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El Monte’s Driving Guide in Japan

How to Drive in Japan

How To

Driving as a tourist in a foreign country can be a stressful thought, and Japan is no exception. Which way of the road should I drive? What are the speed limits in cities or on highways, how much does a parking space cost? This is even truer when driving a vehicle such as an RV.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. El Monte RV Japan will explain you need to know to enjoy a stress-free driving experience!

Driving in Japan: Basic Information

First of all, before touring in Japan by car or RV, it is important to remember some of the basics, but nonetheless essentials, rules:

– in Japan, cars drive to the left side of the road, while the driver’s seat and the steering wheel are located on the right side.
– The legal driving age in Japan is 18 years old.
– The seatbelt must be worn at all time by the driver and all passengers in the vehicle.
– Infant younger than six years old must be placed in a child seat.
– Unless with a hands-free kit, driving while using a cellphone is not allowed.

In order to drive in Japan, you must show a valid Japanese license or an international driving permit with your passport. For some countries, a certified translation of your driver’s license might be needed. Please refer to our User Guide for more information. (https://elmonterv-japan.com/jprental/en/guidance). There are several types of driver licenses, but for one of El Monte’s Japan vehicle, a regular one is enough.

While driving, you must always carry your license with you. In case you violate a traffic rule or cause an accident, you will have to show it to a police officer. Not being able to comply is punishable by a fine up to 300,000 yen or imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Japanese Traffic Rules: Speed Limits

Maximum speed are usually shown on traffic signs and road markings. The driving speed limit can vary greatly depending on the area, but usually you should expect:
‐ Between 30 to 40km/h in cities.
‐ Maximum of 60 km/h on ordinary roads.
‐ A minimum of 40 km/h and a maximum of 100 km/h on expressways.

Parking spaces in Japan:

Another popular topic related to driving in Japan is the parking spaces. Parking can be very expensive in Japan. As a general rule, fees will adjust depending on the size of the city and how far you are from the center. If you are driving in Tokyo or Osaka, expect to pay several hundreds of yen per hour.

In addition, even if our RVs are usually able to fit in most parking spaces, it is usually best to park a little away from the city center before exploring.

Regarding the types of parking spaces available, Japan has quite a few unique systems:

– Elevator parking lots: This system store the cars in towers. Drivers are directed by the staff to park their car onto a circle lift. Then, they are automatically stored in the tower. If you are driving an RV, please note that you won’t be able to use them due to the height of the vehicle.

– Flap-lock parking: This type of parking lot has low barriers installed in the middle of each parking space. They raise up once parked. To lower them, the driver simply needs to pay the parking at the parking space or at a payment machine usually located at the entrance of the parking lot.

If you are found parking illegally in Japan, a yellow sticker will be placed on the vehicle. You will then need to go to the nearest police station and pay the fine, after which you will get a receipt from the police officer.

Gas stations in Japan:

While traveling in Japan, you can encounter two types of gas stations; full service or self-service. They dispense regular, diesel and high-octane fuel. If you rent one of our RVs, just remember that they all work on diesel.

– Full-service station:
Pretty popular in the past but, in the recent years, they are declining in numbers. You will usually be greeted by one or more attendants who will guide to the nearest available pump. They will first ask you which type of gas need, then how you wish to pay. Once they fill out your vehicle’s tank, they will take your payment. In the meantime, it is also possible that another attendant offers to clean your windows and mirrors, or even empty your ashtray. This service is free. The employee will then guide you out and open the way by stopping other cars.

– Self-service:
As the name suggests, this second type of gas station means that you need to operate it by yourself. It might be a little trickier to use if you do not know some Japanese, however there should always be a staff onsite to assist you if needed. The process consists of first selecting on the screen the payment method, choose the type of gas (diesel is the green pump), the amount, refuel, then pay.

Don’t drive if you drink!

Unlike in the United States or some European countries where a low blood alcohol concentration can be tolerated, Japan has a very strict zero-tolerance policy.

The penalties for driving while intoxicated are severe, so it is extremely important for someone driving in Japan to not take this topic lightly. Depending on the driver’s alcohol breath content, imprisonment up to 5 years or a fine not exceeding 1 million yen. But beware that passengers may also be subject to penalties for a driver’s actions. So if you plan to drink anything, simply stay away from the steering wheel.

Most Common Road Signs:

Japanese road signs are not really different from what you would find in your home country. They are divided into four different categories: Guide, warning, regulatory and instruction signs. Most of them are quite straightforward or come with an English translation. However, we compiled below some of the ones you should be aware of while driving:

Guide signs:

Expressway ramp Expressway exit Detour
National highway Prefectural highway Prefectural
Highway (inter-city)

Warning signs:

Crossroads Traffic lights
Traffic ahead
Falling rocks Roadworks Other dangers

Regulatory signs:

Slow down Stop Road closed
To vehicles
Speed limit Bicycle only No parking

Instruction signs:

Stop line
(overhead installation)
Controls ahead

As road sign are directly part of Japan road rules, be aware that not respecting them is punishable by law.

With this, you should be all set to abide by Japan’s traffic rules and to enjoy your trip stress-free. We wish you a wonderful time in Japan!

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