Across Japan, vehicles drive on the left side of the road and the majority of cars have the steering wheel on the right. The driving laws generally follow international standards and the vast majority of street signs – at least in the Tokyo area – are written in both English and Japanese. Major arteries within the city limits commonly allow for speeds of up to 40 km/h, although some roads only allow up to 30 km/h. As many streets do not have posted speed limits, the rule of thumb is to exercise both caution and common sense. Highway speed limits typically allow for between 80 and 100 km/h.
While the amber traffic signal in other countries requires that you slow down ahead of a red light, in Japan, the amber light often seems to be interpreted as “speed up”, and it’s not uncommon to see vehicles proceeding through an intersection as the light turns red.
As the driving regulations are not immediately available in English, visit http://www.japandriverslicense.com/ for more information about Japan’s vehicle laws, specifically as they relate to the license examination.
Due to Tokyo’s many cars and lack of parking spaces, finding a place to leave your car for any length of time can be a nightmare. Some meter parking does exist on major roads, but many park in small parking lots that are designated with a “P”. Most lots are open 24 hours a day, but the costs for parking can be exorbitant with some charging between US$4.00 to US$8.00 per hour.
Parking illegally in Japan, given the lack of space, is often met with strong penalties. Parking infractions can lead to receipt of penalty “points” on your license, and once a certain threshold of points are accumulated within a given period of time, law enforcement officials can suspend your license. In some areas of Tokyo, particularly the Roppongi district, police officers have been reportedly searching cars that are illegally parked in a purported effort to reduce crime.
Should you find yourself involved in an accident, it is the responsibility of the driver at fault to contact the police (the emergency telephone number for police is “110”). As many officers do not speak much English, you may be able to request a police interpreter when speaking with the dispatcher. Vehicles involved in minor “fender benders” should pull off to the shoulder of the road to allow traffic to continue flowing. Once the police arrive, they will want the drivers involved in the accident to share details including license plate number, name and address of the individuals involved, employment contact details, and insurance details so that they can complete the accident form and so that you can report the accident to your insurance company. If injuries exist, be sure to consult a doctor. Those seriously injured and in need of immediate assistance should contact ambulance dispatch by dialing “119”.