How to drive in Japan
To drive in Japan you need an international driver’s licence or you have a Japanese driver’s licence.
To obtain an international driver’s licence you should contact your national driver’s agency or you can apply via online at your country’s registration website.
In Japan the Japanese drive on the left side of the road. This means that you should give way to the right and keep to the left side.
Driving in Japan, you drive slower than what you will experience in your own country. This is because you have to lookout for pedestrians, cyclists and narrower roads.
Sometimes it is much faster to catch the train or even cycle to reach a destination.
When you turn or changing lanes you should signal with your indicators. But you may notice some Japanese do not signal. Please do not copy this behaviour as this is illegal and bad practice.
Also be aware when Japanese drivers turn on their emergency indicators this means as a “thank you”. For example if you allow someone to merge into your lane and they blink using the emergency indicators or blinking hazard lights this is a thank you gesture from the other driver.
Japanese driver saying “thank you”.
When there is a rail crossing, you should stop and look in both directions. Always. This is because of law and in case the crossing lights fail.
Watch out for beginner or learner drivers and Elderly drivers.
Beginner drivers can be spotted with the Shoshinsha mark (初心者マーク) or Wakaba mark (若葉マーク) which is a yellow and green ribbon badge.
The elderly drivers can be spotted with a orange-reddish and yellow tear drop badge or momiji mark 紅葉マーク. They are usually older or inexperienced drivers.
Japanese Driving Laws
DO NOT DRIVE under influence of Drugs or Alcohol. The legal limit is 0% for alcohol and you will be fined severely. If you get caught drink driving, the driver and also the passengers will get fined also.
Pedestrians and Cyclists have priority on the road. Please give way or slow down when you are near them.
Obey the speed limit. Japanese roads are usually clearly marked how fast you can go. The urban limit is usually 40 km/h (24.9 mph), normal road limits is 60 km/h (37.3 mph) and for national highways the limit is normally 100 km/h (62.1 mph). Speeding fine can go up to 9,000 yen or if you speed more the 30 km/h than the limit you can face up to 6 months of imprisonment or 100,000 yen fine.
Do not use your cell phone whilst driving or you will face up to 9,000 yen fine.
Parking illegally can cost you 18,000 yen fine.
It is compulsory that all passengers and drivers have to use seat belts. Children should use children seats if they are passengers.
If you are involved in an accident, it is important that you report it to the police. You can call the police 110 or ask someone for help to call them for you.
Traffic & Road Signs To Look Out For
Stop signs. 止まれ
Slow down 徐行
Give way. First stop and give way. 止まれ 前方優先道路
Give way. Slow down first and give way. 徐行 前方優先道路
Road closed to pedestrians 歩行者通行止め
No pedestrian crossing 歩行者横断禁止
Do Not Enter
Under construction 工事中
Must change lanes
Exit 出口 (eg to get off highway to out of car park)
Entrance on ramp
No Entry but two-wheeled vehicles can enter 二輪者を除く