Driving in Japan

Camping in a car is perfectly legal in Japan as long as you are not being a nuisance or parked illegally (non paid parking in central Tokyo for example) If urban camping then its best advised to laylow but if you are out in the countryside you are generally fine.  We provide in the van a map of places you can stay, so no need to overplan, just choose the places you want to explore and we can give you suggestions nearby. 

Here is some general rules on driving in Japan.

Roads and rules

Cars drive on the left side of the road and have the driver's seat and steering wheel on their right side. The legal minimum age for driving is 18 years. Drinking and driving is strictly prohibited. Road signs and rules follow international standards, and most signs on major roads are in Japanese and English. Vehicles have to come to a full stop before crossing any railway tracks.

The typical speed limits are 80 to 100 km/h on expressways, 40 km/h in urban areas, 30 km/h in side streets and 50 to 60 km/h elsewhere; however, drivers tend to go a little over the posted speed limits.

Most roads in Japan are toll free with the exception of expressways, some scenic driving routes and a small number of toll tunnels. Road conditions tend to be good, although side streets in the cities can be rather narrow or even impassable to larger vehicles. Traffic congestion is a frequent problem in and around urban centers.

Drivers generally tend to be well mannered and considerate, however some common dangers on Japanese roads include drivers speeding over intersections even well after the traffic light has turned red, people stopping their vehicles at the edge of the road in a way in which they block traffic, and careless cyclists, especially those who ride on the wrong side of the road.


International Driving Permits
Foreigners can drive in Japan with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for a maximum of one year, even if the IDP is valid for a longer period. It is not possible to drive on an International Driving Permit again after a year has passed unless you return to your home country for at least three consecutive months in between.

International driving permits are not issued in Japan and should be obtained in your home country in advance. They are usually issued through your country's national automobile association for a small fee. Japan only recognizes international driving permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which are issued by a large number of countries.

Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Monaco, Slovenia, Switzerland and Taiwan do not issue permits based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, but instead have a separate agreement that allows drivers from these countries to drive in Japan for up to one year with an official Japanese translation of their driver's license. A translation can be obtained from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) or some of the respective countries' embassies or consulates in Japan.

People from other countries whose international driving permits are not recognized by Japan and people who stay in Japan for more than one year, must obtain a Japanese driver's license.

Gas Stations
Gas stations are found all across Japan. They traditionally provide full service, although self service stations have greatly increased over recent years. Many gas stations close during the night, while others are open 24 hours. A liter of regular gasoline costs roughly 150 yen (as of June 2018). High octane gas and diesel are also widely available. Payment is possible by credit card or cash.

Getting gas at a full service (フル) station requires some simple Japanese. When you pull into the station, an attendant may direct you to a stall. Park, open your window and shut off your car. Tell the attendant what kind of gas (e.g. "regular"), how much (e.g. "mantan" for full tank) and how you will pay (e.g. "credit card"). He may give you a wet towel to clean your dash or ask to take your garbage. When finished he may ask which direction you wish to leave and then direct you out into traffic.

Self service (セルフ) stations only provide Japanese language menus. If in trouble, an attendant should be present and able to help you. Note that when paying by cash, the change machine is often a separate machine or inside the gas station building.

Parking


Parking in the center of large cities is very expensive, costing several hundreds of yen per hour. Fees decrease with the size of the city and the distance to the city center. In small towns and in the countryside, parking is often free. Parking lots in national parks or near tourist attractions sometimes charge a flat fee (typically 200 to 500 yen per use). Urban hotels usually provide parking for their guests at a flat rate (typically 1000 yen per night), while hotels outside the large cities usually offer free parking.

Besides standard parking lots, you may encounter a few unique types of parking lots in Japan. The first are elevator parking lots in which cars are stored in towers. Drivers are directed to park their car onto a lift, which will automatically store the car in the tower. When coming back, the car will be fetched by the lift and returned to you.

The second unique type of parking lot uses low barriers underneath the cars which raise up to physically block in each individual vehicle. Once you have paid your parking fee (either at a central payment machine or at the parking space), the barrier lowers and you can safely drive away. This type of parking lot is usually seen around small urban lots.

(This article was "borrowed" from Japan guide https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2022.html)

June 4, 2018

For more information check out the Japan Automobile Federations as they have a great site for travellers, their road side assistance is included with your rental price http://www.jaf.or.jp/e/travelers/

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