Driving in Japan isn't as difficult as it seems, but the paperwork and rules of the road might be a cause of concern. After you get used to driving on the left side of the road for a day or two, it is easy to navigate the roads of Akita. But, there are many things you have to do before you even start driving.
Below is a list of things that you should be aware of when you drive in Japan. Before you start driving, make sure that you do have all the things listed such as insurance and an international driving permit from your home country. Also, learn Japan's rules of the road and keep yourself and those around you safe.
Before you start driving
On the road
After 1 year
After 3 years
Electronic toll collection (ETC) is a system that, once installed in your car, automatically charges your Japanese credit card when you use the expressways. Once this system is set up, using the expressways are more convenient and much cheaper. The cost of the using the expressways has fluctuated over the past few years.
There are a few options when it comes to ETC. The easiest route for most Japanese is to get a credit card that links to ETC. This can be problematic for ALTs, as it is more difficult for us to get credit cards. Lawson's do however offer credit cards to everyone through their Credit Saison, Mizuho Bank. Debit cards like AEON's WAON card are another option. Rakuten credit cards are also relatively painless for ALTs to acquire. ANA also offers credit cards which you can pair with an ANA frequent flier account to accrue miles with purchases.
You can also apply to Japan ETC Card service (based in Yokosuka). They're an English speaking service and originally was created for military personnel, but now is open to anyone in Japan. They accept foreign credit cards as well. However there's a lengthy application process (as well as a 20,000 yen security deposit required).
There is also an non-credit option available. You can apply for the "ETC personal card" which has only the ETC function. The up-side is that you don't have to go through the hassle of getting a credit card here. The down-side is that it requires a deposit, between 20,000 yen to 80,000 yen (all of which you get back upon cancelling the card). The ETC personal card allows you to link your ETC card to your bank account.
If you plan to get one, you should also find out if your vehicle is already equipped with a card reader/transmitter.
There is no prepaid card option available.
- Rules of the Road Issued by the Japan Automobile Federation in various languages.
- Togashi Repair Shop Great place to bring your car for maintenance and repairs.
- ETC Homepage.
- Expressways of Japan.
- Toll costs. (Japanese)
- Driving Rules (English pdf from 2011; contains useful information about traffic rules. Info about penalties may be outdated)
- Getting your car crushed
|Traveling in Japan|
|Cars||Driving||Driving • Winter Driving • Driving Infractions • Roadside Station|
|Licenses||International Driving Permit • Japanese License Transition (Test Course Elements • Test Course Maps) • Renewing your Japanese License|
|Acquisition/Disposal||Buying a Car • Leasing a car • Transferring Ownership of a Car • Disposing of a Car|
|Other Transport||Trains • Akita Nairiku Line • Shinkansen • Buses • Ferries|
|Airports||Akita Airport • Odate-Noshiro Airport • Narita International Airport • Haneda Airport • Sendai Airport • Kansai Airport|
|Leaving the Country||Traveling in and out of Japan • Residence Card • Visa Extension • Travel Insurance • Buying Flights & Travel Agents|
|Other Topics||Exploring Akita • Getting to Tokyo • Akita JET travel guide • Where in the World is Sugichi? • Quirky Japan|
|Roads in Akita|
|Highways||Route 7 • Route 13 • Route 46 • Route 103 • Route 105 • Route 341|
|Expressways||Akita Expressway • Nihonkai Tohoku Expressway|