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Bicycles, Motorcycles and Automobiles

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Bicycles and Motorcycles

Mandatory enrollment in cyclist liability insurance

As of April 1, 2019, the Sendai Bicycle Safety Bylaws will make it mandatory for anyone riding bicycles within the city limits to enroll in cyclist liability insurance.
The cyclist liability insurance will cover you in the event that you must pay compensation for injuring a third party while you are operating a bicycle.
For international students, cyclist liability is covered under Inbound Futaigakusou. Please find out whether or not you are enrolled already.
If you are not enrolled, please enroll in both Gakkensai and Inbound Futaigakusou.


Traffic rules for cyclists

In general, bicycles must be ridden on the street, keeping to the far left. They are additionally permitted on sidewalks of 3m or more in width.
When giving an old bicycle to someone, also give him / her your bicycle registration papers. If you receive a bicycle from a friend or buy a used bicycle, be sure to go to a bicycle shop or police station to register it in your own name. The registration fee is 600 yen.

Sign of "Reserved for Pedestrians and Cyclists only"

See the following linked pages for your reference.

Traffic safety videos "Do you know bicycle traffic rules?"

The Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association (SenTIA), has produced the following instructive videos mainly for expatriate residents who are not accustomed to Japan's traffic rules. The videos are designed not only to teach viewers the minimum required knowledge for safe use of bicycles, but to encourage them to comply with the traffic rules and manners as well. Viewers will also learn how to ride bicycles safely and what to do in the event that they have a bicycle accident. These videos are available in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepali and Japanese. Please watch the one provided in your preferred language to help you avoid traffic accidents!

Cyclist safety training

With the revision of the road traffic law on June 1. 2015, cyclists who are caught performing certain "dangerous actions," such as ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, twice or more within three years will be required by law to take a safety training class. For more information, please click here.

No-Parking zones

There are paid bicycle parking lots around most train stations. For further information, please contact each administrative office. Illegally-parked bicycles are impounded as soon as found. ID is required, and fees will be charged, when you pick up an impounded bicycle or motorbike.


  • Bicycles: at point of purchase or at a police station where you reside
  • Small motor vehicles 125cc or under: local city office where you reside
  • Motorcycles 126cc or over: at Miyagi Office, Tohoku District Transport Bureau

Traffic rules for motorcycles

Motorcycles are generally required to follow the same traffic rules as cars.

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Driver's licenses

There are three kinds of driver's license that are valid in Japan.

International driver's license

Issued in a signatory of the Geneva Convention, an international driver’s license is valid in Japan

The international driver's license expires on its expiration date or after you have been in Japan for one year, whichever comes first. If you wish to continue driving, you must replace the overseas driver's license with a Japanese driver's license before it expires.

Overseas driver's license

If you have a valid driver's license issued in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco or Taiwan, and a translation into Japanese is attached, it is valid and you will have no need for an international driver's license. Like the international driver’s license, its validity is limited to one year from your date of entry into Japan.

Acquiring a Japanese license

If you have a valid international or overseas driver's license and (in the case of the overseas license) have lived in the country where it was issued for at least three months after the date of issue, you can apply to replace it with a Japanese license at your nearest Driver's License Examination Center.

The following documents are generally required for the procedure.
(Please confirm these details with the Driver's License Examination Center for updated information.)

  • A valid international / overseas driver's license
  • Documents attesting that you lived in the country where your driver's license was issued for at least three months after its date of issue (e.g., passport)
  • A Japanese translation of your driver's license, available from your country's embassy or consulate, or from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF)
  • Passport (both the current one and the previous one, if recently renewed)
  • Residence Card (or Alien Registration Card, if applicable), colour photo 3 cm high and 2.4 cm wide, and handling fee


Miyagi Driver’s License Center

TEL: 022-373-3601
http://www.police.pref.miyagi.jp/hp/menkyo/main/menu.html (Japanese only)

Replacing an international or overseas driver's license with a Japanese license

http://www.police.pref.miyagi.jp/hp/menkyo/main/gaikoku.html (Japanese only)

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Purchasing an Automobile

Before purchasing an automobile, you must secure a parking space and apply for a certificate confirming the existence of the parking space. You can obtain this certificate at the main police station of the area in which the parking space is located. It is difficult to obtain a parking space in most areas, and parking fees can be quite high.
When a new car is purchased through a dealer, the cost includes the vehicle price, taxes, license plates (registration) and compulsory liability insurance. You are strongly recommended to buy private insurance coverage as well. The owner of an automobile is obligated to pay a tax, and to have the car inspected periodically.

Because it snows in winter in Sendai and road surface may freeze up, it is necessary to attach a winter tire for exclusive use of the winter. Please consult with the dealer where you purchased your car or shops that sell car goods about purchasing or attaching a snow tire.

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