Road Trip ReadyKennith Snook | Transportation Supervisor
If you’re the type of person who likes spontaneous and adventurous trips on the road, then you’re not alone! I’m here to pass on some tips on the roads in Japan and ways to have your vehicle road-trip ready. Let’s start with the vehicle.
First, always make sure your vehicle has the correct levels of oil and coolant, your tires still have tread and air pressure, and all the lights work. Inside the vehicle, make sure there is a jack, a spare tire, a road flare, and a list of emergency phone numbers and contact information for Japan’s roadside assistance. This should all be provided by your secondary insurance company. If any warning lights on the dash are turned on or if you’d like to get a tune-up before the trip, MCCS Typhoon Motors is available to provide the service.
Now, as we all know, the biggest difference between driving stateside and in Japan is you will drive on the left side of the road. This means that the driver seat is on the right side of the car, and the turn signals and windshield wiper controls on the steering column are flip-flopped. Unfortunately, in Japan, you cannot automatically turn left at a red light, but at some intersections, red lights may have green arrows underneath indicating you may advance in that direction. Flashing your hazard lights can be a warning to other drivers, and it also means “thank you.” For example, when someone pulls over to let you pass on a small road or lets you into a busy road, you can flash your light to say “ah - thank you!”
Flashing your hazard lights can be a warning to other drivers, and it also means “thank you.” For example, when someone pulls over to let you pass on a small road or lets you into a busy road, you can flash your light to say “ah - thank you!”
Japan has plenty of indoor and outdoor parking garages marked with the letter “P”. If you look right outside the bustling city areas, you can find parking sections with hourly rates or overnight rates (normally 8 PM to 8 AM) that’s less expensive. Some range from ¥500 to ¥1,000 for the night. Parking spots are more narrow so be careful when opening doors. It is very common for drivers in Japan to park their cars in reverse, so please be courteous when they begin the parking dance of swinging out and then backing up into the parking space. Before I begin the dance, I like to turn my hazard lights on to warn other drivers and to say “ah - thank you!”
Now, learning to read another language is pretty difficult, but luckily, Japan has certain signs color-coded. Expressway entrance and exit gates have three different color markings: the cash toll line is marked with a green sign, the ETC toll line (similar to the E-Z Pass in America) is marked in purple, and the line that accepts both is marked with both colors. If you enter into the wrong one, no worries, an attendant will come out to help. At gas stations, if the gas pump handle is red, it’s for regular gas, if yellow, it’s for high octane gas, and if green it’s for diesel. They will either have self-serve or full-service stations, and if you encounter a self-serve, there is usually an attendant inside the gas station that can help guide you through the process. If no attendant, then do what I do: guess push buttons, insert a credit card, and wait to hear the gas pump turn on!
Safe travels everyone, and if you need a quick rest, a lot of convenience stores and expressway rest areas have free parking and restrooms inside. Power naps save lives.