Several cities and prefectures in Japan have made it compulsory to have insurance. The red zones in the map above are where you should be insured. Locals can get this at a convenience store. For the traveller it is harder to arrange bicycle insurance in Japan so you’re better off arranging this at home.

Where is insurance compulsory in Japan?

The map above is from the retailer Lawson from their bike insurance page. The red zones are where insurance is compulsory as of October 2022. In case you’re wondering the green zones are where you should make an effort to get cover. The white… well that’s probably a matter of time.

“At least you’re insured, right?”

What kind of insurance?

This is important. You might think you have insurance but it could be the wrong kind. It’s not cover for your bike being stolen. It’s not about paying your medical bills if you crash. What we’re talking about when it comes to bike insurance for cycling in Japan is primarily third party liability insurance. In plain English, the kind of cover that protects you if you cause an accident resulting injury to death to another.

It’s rare but browse the newspapers in Japan on the subject and they bring up cases of people who collided with a pedestrian while out cycling who have been ordered to pay huge sums to cover the medical bills.

Is this good or bad?

On the one hand, what could be simpler than riding a bike, why add admin and cost? On the other hand, it pays to insure against things you can’t really afford. All that’s debatable. What matters here is it’s the law in most places in Japan so, like it or not, you’re expected to comply.

How to get insured

I’ve seen others saying you can get this in a convenience store. True but you need good Japanese skills to master the touch-screen vending machine, but for this there’s a handy walk-thru on Youtube for 7-Eleven. But even if your nihongo is jozū the dealbreaker is you need an address in Japan. So it’s Japan residents only for the convenience store insurance. Chances are if you live in Japan you have some kind of accident insurance already too or can add it on to this.

Arranging insurance cover back home for a cycling trip to Japan works but be careful. It’s going to come down to the small print. For example a travel insurance policy might cover you for any injuries you get if you crash. But here’s the rub: a bicycle counts as a type of vehicle under Japanese law. So does your insurance cover you against accidents and from others making claims if you injure them while you’re riding, as in operating a vehicle? You’ll need to speak to your insurer and check the small print.

None of this is the stuff of dreams, you’re probably thinking about the roads, scenery, food and discovery rather than paperwork. But the good news is it’s cheap, the going rate in Japan can be less than ¥400 a month, the price of a coffee or beer.

Travel tips

  • Bicycle insurance is compulsory in most parts of Japan including Tokyo these days
  • You’re unlikely to get pulled over and checked, but you could be liable in an accident
  • Travel insurance can be good but check it covers you for third party liability while cycling in Japan