Tips for cycling in Tokyo
Cycling in Tokyo, especially with kids, might not cross your mind as a holiday activity during your stay in the buzzy metropolis. However, we have explored the city many times on two wheels and consider it one of the best ways to get around and see the streets of the Japanese capital. Both adults and children are allowed to ride on the pavement (sidewalk to my American readers), which makes it both very easy and safe at the same time.
Having seen most of the sights the city has on offer on previous visits we decided to get away from the main attractions and explore the docklands and urban sprawl towards Haneda Airport. Using our own folding bikes we left Meguro behind heading south following the Meguro River on the eastern side. We first passed the Meguro outdoor pool, a fun and refreshing place we had visited a few times before, and is a great place to go with kids, especially in the sticky, summer heat. There also is an indoor pool, which is open all year round. The pool was already busy with swimmers, young and old despite the early time of day.
The quiet back road along the riverside is ideal for riding a bike with kids, even younger ones, away from the main traffic with only the odd car passing now and again. We crossed some of the major roads and stopped at a playground for a drink. Besides the usual slides and swings the playground was covered in colourful dinosaurs – a joy to see for adults and even more fun for kids to climb up the life sized models and imagine to be set back into ancient times when these creatures were still wild and running across our globe.
Stop at a Temple
Our next discovery on our bike ride was a shady temple, we had bought an ice cream in one of the convenience stores next door and enjoyed the cooling juice run down our throats sitting on the bench outside. Afterwards we went to wash our hands and mouths and paid a visit to the gods.
Crossing the Sumida River
Just after Shimbamba station we crossed the Meguro River and cycled along the maze of roads on the other side to the bridge at Shinagawa’s Seaside Forest Oval Garden, where we crossed the river to a man made island in the main Sumida River. Reaching the island and right after the bridge we turned south onto the riverside walkway. The walkway was a quiet pedestrian/cycle path, with local men fishing in the river and the odd person sleeping on a bench during their lunch break making it ideal for cycling.
Oifuto Seaside Park
Further on in the Oifuto Seaside Park were families having a barbeque and we discovered a wildlife park, dedicated to birds. The park has been created to restore the wildlife that used to populate the riverside but was disturbed as Tokyo sprawled. The information hut at the centre of the park explains and displays the different varieties of birds that come and visit the island each year. There are over 220 species that have been recorded, sandpiper, plovers and seagulls among them. We were glad to have stumbled upon this little gem of a park and learned a few interesting facts about the birdlife here in the middle of Tokyo. There were also a lot of pretty dragonflies buzzing around our heads when we left the park to cycle on.
Whole Sale Market
Leaving the park behind we ventured more and more into the industrial area of the island. The units are mainly used as wholesale market for the fruit and vegetables going in and out of Tokyo, the sister to Tsukiji fish market. There were trucks after trucks passing us as we crossed the bridge over to the next island, Keihinjima. We were glad to be allowed to cycle on the pavement as these beasts lumbered past.
At the far end of the island we finally reached our destination for the day’s bike ride, the Keihinjimatsubasa Park. The park is a narrow strip of grass with a sandy beach by the water line at the far end of the island, straight opposite Haneda Airport. We sat down on one of the picnic benches and unpacked our goodies from the convenience store, boxes of sushi, potato sticks, chicken katsu and jelly with fruity bits. Oishii!
On the Beach
After our picnic we strolled the last few meters to the beach, as we thought we might be able to cool off in the sea. Sadly, the first thing that caught our eyes was the sign NO SWIMMING! … and when we looked at the water it was all murky and green so we did not fancy a swim after all. The beach was deserted apart from a few other kids playing in the sand. We sat down on the steps to watch the planes take off and land at Haneda airport, which looked so close you could swim across in just a few minutes and we wondered if this was the main reason for the no swimming rule.
Cycling back to Meguro
En route back to Meguro we did a full circle of the island and saw many other industrial buildings, it is fascinating to see a different side to cities. In some there were containers piled up high, waiting to be loaded and shipped off to other parts of the world, in others metal and wood was stacked for shipping. Crossing over the bridge we cycled the path along the river we had used on the way out, there were even more people out for fishing and a can of cool beer on the benches.
Soba Noodles At Yutoku
As we headed back to Meguro the sun was starting to set behind the office buildings of Shinagawa and the heat was less oppressive by then. The cicadas were still screeching in their trees and followed us all the way home. For dinner we went for cold soba (buckwheat) noodles around the corner at Yutoku, a classic summer dish with a savoury dipping sauce. Simple yet delicious!
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