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A Basic Guide to Bike Rental Apps in Japan

Here's a breakdown of the most popular bike rental services in Japan, from how to rent them and how much they cost.

By 5 min read

Biking around a new city is a great way to get the lay of the land. This is especially true in Japan, where cycling is part of almost everyone’s daily routine. On crowded streets, you’ll see bicycles of all shapes and sizes, some battery-powered to overcome steep hills and others with child seating on the front and back.

For temporary visits or people living in Japanese apartments without bicycle parking, consider subscribing to one of the many bike rental services nationwide. Remember that you’ll need a credit card and a Japanese phone number for these rental services for registration. 

This post breaks down the most popular bike rental services from coverage area to cost.

Docomo Bike Share

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Typically, you can spot them easily with their bright red colors.

Docomo Bike Share is Japan’s biggest bike rental network. It covers a large group of local bike-sharing services in major cities nationwide. From Sapporo to Tokyo to Osaka and Okinawa, it’s a convenient service to sign up for, especially if you plan to travel around often.

Signing up and fees

To sign up, you can choose from a one-time use membership, a one-day pass membership or a monthly subscription through the official app.

Rental fees vary per location, but generally, they cost ¥165 for 30 minutes, while a one-day pass is ¥1,650, and a monthly pass is ¥2,200. From June 1, 2023, monthly membership rates for Tokyo and Kawasaki will be ¥3,300.

Using the bike

Using the app is easy as it’s available in English. Simply check for the nearest bike station or “bike port,” look through the available bikes and reserve.

Before your reservation expires, you have about 15-20 minutes to head to the bike port, so don’t reserve it too early. Once you arrive at the bike port, check the back of the bike to confirm the one you rented out. Next, check the bike’s condition, like the battery life, brakes and seat. When you’ve finished checking everything, press start, add the pin and you’ll hear the bike unlock itself.

These bikes also have a motor assist, a basket, a gear shift and a bell.

To return the bike, check the app for the nearest bike station and confirm the number of empty slots. After you arrive at the bike port, lock the bike and press enter or return button twice. You should receive a confirmation message that you’ve returned your bike.

 Pros and cons

Almost every city in Japan will have a bike rental service that falls under this bike-sharing network. The app supports some English, so you won’t have difficulty navigating the different functions. However, since this bike rental service is popular, most bikes have a lot of wear and tear. Additionally, you may find that renting these bikes can be challenging during warmer months.

Hello Cycling

Photo:
A cuter, sleeker-looking bike.

Similar to Docomo Bike Share, Hello Cycling is another popular option for bike rentals. It’s run by OpenStreet, a company under SoftBank, the telecommunications company. Like Docomo Bike Share, it comprises a network of smaller bike rental companies like Shonan Pedal in Kanagawa and Pulcle in Shizuoka.

In terms of service areas, it’s less extensive than Docomo Bike Share. Still, there are some places in Japan that it covers, like Matsumoto in Nagano or Kumamoto in Kyushu, that Docomo Bike Share doesn’t.

Signing up and fees

To sign up, you can choose from a one-time use pass or a 12-hour pass through the official app and website.

They’re slightly cheaper at around ¥130 for the first 30 minutes; every 15-minute extension is an additional ¥100. So you can rent them out for 12 hours for about ¥1,800.

Using the bike

When renting a bike from Hello Cycling, it’s the same process as renting a Docomo Bike. First, you must download the app and use your credit card to pay the rental fee. 

While it doesn’t have as much English as Docomo Bike Share does, it’s still quite intuitive. Again, look for the nearest bike port, input the pin code and you’ll be on your way. These bikes are arguably newer, offer slightly more elevated seating and are yellow and white.

Pros and cons

Renting out a bike from Hello Cycling has a lot of advantages due to the newer bikes and lower fees. But, on the other hand, their bike ports aren’t as readily available since their services are more common in Tokyo’s suburban areas than the city center, and the app isn’t as English-friendly.

 LUUP

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The catch is you’ll need to present a Japanese driver’s license.

The newest and most modern of the three is LUUP. They’re available in major cities like Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. They’re constantly growing their service area with over 1,000 bike ports. But aside from the modern-looking design, what sets LUUP apart is that they also have electric scooters for rent. Painted white and teal blue, you’ll often see people scooting away around downtown.

Signing up and fees

Out of the three, LUUP is the most expensive service to subscribe to. The “base fee” for using the bike is ¥50, then ¥15 per minute. One drawback is that you’ll need a driver’s license to use these scooters, which they’ll need to verify on the app displayed mostly in Japanese.

Using the bike

Like the two services mentioned above, you must reserve your bike or scooter through the official app and head to the nearest Luup station.

Pros and cons

The bikes are newer, sleeker and can cover 45 kilometers when fully charged. But due to the price, it may be best to use it to cover only a short distance. Still, if you want to know what it’s like to use an electric scooter around the streets of Tokyo, it’s the only service with them available.

Many other Japanese bike rental apps exist, but these are the most common for getting around the city.

Have you tried using any of these services? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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