Within a year or two of completing our initial circuit of the Yamanote Line in 2009, my friend Michael mentioned doing the cycle ride again but in reverse! I immediately dismissed that idea and forgot about it for many, many years but when Takanawa Gateway opened in 2019 to become the 30th station on the line, I began to think about maybe doing it again. That idea was heightened by getting a new bike in 2020 but I then embarked on the epic Inari Shrines of the 23 wards project so it got pushed back further and further.
The day after returning from our new years holiday in Hiroshima, I was keen to blow off the early January cobwebs and do some exercise after a couple of weeks of eating without any care for calories or so on. Some of you may just be thinking I’ve run out of ideas and am just recycling old ones! On the contrary as this journey was completely unique and revolutionary as I did it in reverse going anti-clockwise this time!
Date: Tuesday 4th January 2022
Weather: Cold but sunny
Distance: 50:10 km
Time: 4:54 hours
My navigation skills are quite terrible at times but this challenge should’ve been easy enough so I decided that I shouldn’t use my maps app. You’d think that following a train line that circles the heart and hub of Tokyo would be fairly easy but it’s sadly not that straightforward due to the haphazard nature of Tokyo buildings. In 2009, we stuck as close to the tracks as we could but this time I decided it didn’t matter.
The times after each station (including the station numbering which was added in 2016) are mainly for my benefit but do give an identification of how approximately how long is needed between stations. Notes are included for some but not all stations. Those not wanting to see 31 photos (the starting station is also the end station to complete the loop) of my bike and station signage should just scroll to the foot of this post for my final thoughts and some tips for anyone wanting to do the same ride.
1. Ikebukuro (JY13) @ 08:21 – It was bitterly cold by the time I’d got to my starting point. The idea was to start at 8:30 but once I’d got the picture below I decided that I didn’t want to hang around waiting. Time to start this cycle ride.
2. Mejiro (JY14) @ 08:29 – I realised at just my second stop that I really should be spending a bit less time at each station trying to get a shot of myself.
3. Takadanobaba (JY15) @ 08:34
4. Shin Okubo (JY16) @ 08:43 – I made a right mess of a journey I must’ve done dozens and dozens of times when I lived in this area around a decade ago. As a result it took me much longer than expected to get from here to the next Yamanote stop.
5. Shinjuku (JY17) @ 08:54 – The east exit of the world’s busiest station is often overly crowded with people but thankfully it was very empty when I pulled up.
6. Yoyogi (JY18) @ 08:59
7. Harajuku (JY19) @ 09:07 – This station had a facelift in 2019, and for me has lost a bit of its charm but it had to happen really as the old station was a bit of a cow shed and could barely handle the crowds of people arriving at the station. It would often take a lot longer than it should have to enter or exit the station.
8. Shibuya (JY20) @ 09:13 – The famed Hachiko Exit next to Scramble Crossing is usually a hive of activity but not at this time of the day. I wanted a clearer sign of the station so ventured round to another exit to see that.
9. Ebisu (JY21) @ 09:25
10. Meguro (JY22) @ 09:32
11. Gotanda (JY23) @ 09:41
12. Osaki (JY24) @ 09:51 – The next part should’ve been easy but I got my bearings wrong yet again and somehow end up back at Gotanda before going the way I know. It may not always be the quickest route but I came to realise it’s usually quicker to go the way you know!
13. Shinagawa (JY25) @ 10:04
14. Takanawa Gateway (JY26) @ 10:12 – The newest station on the line and one that I have never seen the exterior of since it opened in March 2019. You need to look closely to that top left corner to see the signage!
15. Tamachi (JY27) @ 10:22 – I knew the names of the next half dozen stops but was not so confident about what order they were in. For the first time on this ride, I had to look at a map on one of the signs outside the station.
16. Hamamatsucho (JY28) @ 10:34
17. Shimbashi (JY29) @ 10:47 – One of the most enjoyable parts as you can pretty much cycle right beneath the tracks.
18. Yurakucho (JY30) @ 11:06
19. Tokyo (JY01) @ 11:12 – The red bricked appearance of Tokyo station’s exterior is similar to that of Amsterdam. It looks very picturesque but sadly for me there is no signage akin to all the other stations on the line.
20. Kanda (JY02) @ 11:22
21. Akihabara (JY03) @ 11:32 – This was probably the busiest place I passed through on the whole cycle ride. The blazing sun at this point made it quite difficult to get my photo!
22. Okachimachi (JY04) @ 11:45
23. Ueno (JY05) @ 11:52
24. Uguisudani (JY06) @ 12:02 – The least used station on the line is not so far away from the love hotel area.
25. Nippori (JY07) @ 12:08 – Nothing much to write about on this part of the journey which is no surprise really as it’s a rather straightforward 500 metre ride between the two closest stations on the line.
26. Nishi Nippori (JY08) @12:11
27. Tabata (JY09) @ 12:19 – I ended up at an exit here which I was never even aware of.
28. Komagome (JY10) @ 12:30 – Again, this was another station with an exit I’d never been to. The second picture below is the one I was more familiar with.
29. Sugamo (JY11) @ 12:40 – My backside was starting to hurt a bit by the time I arrived at this stop. Knowing I was on the home straight was definitely of comfort to me!
30. Otsuka (JY12) @ 12:51 – The penultimate station. Nearly home and dry!
31. Ikebukuro (JY13) @ 13:12 – Just under five hours after leaving Ikebukuro Station behind, I was back albeit on the opposite side. Mission accomplished. Game over!
Final thoughts: For anyone wanting to do this, you need a minimum of four hours really but if taking photos or filming then you can easily add on another two or three hours. More time is needed should you require snack or toilet breaks, and of course stopping at any other sights or places of interest along the way.
Click here to read ‘Cycling The Yamanote Line (2009)’
Click here to read ‘#WeStopAtNothing! Platform Zeros In Japan, Z Stations In Tokyo & The Opening Of A New Yamanote Line Station’
Click here to read ‘The Complete Tour Of Katakana-Named Stations In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘Going Back & Forth To Visit All The Stations Of Kawasaki`s Industrial Line’