Tokyo Bicycle Food Tour: A Self-Guided Journey for Foodie Cyclists

Embark with us on our self-guided Tokyo bicycle food tour! Check out some of Tokyo’s iconic landmarks while indulging in delectable dishes.

tokyo bicycle food tour

As budget travelers, we’re constantly on the lookout for creative ways to explore a new place.

Have you ever considered turning the very act of moving from point A to B into an unforgettable experience? Welcome to our favorite travel hack: the bicycle.

Whenever we touch down in a new city, one of our first moves is to rent bicycles and do a self-guided tour. Forget the confines of crowded tour buses or the slow trudge of walking tours. On a bicycle, we have the freedom to dictate our own pace, pause for an impromptu coffee, or chase that sunset view on a whim.

And what better way to explore Tokyo than by doing our very own Tokyo bicycle food tour? Complete with sights, smells, and tastes – all within biking distance.

So let’s get ready to cycle through Tokyo together, turning our route into an unforgettable gastronomic journey!

What You Need to Know Before Going on a Tokyo Bicycle Food Tour

Chloe on a cycling food tour in Tokyo

Tokyo is possibly one of the best cities in the world for cyclists. What truly sets Tokyo apart are its pristine streets – some of the most welcoming we’ve ever cycled through.

Plus, here’s a little Tokyo secret: sidewalks aren’t just for pedestrians, they’re a cyclist’s haven too!

However, let’s not forget about every cyclist’s worst nightmare: automobile drivers.

But in Tokyo, that’s a narrative twist! The streets buzz with bicycles, making them an everyday spectacle.

Drivers don’t just tolerate cyclists; they anticipate them. Such is the cycling ethos in Tokyo that for many, two wheels beat four any day.

🚲 Curious about renting a bicycle as a foreigner in Tokyo? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Dive into the details further down in the article.

If you’re wondering where to park your bicycle, here’s the answer: just about anywhere. Well, within good reason of course.

Tokyo’s sidewalks are bike-parking friendly, and you’ll find the city’s sidewalks lined with bicycles in some areas.

Chloe parking her bicycle in the streets of Tokyo

Just be aware that some of the larger busier neighborhoods don’t allow bicycle parking on their sidewalks, but you’ll see signs for that.

And here’s the best part: you don’t need to worry about your bike being stolen. Tokyo is a super safe city, with a low crime rate.

Most people don’t lock their bike to anything, instead, they have a simple integrated wheel lock to just prevent people from riding away with their bicycle—more of a formality than anything.

🚲 A word of advice for cycling in Tokyo: Parks might seem like the perfect cycling backdrop, but they’re a no-go in Tokyo. If you’re mapping out your route on Google Maps, stay away from those scenic park paths, particularly the waterfront ones – even if Google tells you to go through there. Embrace the city streets and sidewalks – they’re your best bet!

Our Tokyo Bicycle Food Tour Route

Route map of our Tokyo bicycle food tour

Given that we were in this foodie metropolis with endless culinary delights, our plan was simple: cycle, savor, repeat!

It turned out the be the perfect plan, since by the time we worked up an appetite from cycling, we were already riding up to our next food destination.

And plus, the food destinations that we visited were all extremely different from each other – Tokyo is a major city with a HUGE variety of cuisine options, after all.

Now, credit where credit’s due: our Tokyo cycling-food escapade wasn’t purely our brainchild.

We found the “Tokyo Fast Food Gourmet Pottering” cycling route from Cycle Tokyo and it gave us the perfect stage to base our cycling adventure on!

The cycling route also includes some of Tokyo’s landmarks, so even if you’re not into food, it’s still a great cycling tour if you want to get familiar with the city.

Here’s a map I made that includes the cycling route and all the food and sightseeing points along the way:

The best part about the cycling route is that it goes in a loop! So you can jump into the cycling route in any point and follow along.

In fact, we didn’t even cycle the entire route! Since we used bike share, it was super easy to pick where we started and ended our ride, since there are numerous bike share rental locations around the city.

