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Japan – Driving

Japan is a beautiful country with a unique culture and a modern infrastructure. Driving in Japan can be a convenient and enjoyable way to explore the country, but it is essential to be aware of the local driving standards and regulations. In this article, we will discuss road safety in Japan, the legal requirements for driving equipment, rules of the road, road signs and traffic lights, where to get up-to-date road traffic info, and parking rules in Japan.

Road Safety in Japan

Japan has an excellent road infrastructure, with well-maintained highways and roads. However, driving in Japan can be challenging for foreigners, as Japanese drivers tend to be very cautious and follow the rules of the road strictly. Additionally, roads in rural areas can be narrow and winding, and there can be many steep hills and sharp turns.

Despite these challenges, Japan has a low rate of road accidents and is considered one of the safest countries to drive in. The government has implemented several safety measures, including speed cameras, traffic lights, and traffic safety campaigns. However, it is essential to drive carefully and follow the rules of the road.

Legal Requirements for Driving Equipment

If you plan to drive in Japan, you must have a valid driving license, insurance, and the following equipment in your car:

  • Reflective triangle
  • Spare tire
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • First-aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher

It is also advisable to carry a flashlight and extra water in case of emergencies. Failure to carry any of these items could result in a fine.

What to Do in the Event of a Road Accident in Japan

If you are involved in a road accident in Japan, you must:

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  • Stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident
  • Call the police and/or emergency services
  • Exchange personal details with the other parties involved in the accident
  • Take photos of the accident scene
  • Contact your insurance company

It is important to note that in Japan, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without reporting it to the police.

Driving Rules in Japan

When driving in Japan, there are several rules you need to follow. The rules are similar to those in other countries, with some exceptions.

Driving Side and Right of Way

In Japan, cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. The right of way is usually given to the vehicle on the main road, and drivers must yield to vehicles on the left unless there are signs or road markings indicating otherwise.

Speed Limits

Speed limits in Japan are as follows:

  • 100 km/h (62 mph) on highways
  • 50 km/h (31 mph) in built-up areas

Speed limits can vary depending on the road conditions and weather, and it is essential to look out for signs indicating the speed limit.

Other Important Rules

  • It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, unless using a hands-free system.
  • It is compulsory to wear seat belts in the front and rear seats.
  • Children under the age of 6 must be seated in an appropriate car seat.
  • It is illegal to drive with more than the legal limit of alcohol in your blood, which is 0.03%.

Road Signs and Traffic Lights in Japan

Road signs in Japan follow the standard international symbols, and most signs are self-explanatory. However, it is important to note that some signs may be written in Japanese only, and it is advisable to carry a Japanese-English dictionary to understand them better.

Traffic lights in Japan work the same way as in other countries, with red meaning stop, amber meaning prepare to stop, and green meaning go. It is important to obey traffic lights, as running a red light can result in a fine.

Where to Get Up-to-Date Road Traffic Info in Japan

To get up-to-date road traffic information in Japan, you can check the following websites:

  • Japan Road Traffic Information Center: The Japan Road Traffic Information Center provides up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic jams, and road closures. The website is available in English and Japanese.
  • Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO): The JNTO website provides information on road travel, including driving rules and regulations, and road conditions. The website is available in English and several other languages.
  • Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA): The JMA provides weather forecasts and warnings for all regions of Japan, including road conditions during severe weather events.

It is also important to note that local radio stations and news channels provide regular traffic updates.

Parking Rules in Japan

Parking in Japan can be challenging, especially in urban areas. It is important to pay attention to parking signs and avoid parking in areas where parking is prohibited. In addition, it is important to note that parking in some areas may require a permit.

Parking Permits

In areas with high populations of expats, such as Tokyo and Osaka, there are designated parking areas for residents with parking permits. These permits can be obtained from the local municipal office and are usually valid for a year.

Disabled Parking

In Japan, there are designated parking spots for disabled drivers. These spots are usually marked with a wheelchair symbol and are located close to buildings and facilities. It is important to have a valid disabled parking permit, which can be obtained from the local municipal office.

Driving in Japan can be a unique and enjoyable experience, but it is essential to be aware of the local driving standards and regulations. It is important to follow the rules of the road, obey traffic signs and signals, and exercise caution while driving. With proper planning and preparation, driving in Japan can be a safe and rewarding experience.