Traffic rules in Japan you need to know

The basic points for driving in Japan are introduced here. Exclamation marks have been used for points which may differ greatly from the rules in travelers’ own countries.

  • (1)Left-hand traffic!

    Roads in Japan use a left-hand traffic system. Since right-turning cars may be waiting in the right hand lane of a two-lane road, keep driving in the left lane if you do not intend to turn right. Don’t forget to use your indicators when changing lanes so that cars behind know your intentions.

  • (2)Right-turning cars must wait!

    Drivers are asked to give way to oncoming vehicles in principle when the driver intends to turn right. Make right turns after oncoming cars have traveled past or turned left. Priority is given to left turns in Japan. There are no rules regarding giving way to right-turning cars

  • (3)Never fail to stop when a traffic light is red.

    In Hokkaido there are no roads or junctions where you “filter” left when the traffic lights in front of you are red. When the traffic light turns red, not only cars going straight but also left-turning cars have to stop. Wait until the traffic light becomes green.

  • (4)Obey arrow traffic lights.

    When the traffic light is red, all cars must in principle stop. However, where there are arrow traffic lights provided below or at the side of the traffic lights, you may turn in the direction the arrow points when it is green. Right-turn arrow traffic lights are the most prevalent. When a right-turning arrow is shown, turn quickly while paying full attention to oncoming vehicles. Many intersections where this type of traffic light is provided have right-turn-only lanes.

  • (5)Always pay attention to speed limits!Legal speed limit is 60 km/h!

    As there are many wide and long roads with few buildings lining them in Hokkaido, it is easy to lose a sense of your speed, and drivers may press down on the accelerator without thinking. Speed limits are set at 30-50km/h in urban areas and 40-60km/h in the suburbs and on major roads. The speed limit is normally set at 70-100km/h on expressways but in adverse weather conditions such as high winds and blizzards, the limit can be lowered to 50km/h. Due to the large number of long roads, there are many public roads and expressways with long distances with no signs indicating speed limits or with electric signs that are showing no speed limits. On such roads, drivers are asked to obey the legal speed limits (60 km/h for public roads, 100km/h for expressways). Focus first on making a safe driving trip while paying attention to speed limits.

  • (6)Pay attention to the no-overtaking zones!

    Don’t pass other cars in no-overtaking zones. It is because it is dangerous to do so that the zone was established. For example, the roads may have obstructed views or sharp curves ahead. Wait until the no-overtaking zones is finished and it is safe for a driver to pass others to pass other vehicles.

  • (7)Bring your car to a complete stop at stop signs and in front of train crossings!

    Bring your car to a complete stop to safety check left and right

    In Japan, it is a strictly enforced rule that you must bring your car to a stop at stop signs, and halfway stops are not permitted. A “stop” means that a car completely stops and the driver looks left and right. In addition, since V-shaped signs are peculiar to Japan, remember what they mean. Usually, no “Stop” signs are located on roads which cross other roads with V-shaped signs. In other words, cars are traveling at high speeds on the road you need to cross. In the event of an accident, full responsibility is apportioned to the driver who did not stop their car. Pay full attention and make sure you stop the car completely.

    A flashing red light: You must stop.

    Intersections on narrow roads may have a flashing red light as a traffic signal. You must stop your car before the intersection when the red light is flashing and confirm your safety before passing through.

    Completely stop a car in front of train crossings!

    Drivers must completely stop their car in front of train crossings to confirm that no trains are coming from left and right and the car can move forward safely. If the traffic over the train crossings is backed up, the car will not able to move over the crossing for a long time.

  • (8)Never drink and drive!

    All over the world it is now considered common sense not to drive a car under the influence of alcohol. It is the same in Japan, however enforce- ment of the law and penalties for breaking it are stricter here. If alcohol is detected by a breath test, you will be penalized with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to a 500,000 yen. Even more severe penalties are imposed for driving while intoxicated. In Japan, drivers who refuse to take a breath test are also punished. Sober passengers who ride together with a drunken driver as well as those who encouraged a driver to drink will also be punished. Never drink and drive.

  • (9)Use of mobile telephones or smartphones while driving in Japan is prohibited.

    Not only speaking on the phone, but also looking at the phone screen is against the law.

  • (10)Road traffic signs

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Road Information in Hokkaido

Live Cameras of National Highways in eastern Hokkaido