Since many of the greatest spots outside of the major cities aren’t accessible by public transport.
Japan is a great location for your next road trip. In fact, there are so many driving roads and scenic areas across the country — it’s the perfect place to spend some time driving through and enjoying the view. Many of the greatest spots outside of the major cities aren’t accessible by public transport, which is why it’s essential to take a car and explore them. Before you start off on your big adventure, here are 8 tips for planning your road trip:
1. Plan Your Route in Advance
Japan has many various attractions and heritage sites scattered all about the country, however, many of them are in remote places. If you plan your route in advance, you can make the most of your trip. Buy a map before you leave so you know exactly where everything is. Remember, there are quite a few toll booths. In fact, most highways are tolled roads so plan ahead. Most of them will accept card payments, but it’s good to keep cash on hand in case you need it.
2. Use Designated Parking Areas Only
You don’t want to spoil your trip with hefty fines. Make sure you’re parking in designated parking areas only. Japan has tons of paid parking lots, and typically, they’re easy to find. Sure, it’s free to pull over instead of pay, but you’re better off avoiding the $150 US fine that will absolutely cut into your vacation funds. If you need to map out a few designated parking areas before you head out, do so.
3. Book Your Hotels Before You Start Driving
Japan isn’t the type of place you can walk in and get a room. It’s simply not a last-minute kind of culture. There are tons of hotels that are bookable in advance. If you’d rather something a bit more traditional, try out a ryokan. They’re traditional inns that typically feature communal baths and other public areas. This is a great way to meet friends along your way! Looking for the best ryokan in Tokyo? Try one of these highly rated ones:
- Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa
- Ryokan Sawanoya
- Andon Ryokan
4. Avoid Speeding At All Times
Speeding is a sure-fire way to put a damper on your trip with a hefty fine. There are cameras all over the place, especially in the cities. It’s important to drive slowly and safely as it’s a big part of the culture there. That’s why accidents are so rare as most drivers are rather sensible. Fortunately, this makes road trips much less stressful as you don’t have to worry about other drivers being aggressive.
5. Familiarize Yourself with the Signs
Get familiar with the signs before you start driving. Many people who drive through the country struggle with getting around, reading street signs, and overall, driving in places they’ve never been. Road signs are typically written in English and Japanese, however, certain signs are difficult to understand. For example, the “stop” sign looks oddly familiar with the “yield” signs we see in the US.
6. Map Out Any “Emergency Stations”
If you’re renting a vehicle, you should have insurance and a 24/7 emergency number that will help you out in the event of a problem with the car or an accident. But if that’s not the case, map out any “emergency stations” along the way. These are frequently found on highways and expressways — offering travelers a place to get in touch with road services with a simple push of a button.
7. Be Aware of Different Road Rules
Japan has many different road rules you should be aware of before you leave. If you haven’t read up on them yet, make sure you do. Here are a few examples:
- No turning right on red lights: You will have to wait for a green light before you can make your turn
- Stop at railroad crossings: You must always come to a full stop before crossing the tracks, even if there’s no train approaching.
- No drinking and driving: Sure, this is common in most countries, but it’s very strict in that you cannot take even a few sips of alcohol.
- Prepare for Narrow Two-Way Roads
Japan doesn’t have very many one-way roads. Instead, they have a lot of very narrow two-way roads. In fact, many of these two-way roads are so narrow, you’ll think they’re a one-way because it looks like they’d only fit one car. You’ll want to prepare for this and drive carefully in these instances. Whenever another vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, it’s important to drive close to your side of the road.
Japan is an incredible place to visit — from tranquil temples to large castles to beautiful cherry blossom trees, there’s a lot to see. The problem is, many of the landscapes, mountains, and other attractions aren’t accessible via public transportation. A road trip is necessary to really appreciate the beauty of the country.