Traveling by car in Japan is a convenient way to reach remote locations and explore the countryside or the mountains.
Despite a very good and comprehensive public transportation network covering most of the archipelago, driving a car allows for a greater autonomy regarding schedules, itineraries and luggage.
Traffic is left-handed in Japan, like the United Kingdom or Australia. Drivers must hold an international driving license, accompanied with a mandatory translation in Japanese.
Rental cars are usually from Japanese car makers, equipped with automatic transmission and frequently with a GPS in English. Driving is generally smooth, as Japanese people have the reputation of being courteous. However, beware of bicycles and two-wheeled vehicles that are prone to suddenly enter the road from the sidewalk.
Japan’s road network is well-maintained and several highways connect the largest cities. Speed is limited:
- 40km/h (25 mph) or less in cities;
- 60km/h (37 mph) on most roads;
- 100km/h (62 mph) on highways.
Traffic signs are increasingly displaying information both in Japanese and in roman characters for an easier reading. Traffic lights are placed across the intersection, like the United States.
Driving in Japan is still quite expensive: car rental costs, gasoline, costly tolls and rare and pricey urban parking fees quickly add up. The best solution for short distance travels or airport connection is to ride a taxi!