This summer, I invested in a bike to let me scoot around Osaka for cheap, and I’ve been getting plenty of use out of it! The style of this bike is called a mamachari, they’re simple, affordable and hard-wearing – just about everyone in this city seems to own one. Despite being cheap, they almost always come with a bunch of features including a front basket, dynamo light, bell, built-in key lock(on the back wheel), stand and rear rack(which some people use as a passenger seat!) . Mine is fixed gear but versions with gears and even electrical-assistance are available if you have the cash.
The Japanese word for bike is “Jitensha” written in hiragana as じてんしゃ and kanji as 自転車.
I bought my orange beast from Donki Kingdom in Dotonbori, a store which often features in my beloved Yakuza(Ryu ga Gotoku) game series. If you’ve never visited a Donki Kingdom before, I’d recommend checking it out- they sell almost anything, and the stock is haphazardly stuffed wherever there’s room, many of their stores are open 24 hours a day too. The bike cost me ¥8980 which is about £56 – pretty cheap!
For an extra ¥500 the bike can be registered to your name and address in case of theft(or more likely for when the traffic services take it away when you park up in a silly place). This of course involved a whole bunch of paperwork which I had no clue about, luckily the staff were kind enough to give me a hand after I made some excuse about forgetting my nonexistent glasses 🙂
There are cycle lanes on the pavement of larger roads in Osaka, but not everywhere. That being said, most people tend to ride on the pavement all the time even when there’s no cycle lane, despite this actually being against the law(although rarely enforced). It can make life a bit of a pain when you’re walking, watch out for the sound of bike bells! Also, another cycling law people regularly flaunt is the “bikes must stay to the extreme left of the road” – I ride on the road sometimes only to be met by someone deciding riding up the right hand side was a good idea, I hear that’s going to become a much larger offence come December of this year.
If you’re coming to Osaka and plan on riding about, maybe have a look at this safe cycling guide Osaka Prefectural Police have put together.
So, parking. Most stations will have a large bike parking area nearby, but these tend to fill up early so many people(myself included) just lock-up on a quiet backstreet. Leave it on the main road though and you run the risk of the authorities taking your bike away for being illegally parked, getting it back involves paying a ¥2500 fine. I’ve seen them loading literally dozens of bikes onto a truck in downtown Namba recently, so don’t get caught out. The automated parking areas like above are easy to use, just pick a vacant slot and make note of the number, then enter that into the ticket machine along with an unlock code, and off you go!(you pay on return)
I do see plenty of people just stuffing their bike anywhere though…
For the most part, Osaka city is pretty flat, so biking is a good way to get around! I regularly ride to Den-Den town or Shinsaibashi, plus being lucky enough to live a few minutes from Osaka Castle I head there too sometimes. Put it this way, I’m certainly getting my moneys worth!