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Thread: Driving in Japan

  1. #51
    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant
    I live in what Japanese would call the countryside (600 000 people), and the narrow lanes, with some cars speeding past you coming from the opposite direction, as well as blind corners, and confusing roads (a lot of them don't follow any sort of north-south, east west pattern), all made me just nervous when I first started driving here.
    Narrow lanes don't really bother me, as we have quite a few in the UK. Plus most of our cities don't follw the north-south, east-west patterns.
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  2. #52
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant
    I live in what Japanese would call the countryside (600 000 people), and the narrow lanes, with some cars speeding past you coming from the opposite direction, as well as blind corners, and confusing roads (a lot of them don't follow any sort of north-south, east west pattern), all made me just nervous when I first started driving here.
    I was also nervous as hell the first time I tried driving here, what with it being my first time on the other side of the car and the other side of the road and all. I thought I'd have to give up the idea of ever driving here. Now, though, I support a family of four (and a cigar merchant in Illinois) by driving in Japan. Go figure.

  3. #53
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    Mike Cash, as a professional truck driver, obviously knows what he's talking about. He has probably driven more already than I ever will in my entire lifetime. But I must take issue. Of course the bad drivers stand out and over the course of years one will encounter many bad drivers, but wouldn't you agree that for every maniac driver there are at least 10 (I'll be conservative) perfectly sane drivers in Japan? I think that if you drive every day as Mike Cash does, you may often find your life threatened by other drivers, but if you are here for a short vacation, your own driving would be much more of a concern, as it's unfamiliar territory.

  4. #54
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    No, it doesn't work that way. Every 5 minutes you will see (probably) more than 10 drivers that you could consider poor...they may just not be very attentive...but that translates into a bad driver. Especially when they routinely cut you off, turn without signals, park on the side of the road or major highway in front of a no parking sign so that they can either pee or talk on their cell phone...there is an endless list of offenses.

  5. #55
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    No, it doesn't work that way.
    The way it works is opinion. It is very much the same question of "don't Japanese people treat foreigners badly". Different experiences = different opinions. I rode a bicycle from Ikejiri to Akasaka for years (in the street) and the only accident I had involved one person -- me (and a curb and some sidewalk). I have an office full of people that lived and drove in Japan for many years, that can't say enough good things about the drivers when compared to our current location.

    they may just not be very attentive
    I live on an island full of much less attentive drivers.

  6. #56
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    While my own opinion of Japanese drivers is mixed, I think part of the problem with a lot of 'casual observers' is that they come here for a few weeks holiday, drive around a bit and of course being a stranger in a new country pay a lot more attention to what is going on around them (including other motorists, and their driving habits).

    This even goes for people who live here for a year or more, who may never actually drive that often, but perhaps hire a car for a couple of weeks during a summer vacation to go looking around Japan.

    Perhaps back home where their driving is more relaxed and familiar, they wouldn't notice so many people driving badly because the level of attention being paid is much lower.

    On the flipside, I am frequently shocked by the lax attitude towards drunk driving over here, particularly amongst young people. I've refused a seat in a car on more than one occasion before, because the driver was slurring and stumbling before getting behind the wheel. Certainly the stigma attached to drink driving over here doesn't seem as serious as it is back home. This is especially unbelievable up here in Sapporo where the road surface changes to a 10 inch layer of sheet ice for several months of the year.

  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    On the flipside, I am frequently shocked by the lax attitude towards drunk driving over here, particularly amongst young people. I've refused a seat in a car on more than one occasion before, because the driver was slurring and stumbling before getting behind the wheel. Certainly the stigma attached to drink driving over here doesn't seem as serious as it is back home. This is especially unbelievable up here in Sapporo where the road surface changes to a 10 inch layer of sheet ice for several months of the year.
    What do you mean by young people? Most Japanese people I know would NEVER drink and then drive. Or at most drink only one drink and then stop. I'm talking at any age 24 and up (at least up to 80 anyway).

    I agree with your point execept that, it was mikecash, who drives long hours every day, that was talking about how bad the drivers here are. I personally think they are no worse considering the driving conditions than American drivers, but he has obviously experienced many more drivers both American and Japanese than I have.

