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Thread: Driving in Japan

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post Driving in Japan

    Did you realise that there were no round-abouts in Japan (at least, I have never seen any) ?

    There are also very few tunnels inside Tokyo, compared to older cities like Paris or Brussels, where you spend more time in tunnels than outside if you decide to take a turn on the ring road. Streets are too narrow to cope with the high affluence. Tokyo has been kind of blessed to have the opportunity to redesign its street plan after the WWII ground destruction (I know, it's a double-edge compliment as it also lost most of its historical heritage, but earthquakes have helped before anyway).

    As a consequence, bottlenecks are scarce, even during the peaks, also thanks to the effecient synchornisation of traffic lights. The idea is to canalise the traffic on the large straight 6-lane arteries or on high-speed elevated motorways, whilst secondary streets are left as empty and narrow backstreets (what make them for convenient for bicycles and pedestrians).

    The city's roads are built in the sky. The kousokudouro (expressway) fly above your head and cast their shadows on the surrounding concrete buildings. In this respect, Tokyo shares a lot with other Asian capitals like Bangkok or Seoul - which have been quick to catch up with their Japanese counterpart.

    I was also quite surprised by the absence of squares in Japanese cities. Every Western city has its famous gathering place : Trafalgar square or Leicester Square in London, Time Square in NY, all the "places" in Paris (Vendome, Opera, Bastille...), Alexander or Potzdamer Platz in Berlin, the inumerable plaza in every Italian city... Most European cities have a City Hall square, several "market square" (even if cafes have taken over the market) and maybe some other as well. You'll usually find a Plaza Mayor in Spain, a Groote Markt in the Netherlands and Flanders, a Rathaus Platz in Germany...
    30-million-people Tokyo has very little "wasted space". I can hardly think of even a minor square (広場 hiroba). There is a kind of little one around a fountain in front of Shimbashi Station and the overcrowded Hachiko meeting point in Shibuya, but they are wouldn't even qualify as a square in a minor European town.

    What we learn from this here is that Japanese people prefer sacrificing architectural beauty and traditional meeting squares (where disgruntled populace can also gather to demonstrate) to the efficency of elevated highway in the middle of glamorous department stores and historical temples and making sure that every bit of space is used profitably (as land cost so much there).

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  2. #2
    Decommissioned ex-admin thomas's Avatar
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    @ expressways

    Architecture-wise a horrible thing. I've been to Bangkok, uhm, 11 years ago, there wasn't a single expressway to be found. I've seen recent pictures of Bangkok and was shocked: the city has turned into a maze of steel and concrete.

    @ wasted space

    I was impressed by these multistoried parking lots in Tokyo and elsewhere. Below there's a small example, they are usually larger.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #3
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    @ parking
    I've seen some really nice elevator type parking lots. Defintely something Japan excels at.

    @ streets
    hehe, somebody forgot to mention the 20-30km long traffic jams on the raised high ways during the U-turn return home traffic right before public holidays finish, the young kids who drive the circuit in Tokyo up to 250+ km/hour speeds at night, the drunk bus drivers who average 150 km/hr and what not.

    True though, in general I think that Japan has been lucky with some of it's street work.

    Unlike Tokyo, Sapporo was layed out in Western fashion from the start.

    @ road construction
    Currently with the economic downturn many planned highways are looking at being cut.

    The construction of many roads are built in a soft manner so that every few years they need to be resurfaced due to the weight of trucks.

    @ topic
    This is one topic I've avoided since I complain about the condition in Sapporo all the time. Sapporo drivers are very different than those south who apparently have better manners.
    crazy gonna crazy

  4. #4
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    I've seen those elevator type car-parks in Manhattan.

