Sugamo

Name: Sugamo

Kind: Town/City

Location: 35°44’31.93″ N 139°43’43.02″ E

Stations: Toei Sugamo Station, JR Sugamo Station Yamanote Line

Free Wifi: Yes

Our Rating: ⭑⭑⭑

Worth it? For a quick look, or on the way to Itabashi.

Updated 2/16/2021

©2019-2021 tenmintokyo.com

Sugamo is a small area in Tokyo north of Tokyo Dome City and south of Itabashi on Rt. 17 (Hakusan Dori). It’s not a large area but still worth a look. The main attraction is Rikugien Gardens 2 blocks to the east (discussed below).

Access

Unfortunately there is no Metro subway stop at Sugamo Station. You’ll have to either take the JR Yamanote Line or the Toei Mita Line. The closest main area to Sugamo is Ikebukuro to the west, or Tokyo Dome City (TDC) to the south, but on foot it’s a bit of a hike. On bicycle it’s a quick ride, and there are bike lanes part of the way, but you’ll need to make a short right-turn jog on Hakusan Dori (see below) on bike or you’ll get lost and end up on Old Hakusan Dori to the east which runs away from TDC. The other nearby area is Itabashi to the north several miles from Sugamo Station. Itabashi and Ikebukuro are only 2 miles apart and walkable. You can also get to both on the Yamanote Line or Saikyo Line. If you’re on bike, the entire length of Rt. 17 is cruisable in non-rush hours. See our post on bike cruising from Itabashi all the way through Sugamo to TDC. You can also get to/from Itabashi on the Mita Line at stop I17 – Shin-Itabashi. There is also a Nishi-sugamo Station (I16) further north nearer to Itabashi than to Sugamo. At Nishi-sugamo Station you can also catch the Toden Arakawa Line Tram – better known to locals as the Sakura Tram.

Area Layout

Central Sugamo facing northeast. The station + atré complex is the white square bldg. right of center. Rt. 17 or Hakusan Dori runs north-south. A Beck’s Coffee is the tiny black bldg. next to the small concrete park in the lower right. The main outdoor covered shopping area is just off 17 in the upper center left. Just north of that on the east side of the street is the APA Hotel Sugamo Ekimae (Ekimae means “at the station”). Continuing to head north on 17 for a few miles leads to the small charming micro-town of Itabashi, which just renovated its train station in 2020. There are various other shops + food palaces around the station as shown above.

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JR Sugamo Station facing south towards TDC. APA Sugamo Ekimae is just behind the camera to the left.

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APA Sugamo Ekimae facing south. The station is just ahead 2 blocks.

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Facing south on Hakusan Dori just south of the station. TDC is straight ahead.

Features

Sugamo is not a huge area. But there’s still a fair amount to do. The atré complex over the station is worth a look, and Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street (discussed next) is a must-see. You can also stroll the outdoor shops along the streets on both sides for miles. Rikugien Gardens (discusssed below) a few miles to the east is a must-see. It’s one of the most well-known Japanese gardens in the world and in the spring + fall is spectacular. The town that Rikugien Gardens is in – Komagome – just to the northeast is also worth a quick look and isn’t too far.

Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street

Entrance to Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street which veers off to the left west of Hakusan Dori. The street is lined with charming shops, and if you follow it far enough north you’ll come to Itabashi. The entrance is just north of the APA Hotel on the left around 35°44’04.41″ N 139°44’12.70″ E.

Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street is a long narrow north-south street which parallels Hakusan Dori in Sugamo. The street is known as a hang-out spot for seniors, but it’s definitely worth a stop for everyone. The street has some very nice food shops with traditional Japanese foods of all kinds. If you keep going north until the end of Sugamo, you’ll come to the charming micro-town of Itabashi, which recently just built a brand new train station. Itabashi is just north of Ikebukuro and is a jumping off point for many other locations on the JR Saikyo Line such as Ikebukuro.

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Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street with its charming shops facing north. Well worth a stroll.

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©2019-2021 tenmintokyo.com

Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street approaching Itabashi.

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Rikugien Gardens


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Approaching Rikugien Gardens, on the right. Just ahead is the small town of Komagome, just east of Sugamo.

If you head south on Hakusan Dori from the station for a few blocks, there’s a side street around 35°43’52.63″ N 139°44’29.39″ E heading east just after the MOS Burger on the left. At the end of this street about a mile down is world-famous Rikugien Gardens – one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the country. It’s a must see. Admission is 300-400¥ or so, but it’s worth it for a couple bucks. While you’re there you can stop and check out the town – Komagome – which has its own JR station. It’s a small unremarkable town, but worth a quick walk. There’s also a very large ancient temple there with spectacular architecture. It also has its own APA HotelAPA Komagome. See our post on Komagome for more about the town. It’s worth a quick look.

