Friday, October 22, 2010

Buying a Used Bike from a Recycle Centre in Japan

Being the headcase that I am, I thought it would be a great idea to cycle back to my town (in the mountains) from Tokyo. At a mere 277km I was fearless. So I set about bike shopping.

I briefly considered spending 700,000yen on a nice, new road bike before thinking about buying second-hand. I came across a place called Suginami Green Cycle. There I bought the pictured bike for 15,000yen. The retail price is something between five and ten times that.

This particular blog only has information about Tokyo bike shops, but if you contact your city office for information about local schemes like this you might get lucky.

You can get a regular mama charie bike for a few thousand yen, and various road and mountain bikes for not much more. But why so cheap? Suginami and the other places like it work through a deal with the local government. In Japan, if a bike remains in one place for a certain amount of time someone will come by and attach a tag to it. The tag tells you to remove it if the bike is still in use/wanted. If you don't do so then it will eventually be taken away and crushed.

And that's where Suginami Green Cycle steps in. They take all the semi-decent bikes that are to be crushed and fix them up to sellable condition. What a great idea. However, I don't know if they have a low success rate or a massive backlog, but as you can see in the satelite photo they have tons of bikes. When I went there there were only nine or ten actually for sale, and a further five or six being worked on.

Anyway, if you need a bike then this is the place to go. The only downside is that it's only open three days a month, so you need to time it right. It should be the second Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each month (normally whichever Monday is closest to the 15th of the month). If there's a public holiday on one of those days then it'll be the following week.

The address:
Open 8am-4pm

Tel: 03 3327-2287

The two closest stations are Eifuku-cho and Shimo-Tokaido. It's very easy to get there with a map (and here is one), but if you want to be extra sure then use this pictoral guide.

I only know of one other place like this, and it's:
Musashino-shi Silver Jinzai Recycling Center
3-5-16 Nakamachi, Musashino-shi
Tel: 0422-51-3448
Mon-Fri 0900-1500, every 4th Saturday 1000- 1600
Nearest station: Mitaka

I've never been there, I just read the information here. If you've been there or know of any other places then drop them in the comments box.

PS: if you're interested I made it back to my town after a mere 16 and a half hours and 18 litres of water.


  1. Hello, thank you for this amazing informative article!

    I was looking to buy a bicycle in Tokyo and was already dreading having to spend the next month eating rice,rice,rice, and only rice.

    How many race bicycles/fixies did you see? Is it mainly Mamachari-land?

  2. Thanks for your comment! Actual;ly, many of the bikes were mountain/road. I guess because mamacharies are pretty cheap anyway, they focus on others more. Good luck shopping!

  3. Thinking of getting a cheapy bike for a cycle tour in Japan. I read somewhere all bikes are registered. Do you need to be a japan resident?

    Thanks for the info!

  4. I don't think you *have* to get your bicycle registered. From some very brief research online, it seems to me that it is one of Japan's many unenforced laws. Bike owners and sellers are required (義務) to make sure cycles are registered, but there is no penalty for failing to do so. If you want to buy a bike as a tourist, I think a used bike shop or a recycle center like the one written about in this article would be your best bet. Try just explaining your situation. I imagine registering without an address is impossible. If you have a friend living in Japan and it seems like registering is a necessary, you might also consider asking them to register it for you. Finally, you may find that selling or disposing of the bike later without a domestic address to also be a difficult process. If any other readers have personal experience to share, please let us know!

  5. Went to the recycle centre the other day via Eifukuchou eki. It`s on the Keio Inokashira sen, between Shibuya and Kichijouji eki -though closer to Shibuya eki. Exited the main entrance. Crossed over the railway crossing and walked straight ahead. Turned right at the third set of traffic lights. It is on the left side next to the playground.
    The next sale is on Monday, 20 October until 23 Oct. Have to be there for 10am to get a ticket. The sale starts at 11 am. Told to be early because the bikes go quickly.
    The next sales are November 17-19, December 15-17. In 2015 are January 19-21, February 16-18 and March 16-18.
    Hope that helps. Thanks for the website and initial introduction to recycling centre. Mike

  6. Thanks a lot for the information. I went on October 19th. There was a planned auction on Monday 19th, Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st. I arrived easily with your descriptions and I was one hour early, so at 10.00 (it is from 11.00 until 16.00) which made me 55th in the waiting line. There were 200-300 people for 50-60 bikes I guess. When I entered, almost all bike were taken. This was at 11.15 or something, so there was no auction on Tuesday and Wednesday. You should go take a ticket at 08.00 (at least it the guy is there who hands out the tickets) and do something else in the meantime before you show up at 10.45.

    Or: you go to the people who entered first and who have picked the best bikes, if they don't want them after testing, you'll be the first to pick the bike.

  7. Hi Maxim,

    Did you got one of it ?

    How much you pay or let me know the average of those bikes.


  8. Hey folks,

    I went there recently and it's still as great as described above. The older gentleman are really diligent making sure that every bike is properly maintained and ready to go before they sell it.

    I assume that the averge price increased a bit to the years before, I got mine for ca. 22,000 JPY but it was also clearly the best standing there that day :)

    There is still also decent ones for about 6000 JPY and very good ones between 15,000 and 22,000 JPY.

    Be aware that the whole feast passes very quickly, especially the better ones are taken after the first 5-10 min. Be there early to grab one of the first tickets (I was there around 9pm). Officially they open the gates at 11pm but when I was there they opened almost 15 min earlier than that so I almost came back to late and my ticket would have been worthless.

    As far as I saw all bikes come with a small lock and a front lamp.

    Enjoy this little Tokyo-story, can highly recommend.