by Ewa Nowogorski
Bicycles are an indispensable mode of transportation in Japan, and everyone-literally everyone- has a bicycle or two. People use bicycles to commute to work or school, go to the grocery store, and just travel short distances to a park or such. Because of the prevalence of bicycle use in Japan, all bicycles must be registered with a sticker that acts almost like a license plate or sorts. You can register your bicycle at any bicycle shop. It costs around $5 and with the registration one can easily identify the owner of any bicycle. This is very useful for theft-prevention and illegal disposal of old/broken bicycles. If you are caught riding an unregistered bicycle, you can face a fine and at the very least lose a few hours out of your day trying to explain why you are riding an unregistered bicycle to a police officer that stops you on your bicycle. In fact, you are more likely to be stopped by a police officer if you are on your bicycle, because they are usually more interested in checking your bicycle registration than your ID and legal status.
People are allowed to have bicycles with up to 2 child seats attached for children up to the age of 5. You can ride with 2 of your small kids, but you are definitely not allowed to double ride with another grown person on your single-ride bicycle. It is common for teenagers and even adults to get bike pegs attached to the back wheel of their bicycles so that another person may ride with them standing on the back, but this is not allowed in Japan.
And tandem bicycles are illegal everywhere in Japan except Aichi prefecture. Tandem bicycles are long, making them much harder to maneuver than standard bicycles. Streets in japan, and especially those in cities, are very narrow and already very hard to maneuver in. Tandem bicycles pose a high risk to their riders and the people around them. But with that being said, Japan has some pretty lax bicycle laws, with the worst offenses being riding your bicycle without a light at night. In general, you may be able to get away with bending the bicycle rules a little by riding a tandem bike. But you will have trouble purchasing one, as they are not sold in most cycling shops around the country.