  8. #58
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    i've always felt like i was gonna get run over just walking down the street if there is very little or no sidewalk
    have seen one or two fender benders while visiting also
    did anybody mention the headlights being turned off?
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  9. #59
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverpoint
    On the flipside, I am frequently shocked by the lax attitude towards drunk driving over here, particularly amongst young people. I've refused a seat in a car on more than one occasion before, because the driver was slurring and stumbling before getting behind the wheel. Certainly the stigma attached to drink driving over here doesn't seem as serious as it is back home. This is especially unbelievable up here in Sapporo where the road surface changes to a 10 inch layer of sheet ice for several months of the year.
    Is this really so? I know it was lax back in the day when I was living permanently there. But we're talking 15+ years ago. I now hear that if one is caught Driving While Intoxicated that

    1) They lose their license forever.

    2) They are fined 1,000,000 yen ($10,000) and

    3) All passengers in the car are also fined 1,000,000 yen each.

    Is this true, or is this info from my Japanese wife exagerated a bit? I didn't look it up so I am just going on what she has told me.
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  10. #60
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    She exaggerated it to the moon and back.

  11. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro
    3) All passengers in the car are also fined 1,000,000 yen each.
    Although I don't know about the size of the fine, I have heard that if you hold a valid Japanese license and you are passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver, you can also be prosecuted. Mike might know more about this than me though.

  12. #62
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    Drunk driving story from a colleague of mine. Yes, he/they know they were very stupid for doing this.

    Late night. Couple of friends were going home around 2 or 3 AM. They had been drinking scotch and smoking cigars. Needless to say -- bombed. They come up to one of those road blocks where the driver sticks his head in and smells the drivers breath. He stuck his head in, took a whiff, and said, "Okay, go ahead". They just looked at each other and went on. Doesn't sound like they're that serious about it.

    I got stopped on a scooter one time in a similar situation. I only had a few beers, but I think in the states, I'd have had to walk the line. Luckily, I diidn't, as I had no license.

  13. #63
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    I was being given a ride home by my coworker last year in his Pajero, when we got pulled over by the police. Apparently he'd been drinking more than he let on and knew he'd get busted so when the cop tapped on the window, he floored the gas pedal and drove off, at speed. Straight through a red light, with me in the passenger seat. There was no police car ready to give chase (I guess they just never anticipated this course of action) and one police officer chased us on foot for about 100 meters until he disappeared from sight in the rear view mirror. They can't have even got the license plate number because nothing was ever heard about it again. It can't be that hard to trace a big bloody 4x4 being driven by a gaijin. Doesn't say much for the police effort to stamp out drunk driving.

    I'm not condoning or gloating over what happened by the way and the above story is not meant to be 'cool'. Much as I like my coworker, he was an idiot. I have a friend back in England who was walking to the shops one day when he was hit by a drunk driver. He's 28 years old, and now has a mental age of 2. He spends his days sitting in a special wheelchair, can't support his own head and has to wear diapers.
    Last edited by Silverpoint; Sep 21, 2005 at 23:43.

  14. #64
    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeCash
    She exaggerated it to the moon and back.
    I found a link here that says, as of 2002, the fine for driving while drunk in Japan is 500,000 yen and for driving under the influence it is 300,000 yen. Other places such as forums and such have said that your license is suspended for 2-3 years and that the passengers in a car with a drunk or impared driver are also fined the same amount as the driver.

  15. #65
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    and that the passengers in a car with a drunk or impared driver are also fined the same amount as the driver.
    Well, this is a country in which an entire prefecture has to apologize for one of it's citizens actions from time to time.

  16. #66
    Back in town JerseyBoy's Avatar
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    Driving in Japan

    I just get annoyed with the bikers who drive in the middle or side of the road without any regards to the vehicle traffic and the traffic lane. I am used to driving in USA and the bike (motor bike) is considered same as the regular passenger car there. So, the biker stay behind me when I am at the stop light. But, in Japan, the biker (including the scooter) weave around and get in frond of me at the stop light and block my launch after the light turns green.

    I also see many Japanese motorists run a red light or jump on the red light before the traffic light turns green.

    ***End of Rants****

    What do you think?

  17. #67
    もちもちした食感 ASHIKAGA's Avatar
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    As far as I know, the same trafic laws extend to motor bikes in Japan with scooters being an exception. While I do encounter those annoying kids on motorcycles, I am more annoyed by people on bicycles. Mind you, not ALL bicyclists are bad but many of them that I see everyday just do not have any common sense.

