Rules of the Road

General Points
  • Drive on the left. This sounds obvious, but habits are hard to break and it can be easy to forget. Try attaching a sign and also remember that the driver’s side door always faces the road division.
  • Always keep a valid inspection (shaken) certificate and insurance certificate in your car.
  • Don’t use your phone while driving. Not only is it dangerous but there’s a ¥50,000 fine if you’re caught. Many auto stores sell hands-free devices.
  • Whether in a car or on a bike, you must stop for three seconds before crossing railroad tracks. Be sure to roll down your windows and listen for the sound of an oncoming train as well. 
  • Get to know Japanese road signs and street markings. A good reference can be found here.
  • You can buy a copy of Japan’s Road Traffic Law in English from JAF.
Drinking and Driving

There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving in Japan, so DO NOT do it. No matter what the laws were in your home country, in Japan if you’ve had even a sip of alcohol, that’s considered drunk driving and the penalties are extremely harsh. It applies to bicyclists as well. In addition, if you’re a passenger, you can be held responsible for allowing someone drive after drinking. Instead, take advantage of the taxi system or use a daikou service where you pay a taxi driver and his co-worker to drive you and your car back to your place.

Motorcycles and Motorbikes/Scooters

It is illegal to carry a passenger on a motorised bike (moped/scooter).  It is also illegal to carry a passenger when a motorcycle is not equipped with a passenger seat or a driver has had their motorcycle license for less than one year. You cannot ride 50cc motorbikes on the expressway and International Driving Permits are not valid unless you are licensed for motorbikes. A regular Japanese license is valid for 50cc motorbikes. Persons operating motorbikes must by law wear helmets. Motorcycles of 400cc and above require shaken inspections.