Driving in Japan. A foreigners unhappy perspective.

I get it.  When in Rome do as the Romans do.  But I’m not in Rome!  So I’m gonna let off some steam here.


Being born and raised on the west coast of Canada I’m used to driving on long straight roads with decent speed limits.

Now that I live in Japan, my patience has run thin. With the average speed limit of 40 km/h you never get anywhere in a hurry.

In my city, in the span of 3 kilometers there are 13 traffic lights!      Sometimes they are within 100 meters of each other and they are not synced to turn green (or blue in Japan’s case) at the same time.

If that’s not enough to frustrate me, Japan LOVES to do road work.Even on roads that don’t need work.   The government gives out a huge amount of money to fix roads so therefore, in order to use it all, they create work where it’s not needed.      You’ll see road work EVERYWHERE in Japan, holding up traffic at the worst times.

To add to the frustration, the highways here have a toll and it’s expensive!    To get anywhere in a hurry you must pay.     To go about 40 km will cost you around $10 depending on the size of your vehicle or whether you have an ETC card (which discounts the price somewhat).    So, to add insult to injury, all companies that own trucks take the low roads which are free and slug around in front and behind most cars. They block the view,  slow down on corners, crawl up hills, spew out diesel and never pull over.  It’s not their fault but it is annoying just the same.

About 4 years ago, mobile phones became illegal to use while driving.   A great idea.   It’s a fine of about $60.     So the rare group of people who actually follow this rule,  obey it by parking in completely dangerous places and being completely ignorant about those around them!

Driving defensively in this country appears to have not been taught at the driving schools. And that is amazing because it costs over $2000 US to get a driver’s license here.

Finally, since I am a cyclist who has been hit by a Japanese driver and sent to emergency with an operation to follow, I have been acutely aware of some typical driving habits here. One in particular is how the Japanese break far before they use their blinker to signal they’re going to turn.     In fact, some don’t even use their blinkers at all and feel completely fine about that.


Have a vented enough?  One last thing.

I play ice hockey in a town that is only 28 km’s from where I live.    It always takes me full hour to get there.      So the 40 km/h speed limit when added with road work, big trucks, hundreds of traffic lights and bad drivers – makes getting from point A to point B a really unpleasant experience.

– Ahhhh, that felt good to vent!