In addition to all the food stops on the tour, the route contains a bunch of Tokyo landmarks as well:

  • Kitanomaru Park – Once the residence of an Edo period feudal lord, nowadays is a beautiful park with a pond and the iconic Budokan martial arts stadium, with a science and technological museum.
  • Nippon Budokan – Originally built as a Judo stadium for the 1964 Olympics, it now hosts athletic competitions and concerts.
  • Yasukuni Jinja – Built in 1869, this “peaceful nation” shrine is dedicated to those who died in service of Japan.
  • Mitsubachi – The original ogura ice creamery in Japan. They invented ogura ice cream – red azuki bean ice cream.
  • Nihombashi Mitsukoshi – The oldest department store in Japan. It dates back to 1673!
  • Nihonbashi Bridge – Dates back to the 17th century, and was the eastern terminus of the Edo-Kyoto road. The current stone bridge was built in 1911 and survived the firebombings of Tokyo.
  • Kabuki-za – The Kabuki-za theater dates back to 1889, and is the main theater in Tokyo for Kabuki.
  • Harumi Port Park – An awesome place to unwind, as it offers sweeping views of Tokyo Bay.
  • Odaiba Marine Park – A large seaside park in the Odaiba area, which is a trendy shopping and entertainment district for Tokyo’s youth.

While we didn’t tick off every location on the list (trust us, that’s a Herculean task for a single day!). Instead, we used it as our flavorful compass, picking and choosing our stops.

So before we get started, we need to admit… we didn’t actually bike to the first spot on our food tour! We caught the subway to Yotsuya Station and then walked a short distance to Taiyaki Wakaba.

Taiyaki Wakaba

Happy couple eating Taiyaki Wakaba on a Tokyo bicycle food tour

📍 Taiyaka Wakaba – Google Maps

In the bustling streets of Tokyo, the scent of freshly baked taiyaki leads many to the doors of Taiyaki Wakaba—a culinary institution since 1958.

Taiyaki Wakaba’s fame isn’t just a fluke, and one bite into their iconic snack will tell you why.

For the uninitiated, imagine a fish-shaped cake, golden and crispy on the outside, with a soul of sweet paste.

While taiyaki can harbor various fillings, Wakaba’s pièce de résistance is their red bean paste—a delicacy they’ve refined to perfection.

Sourced from Hokkaido, this red bean paste strikes a harmonious balance; not too sweet, not too dry, just right. As someone who’s savored many a red bean paste treats in Hawaii, I can vouch for Wakaba’s prowess.

Red bean paste inside of Taiyaki Wakaba in Tokyo
Taiyaki Wakaba’s red bean paste is perfection… *chef’s kiss*

Now, let’s talk about the cake that encases the paste. Think waffle, but elevated. Crisp, golden layers envelop a soft, fluffy heart, making every bite a delightful contrast.

Approaching Wakaba, the snaking queue is often the first sign of its popularity. On weekends, this line can test your patience with waits stretching to an hour.

Entrance of Taiyaki Wakaba in Tokyo

👉 Here’s a pro-tip: Visit Taiyaki Wakaba on a weekday. We did, and a mere 10-minute wait stood between us and our taiyaki treat.

The anticipation grew as we inched closer, watching the art of taiyaki-making unfold.

There’s an old-world charm to it: batter pouring into cast-iron fish molds, a dollop of the famous red bean paste, and into an oven it goes.

A minute later, the mold is opened, releasing the fresh taiyaki down a slide and onto a conveyor belt, from where it journeys to eager hands, ready to package and serve.

Cooking process of Taiyaki Wakaba

This seamless choreography, reminiscent of a production line, is delightfully Japanese.

While savoring this treat won’t break the bank at 180 yen apiece, remember—Wakaba is a cash-only establishment.

We saw most people getting more than a few—some even buying them by the dozen. It’s probably a great treat to bring into the office. Kind of like a box of Japanese donuts for your coworkers!

🐟 Quick heads-up: Freshly baked taiyaki is scorching hot, so give it a few minutes to cool down before you take a bite.

Starting our day with a shared taiyaki set a delicious tone. Truth be told, I could’ve devoured a whole one, but my appetite was in check that morning.

