Sometimes you just want to explore a new part of the city, but walking is too slow and hopping on a train makes you miss all the nice little places in between. That is where our beloved bicycles come in – and luckily, Cycling Holiday Tokyo completely agree with us on the blissful nature of two-wheeled rides.
They do exactly what it says on the tin: offer guided bicycle tours around Tokyo, with a number of different routes available. We recently went along for their afternoon ride, a 17km journey from Marunouchi all the way around the Imperial Palace grounds, then onwards to Tsukishima and Toyosu before finishing in Ginza.
To make the ride just a little easier, these folks use e-bikes, meaning that if your pedal power appears to be failing you while trying to scale one of Tokyo's many hills or bridges – or if you're just plain lazy – you can turn on the small motor on your bike and crank up the pace, no extra effort required.
We found the experience a bit disconcerting at first, but oh boy was it great when trying to cycle up a steep bridge after stopping for a photo-op halfway up.
After signing up, we were welcomed at the Docomo bike-sharing spot in Marunouchi by Takashi Niwa and Koichiro Nakamura, our tour leaders for the day. This duo and their colleagues all have extensive experience cycling around Tokyo and guiding groups safely around the city. Niwa has led two-wheeled tour groups for a good 15 years, so you'll definitely be in safe hands.
After introductions, instructions and a safety procedure run-through – your helmet may not look that sexy, but it's essential on an e-bike which can go a lot faster and is far heavier than your average mamachari – we set off to cycle around the Imperial Palace, with a quick stop at Tokyo Station first.
This is a tour that provides plenty of unknown bits and bobs even for a seasoned Tokyoite; the guides are very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. Our ride took us through a park just outside the palace that had a mini-waterfall, a platform near Kasumigaseki that boasts superb views of the moat yet was almost deserted, and a shrine with a miniature version of Mt Fuji created entirely from rocks carried by devotees from the great mountain itself.
We also rode down countless little side streets and across waterways, harbours and more around the islands of Toyosu, Kachidoki and Tsukishima. It was as if we had left the Tokyo we knew behind, especially once we crossed the bridges into island territory, and were introduced to a whole new side of the metropolis.
Three hours flew by and before we knew it – and after climbing the last steep bridge – our tour had ended in Higashi-Ginza, in the basement of the Kabukiza, which has a surprisingly extensive selection of souvenirs and kitschy but cool knicknacks for you to bring back home. A good ending to a rather fun outing.
Interested in joining a tour? Cycling Holiday Tokyo run morning and afternoon rides on demand, with a minimum of two people but no maximum party size specified (although very large groups may be difficult to keep together), for ¥6,700 per person plus tax (¥5,400 plus tax for under-18s).
They also offer seasonal courses, such as a shorter evening tour (2 hours, adults ¥4,700, under-18s ¥4,000 plus tax), as well as a night-time tour; you can contact them directly for even more options. Children are welcome too, although they need to be accompanied by an adult and there is a minimum height of 145cm, as the bike saddle cannot be set any lower.
The bike may feel a bit small if you're on the taller side (over 175cm or so), but with the engine function and the relatively relaxed pace, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem – we went on the tour in heels (because why not) and found it very doable. Note that tours may be cancelled in the event of heavy rain, but a bit of drizzle on the way won't be a problem. On yer bike!
For more information and bookings, check out Cycling Holiday Tokyo's website