether trying to escape the sardine-packed rush hour trains, or aiming to be more "eco-friendly," or seeking to trim up waistlines before summer, road, hybrid and mountain bikes have now become a common sight in the bustling streets of Tokyo.

This trend is also catching on in the tourism industry, as tourists and residents alike now have a variety of rental bicycle companies that offer daily or weekly bike rentals. Prices range from 900yen/day (http://www.tokyorentabike.com/) to 4,000yen/day (http://www.coolbike.jp/index.php/ems_en.html) with different services included.

As for destinations, popular areas include cycling around Odaiba, Asakusa, Roppongi, or the around the Imperial Palace or Hibiya area. But if you're looking to ride outside the concrete jungle of Tokyo but still stay within the city, your natural choices would be the city's many parks and major rivers. One such place is Inogashira Park, quietly tucked away in the Mitaka suburb. Biking here also provides an alternative way to reach the fantastical Ghibli Museum, as I've previously introduced here (link to previous post).

For less sightseeing and more hardcore biking, I recommend cruising along the city's several major rivers such as Tama River, Arakawa River, and Sumida River. Lined with biking and jogging paths, the rivers offer courses for even the most seasoned cyclist to bike for hours on end, and it's nearly impossible to get lost. For example, Tama River stretches for 138 km (about 86 miles), originating at Yamanashi Prefecture and ending at Tokyo Bay. Tama River also forms a natural borderline between Tokyo and Kanagawa along the way, so feel free to take a detour in the neighboring prefecture while you're at it!

The most beautiful part about biking in Tokyo is the freedom to explore and ride as far as you'd like. I know I'll be out there shaping up my beach body, so hopefully I'll see you on the road!

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