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Updated: December 20, 2019

Cycling Along the Water

Tokyo has no shortage of coastline, shoreline, and riverbanks. It has canals that have transported people and goods for centuries, moats that surround former medieval estates, and rivers with sources in the city's outlying mountains and marshes that empty into Tokyo Bay. Riding along these waterfronts on a bicycle is an amazing—and, given the relative lack of elevation change, usually relaxing—way to explore the contours of Japan's capital. And don't worry if you haven't got a bike with you: local governments and private outfits across Tokyo have affordable and convenient rental options.

Tips

  • Feel Tokyo Bay breezes at Wakasu Seaside Park.
  • Ride along the Sumida River and branch out across the old heart of Tokyo.
  • Recharge in nature year-round along the Edogawa, the Arakawa, and the Tamagawa.
  • See Tokyo from a different perspective by taking a guided cycling tour.

A taste of the outdoors at Wakasu Seaside Park

The Wakasu Kaihin Koen (Wakasu Seaside Park) occupies half of Wakasu Island, which sits in Tokyo Bay just off Koto City. A 6-km course follows the island's eastern coast. You can rent a bicycle at the cycling center near the gate bridge on the south side of the park. (And if you have kids, don't miss the mini course next to the center, which has a collection of fun vehicles.) On the main cycling course itself, enjoy sweeping views of the bay, pleasant greenery, and lots of little rest areas. The island also has some great amenities that offer a taste of the outdoors in the big city, including a fishing center, a campground where you can barbecue, and a golf course.

 

The Edogawa cycling course and Shibamata area

The Edogawa cycling course follows the banks of the Edogawa River, which forms the border between Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture. It's a great ride full of beautiful nature in all four seasons. The full 64-km course starts at Saitama Prefecture, where the Edogawa River branches off from the Tonegawa River, and ends in Chiba Prefecture. But for a much shorter course just within Tokyo, a common starting point is Mizumoto Park in Katsushika City, with the endpoint being Shibamata, an old-school neighborhood made famous by the long-running Otoko wa Tsurai yo ("Being A Man is Tough") movie series. The main character is Tora-san, a traveling salesman who finds himself in misadventures across Japan, always yearning to get back to Shibamata, his hometown. Check out the Shibamata Taishakuten Temple, a picturesque traditional house called Yamamoto-tei, and, if your curiosity about Tora-san is piqued, the Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum.
If you wish to rent a bicycle, the Tora-san Museum rents out bicycles, and Edogawa City has rentacycles at the bicycle parking areas at 11 train stations, including Kasai, Nishi-kasai, Kasai-Rinkai Park, and Koiwa.

 

Ride along the Sumidagawa River for a true Tokyo adventure

Following the course of the Sumidagawa River will take you near, or even right past, so many of Tokyo's must-see neighborhoods and landmarks. You could start in Ryogoku—the epicenter of sumo wrestling, go past a series of colorful bridges, and find yourself at the base of Tokyo Skytree, with Asakusa and Sensoji Temple just a ways off on the other side of the river. Or, you could check out Tsukiji Market (which, despite the move of the famous fish market to Toyosu, is still a massive wholesale market in its own right), then head to glitzy Ginza. Or, take a detour to Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. Or chill out on Tsukuda, which sits at the tip of a piece of reclaimed land in the middle of the river. The Sumidagawa River was a vital artery for commerce and transport in centuries past, and it's still right at the heart of Tokyo today.

The adventures continue: other riverside bicycle routes in Tokyo

The above suggestions are just to get you started. Cycle along the waters of Tokyo and you’ll see a wonderful mix of big-city development and beautiful nature, getting some exercise while you do it. Here are a few more ideas:

  • The Tamagawa River forms the border between Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. Cruising the bike path that sits along its wide banks is a relaxing, refreshing way to spend an afternoon. The full course is 50 km, spanning the city of Hamura in western Tokyo all the way until Haneda Airport.
  • The Arakawa River flows roughly north to south through the east side of town, in between the Sumidagawa and the Edogawa. You can follow its broad waters for miles and miles through green residential neighborhoods and retro commercial districts.
  • On the west side of Tokyo you'll find the Tamako Lake (also known as Lake Tama) cycling path, bordering Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture. Start at the Nishitokyo neighborhood near Tanashi Station and end at Higashiyamato, going around the lake as you cycle. (Of course, the other way around is fine, too!) You'll get a good amount of shade under the lush foliage of Sayama Park and nearby Sayama Hills, the setting that was the basis for the Studio Ghibli movie My Neighbor Totoro.

Waterfront Guides