Taiyaki savored, we journeyed ahead, making our way to the nearest Hello Cycling bike share, ready to begin our Tokyo cycling adventure.

Kagurazaka Gojūban

Nikuman from Kagurazaka Gojūban

📍 Kagurazaka Gojūban – Google Maps

As we pedaled into Kagurazaka, our taste buds began to tingle in anticipation. Tucked away on a charming street corner of this neighborhood is the renowned Kagurazaka Gojūban, famed for its nikuman.

For those scratching their heads, a nikuman is a Chinese-inspired delicacy that’s been whimsically dubbed the “Chinese hamburger”. Yet, a hamburger it isn’t. The only commonality? Delicious meat tucked inside fluffy bread.

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, think manapua. These two are kindred spirits, with subtle differences.

While manapua often showcases cha siu pork, nikuman is a mixture of ground pork and seasonings. And, just for the record, the nikuman usually edges out the manapua in size.

Kagurazaka Gojūban in Tokyo

Stepping into Kagurazaka Gojūban in the mid-morning, we found it refreshingly less crowded than the bustling Taiyaki Wakaba. Ordering a steaming nikuman, we carried it outside, letting Tokyo’s air cool it down.

As we sank our teeth in, it was clear—the balance was impeccable. A harmonious bread-to-meat ratio, with the dough striking that elusive sweet spot between thick and airy.

Trey eating Nikuman on the streets of Kagurazaka

Inside, the meaty filling maintained its integrity, avoiding the pitfalls of being overly dry or moist—a complaint I’ve often had with other pork buns.

After eating a nikuman, we explored the neighborhood of Kagurazaka. The neighborhood is extremely cute and just walking up and down its streets is an activity in itself.

It’s a curious paradox—nestled between the buzzing hubs of Akihabara and Shinjuku, Kagurazaka radiates a laid-back, small-town allure. A gentle reminder that amidst Tokyo’s urban sprawl, pockets of calm do exist.

Kanda Matsuya

Soba noodles from Kanda Matsuya

📍 Kanda Matsuya – Google Maps

Kanda Matsuya was probably my favorite spot that we ate at on the food tour. The restaurant dates back to 1898, during Japan’s Meiji Era.

In a city rapidly embracing the future, Kanda Matsuya stands defiantly traditional.

Amidst Tokyo’s sleek skyline, this historic restaurant is instantly recognizable, a lone relic of bygone days.

Remarkably, this structure withstood the devastating firebombings of Tokyo during World War II, allowing us to savor both soba noodles and a slice of Tokyo’s pre-war history.

Kanda Matsuya soba noodle restaurant in Tokyo

Stepping inside felt like entering a different world. The other diners, evidently unaccustomed to foreigners in their hidden gem, gave us curious glances. The setting felt real and unfiltered.

The menus are written entirely in Japanese and don’t have pictures like modern Japanese restaurants. We’ve eaten soba many times in the past, but this was a dance of authenticity like never before.

For those unacquainted, soba are delicate buckwheat noodles. Served hot or cold, their simplicity is their strength, usually accompanied by just a sprinkle of green onions and a subtly flavored broth.

Chloe eating soba noodles at Kanda Matsuya

Eating soba is sort of a ritual: dip the noodles in the broth, and savor each bite. Once the noodles are gone, the waitress brings a small pitcher of hot water, transforming the leftover broth into a warm, comforting drink—sort of like tea. A perfect ending to a good meal.

Tsukishimamonja Okoge Tsukishima Honten

📍 Tsukishimamonja Okoge Tsukishima Honten – Google Maps

As the sun began to set on our Tokyo Bicycle Food Tour, our tires led us to the charming lanes of Tsukishima.

The Tsukishima district doesn’t just serve Monjayaki; it celebrates it. From restaurants vying for your attention to murals imparting Monjayaki wisdom, Tsukishima wears its culinary heart on its sleeve.

“Monjayaki” might sound exotic, but it’s just a teppanyaki made with a savory blend of flour, water, veggies, seafood, meat, and a finishing touch of sauce and mayo.

