Because of urban traffic congestion, driving within Japan’s major cities is not recommended for foreign visitors. However, driving on main roads between cities is a viable alternative to public transportation. Visitors who intend to drive in Japan should note the following:
On main roads most major destinations are sign-posted in English. In rural areas this may not be the case. If you are planning to drive in more remote areas, it is advisable to purchase a reliable English-Japanese road atlas before you depart. Companies such as Shobunsha and Kodansha publish these atlases.
Driving in Japan is on the left.
Parking can be difficult to find in some urban centres.
An International Driving Permit is required.
Tolls are levied on expressways and other major routes. Toll charges will depend on how far you wish to travel and which roads you intend to take. Example: Tolls for one route from Tokyo to Kyoto cost approximately ¥4,770.
The Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) publishes an English guide to driving in Japan called “Rules of the Road”. These are available at JAF offices throughout Japan. For further information go to the JAF web site or contact the International Affairs Department of JAF on Tel. +81 (0)3 3436 2811 /Fax. + 81 (0)3 3588 6055.
A Metropolitan Expressway map in English is available within Japan from the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation:
Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation
Nittochi Bldg 9F
1-4-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tel. (03) 3539 9259
Fax. (03) 3503 7678
International Driving Permit
If you wish to drive a car while in Japan, you must obtain an International Driving Permit prior to departure. You will also need to be in possession of your national license while driving in Japan.
International Driving Permits are generally issued by the national automobile association in your country. Some countries, such as Germany & Switzerland, do not have a reciprocal agreement with Japan to honour the permits. Please check with your automobile association when applying.