  5. #5
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Unlike Tokyo, Sapporo was layed out in Western fashion from the start.
    What do you mean ? I thought that Sapporo had a similar lay out to Kyoto, which took it from Ancient Chinese Chang'an (Xi'an). You'll never see such perpendicular vertical and horizontal streets anywhere in Europe. I guess you thought about American cities. The question is who copied whom ? As the US have much newer cities than Europe and Asia, it wouldn't be wrong to say that American have followed the traditional Chinese grid pattern lay out rather than the Western (i.e. European) one.

  6. #6
    Regular Member moyashi's Avatar
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    - Sapporo was layed out by Clark and his staff. Somebody took out a ruler and laid a grid to the map. Any streets that are confusing were later added by Japanese and their interesting techinique of road divination that must be a bad shinto joke.
    - Sapporo was chosen over Mururan as the capital of Hokkaido by Clark. Clark was American.

    Many Japaneses say that Sapporo Copies Kyoto but the only thing that is similar is the main road that leads straight from Sapporo Station and possibly the street naming conventions that are somewhat similar.

    The Chinese layout (I'm basing on Kyoto's layout hoping that they stuck close to the Chinese system) is not really perpendicular as such.

    The main castle sits at the top of the pyramid like layout. With one central street running straight from the main gates out of town. The perpendicular feel is from each "JO" that is horizontal starting in front of the main gates. No roads are, ahem, used behind the castle.

    Sapporo was layout by Americans so ... I guess Americans copied Americans.
    Kyoto, I agree copied China (I didn't know the city though).

    Sapporo is layout based on Odori park which is the true center of town, which runs from West 1 to West 12. North 1 starts north of Odori Park and south the same. East and West are split by Sose River (lolo ... more like stream) which was a canal actually. Anything from East 1 to East ? and South 13 (errr Toyohira River) to ??? were at one time Red Light Districts or Farming areas.

    Tokyo's layout I have clue. But I bet the crazy shinto gods had a blast and blessed those who live in the city with various noches and crannies ;)

  7. #7
    I am Jack's Custom Title nebosuke's Avatar
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    Here's a couple shots of the entrance to a parking structure. These had two towers, so you parked on a turnstile and they spun your car to whichever they wanted to load your vehicle into, so even the entryway was space efficient. I saw some that were exposed, instead of having walls, but it was in passing so didn't get any photos.




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    driving in Japan (as a foreigner)

    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.

  9. #9
    Gavin Gives Italian Ducks mr.sumo.snr's Avatar
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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.

  10. #10
    Hi Keiichi's Avatar
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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

    K1

  11. #11
    Five times to Japan. ArmandV's Avatar
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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.

  12. #12
    Danshaku Elizabeth's Avatar
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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.

  13. #13
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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.

  14. #14
    __________ budd's Avatar
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    "I have posted this question on other Japan-messageboards as well,"
    search on them also
    http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/showth...hlight=license
    good luck
    ttp://www.tcvb.or.jp/

  15. #15
    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Driving in Japan

    When I have saved up enough pennies to go Japan (hopefully soon) I was wondering is it worth hiring a car. If so what are the roads like in Japan and what are they like to drive on? I have looked for info, but I seem to get conflicting info from 'safe' to 'foolhardy' to 'they are all maniacs'. What is the safety record like on Japanese roads? How do they drive?
    I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...
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  16. #16
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    If you're going to stay in Toyko, don't bother. It's a headache, and is really a "weekends only" type of thing. Japanese drivers (despite what some people think) are very safe-agressive drivers. They use blinkers, rarely change lanes, but move pretty quick and know what they're doing. Korea they are all maniacs. Ignore lane-dividers and drive on the sidewalks (I'm not joking). In Hawaii where I live now, they are just flat out awful drivers. Nobody uses or pays attention to blinkers, don't pay attention in general, and often plow over pedestrians. "Island" is a great way to describe these people. Since 1996, there have been 230 pedestrians killed, and something like 1500 injured. Alcohol only attributed to 1/4 of the accidents.

  17. #17
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    Japanese drivers (despite what some people think) are very safe-agressive drivers. They use blinkers, rarely change lanes, but move pretty quick and know what they're doing.
    Excuse me, but that's the biggest load of bollocks I have ever heard. And I like to think I am in a position to know.

