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Why I hate driving in Japan

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By William Bonds

I don’t get out of Japan as much as I used to, but as far as I’m concerned, driving overseas is a zillion times more enjoyable than it is here. Why? Well here are 10 reasons.

  1. Country roads. The most pleasurable thing about driving, for me, has always been cruising along a road less traveled in the British/American/Canadian/European countryside—there are few cars, no speed cameras and only beautiful scenery to look at. The Japanese countryside is polluted with ugly overhead cables, ugly villages and boring, boring roads.

  2. Driving lessons. Getting a license in this country is ridiculously time-consuming and expensive. I know this because Mrs Bonds is halfway through the process. There are, if I remember rightly, around 40 hours of driving lessons, 30 hours of classroom lessons and five tests to take. It will cost around 300,000 yen. All this wouldn’t be so bad if Mrs Bonds were actually learning how to drive—but in fact all that is just to learn how to pass the exams. After she’s got her license, I’ll have to teach her how to drive.

  3. Truck drivers. When the missus finally does earn her license, she won’t get any help from truck drivers. In Japan, like many other countries, “might is right.” Truckers seem to think that they have the right of way on any stretch of road. This is most apparent on expressways, when they drive right up your rear to try and bully you into moving over.

  4. Blinkers. Do driving schools teach you what those orange lights are for? Even if they don’t, just how stupid can the drivers of Japan be? You put your indicators on before you brake to show that you are about to turn. Every day, I see drivers brake, then indicate, and then turn. The dumbest thing in Japanese motoring.

  5. Insurance. OK, we need insurance, but my insurance man just quoted me a rate that’s higher for my second car than my first car, which is worth three times as much. On top of that, he says that because my second car is so cheap, it’s not covered for damage. So I pay less to get more insurance for a more expensive car. What’s more, he can’t link the two cars’ insurance policies. Oh yes, and I’m not covered for theft. Eh?

  6. Shaken/taxes. You must get your car tested three years after you bought it new, and every two years thereafter. A dealer will charge you in the region of 150,000 yen to do this (my local mechanic does it for half that). A car inspection program is good, but this isn’t it. And how many privately owned Japanese cars need to be inspected after three years? Almost none. It’s an unrealistic and unnecessary burden on the car owner.

  7. Parking. You have to have a parking place before you can own a car in Japan. Maybe not such a stupid idea, but the street parking in cities is way out of hand. Enforcement has improved, but there are still too many cars blocking too many roads. On the other hand, you will get a ticket for parking in a metered spot after-hours. Well, if a spot is OK during busy hours, why can’t we use it when the roads aren’t busy? Doesn’t make sense.

  8. Tolls. I hate tolls. Apart from being an inefficient system for collecting money, they are way too high. OK, PM Aso has reduced them temporarily. Well done, but no one should be charged for sitting in a 50 kms traffic jam. You should only have to pay for expressways if they do their job, i.e., getting you from A to B fast.

  9. PC Plod. A cop caught me speeding last week. Was it fair? Well, yes, I was speeding, but it was on a coastal toll road with absolutely no traffic. Possibly the quietest, safest road in Japan. Penalizing me on that road will not contribute to road safety in any way; he was just making sure he got his quota for the month. The police too often go for the easy target while letting the loonies go free.

  10. Old People, young people. Confucius says old people are the repositories of wisdom. No, stupid people only get stupider as they grow older. And young stupid people are just plain dangerous. Restrict what they can drive and keep death off the roads.

William Bonds is an automotive journalist based in Chiba.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

77 Comments
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Good writing. Absolutely right.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, yes, I was speeding,

**I agreed with most of the article but what a ridiculous sentence this was. I was breaking the law but i only got penalised because a police office wanted to fill in his paperwork is what the writer is saying. Don't speed then.

**

0 ( +0 / -0 )

you forgot to mention if you have your hazard lights on you can park anywhere

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This is about 1/2 of it. On all 6-lane expressways, the slow lane is the center lane. How stupid is that?!?!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jeremy Clarkson cliches abound. Oh dear. "Old People, young people." Baby-boomer superiority complex. "A cop caught me speeding last week..." Diddums.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hiroshima has some fun country roads until you see drivers coming straight at you hauling ass and in the wrong lane .

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Bill, now that you have vented... do you feel better?