Hotels

The obvious choice in the area, as we mentioned, is APA Sugamo Ekimae 2 blocks north of the station. Clean, upscale, and relatively cheap at $70-$80/night in off-season, it’s the best bet in Sugamo. There are others around in the area too. Check agoda.com for more choices.

North to Itabashi

Only about a mile north of Sugamo is the small charming town of Itabashi. Several rail lines including JR and the Toei Subway stop there. The JR station is on the Saikyo Line. It’s only about a mile walk north on Hakusan Dori and is worth it if you have extra time. See our full multipart post on Itabashi for more info.

Additional Photos

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The station at night facing north.

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Arriving at TDC on Hakusan Dori from the north.

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Hakusan Dori and the area around TDC actually have some nice bike lanes – if there are no delivery vehicles parked in them.

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Cruising south on Hakusan Dori facing southwest at sunset.

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Beck’s Coffee near the station. The Japanese word for coffee is coheé.

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The covered shopping street just north of the station facing north. APA Sugamo Ekimae is just ahead. You can also hang a right here to explore some of the backstreets where a good 200¥ coin-locker is located.

Courtesy @Mohejin_Japan

The covered shopping street on the west side of Hakusan Dori. Note the Toei Subway entrance on the left.

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This MOS Burger is just down Hakusan Dori on the east side. If you turn left just after this shop when heading south on Hakusan Dori, you’ll come to world-famous Rikugien Gardens on the right – and Komagome.

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The street to the east just south of the MOS Burger leads to Rikugien Gardens.

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A beautiful fall sunset in Sugamo facing west.

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The right split at Old Hakusan Dori heading south from Itabashi. Don’t miss this jump to the right side of the street or you’ll end up way off course and miss TDC.

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Waiting @ the MOS Burger on the way to Komagome. Turn left @ the next intersection for Rikugien Gardens.

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MOS Burger menu. You can actually eat fairly cheap in Japan – under 500¥ (around $5) for a good MOS Burger meal. The company prides itself on fresh ingredients. Our experiences at the chain are generally good.

They even have some fun desserts.

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There is also this small guitar school just north of the gardens.

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Heading north out of Sugamo on Hakusan Dori to Itabashi in late fall.

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The huge temple north of Komagome – eerily silent near midnight.

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©2019-2021 tenmintokyo.com

The Sakura Tram near Itabashi.

LINKS

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugamo_Station

https://tokyo-tokyo.com/Sugamo.htm

Sugamo Station – GaijinPot Study

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nishi-sugamo_Station

Tokyo Dome City – Part 1: Itabashi->Tokyo Dome: on Bike

Sugamo | The Official Tokyo Travel Guide, GO TOKYO

Tokyo Travel: Sugamo

Sugamo Area Guide | Tokyo Cheapo

Things to Do near Sugamo Station

APA Hotel Sugamo Ekimae

Sugamo metro station – Metro Line Map

https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/teien/en/rikugien/access.html

Itabashi | The Official Tokyo Travel Guide, GO TOKYO

VIDS

Buying a bicycle in Japan

Having a bicycle in Japan can come in handy.

Walking long distances take a long time. Trains are crowded + expensive.

If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere quickly, having a bicycle can save you time and frustration while getting around in Japan.

This guide tells you everything you need to know.

Unfortunately Japan – unlike many other modern countries – has yet to build good widespread bike lanes, even in Tokyo. This is surprising given the number of people who ride bikes here. Some areas in central Tokyo, such as around Tokyo Dome do have good bike lanes – but they are often blocked by deliveries so you must still be careful.

Everyone from housewives with kids, to octogenarians can be seen riding bikes. Many Japanese rely on their bikes to get to grocery stores, to commute to and from work, and just to get around.

The streets in Japan are very narrow, sometimes hilly, and everyone is always in a hurry. Riding a bike in Japan can be a real hazard. You’ll have to be extra careful at intersections and crosswalks – both so you don’t get hit by a vehicle, and so you don’t collide with pedestrians.

Bikes are everywhere in Japan.

Here are the basics of how to buy + ride a bike in Japan:

  • Buying a bicycle in Japan.
  • Do’s + dont’s of riding safely.
  • Parking.
  • Taking your bike on trains in Japan.
  • Bike sharing.

Buying a bicycle in Japan

Bike shops abound in Japan. But you can also buy bikes at depato (department stores), including low end depato’s such as AEON, and Don Quiojte.

