On the spur of the moment, Emma and I rented a Yamaha FJR1300AS from Rental819 in Ikebukuro for several days. The booking process was remarkably easy, and I was really impressed at how we were forwarded plenty of information in advance about the rental process, road rules in Japan, and the bike itself (including a PDF of the FJR1300 user manual!).
Picking up the bike was very straightforward – we chose jackets and helmets, checked over the bike, paid the rental fee, packed the panniers, and got on our way. I had initially been concerned that a Japanese rental company might not have appropriately-sized gear, but the shop had several viable options.
Over the course of seven days we covered about 1500km. To give an idea of how far you can comfortably travel, our route was:
Day 1. Tokyo-Hamamatsu (250km)
Day 2. Hamamatsu-Nagoya (115km)
Day 3. Nagoya-Kyoto (130km)
Day 4. Rest
Day 5. Kyoto-Katsuyama-Kyoto (400km)
Day 6. Kyoto-Nara-Nagoya (200km)
Day 7. Nagoya-Tokyo (350km)
We had initially planned to do the trip by train, but the rental fee, toll fees, and fuel costs added up to be only marginally more than that of two JR rail passes.
When we booked the bike, I hadn’t been aware that June/July is a ‘rainy season’ in Japan. We were lucky enough to have pockets of excellent weather; whenever we got caught in the rain, though, it was relatively safe to soldier on, given that Japanese roads are extremely well-engineered, and drivers seem to be reasonably level-headed.
Other visitors to Japan will be oblivious to the existence of the small towns, farms, and landscapes that we were privileged enough to ride through. The Shinkansen might be convenient for intercity travel, but nowhere near as fun as a bike, and can’t get you in to those out-of-the-way places that can make a vacation unique.