7 Things You Need to Know Before Driving in Japan

Driving in Japan is more convenient, especially when you need to travel in a small city which has no electric train as main transportation. Driving in Japan is not complicated, but there are few basic rules you need to follow strictly.

1. International Driving License

The first rule before get out on the road in Japan is International Driving License. If you are foreigners, you must have International Driving License to guarantee that you are able to drive. For International Driving License, you will need to apply and receive it in your home country in advance of your stay in Japan.

2. Minimum Driving Age is not less than 18 years old

To drive in Japan you need to be 18 years old but many rental companies will require you to be at least 21 years old with a minimum of one year’s driving experience for more safety conditions.

3. Remember basic traffic rules

  1. Fasten seat belt for all seats.
  2. Typical speed limits are not over 60km/h on local roads and not over 100km/h on expressways.
  3. Children under 6 years old must be seated in child safety seats.
  4. No cell phone while driving. If you really need to use it, please use a hands-free kit for phone instead.
  5. Wait for traffic lights. You cannot turn left on the red light in Japan.
  6. Vehicles turning right have to wait until the oncoming vehicle on the right has gone.
  7. Drive on the left-hand side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side.
  8. Driving after drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden in Japan.
  9. Traffic signs you need to know.

4. Getting on Expressways

The speed limit on expressways is not over than 100km/h. The fee is based on distance from 2,000 JPY to 30,000 JPY. There are two ways to pay for tolls; cash or credit card (green line with the word ‘一般’) and ETC card (blue line) which you can buy at the rental company.

Here are some useful vocabularies for using Japanese expressways:

Interchange (IC)

An expressways entrance and exit way. For example, Tokyo IC.

Junction (JCT)

A place where multiple expressways meet.

Parking Area (PA)

A small parking area which mostly has only toilet service.

Service Area (SA)

Service area is generally larger than parking area. There are full services, such as toilet, restaurants, shops, and gas station.

5. Parking

Every vehicle in Japan has to park in designated area. There are two types of parking area; free parking and paid parking.

Free parking

Most of this parking area is seen in shops, restaurants, hotels, country side and small town in Japan.

Paid parking

Paid parking is very common parking area in Japan. There are both normal parking lots and automated parking garage. Price is based on city. It is usually around 1,000-3,000 JPY per day.

6. Gas Station

There are two types of gas station in Japan:

Full Service

Full service gas station is the gas station with service staffs. Just stop the car, turn off the engine and open the car’s fuel filler. Then, tell the staff your fuel type, amount you would like to put in or the amount of money you would like to pay, they will refuel your car for you.

Self Service

You have to refuel your car by yourself at the Self Service gas station. Let’s start with select the payment method, choose your fuel type and select the amount of fuel at the machine. After that open the fuel filler opening, insert the pump nozzle all the way, refueling will begin when you squeeze the lever and stop when the selected amount of fuel is reached.

Each car is moved by different type of fuel. If you refuel with the incorrect type of fuel, the car will break down and become unable to move. In Japan, each gas station service three types of fuel, here are the fuel types using in Japan:

  • Regular unleaded (Red)
  • High-octane (Yellow)
  • Diesel (Green)

7. Emergency Guide

Emergency contact numbers in Japan are 110 for police and 119 for the Fire and Ambulance service.

If you are in case of emergency, calm down and following the below suggestions:

  1. If you’re involved in an accident, do not move the vehicle unless it is causing a danger to others.
  2. you have a reflective jacket and warning triangle sign in your car, you should use them.
  3. Call the police on 110 and inform the rental company if your car is a rental car.
  4. Swap insurance details with the other driver and collect details of witnesses while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.
  5.  If you need language help, please contact Tokyo English Lifeline on 03-5774-0992