There are smaller higher-end shops such as Y’s Road and Cycle Base Asahi, but be prepared to pay more. If you’re looking for high end bikes, check out dealers in Japan, or higher end shops. There’s a huge Y’s Road shop 2 blocks east of the main Ikebukuro JR Train station in Tokyo.

One of the best shops in Tokyo is Cycle Olympic. They have a great new shop which just opened called Free Power – located in Kokubunji western Tokyo.

Cheap generic bikes can be bought in Japan anywhere from $125 – $200 + up. These are really low end bikes – some have Shimano shifters + sprockets, but they’re usually low end equipment. Most sub-$200 bikes in Japan are for very basic getting around. There are also generic unisex $125 bikes at discount stores. For just puttering around, these will work. If you’re after a high end bike, go to one of the specialty or dealer shops.

Our new $200 generic bike from Don Quijote...
… with a single rear low-end Shimano shifter. Most low end bikes sold in Japan today are “fixies” – with a fixed, single-gear front sprocket.

A new bike lot at discount store Don Quijote.

Legally, when residents of Japan buy a bike at a bike shop, they’re required to fill out a small registration form which contains a small registration sticker which gets affixed to the front top or neck of the frame of the bicycle. If you’re a short term visitor to Japan (under 3 months), this requirement is often waived by the shop selling you the bike. However, consider in this case if some legality later arises between you and a resident party, it could cause you trouble. Also, the lack of a registration sticker on your bike will almost certainly mean you will never see it again if it’s stolen. The police won’t even listen to you if you didn’t have the registration sticker to begin with. So, for temporary visitors, proceed with a purchase at your own risk. The best way to mitigate theft risk is to make sure you lock your bike, and park it in a designated bike parking lot (more on this below).

However, bike theft is much more rare in Japan than in western countries. Only very high end bikes are usually targeted in Japan, and even then theft is rare. People simply don’t steal bikes here. It’s common to see peoples’ bikes parked out front of their houses, with no locks whatsoever.

Most Japanese bikes today come with an ingenious locking mechanism on the rear wheel called a Gorin Lock. This device is permanently affixed to the frame and contains a sliding ring which you slide into the spokes of the rear wheel when you park – which makes the wheel impossible to turn. With the lock engaged, no one can ride off with your bike. The only downside is the lock is secured with a key, which you must keep on you at all times. If you lose your key, you’ll have to cut the lock off, which won’t be easy.

A Gorin Lock.

Do’s + dont’s of riding safely

There are a lot of bikes on the streets of Japan – and, as we mentioned, few good bike lanes. Unless signs state otherwise, you may ride your bike on sidewalks – as most locals do. Just be sure to not ride too fast, endanger people, or cause pedestrian problems.

It is extremely important to be extra careful at intersections. Many of Japan’s streets are tiny and have blind corners. Micro-sized motor vehicles often shoot out of nowhere with little warning. Many backstreet intersections have no stop or yield signs. You take your life in your hands if you don’t use proper caution when crossing intersections. We mean it. In many ways, this makes riding a bike in Japan much more dangerous than in the west.

Always honor all road signs. This site has a list of Japanese roads signs for motor vehicles, but the same applies to cyclists.

Also always remember to ride on the left – as motor vehicles do in Japan. Even on sidewalks try to always ride on the left.

Be polite to other riders + pedestrians. Be considerate. When in doubt, yield the right of way.

You can ride on streets, which means you won’t have to deal with as many pedestrians, but be aware that without bike lanes, you must be eternally vigilant. No one is going to watch out for you or see you,. No one. You have to be aware at all times of the situation + be ready to take evasive action in an instant. Not doing so could cost you your life.

In Japan many deliveries are made by small trucks on main roads. If you decide to ride on the street, you’ll have to deal with these + navigate around them – which creates another hazard. Keep in mind that if you swerve left in front of a parked truck at the curb, as you re-emerge and swerve back right, it’s highly likely that the flow of traffic behind you will not see you – or even know you’re there. This is an incredibly dangerous situation in heavy traffic. You may want to invest in some bike mirrors – but even then you’re going to have to be extremely careful. Always assume every vehicle around you may not see you – and plan accordingly.

Japan’s tiny backstreets present a hazard for all cyclists. In this case motor vehicles are banned, but they’re not always. Small streets like this can leave cyclists totally blind to oncoming traffic.

Parking

Bicycle parking (like auto parking) in Japan can be problematic. You usually can’t just lock your bike up anywhere and walk away. In fact, there are many signs along most streets telling you so. If you ignore them, your bike may be impounded by the police, and you’ll have to go retrieve it, which in huge cities might be a huge headache.

