Winter driving

The winter in Akita has enough snow to make winter tires necessary. Winter tires can be expensive, depending on the car.

In the winter, change to winter windshield wiper blades. The ones used in the summer will become useless if they are used much in icy weather. Or buy new wiper blades in the spring.

Driving safely on icy roads

1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. Most cars in Japan have ABS now. It is no longer necessary to ease of the brake for fear of your wheels locking up. If the ABS begins to work, then break strongly. You should feel your pedal vibrate if the ABS has been activated.

3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.

5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

6. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid...

1. Take your foot off the accelerator.

2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.

3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.

2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck...

1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.

4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.

6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner's manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Sources: National Safety Council, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Washington State Government Information & Services

Winter Driving Survival Kit

It’s a good idea to keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle. Having essential supplies can provide some comfort and safety for you and your passengers should you become stranded.


Recommended items include:

  • Ice scraper/snowbrush
  • Shovel
  • Sand or other traction aid
  • Tow rope or chain
  • Booster cables
  • Road flares or warning lights
  • Gas line antifreeze
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Small tool kit
  • Extra clothing and footwear
  • Blanket
  • Non-perishable energy foods – e.g., chocolate or granola bars, juice, soup, bottled water
  • Candle and a small tin can
  • Matches


Did you know?

Not only can the candle and small tin help with lighting, but also generate some heat while waiting for help.

See also


Traveling in Japan
Driving Driving • Buying a carInternational Driving Permit • Changing to a Japanese license • Renewing your Japanese licenseWinter drivingSpeeding ticketsDrinking and drivingRoadside Station
Other Transport Trains • Akita Nairiku Line • Shinkansen • Buses • Ferries
Airports Narita International Airport • Haneda Airport • Akita Airport • Odate-Noshiro Airport • Sendai Airport • Kansai Airport
Leaving the Country Residence Card • Travel insurance • Buying flights & travel agents