    Young students riding side by side while text messaging on their cell phones.

    Old folks riding dangerously close to the middle of the street VERY slowly.

    Obasans (middle aged women) who ride as if they OWN the street. If you honk your horn, they give you a look that says " I will be talking about YOU, Mr. Driver Man, when I get together with my girlfriends later! You nearly ran me over!" that almost makes you wish you had.

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  18. #68
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    Traffic is fairly tame in Japan. Pretty much anywhere you go you'll find bad drivers though.

    Visit any other country in south east asia and you'll see how motor bikes truly drive.

  19. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by JerseyBoy View Post
    I just get annoyed with the bikers who drive in the middle or side of the road without any regards to the vehicle traffic and the traffic lane. I am used to driving in USA and the bike (motor bike) is considered same as the regular passenger car there. So, the biker stay behind me when I am at the stop light. But, in Japan, the biker (including the scooter) weave around and get in frond of me at the stop light and block my launch after the light turns green.
    I also see many Japanese motorists run a red light or jump on the red light before the traffic light turns green.
    ***End of Rants****
    What do you think?
    The scooters and motorcycles don't bother me. Sure the weave and come up in front of you at the signal. The signal is red, I don't see how the block your "launch". It isn't like they just sit there.

    I don't think this has anything to do with Japanese people in particular. People run redlights everywhere. I personally haven't seen anybody jump on a red light before it turns green in Tokyo. People accelerating on a yellow, yes.

    I can only compare Tokyo to NYC.

    NYC is much much easier to navigate than Tokyo.
    Taxis are reckless in both places but NYC taxis drive way too fast. Japanese taxis will stop anywhere(not good except for maybe the person trying to hail the taxi).

    Too much traffic in NYC, too much honking.

    There are more scooters and motorcycles in Tokyo. So much so that I can't compare bike behavior between the two cities.

    If there is anything that bothers me about driving in Tokyo it is this: people in a rush who change lanes thinking that it is getting them there faster only to realize that they have ended up in a left turn or right turn only lane. They then want back in even though they can't because by then you are not allowed to cross lanes. They then create congestion. I can forgive the beginner drivers. I can forgive people not knowing the roads and where lanes merge and converge. It pisses me off when a experienced driver with Shinagawa plates busting through lanes finds himself in the wrong lane and then wants to cut in front of me. Bite the bullet and take that left and go away.

  20. #70
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    I wondered where to post this, but I think it would be good to ease your frustration while driving in Japan.

    From June 1 on, the notorious cyclist manners will be persecuted here. Actually I should say the ambiguity of the law enforcement will become slightly clearer than before.
    I bet the cops will be glad to work hard after having their new regulations for the first few months. So be careful.
    This is not an official translation, so go to the police box nearby.
    Basic rules for bicycles
    Keep to the left margin of the road.
    You may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk ONLY where so indicated and ONLY children younger than 13 and the elderly older than 70. Keep the rightmost margin of the sidewalk at easily stoppable speed.
    It is not allowed for two persons to ride on one bicycle
    except when you put your child on a child seat;
    when you carry your child on your back;
    and when you put your child on a child seat and carry another child on your back.

    It is not allowed to hold an umbrella, a mobile phone, other things, or to listen to ipod, or whatever, while riding a bicycle.
    At railway crossings or STOP signs, stop and look both ways before crossing.
    Observe traffic signals at intersections.
    You may cross an intersection for pedestrians.
    Make a hook turn when you turn right.
    Needless to say, no drink & ride.
    This is not for cyclists.
    Backseat passengers are also required to fasten one's seat belts.
    I am afraid of a situation...
    the more cyclist gangs (moms) on the road, the more you'd be frustrated to drive here.

  21. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun View Post
    ...It is not allowed to hold an umbrella...
    Reminds me, that I'll have to go and buy a baa-chan style umbrella holder for my bike. With those in place, umbrella-biking is still street-legal, afaik.

    Thanks for the reminder, pipokun

  22. #72
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    As ASHIKAGA has already said, the cyclists are the most annoying. I'll be in a bit of a rush and get stuck behind four highschool kids riding four abreast, and they'll move out of your way in their own good time.

    And then I've had a couple highschool cyclists come flying around blind corners directly in front of me, and if I had been going just a little faster I would've hit them. One of the chicks had a vacantly happy expression on her face as I careened to get out of her way... crud was I ever cursing her!
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