Unless you work in Japan + use your bike to get to + from work, parking willy-nilly out front of buildings is generally discouraged. Instead you need to find an authorized bike parking lot. Most Japanese train stations have them out front of the station. There are also metropolitan lots with paid or free parking. Prices are generally pretty reasonable – ¥100 for 6-10 hours. So around a buck a day. Unless you need to use a paid lot every day, it’s probably worth it.

Some central metro areas such as Ikebukuro + Shinjuku have large paid lots. You can Google around to find them.

Some rail station lots have automated parking ticket machines, and some have attendants. Some have coin-operated locks on each space. Some have coin-operated slots on the honor system – you pay for the time you use, but there is no lock on the bike slot – you have to bring your own locks or not use them at all.

To lock your bike at paid lots, you usually roll your bike up into a metal slot until it locks. You then note down the number of the slot, and go to an automated machine and pay. The machine will give you a ticket. When you are ready to retrieve your bike you punch in the number of your slot, or in some lots insert your ticket, pay any extra due, if required, and the machine will remotely unlock the slot so you can roll your bike out. Do not just walk up to these slots and lock your bike to them. It’s highly likely your bike will be removed by the lot owner if you do.

Honor system bike racks in Narita City.

Most Japanese rail stations have bike racks out front. Most are usually full.

Fully automated bike lot with payment machine.

Taking your bike on trains in Japan

In general, bicycles are not allowed on normal commuter trains around Japan: there just isn’t any space. If you attempt such, you’ll likely be asked to leave the train by a conductor. The one exception is the Narita Express to/from the airport, but even on that train, you’ll have to store your bike somehow at the end of a car in the luggage storage area, which is usually already cramped. Your best bet is not to. If you must, then take it apart in advance and store it in a bike box or Rinko Bag and then load it onto the train. A much better option however, is to disassmeble it, then ship it in a box ahead of you. Japan’s trains are just too crowded to accomodate a bicycle.

Bike Sharing

Japan’s NTT Docomo has started a bike sharing service in limited areas of Tokyo. You can read more about it on DoCoMo’s Bike Sharing Websites. They also have iOS + Android bike sharing map apps.

https://docomo-cycle.jp/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1066451-d11979779-Reviews-Docomo_Bike_Share-Minato_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1066451-d11979779-Reviews-Docomo_Bike_Share-Minato_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Resources

rentabike.jp

https://tokyocycle.com/

https://www.gotokyo.org/en/plan/getting-around/bicycles/index.html

https://www.yelp.com/search?cflt=bikeparking&find_loc=Ikebukuro+Station%2C+Toshima%2C+%E6%9D%B1%E4%BA%AC%E9%83%BD

https://tokyo.digi-joho.com/travel-living-tips/bicycle-parking-tokyo-regular.html

https://toa.com.sg/solutions/kansai-station-underground-bicycle-parking-lot

https://www.tokyobike.com/international.html

https://www.crowngears.com/html/worldguide/english_page.html

https://7bicycle.com/shops_en.html

http://cycle-tokyo.cycling.jp/shops.html

https://donnykimball.com/docomo-bike-share-d0b9c01b0c3b

Cheap Bike Tokyo

Best Bike Parking near Ikebukuro Station, Toshima:

https://www.yelp.com/search?cflt=bikeparking&find_loc=Ikebukuro+Station%2C+Toshima%2C+%E6%9D%B1%E4%BA%AC%E9%83%BD

Eco Station 21 iTerrace Bicycle Parking Area A:

https://japantravel.navitime.com/en/area/jp/spot/01252-NV0001311/

Rent a bicycle in IkebukurO:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298184-i861-k2542514-Rent_a_bicycle_in_Ikebukuro-Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

2 Wheel Cruise Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClvtLAnUD8z_9dec6iUc24Q/videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAcThSw2Y84&feature=youtu.be

More links:

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=best+bike+shops+in+Itabashi+Japan

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298184-i861-k6699430-Recommendation_for_bicycle_shops_in_Tokyo-Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-secondhand-bike-or-part-shop-in-Tokyo

https://japantriathlon.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/japan-bike-shops-directory/

https://tokyocycle.com/threads/tokyos-best-stocked-bike-shop.404/

https://tokyocheapo.com/lifestyle/reconditioned-bicycles-the-two-wheeled-wonders-where-to-find-them/

https://7bicycle.com/shops_en.html

https://morethanrelo.com/en/tokyo-bicycle-shops/