Buying and Registering a Used Bicycle in Japan

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Photo by Douglas Sprott

In 1994, bicycle anti-theft registration (自転車防犯登録, jitensha bouhan touroku) went from an option to an obligation. Forcing everyone who buys a bicycle, whether new or used to register it with their local city ward.

Generally, if you buy a bicycle from a shop, you’ll register your new bicycle upon checking out. This is a simple process that involves showing your ID to the clerk, filling out a short form, and paying a registration fee of around 500 yen.

Buying or registering a used bicycle in Japan is more involved. The process is complicated by the fact that each prefecture has its own bicycle registration system and its own procedures for re-registering an already registered bicycle.

Most prefectures specify one of two ways to re-register a used bicycle: through a change of owner process or by having the previous owner cancelling the old registration and then having the new owner register the bicycle anew. You can do either of these procedures at bicycles shops, many home center, and sometimes police stations.

Change of Owner Process

The change of owner process is easier than the cancellation and re-registration process because the old owner doesn’t have to go in person to the bicycle shop or home center.

Items needed for change of bicycle owner process (must be done by new owner):

  • The bicycle itself
  • ID card of new owner (driver’s license, zairyu card, etc.)
  • Old owner’s registration card (防犯登録お客様控え, bouhan touroku okyakusama hikae | 登録カード, touroku kaado)
  • Deed of transfer (譲渡証証明書, joutoshoumeisho)
  • Bicycle warranty (保証書, hoshousho)
  • Processing fee (around 500 yen; depends on prefecture)

* Usually prefectures only require either the old owner’s registration card (preferred) or the deed of transfer (below), but if you have both, this may make the process smoother.

* See the Kanagawa Prefecture deed of transfer for an example. The following prefectures require a specified format, so pick up the paper online or in person: Hiroshima, Okayama, Tokyo

* The warranty is not required, but bring the original warranty if you have it.

The following prefectures allow the change of owner process: Akita, Ehime, Fukushima, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Kagawa, Kyoto, Nara, Oita, Okayama, Osaka, Miyazaki, Shiga, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Tokyo, Tottori, Toyama

Cancellation and Re-registration Process

Most prefectures state that the previous owner must first cancel the registration on their bicycle and then the new owner must register the bicycle anew. The good news is that the bicycle registration cancellation is free, even if it is an annoyance for the old owner.

Items needed to cancel bicycle registration (cancellation must be done by old owner):

  • The bicycle itself
  • ID card of old owner (driver’s license, zairyu card, etc.)
  • Old owner’s registration card (防犯登録, bouhan touroku kaado)

Items needed to register bicycle (registration must be done by new owner):

  • The bicycle itself
  • ID card of new owner (driver’s license, zairyu card, etc.)
  • Proof of change/cancellation of old registration (if provided by prefecture)
  • Old owner’s registration card and/or deed of transfer (only Aichi, Chiba)
  • Processing fee (around 500 yen; depends on prefecture)

The following prefectures require the cancellation and re-registration process: Aichi, Chiba, Fukuoka, Gunma, Hokkaido, Ibaraki, Iwate, Kagoshima, Kanagawa, Kumamoto, Miyagi, Nagasaki (may be able to do change of owner procedure through old owner), Niigata, Okinawa, Saitama

Some prefectures don’t specify online exactly how to register an already registered bicycle, so if your prefecture isn’t listed above, inquire at a police box or bicycle shop.

Happy registration!

