One Mistake and You're a Criminal?! Registering Your Bicycle in Japan!

by Soichi and Ken

Miso Dog
I just bought a used bicycle, but the other day I was stopped by a couple of police officers asking me “Is that a stolen bicycle?”

Woah. That must have been rough. Did you change the name for the bicycle crime prevention registration?

Miso Dog
Crime prevention registration? Name change?

Ah. You don’t know. The crime prevention registration is a legal procedure and is mandatory for new and used bicycles. If you don’t do it, you may be suspected of theft or asked a bunch of questions by the police. Let me explain a bit the crime prevention registration about the procedure for it. Then we can start registering your bicycle!

What is "registering your bicycle"?

The bicycle crime prevention registration is something quite unique to Japan. Apparently, many people have never heard of such a system in their own country. 

To put it simply, the system allows the police to keep track of the bicycles and their owners to prevent any thefts. The time to register your bicycle for the crime prevention registration is when you purchase your bicycle. Japanese law requires that all bicycle owners complete the crime prevention registration. There is no penalty or fine for not completing the registration, but I strongly recommend that you do so. If you are riding a bicycle without completing the registration, the police may suspect you of bicycle theft, and they might even arrest you! If someone steals your bicycle after you have registered it in the crime prevention registration system, you will be more likely to find your bicycle sooner.

After successfully registering for the crime prevention registration, you will receive a sticker like the one below to attach to your bicycle. Now you have finished registering your bicycle!


There are essentially three ways to purchase a bicycle in Japan.  

  1. Purchase a new bicycle at a bike shop
  2. Purchase a new bicycle from an online shop
  3. Purchase a used bicycle  

Depending on how you obtain your bicycle, the way you register for the crime prevention registration will differ. I’ll explain the procedure for each of the three methods listed above. 

How to register your bicycle?

Purchasing a bicycle from a bike shop (store)

You can purchase new bicycles in Japan at bicycle shops, some supermarkets, and some home improvement stores. In most cases, you can register for the crime prevention registration at the place you purchase your bicycle. When you purchase your bicycle, the store staff will most likely ask you something like “Would you like to register for the crime prevention registration?” 

Depending on the prefecture, the documents and registration fee will slightly differ. However, in most cases, the following should suffice. 

  • Registration fee 600 
  • Residence Card 

You will receive a form from the store staff, which you will have to write your name and address while at the store. You can complete the procedure in as little as 10 minutes. 

If you are unable to register your bicycle for the crime prevention registration at the store, you can follow the same procedures in the following section, "Purchasing a new bicycle from an online shop." 

Purchasing a new bicycle from an online shop

If you purchase a bicycle from an online store such as Amazon, you need to go to a place where you are able to register for the crime prevention registration after you receive your bicycle. Shops where you can register your bicycle, have a sign “Bicycle Crime Prevention Registration,” but it is sometimes difficult to find this sign. Don’t worry though! In many cases, you can register at bicycle specialty shops, supermarkets, and home improvement centers that sell bicycles. There should be a sign in the store that says, “Bicycle Crime Prevention Registration.” For registering your bicycle after purchasing it online, bring the following items: 

  • Sales receipt or proof of sales (with the store name, product name, bicycle frame number, etc.) (販売証明書または領収書) 
  • Bicycle 
  • Residence Card 
  • Registration fee 600

Please be aware that the required documents may differ slightly depending on the prefecture you will be registering your bicycle in. Therefore, I recommend that you call the store you plan to go to beforehand. 

Purchasing a used bicycle

There are places where you can purchase used bicycles such as recycle shops and Mercari (an app for buying and selling items). However, if the previous owner did not clear their crime prevention registration information, the police may suspect you of stealing the bicycle even if you correctly purchased the used bicycle. 

The procedure for purchasing and registering your used bicycle for the crime prevention registration is summarized below. 

  1. Make sure the previous owner clears their crime prevention registration information. 
  2. Purchase the bicycle from the previous user or a used shop. Be sure to receive a transfer certificate when you purchase the bicycle. 
  3. Go to a shop nearby that sells bicycles (i.e. Bicycle specialty shops, certain supermarkets, home improvement stores, etc.)  with the following items to complete the crime prevention registration.
  • Bicycle 
  • Residence Card
  • Transfer certificate (譲渡証明書) 

Make sure that you have the previous owner create the transfer certificate. The rules may vary depending on the prefecture and area, but in many cases, there is no official format. For reference, here is a sample provided by the Tokyo Bicycle Security Association. 

Although the most common procedures have been described here, some prefectures do not require a transfer certificate or may require additional documentation not listed here. Also, if the prefecture you are registering for the crime prevention registration is the same prefecture the previous owner registered their bicycle’s crime prevention registration, you may have an easier time registering your bicycle. So, if you are looking to buy a used bicycle, please contact your local bicycle shop in advance to check the procedure for registering for the crime prevention registration in your prefecture. 

Precautions to take when moving to another prefecture

The crime prevention registration must be carried out for each prefecture. If you move to another prefecture, you will need to clear your current prefecture’s crime prevention registration information for your bicycle before moving. For example, assume you have a registered bicycle in Tokyo and are planning on moving to Hokkaido. In this case, you will need to clear/unregister the crime prevention registration in Tokyo and when you move to Hokkaido, you will need to register your bicycle for the crime prevention registration in Hokkaido. 

To unregister and clear your current bicycle crime prevention registration information is easy. All you need to do is bring the bicycle crime prevention registration card (the one for the bicycle owner, which you receive when you first registered your bicycle) to the bicycle dealer. There are no additional costs to register your bicycle in a new prefecture. 

If your bicycle is stolen 

For everyone, having your bicycle stolen is extremely frustrating. However, you can rest a little bit easier if you managed to register your bicycle’s crime prevention registration. If your bicycle was unfortunately stolen, immediately go to a nearby police box or police station and submit a police report for the theft (被害届). When submitting a report, be sure to bring the owner’s version of the “Bicycle Security Registration Card” (自転車防犯登録甲カード). If you lose this bicycle security registration card, you can contact the store where you registered your bicycle for the crime prevention registration. You should be able to get a copy of the documentation they have on record. 

Final words 

What do you think?  

It may seem a bit of a pain to complete, but in the long run, the effort will be worth it if someone steals your bicycle.  

 Just remember to register your bicycle if you buy it used or on an internet website.  

 Be sure to follow the bicycle laws and happy biking! 


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