You can get a good sense of the real Japan by gently rolling through lanes and streets on a bike. A leisurely pace, often with a tide of fellow riders. Apart from looking a little bit different, who is to know you are a visitor?
Bike can be hired in most cities a little cost. 500 yen can get you a bike for a whole days in many places, including Tokyo at Ueno and Asakusa, and in Matsumoto and Kyoto.
In smaller places, head straight to the Information Centre or office at the train station. I have spend pleasant hours doing this in Masuda, Heda and Nara.
The Nara ride sticks in the memory because I got very lost! This is how I explained it.
I got a bee in my bonnet in a previous post about the bad reputation bicycle riding has in Tokyo.