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Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.
  • Thomas says:

    Hi, I brought to Japan my vintage Mercier bicycle that I have made with second hand parts when I lived in France. So I have no bill, to prove anything and I want to register it now. It is old so I cannot find pictures to show any proof either. Cop came to check my bicycle to see if there was any solution to register my bicycle. I even showed him the bike freshly opened from the carton box that I used to bring it through airplane, but that won’t do… It’s a real problem if I don’t get my bike checked here cause i’m gaijin, and I used to get bicycle check quite often in the past. I want to ride my bike without being able to prove that it belongs to me.
    Anyone had same situation? or advice (cause I feel like I should have never brought it with me…)? Thanks

  • Ahmed says:

    What a bicycle!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Farrukh Safdar says:

    Hello I’m a tourist visiting Tokyo next month, I want to purchase a used bicycle in Tokyo and ship it with me back home after dismantling it., is it possible ? Or do I have to register it? Although I don’t want to use it in Japan. Any custom regulations prohibiting export of bicycles from Japan? Please help. Thanks

  • Aja says:

    What is the process for registering a bicycle that you brought into Japan from another country? Any insight to that one?

    • MrSatoV says:

      We actually did this. We moved here from US and brought our bikes (3). We presented our passports and they gave us the registration.
      There is another concern you might have as well, as we found out. In Japan you are required to have both front and rear brakes. Not a problem for two of our bikes, but one, a beach cruiser, had only the old-school style rear brake (rotate pedals backward to brake). We had to have a custom bike shop install a front brake to make it legal.

    • Lynn says:

      If you bring the receipt, you should be good to go. Just in case, you may want to bring any other proofs of purchase, too, such as the warranty.
      Also, be sure to take the bike itself, your ID and 500 yen. Hope that helps!

  • Shawn Sato-Veillon says:

    I’ve noticed some stores have piles of old bikes that people apparently abandon in front of their shops. I’ve wondered what it would take, or if was possible, to take one (or more) of these bikes and restore/refurbish it. Some just need TLC. I’ve been here for a couple months now and have seen some specific bikes have been there this whole time, and who knows how long prior. Is there a process to register these? Like filing a form and waiting some period, maybe with a newspaper ad or something?

    • Lynn says:

      Those abandoned bicycles (called 放置自転車・hochi jitensha) you’ve seen are definitely causing problems at stations, restaurants, etc. so you’d think that taking one would be doing the city a favor. However, I haven’t been able to find any information about a city allowing someone to directly take those bicycles. If the bicycle doesn’t have a registration number posted on it, you might be able to take it and register it as your own, same as registering a new bicycle. If a bicycle does have a registration number, though, you won’t be able to register it without contacting the old owner. If you get stopped by the police with a bicycle registered to another person, it’ll probably cause problems.

      I don’t know about all cities, but the city of Fujieda in Shizuoka Prefecture talks about this specific situation on its website. It states that you can’t take abandoned bicycles. Instead, the city periodically gathers up these bicycles and tries to contact the owners. If they can’t get in contact with an owner, then they will cancel the registration and either destroy the bike or sell the bicycle to a recycle shop.

      Sadly, this doesn’t bode well for the bikes you have an eye on, but I hope this helps. If you’re really keen on them, it may be good to check with a koban in case your city/prefecture has a different policy.

      • Dravous Wild says:

        I’m wondering if you could salvage parts off the bikes in the recycling yards. I’ll seen a few that were higher end bikes and I bet some of the parts on them are still serviceable.

        • Lynn says:

          I wasn’t able to find anything specific, so your best bet would be to contact your municipality (a koban might be able to help you determine who to contact). Dealing with abandoned bicycles is the responsibility of the municipality, and each city/town deals with abandoned bicycles differently, so there’s a slight chance you would be allowed to take/buy parts.

          However, it seems like most abandoned bicycles that aren’t claimed get sold at used bicycle centers/bazaars/etc., are recycled for metal, are destroyed, or are given to NPOs.

      • Shawn Sato-Veillon says:

        Ah, yes, I was on the train today and I think I saw one of those collection sites. That’s a lot of bikes! I was trying to at least find a site to look up the registration number so that I could try to contact them myself. I may just ask next time I’m in the bike store. We finally got our own bikes in from the US and will be going soon to register them. Not sure how smooth that will go since we don’t have any paperwork on them. :-

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