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Right on. I might add highway lanes. They seem much narrower here than overseas, including other Asian countries. My Japanese girlfriend and I wondered about this while in Bangkok. Can anyone confirm?

Long-distance driving on a highway while having to take constant care to stay within a narrow lane seems like another needless frustration.

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Why not get rid of the car(s) if driving is such a hassle? You can spend the money saved on holidays elsewhere.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wow some one in a bad mood twisting the reality and unable to find pleasure (point 1) where others easily have. I laughed at the point at the end when you admit you are wrong but then imeadiatly say BUT! you obviously didnt learn squat! {speeding!} and beacuse you were wrong and caught thats why you are in a bad mood and have written something thats fairly unbalanced globally as could be applicale almost anywhere. I got you are from the UK so that makes all Japanese BMW or Merc drivers then - point 4 - famous for blinkers that dont work or too difficult too operate. lol

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William Bonds is an automotive journalist based in Chiba.

I know him by the style of writing. It cannot be mistaken lol

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maintenance - all Japanese i 've met are always very shocked and think how japan is great when they see the number of broken down cars on hard shoulders of expresways abroad... hence the hard shoulders are needed so much. go a simple journey of 100 miles round say London on the "expressway" you will without fail see 2 to 10 broken down cars every journey. In Japan almost never. but hey dont have to pay so much for the maintenance or care about it so much in the uk so depends what you prefer. I get the impression basically this guy seems to know little about driving or japan, or really is in the wrong place and or wrong job.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The main highways in Japan are on par with the rest of the world. Many of the country roads certainly could use some engineering, but if one takes their time it is a pleasure to travel in Japan. Beauty of a place is something that grows on you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It seems as though landowner rights are quite strong in Japan. I just drove my wife to the Eki and I have to stop for telephone poles where there is two way traffic. Some places only had one lane on a two way street. One has to stop because of someone's land buts into the road to allow traffic from the other direction to pass. Eminent domain would have solved the problem in many countries. It is very sad for the pedestrians and bicycles. Maybe before the car the people traveled by foot and carried cargo in the populated areas. Only Samurai had horses? On a positive note, I do see wider roads in new developments. It is evolving. Also some of the architecture is outstanding.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think it's hard to find good driving roads due to the way they always line them with trees. A safety issue no doubt to stop people screaming round corners as they can't see well, so will ease off a bit.

I have been there, done that. It is very expensive and time consuming. Another racket as most will take the easy but costly path over the cheap but near impossible police test at the prefectural licence centres.

Yep, I agree there. They way they bully you on expressways is not acceptable but might is right, as far as they are concerned.

I think most Japanese drivers are good with indicators. Apart from Taxi drivers who feel that hazards lights on means you can stop anywhere at any time. They really piss me off.

Insurance is a necessary evil. Nobody wants to pay, but then again nobody wants to pay for a wrecked car if T-boned etc, by some tit who thinks that running red lights is okay.

Shaken is a racket designed to encourage new cars sales. Of course, safety is important too.

A good idea on the whole but the lack of on street parking is annoying. You should be able to park in P60 spaces at night without fear of getting a ticket.

Tolls are another racket. Way too expensive, bordering on the insane really. If a road is paid off it should be free or very cheap.

The police are not too militant here, I feel. Japan is thankfully 'speed camera on every corner' free, unlike my country. Being pulled for speeding isn't difficult as the limits are ludicrously on certain roads.

Watch out for the grannies. They are the worst.
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tokyo34: if that were the only comment I was able to make; a comment that has been trotted out ad nauseum by people incapable of repsonding to criticism or making valid points, I'd be very embarrassed.

On the whole I've enjoyed driving, and especially motorcycling, in Japan. Getting a license was a doddle. I just had to obtain a translation of my British license and pay a few thousand yen. My major gripes are people routinely run red lights; cyclists riding whereever they please (they should be on the left); the apparent death-wishes of most Japanese motorcyclists; having to take the morning off work to go and change a detail on my licence (everything's online in the UK); and the shaken. While I agree that vehicles should be inspected thoroughly every few years, the shaken is confusing, expensive and beset with pitfalls. I've fallen foul of the shaken system because I let my motorcycle's shaken lapse. I thought I could book a session at a shaken centre and then ride there perfectly legally, as one would be able to do in Britain. But no, I need to get the bike transported to a centre. "YOUR FAULT - STUDY KANJI HARDER - RESPECT THE RULES!" I hear all the usual J-adorers cry. It's odd though that when I showed the shaken homepage to a Japanese co-worker and asked him if he could explain it a bit more clearly, all I got was teeth-sucking and 'wakaranai'. So the system is probably confusing for Japanese people too.

