You have decided that you would travel around Japan by car? That’s a great decision that you won’t regret!
However, we understand that you might be wondering if there are some things you should know before your first time driving in Japan, so we have you covered with this quick crash-course that will help you get on the road and driving like a local.
Don’t Drink and Drive
This advice is obviously true everywhere in the world, but Japan basically has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and driving, with a BAC limit of 0.15, it’s low enough that you shouldn’t plan on having a single drink before getting on the road. If you really want to though, consider taking a taxi back home, or even better, use a service called Daikou (代行) .
Daikou is a dedicated driver service similar to a taxi company. You can call them, and two people will come to your location, one of whom will drive your car for you while the other one will follow. Making sure that you and your car both arrive home safely even if you are not in a condition to drive.
Be Careful Where You Park
Double parking, parking on the curb, or even worse, parking in a private parking lot is strictly prohibited in Japan. So don’t try to park in restricted places thinking everything will be fine if you are quick, as neighbors will call the police if they see you parking in a spot you are not supposed to.
Always Reverse Park
You will quickly realize that here, everyone reverse parks so that they can get into and out of parking spaces easily. With parking space at a premium, the lots (and parking spaces) are generally small, so backing in allows you greater maneuverability when trying to creep into a small space. It also feels as if this is a safety measure, as you have a reduced chance of running into someone while leaving your parking space driving forwards than backwards.
So even if you are not so used to it, you should probably try to do like locals and always reverse park.
Driving on the Left
If you are coming from a country where you drive on the left, this one is probably good news as you will feel right at home. If, however, you come from a country that drives on the right-hand side, this might be a little strange at the beginning, but it’s surprisingly easy to become accustomed to. The hardest thing to get used to might actually be that the controls for the wipers and indicators are also inverted, so you might trigger the wipers without thinking before turning!
Stop at Train Tracks
This one is very important and is different in other countries, probably due to the abundance and frequency of trains in Japan, you need to come to a standstill at train tracks. Just slowing down and looking if the way is clear isn’t enough, and you can get a fine for not respecting this rule.
Use your Hazard Lights
Hazard lights are used in situations other than emergencies in Japan. When you want to say thank you to another driver for letting you switch into their lane, for example, it is common to flash your hazard lights. Also, when you are the last vehicle at the back of a traffic jam, switch on your hazard lights to warn incoming vehicles that the traffic is slowing down.
Don’t Search for Street Names
In most cases, streets in Japan don’t have names, and building numbers are assigned by order of construction, so basically, searching for a place by its address is a very complicated task. Thankfully, most, if not all, rental cars come with a Car Navi that will help you get where you want really easily, you can search a location by name, address or even phone number!
Get Ready for High Expressway Tolls
Japanese expressways are usually in very good condition, and are often composed of a lot of bridges, tunnels, and overpasses. However, this level of quality has an impact on the toll prices, making them unusually high. So if you have time, we would advise you to take local roads when the conditions and locations are scenic, but if you’re just looking to go from A to B, it’s worth taking the highway.