While you may have heard of okonomiyaki, monjayaki stands distinct in its fluidity. Instead of a pre-mixed batter like its cousin, monjayaki is crafted live on the grill, which lends it a slightly runnier texture, demanding your attention and stirring skills for that perfect consistency.

Eating monjayaki is as much about community as it is about flavor. Picture this: friends huddled around a sizzling plate, spatulas in hand, ready to dig into the monjayaki masterpiece.

🥘 When it’s time to eat monjayaki: The slightly charred pieces that stick to the grill are the best part! They are affectionately dubbed “okoge”, and are crispy and delicious.

Our initiation to monjayaki was an elaborate show. With oil sizzling, our waitress first seared the meat to perfection, followed by a vibrant medley of vegetables.

These ingredients then framed a donut-shaped arena where the batter took center stage, warming up before blending with the rest of the dish.

Pouring batter into monjayaki in tsukishima

The most unique part of eating monjayaki is that it isn’t eaten with chopsticks. Instead, you use tiny spatulas to carve out perfect bite-sized pieces.

Trey with the tiny monjayaki spatula

Our table had a few different seasonings on the side, and we found our favorite monjayaki topping was the ground-up bits of green seaweed to add a hint of ocean flavor to each bite.

But no monjayaki experience is complete without trying your own hand at it! For round two, we played chef.

Trey trying his hand at making monjayaki in Tsukishima Tokyo

Surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult, especially since we had just watched someone else make it for us.

And if there’s one piece of wisdom we’d share, it’s this: mince those veggies finely. After all, in the world of monjayaki, it’s the little details that make the big difference.

The Best Way to Rent a Bicycle in Tokyo (as a Foreigner)

Hello Cycling is the best and most affordable option for foreigners to rent bicycles in Tokyo.

While Japan’s premier bike share, Docomo, seems alluring, it throws a curveball at foreigners—the app doesn’t even show up unless you have a Japanese cell phone and a Japanese cell number. Trust us, we tried!

We even looked at a few different bike rental places online, and they were all much more expensive than Hello Cycling.

Hello Cycling’s stations pepper the city, especially out in its suburbs.

What sets Hello Cycling apart? They only rent e-bikes! Imagine conquering Tokyo’s streets without breaking a sweat.

Plus, with the e-bike’s added speed, you’re not just pedaling; you’re flowing seamlessly with the traffic. All of Hello Cycling’s standard bicycles include baskets up front—perfect for carrying your stuff while exploring the city.

Hello Cycling’s prices are also SUPER affordable. As of October 2023, the Hello Cycling pricing structure for a standard bicycle is as follows:

  • First 30 minutes: 130 yen.
  • Every subsequent 15 minutes: 100 yen.
  • An up to 12-hour long bike ride is capped at 1,800 yen.

So basically, if you want to rent a bicycle to go sightseeing all day, it costs 1800 yen. A pretty good deal if you ask us!

And here’s a Tokyo traveler bonus: Hello Cycling embraces credit cards! If you’ve navigated Japan’s cash-heavy culture, you’ll get why this is a big deal. Plus, think of those card points stacking up!

Yet, no rose without its thorn, right? Here are the drawbacks that we found while using Hello Cycling:

  • The bike stations can sometimes leave you high and dry; their limited stock might mean a hunt for the next bike rack.
  • Strategize your route. Not all points A and B have a station. Your day’s plan needs a bit of mapping.
  • The app is purely in Japanese. But hey, modern problems need modern solutions – Google Translate to the rescue!
  • And while we’re on tech tips: keep a portable charger handy. You’ll need to use the phone app when you’re ready to return the bicycle.

Minor hiccups aside, Hello Cycling is our top recommendation for renting a bicycle in Tokyo.

And guess what? Hello Cycling is in a bunch of other Japanese cities too. So, wherever you are in Japan, your next cycling adventure awaits!

What’s Next?

Did our Tokyo bicycle food tour make you hungry? Feel free to drop a comment below to let us know which spot you found the most savory! And don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re planning your own bicycle food tour around Tokyo, we’d love to answer them!

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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