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There are some BEAUTIFUL country roads outside kyoto and in many parts of Japan!

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1 I dont know where Bill lives but Kansai is full of quaint little villages and sight seeing spots so going for a drive in the country here makes a wonderful date. Electric wires? got them in every country I have ever been in...

2 You can get a license by having your license from back home translated, taking the simple written test and then taking the driving test. They are ridiculously hard on people that 'did not go to school' so you may have to take it a couple times, but you can get some time on the actual course with an instructor for just a few thousand yens to practice. You can drive on an international license for 1 year.

3 Yes the truck drivers are insane, especially dump truck drivers. Give them plenty of room and dont provoke them. That being said, ever drive in Mexico?

4 I have not really noticed that many people exhibiting that behavior, I will look more closely.

5 hahaha, after driving millions of miles in america, I am a noobie driver and have to pay the noobie driving tax. Had I thought about the insurance, I would have married an older girl ; ) Our second car is not excessively expensive.

6 Shaken, yes it is expensive, driving in japan is expensive. The same Honda here cost way more than back home... go figure. gas, insurance, shaken... At first it really rankled me but I did my shaken myself, and I am thankful that every dink can not afford a car. If it were as cheap to drive here as back home, there would be no parking and the traffic would be unbearable.

7 Parking, big problem, and expensive... see 6

8 Being american, freedom means everything to me. And freedom = FREE so I hated tolls. After struggling on the low roads for 6 months, I finally decided my sanity had a value as well and started using the kousoku toll roads. Now, I appreciate the tolls. Tolls = choice. When I really need to get there soon, they are available at a price, if I have the time and patience taking the roads more traveled can be fun as well. HOWEVER, Commander Aso really messed up with the 1000 yen max on weekends. First, that money is not free and I have to pay for it in my taxes because NEXCO wants their cut and Aso kun is covering all that discount out of the public coffers. Idiot. Plus of course, it means that the kousoku roads are one giant traffic jam from saturday morning to sunday night. Aso's stupidity = no choice on weekends. How can we get rid of this guy?

9,10 Speed traps are part of the game. Just remember the speed limits here are unreasonable slow in many places. Ever drive in Mexico? ; ) Old = hazard in any language.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I hate tolls"

I don't think anyone loves tolls, but, hey, the money to maintain the roads has to come from somewhere.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

perfectly agree, lest point 1. we went to the countryside (mountains in Ngano, Gunma, Niigata) and ocean side (Izu), and the roads and scenery was absolutely gorgeous

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Country roads? Seriously, I don't want to say it but Japan is Japan it is not America and doesn't have to be, I hate saying this but if you don't like it don't drive in the country or leave Japan, you can't change the way a village looks.

Parking spaces, You only have to prove you have a parking space in cities like Tokyo, outside Tokyo it is not required.

Shaken, do you it yourself, alot of people don't actually know you can do your own shaken for very very cheap.

If you were speeding (and breaking the law) I'm glad you got a ticket, rather you got a ticket than killing someone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am glad the author was limited to the driving theme. I agree with tokyo34, if you don't like it that much why even do it and it would be a reasonable guess that there are alot of other things the author hates about Japan. Japanese driving is different to western countries but some of the points in the article are just not valid comparisons or even true. How about this, there are not that many speed cameras, red light cameras, police are less inclined to enforce rules like the in western countries, truck drivers are not worse in Japan than other countries, there are some really nice places to drive to, toll roads on the W/E in the kansai area are 1000Y max, drivers tend to be less aggressive in Japan, insurance is no more or less than many countries, shaken is no more or less than in many other countries also. Park in a no parking zone in any country and risk the fine. BTW correct me if I am wrong gogogo but I think it is now a requirement to have proof of parking Japan wide which is not a bad idea really but a pain in the neck also.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you were speeding (and breaking the law) I'm glad you got a ticket, rather you got a ticket than killing someone.

Yup.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I actually love driving in Japan, and if I didn't, I could always take the train. Sure the tolls are high, but that is why the roads are smooth because they get repaved every few years (unlike Interstate 5 in Los Angeles). There are plenty of beautiful country roads in Japan, which offer scenery of rice fields, houses, cedar trees, mountains, lakes, etc.

