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driving in Japan (as a foreigner)

kslegers

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Hi there,

I have posted this question on other Japan-messageboards as well, but I would like to get as many people's opinions about this as I can... I will be travelling in Japan for 3 weeks next May. I would like to rent a car and drive around, but some travelguides and websites do not recommend driving in Japan to foreigners who cannot understand Kanji. On the other side, I have read some reviews of people who have driven in Japan who are very enthusiastic. Of course there is the option of public transportation, which is very good in Japan, but I do not really like the idea of sticking to fixed schedules and I would like to visit some outback areas. In this matter, I actually have two questions:
- do you consider driving in Japan to be too much of a problem if I cannot understand Kanji (I understand that detailed road atlasses are usefull and that roads are generally numbered, also GPS-navigation systems are available in rental cars)?
- how much money should I reserve for the toll fees (my route will be something like Nagoya - Mt. Fuji - Kamikochi, Ogimachi, Kanazawa - Kyoto - Shikoku - Miyajima - Nagoya)?

Thanks for your opinion!

Karin.
 

mr.sumo.snr

Gavin Gives Italian Ducks
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Tolls are expensive. Gasoline is equally expensive. Parking lot fees - yep, expensive. Street parking - illegal. Remember we drive on the left in Japan. In-car navigation systems are ALL in Japanese. Good, detailed, large-scale road maps are expensive to buy and again only in Japanese. English road maps are basic. National highways are numbered - the numbering is NOT often repeated on the side of the road - unlike for example France where there is a route marker practically every 200 meters. Streets in towns and cities are NOT named - hence the need for a navi system or large-scale Japanese map. I think you're asking a lot of yourself to enjoy driving for three weeks in Japan on what appears to be your first visit here.

I'd go for buses and trains. Cut your timetable down. Take the time to meet people when traveling - not an option in a car. People are generally friendly and courteous when traveling on a bus or train. On the road Japanese forget all their manners. They drive extremely recklessly and very little care or attention for other road-users.
 

Keiichi

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Yeah, I highly suggest not using a car, espcially in populated areas like Kyoto, Nagoya, etc. It's not easy to find parking, and if you do, it's usually paid parking, which cost a lot, as mentioned. Traffic is so-so, I think, depending on where you're at, but the roads look quite narrow, too, even for a freeway (expressway..).
The toll is about 700 yen in the Tokyo area, and I hear it goes up to 3000 in others, and on your (long) travel, you'll have to go though more than one toll gate, most likely.
Just take a train or a bus and relax, instead. The train system is quite efficient. :)

Keiichi

😊
 

ArmandV

Eight Times To Japan
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I once considered renting a car in Japan also, but I was advised that it is more hassle than it's worth. The trains and subways will generally get you where you want to go. I also made good use out of the Tokyo taxis.
 

Elizabeth

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how much money should I reserve for the toll fees (my route will be something like Nagoya - Mt. Fuji - Kamikochi, Ogimachi, Kanazawa - Kyoto - Shikoku - Miyajima - Nagoya)?
You may want to rent a car for a day around Hakone, or find creative alternatives such as the aerial cableway/cruise on Lake Ashi, local buses etc. I wouldn't necessarily consider it proximal to Nagoya, so it really depends also on the amount of time you're looking to spend in each of these places and the side roads you're interested in pursuing.

Where are Kamikochi, Ogimachi in Gifu, by the way ? One of my most beloved spots in the entire country is aroung Kiso-Fukushima, a valley dotted with ancient post towns on the Nagano Nakesendo trail, magnificent views and beautiful scenery and a still strong historical flavor. 👍
 

mangaman

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There are some areas that you really need a car to see but since it sounded like you haven't been to Japan before I'd say skip it, there is so much to see using public transportation that it is not worth the hassle. I think you could navigate no problem if you have a little patience. I used to estimate 1000 yen an hour for expressways plus the same for gas so it really adds up unless you have 3-4 people and parking in even small cities is crazily expensive. Stick to other means of transport for now.
 
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