Driving in Japan (part 1)

Of all the changes we had to adjust to when we made our move to Japan, one of the biggest was the driving. Obviously, we knew beforehand that we would have to get used to driving on the left –

Traffic desu?

but there’s more. (That’s kind of trippy though, right? About a month ago I saw a photo of a street in the states, with people driving on the right, and I second-guessed my lane choice for days. It’s weird.) For one thing, while stoplights may look the same as they do back in the States, not all traffic signs do. Hey, look! A stop sign!


Not to be mistaken for a ‘yield’ sign. The blue sign under it is a school crossing. Quick, what do you think this sign is?

40 lousy klicks.

If you guessed highway sign, you’re wrong. (If you guessed speed limit sign, then congratulations! You’re good at this game.) Let’s not forget, though, that Japan runs on the metric system, so that’s 40…kilometers…per hour. That works out to about 25 miles per hour. 40 kph is a very, very common speed limit around here. You’re not going to see much above 50 (about 30 mph) unless you take the expressway, where you can pay the toll for the privilege of traveling 70 kph – or nearly 45 miles per hour.  Yes. So, even though Japan is a small country geographically speaking, driving anywhere takes much longer than the distance would suggest because of the low speed limits. Hmmm, what next? Oh, yes: gas.

Regura gasorin o kudasai.

Those prices are yen per liter. Lets translate; that’s 101 yen to the liter for regular unleaded, 111 yen to the liter for premium unleaded, and 87 yen to the liter for diesel. (These prices are actually a steep drop from what they were about two months ago, when you were looking at 169 yen to the liter for regular unleaded – about $6.50 – $7 a gallon.) That means that right now gas is a steal at about $3.85 a gallon! Still, with tiny, fuel-efficient cars being the norm, huge amounts of people walking or taking public transportation, and those low, low speed limits, sky-high gas prices don’t cripple the Japanese economy the way that $7 a gallon gas would gut the US. As a side note, all of the gas stations I’ve ever seen here are full service – we made the attendant dash out to her pump when we paused our car to take the picture. (I felt badly about that. It was pretty cold out.)

I leave you today with a peculiar phenomenon captured on camera:

KFC wa oishii desu!

KFC…Japanese style. But what is that?! Let’s zoom in, here:

Yessss...come inside, my pretties, come in and eat my fried chicken.

Look! It’s a creepy Colonel Sanders! It’s both freaky and disturbing, in one convenient sculptural homage to the man who made arterial plaque a household name. Oh, my.

Well, that’s all for now. Next time: police cars, driving laws, what qualifies as a ‘street,’  and more!


  1. Marissa says:

    I knew most the signs, simply because I was in Germany a few months ago. However, the stop sign freaked me out!

    And the Colonel? My dog would be attacking him, he’s that odd.

  2. Driving Lessons Bournemouth says:

    In England we obviously drive on the left, and all round red bordered signs are orders, so all speed limit signs are the same as in the photo above. We have mph like you, not km. I have driven abroad a few times on the right, which definately does take some getting used to! There seems to be suprisingly few accidents though when foreigners first drive abroad, I guess everyone is extra careful!
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