My one complaint of driving in Japan would be the traffic lights, how many of them are not sequenced well and are set by a timer and not by the amount of traffic. You could sit at a red for 5-10 min. when there are no cars in the street in which the light is green for. Also, a light could be green but you can't go because the traffic is backed up from the next light that has been red for awhile, or you will block the intersection. Plus you have a lot of rail road crossings, which shows you that Japan is not built for the automobile like America was.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

trucks? there are no trucks in japan, only big vans. try driving the 401 in canada surrounded by huge 18 wheelers who drive in packs, block the passing lane, ride up your a$$ and cut you off without the slightest hesitation. "how's my driving? call 1-800-f-off!"

oh, and that signal before braking thing? first of all, montreal drivers signal with their middle finger. if mr bonds had his way, we'd all be turning corners at 50 kph because of those little side streets and driveways that are always before the big streets. japanese signal for the corner they will turn at, not the one before it. if they have to slow down first, that's just reality.

and 40 hrs of driving lessons? more than enough. I had 10 hrs and was thrown to the montreal testers. in the test, the guy told me to turn the wrong way on a one-way street, make an illegal turn, pass a car on the right (left in japan)and park in front of a hydrant.

btw chiba is not considered the countryside. it's part of the megalopolis of 38m people called greater tokyo. you want nice roads? go to gunma. if you're really desparate for a drive in chiba, go tothe hills of kisarazu or take the back road between kamogawa and ichihara. not great, but not bad.

I can't believe he didn't mention traffic or scooters and motorbikes. those were my pet peeves, a while ago.

buddy has probably lived here for about 3 yrs, just gotten his japanese license, and is having a little culture shock. one word of advice: RELAX. Enjoy the traffic jam. it's a great time for conversation.

and thank his lucky stars he doesn't drive in montreal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My theory - always keep a good distance between your car and the one in front of you and nothing can go wrong.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Regarding speed limits, they are too low on some roads, yet others that require traffic calming measures like speed bumps or chicanes, well, such things are nowhere to be found. For example, on the decline of a road like Hakone shindo, I think it's almost impossible to adhere to the posted limit as otherwise you would be riding the brakes the whole time. Also, in Japan AT cars are the norm yet engine braking is not as strong as that found in MT cars, which makes it even harder at times keep to one speed. My car is MT so I can put in 2nd if I wish but don't want to as why should I grind my gearbox and waste fuel, just so I can 'cruise' at 50kph on a road with no peds or cyclists. The issue isn't speed but intelligent use of speed limits. Yes, enforce those lower limits in built up urban areas, but don't punish drivers for moderate speeding on wide open, multi lane carriageways. For example, the Odawara Atsugi road has a limit of 70kph. Anyone who has driven there will probably agree that it's ludicrous limit for such a road.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sydenham> I think by truck he means the big ones such as lorries (if you are British), trailers, car transporters, oil trucks and such; not the luxury humvees.

I live next to what could be called an Interstate road. It's rather quiet, considering people rarely honk if ever. Trucks come down around 5am and yes, they fly low rather than drive on the road. In day time the trucks go slower but still I've seen some reckless driving here. My sensei knows the crossing near my place and when he heard I live nearby his eyes shot open wide and he gasped, "that is a dangerous crossing, you should always be careful!" I am very careful when I cross any street. I've seen worse in my country, where trucks are colloquially called Erasers. You may guess why.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I drive the twisties in the Kansai area like nobody's business. I agree that the fuzz in Japan is always going after the easy prey so if you get yanked then make their life hard. Agreeing with them will still get you the ticket so play with them. Then again pigs are pigs everywhere in the world and is some places you have to pay your way out of a charge they came up with so really Japan isn't any worse than the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Oz, Sheepland.

People not using the blinker, well that's just one of few things to get your ginch in a bunch but they are much better at signalling in Japan than in North America.

All this talk of driving has my car honking at me asking me when we're leaving so we'll continue this later...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What foreigners absolutely must understand before taking to the roads here is that driving rules, and the enforcement thereof, are totally arbitrary and whimsical. I've seen people stop in the middle of moving traffic, then start backing up, because they missed a turnoff and didn't understand -- or refused to accept -- that the only practical and legal thing to do is to drive on to the next exit. It's enough to drive one crazy. The only thing I do give Japanese drivers credit for is having the world's best depth perception, They can actually park their vehicles in a space with 10mm clearance in all directions. Maybe this explains why their factories are so good at turning out precision products.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you have a destination like a golf course, and 3-4 to play together, the car pull routine is a very familiiar way to do it.Being on the recipient end of things, I'm always sure to chip in on gas, tolls, and buy the driver a coffee or snack on the way to and fro. For years (about 10), I ran a catering business and drove all around Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and that was before the days of Navitime! I learned by my mistakes, but I learned quickly that "driving defensively" was the only sane mode. Anything on the aggressive end and trouble awaited soon and bigtime. That being said, I wonder how this type of commentary got its way into the news to begin with? I'd love to see someone write a commentary titled "Why I hate smoking (places) in Japan." Will such a topic ever be addressed properly, and without fear and favor? I sure hope so, and soon!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Foxie - Good theory. Unfortunately, nine out of ten drivers don't maintain a respectable distance between their car and the car in front of them.

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Azrael, sure, I know what you mean, but still the j-trucks are tiny compared to the behemoths driving the NAFTA trade route.

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I don't understand why he fails to mention "Traffic lights". Japanese cities are really stumped full of traffic lights. So many it actually gets ridiculous. It annoys me more than anything when driving in Japan.

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And the number of guys who run reds. He didn't mention that either.

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Driving lessons. Getting a license in this country is ridiculously time-consuming and expensive.

thank the heavens I not American and could get a licence just by converting my licence from home...though even that was somewhat of a mission that took two trips.

The traffic light situation as someone mentioned is ludicrous, the timings are infuriating, I frequently see people sneaking through a red at stupidly timed intersection. Get sensors Japan!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When did the author of that piece last drive in the UK? All but point 8 of his whine could also be written about the UK.

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And the number of guys who run reds. He didn't mention that either.

That is precisely the reason I will NEVER drive on Japanese roads, red lights are routinely ignored here. It scares me! Not a day goes by when I don't witness at least a few drivers flying through intersections to beat red lights. At least in Australia you will be caught and lose your licence for doing this.

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My theory - always keep a good distance between your car and the one in front of you and nothing can go wrong.

you obviously don't drive here - they have not heard of that. Leave a space and several cars will just slip in there. Pointless!

And yes blinkers must be optional extras here as no-one seems to use them.

Don't even get me started on the shaken - what is that all about? In the UK you put your car in for a service and MOT and they do what has to be doneto get it through. Last week after my car's shaken I asked the mechanic 'so what about the tyres?' to paraphrase not safe you must get new ones but not to worry it's not part of the shaken inspection - WHAT!!! The primary safety point on a car is not part of the shaken inspection...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is my favorite discussion ever.

I had found driving in Japan extremely irritating until I discovered the solution.

Leave the house earlier.

I'm incredibly patient with other drivers now that I'm not in a hurry. I let everybody in and am happy to drive the speed limit as I know it's improving my fuel economy. I signal at least five seconds before moving my car to the next lane and leave it on until I'm well in the lane. I never weave over the center lines.

I'm just trying to set a good example.

I am lucky enough to live across the street from a mechanic who will do my shaken for only 50,000 yen.

I don't mine if others slip their cars in front of mine. That's why I left them the space. Feel free to use it. Glad to help you get where you're going. I'm sure I've done the same myself. Just reset your distance to 3 seconds behind the other car.

Remember: leave early and you won't hate driving.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very good helloKitty. I do the same. I am much more patient.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Avoid rush hour if at all possible, and drive in the "Slow Vehicle" lanes on the Tomei. They're usually faster than the right hand truck convoy lane, all doing 87km/h uphill. I can often get to 160km/h or more, bypassing the glut, off radar (trained only on the right hand lane), and still make good time past the porno-reading drivers swigging sho-chu. Remember, driving rules in Japan are suggestions only!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hellokitty, that's exactly what i do too. i often end up getting to places early, with time to get a coffee and relax.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

for gogogo :

Parking spaces, You only have to prove you have a parking space in cities like Tokyo, outside Tokyo it is not required. ---not true, up here in the sticks, I have to prove I have a parking space.

Shaken, do you it yourself, alot of people don't actually know you can do your own shaken for very very cheap. ---please tell me how to do this? Mine is coming up and I'd like to save ¥130,000!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is most apparent on expressways, when they drive right up your rear to try and bully you into moving over.

Then get over and stop slowing traffic.

People that think the passing lane is just a regular lane they can tool along in just because they want to really irk me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, a bit of a rubbish article, but since we're all taking the chance to complain:

people who never, ever stop on ambers. I like to count the number of cars that follow me through an orange light which is too late for me to stop, but those behind me ought to be able to stop for. The fact that the writer didn't mention this and got done for speeding suggests he's a leadfoot. People crossing orange lines to overtake you when the total road is only wide enough for two cars. Impatient -------- that need to be caught and fined. Complete lack of sidewalks and shoulders for safety. A part of Japanese geography, but still infuriating. People who think once they get into a carpark they should just drive where they please, forgetting which side of the road they drive on normally.

I could go on an on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Everybody speeds in Japan - be careful not to speed while being alone on the road though - the easiest way to speed is while being in the middle of a car-row 100 cars long - no policeman dares to stop the traffic where everybody drives 10-15km/h over the limit in order to just punish one guy...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Despite everything gloomy about Japan, I find their driving very good. They are not perfect, but no one in this world drives perfectly. I think that the prospect of heavy fines, prison and shame (work, neighboors, family) make most of Js to drive quite well. And traffic here is somehow silent, in comparison to US, for instance. I live near Tomei Hwy and it hardly seems that there are cars travelling there.

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Best place to drive in the entire world is Germany. The roads are excellent. The scenery scenic. The drivers, highly skilled and predictable.

Driving in Japan is an ordeal but does have some of the most courteous drivers on the planet but does not make up for the traffic jams, tolls and incorrectly timed lights.

Driving in America is a mixed bag. Good roads but the drivers are totally undisciplined and unpredictable. Almost as bad as driving in Korea.

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After living in Japan over 10 years, new work and living conditions meant facing something I'd been putting off for that entire time - getting my licence swapped over, buying a car and driving in Japan. I guess I could have got buy without, but in short I had to accept that I would be greatly inconvenienced without a car. Although I noticed a huge number of traffic infringements as a pedestrian, bicycle rider and occasional car passenger, seeing the randomness of driving in Japan has amazed me. I've always thought in japan the 'personal bubble' a car gives you permits behavior that you would never think of when you're outside your car (e,g, pedestrians will wait patiently for lights to change at crossings, but drivers will flout the rules consistently), but some aspects are more polite in other countries (e.g. drivers stopping or allowing people to enter the flow of traffic on a busy road). However, I have found the speed limits are only a guideline for many people, and even traveling a mite over the speed limit, I've found people tailgating (when they can't pass) or people roaring past me going way over the speed limit. I like the comment about 'having warning light means you can park anywhere' - I now live with the farmer is king, and roads which clearly post 'no parking' signs are often filled with farmers' vehicles as they access their nearby fields. But as I have noted before, Japan wasn't 'designed' for cars - there's little parking space, or places to pull over so as not to inconvenience other drivers. In short, if I didn't have to own a car through necessity, I wouldn't have one. Nevertheless, I am enjoying my new area by touring around and seeing the sights. I have to be more alert in country areas here than I would be in my homeland, but a bit of extra alertness never hurt anyone when it comes to driving.

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Driving here is sooo easy. My only complain is taxi drivers and also why haven't they copied roundabouts like they copied so many other things. There would be so much less traffic lights...

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Roundabouts would solve many problems, but create some too. Selfish drivers who flaunt the right of way, even if they don't have it for example. That would cause chaos at roundabouts.

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Cars are boring, get a motorbike.

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Mr Bonds, you do not have to pay for driving lessons to get your license. You can teach Mrs Bonds yourself with her obtaining a paper license from the police station then take the practical and written exam at the accredited police station for about 7000 to 14000 yen depending on the license. Should your teaching be good enough, she should have her license.

If you 'hate' driving so much in Japan but you are an automotive journalist based in Chiba, you definately have made the wrong career choice. Ride a bike, catch a train, stop driving!

Irrelevant article.

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Agree with benjie. Why even drive in Japan? Even the smaller cities in Japan have better public transport than your average big North American city (Houston anyone?). And intercity transport- no contest- Japan kicks a**. One of the reasons I left America was to escape the shackles of car-dependent living. Dump the car, and find yourself with (much) more money in your pocket and less stress.

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Blinkers. Do driving schools teach you what those orange lights are for? Even if they don’t, just how stupid can the drivers of Japan be? You put your indicators on before you brake to show that you are about to turn. Every day, I see drivers brake, then indicate, and then turn. The dumbest thing in Japanese motoring.

Hmmm. As long as the brake lights are working, what's his beef? If he's going to present himself as a skilled driver, then he's already left enough space between himself and the vehicle in front of him to allow enough time to react to a quick stop, right? Oh wait. He's a speeder who isn't smart enough to realize when he's out on the open road he cherishes so much (which makes it that much easier to be targeted). But of course it's the cop who's wrong for trying to keep the speeds down on a stretch of road the author ADMITS is regularly abused by speeders.

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"ugly overhead cables, ugly villages and boring, boring roads"

Where I live there are some really nice country roads and there are beautiful villages and rice fields and other scenery. I find driving in Japan not too different than driving in other countries, mostly they are good considerate drivers, but as is the case anywhere in the world there are a small percentage who are bad, and those are the ones that stick in your mind.

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I love driving in Japan for the most part. The one thing I do hate is the "park anywhere" attitude that seems to be so very common. Delivery trucks, people letting out "granny", etc. will park ANYWHERE they want without regard to traffic.

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I play tennis every Sunday near a spot where the police regularly pull over drivers for speeding. I notice they love to target little cars with women drivers and are afraid of the the big truckers who usually go flying by. Those truckers are tough, sometimes violent, and they give the cops a hard time. The the police know this, so why fight with the truckers when they can fill their quota picking on the "weaker" drivers. Japanese police are a joke.

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Apart from Taxi drivers who feel that hazards lights on means you can stop anywhere at any time.

it certainly ain't only the taxi drivers. this seems to be an unwritten "rule" that's followed pretty widely over here. big pet peeve, especially when you consider how narrow so many streets are. hazard lights good way to make absolutely sure you see that they're blocking the whole road

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maintenance - all Japanese i 've met are always very shocked and think how japan is great when they see the number of broken down cars on hard shoulders of expresways abroad... hence the hard shoulders are needed so much. go a simple journey of 100 miles round say London on the "expressway" you will without fail see 2 to 10 broken down cars every journey. In Japan almost never. but hey dont have to pay so much for the maintenance or care about it so much in the uk so depends what you prefer. I get the impression basically this guy seems to know little about driving or japan, or really is in the wrong place and or wrong job.

the japanese throw away their cars before the get old enough. disposable culture, so much for eco

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whilst i should point out i've never driven in japan, nor ever want to, as for stopping distance between cars, the worst offenders for this i have experienced are definitely americans. sorry. they also fail for being the most confrontational/aggressive drivers i have experienced.

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Shoot red lights. No indicators. Hog right lanes on expressway at low speed. Stop and park in ridiculous places. scooters ride like lunatics. But lots of great scenery (Izu, Kagoshima, Ise shima, across the J alps, Biwa ko etc - all some lovely drives.). And driving plenty of other countries no picnic either. So complain away (we all love to do so) but don't paint UK as beautiful or uncrowded (roads are awful), US drivers as good (they ain't) or say anything about driving in planty of other places (Mexico, Africa, China anyone)?

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Find country roads that don't go through populated ares. Usually mountain passes. I think its designed so that not "Everyone" will get license. this fee and process designed to decrease the number of cars on the roads. I think i benefited from it though. i wasn't the best driver when i graduated, but i was some what street ready. Agreed, but that's what you got accelerator for. punch it and drive away. I disagree. I thnk Japanese use blinkers a lot more often and correct than drivers in other countries. Forget your insurance guy and call Sony Sonpo, American Home, or Axa. They are dirt cheap and do their job. I think its a way of fair tax. Did you notice how low income tax is? It's simple, don't drive, don't pay. 100% agree, I think parking wardens must be shot, but I didn't know you get fined for after hours box parking. Same as number 6. and it is designed to unload the highways Cops should be shot with parking wardens. Next time take the paid mountain overpass, just make sure its a private road, not kokudo. I think you already know about it. I heard there are cops on Hakone turnpike now so be careful. Agreed, but you can't control it.

I think we should challenge ridiculously low speed limits in next rant :-)

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I think people who really think Japan is a horrible place to drive and that the drivers are truly bad doesn't drive in other countries too much. Everywhere else in Asia is much, much worse. In North America you get idiots drinking and driving (with legal limits way, way too high), driving way too fast, road rage, tailgating...

My only complaint here is too much traffic. That's more than offset by not NEEDING to drive; only driving when I want to.

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LOL!!! Mr Bond.. thats SPOT-ON! I couldnt agree with you more

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live inaka, drive without most of the idiots. live urban, don't drive. most people driving in Japan don't need to, no need to whinge

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where do you live WilliB?

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Country roads: TONS of beautiful scenery in the mountains, by the ocean (both are almost everywhere in Japan)

Driving lessons: Is a MAJOR hassle if you are applying for a license for the first time in Japan, but like most other posters have said, not if you have a license from another country.

Blinkers: Disagree... it's worse in Canada/US, especially away from the city where people don't even signal at all

Insurance/Shaken/Parking/Tolls: Yes, all way to expensive in my opinion and way to inefficient, but maybe it's intentional

As other posters have mentioned, red light running is a major downside. However, I do like the well maintained roads (I guess that's why they have tolls)

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Gonna disagree wildly with the author of the piece.

Driving is a terrible experience here, but he KNEW that going into it. Why spend so much money on (not just one, but TWO cars) knowing the pain they bring. It seems to me that masochistic tendencies coupled with a healthy dose of complaining about the resulting pain is as loony as the drivers he shares the road with.

Riding the train is no picnic either, but it eliminates all of the hassle he writes about. As well as a greenhouse emission or two.

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one problem with driving is that cars are a such a status symbol, regardless of their usefulness. at least many other countries don't have the excellent public transport systems of japan's cities. i remember when i lived in nishitokyo and people would complain about not being able to find anywhere to park in ikebukuro. wtf? take the train! use it or lose it

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What is with these highly inacurate articles lately? Mr Bonds, where do you drive? are you really IN Japan? I've been all over the world and I must say that Japanese roads are among the safest in the world. The beautiful country roads are some of the best parts of my weekends. What I LOVE about driving in japan is the courtesy from other drivers, most people using a signal to change lanes, allowing you to merge, no road rage, and people who actually obey the road laws, it's rather refreshing. Do you even drive here? I can not fathom how you came to this conclusion.

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I don't think the author's 'missus' should confront one of those trucks he's talkin' about with one of those metrosexual Coopers.

Unless she's gettin' a licence for an 18-wheeler rig, I think she should yield to the big boys.

It's a Darwin Award kinda thing.

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Hey!!! you must visit México. Here, everybody drives like mad, bus drivers are worse than bullies, streets are always full of cars, holes, slow traffic,street seelers walking between cars, pilgrimages and meetings at middle of street, etc. People don´t obey traffic signs and they don´t care about consequences, also we have to pay every year taxes for your car, and every 6 month you have to pay for a smog test(even new cars). if your car is old and/or it contaminate too much, it can´t work one or two days a week!!! Highways look like huge parking place. And you can see the most stupid things, like a guy who stoped at middle of a highway, and drove in reverse. Most people here don´t know how to drive. In México you don´t have to take a course, or to do a driving test to get a license!!! You can take a course only if you want and you pay for it. In México city, drive can be very stressing.

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I hate to drive in any big city. I grew up on a farm and learned to drive in the country. I have made my share of mistakes but I do try to obey speedlimits, traffic signs and use common sense. I do not use my cell phone while driving and there are times when I turn off the radio so that I am not distracted while driving. I prefer driving in the country over city and interstate driving. I would rather pass a huge tractor sporting duelies any old day.

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One of the things I loved about living in Japan was that I didn't have to drive. Sure I had a car, but I could walk to the supermarket, cycle or walk to work, cycle to many local destinations, and take the bus or train for holiday trips (much more relaxing than driving). That left the car for jaunts with the family to places too out of the way for public transport.

I liked the fact that Japanese drivers were generally courteous, although they did some incredibly stupid things. The one thing I hated was having to think, "Now where will I park?" whenever I set off in the car.

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Loving the rant here, but You forgot taxi drivers! I HATE Japanese taxi drivers, too many of them, parked up and sitting in their cars wherever they please, engines running, polluting the air. Then they decide to actually do their daily 10 minutes "work" and in doing so, become the greatest danger on the roads.

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