  18. #18
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikecash
    Excuse me, but that's the biggest load of bollocks I have ever heard. And I like to think I am in a position to know.
    And what part of that is bulllocks? What would you say? Dangerous agressive? Don't mind other peoples signals and whatnot? I can introduce you to a whole island of people that are statistically (and in actuality) much worse. Korea I've only visited a few times but it only takes once to see that Japan is a dreamland compared. Thailand is another crazy part of Asia that comes to mind. I never drove a car in Japan, but I rode in cabs... a lot. Almost daily the last 2-3 years. Wouldn't that put me in a "position to know"?

    That's not to mention that I cycled for most of the time. From Ikejiri to Akasaka in morning and evening rush of all times.

    I guess it's all relative though. If you've only been exposed to Metropolitan Tokyo and just about any other US city other than maybe the few big ones, you would obviously think otherwise.

  19. #19
    Regular Member Tim33's Avatar
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    Cab drivers would have to drive safe and keep there calm more then common drivers.
    Same goes for everywhere.

    If i sit in a taxi in England they drive smoothly and keep calm. I drive with someone i know of family etc there is usually swearing, cutting people off, the occasional fight.

    However i have heard the Japanese aviod confrontation at all costs, is this the same for driving ???

  20. #20
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    Cab drivers would have to drive safe and keep there calm more then common drivers.
    There are some crazy ones, but for the most part they're the main culprites not changing lanes and whatnot. Longer ride = more money. It is frustrating. You can usually tell them to step on it if it's in a hurry. I had a massive dump coming on one morning and still had like 10 more minutes 'til I got to the office. He was cool, and ran some yellows and whatnot. He got to keep the change which was upwards of 900 yen or so.

  21. #21
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaijinPunch
    And what part of that is bulllocks?
    The entire portion that I quoted. That's why I selected that part to quote.


    What would you say? Dangerous agressive? Don't mind other peoples signals and whatnot?
    All that and more.

    I never drove a car in Japan, but I rode in cabs... a lot. Almost daily the last 2-3 years. Wouldn't that put me in a "position to know"?
    My driving in Japan has been feeding, clothing, and sheltering a family of four for at least 5 times that long. I play in Japanese traffic from 12-14 hours a day. I do it from a high perch in a tractor-trailer, with ample opportunity to observe traffic all around me. Like I said...I like to think I am in a position to express an informed opinion on it.


    I guess it's all relative though. If you've only been exposed to Metropolitan Tokyo and just about any other US city other than maybe the few big ones, you would obviously think otherwise.
    On a daily basis my driving ranges from the rural to the urban. Gunma to Tokyo/Yokohama and points around the Kanto area, averaging about 250km per day and covering all hours of the day for both rural and urban.

    In the past it took me from Aomori in the north to Okayama in the west. Likewise with a generous blend of rural and urban. Same goes for the US; I've driven professionally in somewhere around 35 of the 48 contiguous states (I forget the exact number), rural and urban, north, south, east, and west. But that's not relevant to the point at hand.

  22. #22
    Banned Mike Cash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim33
    Cab drivers would have to drive safe and keep there calm more then common drivers.
    You would like to think so, wouldn't you?

    Just the other day I remarked to a friend that in Tokyo if you fail the car license test three times they give you a taxi license as a consolation prize...or at least such would seem to be the case based on my observations.

    Just today I called a cab company to report a driver for running a red light (and not by a little bit either), speeding, and weaving in and out of traffic recklessly. Lest I come off as a total ***** (I am a total *****...just don't want to look like one), I have also in the past called a cab company and passed on a compliment on a driver whose attention to driving safely in a severe downpour stood out and reflected very well on him and his company.

    If you want my advice, in Tokyo stay the hell out of cabs operated by Tokyo Musen.

  23. #23
    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    (for those who cant take a hint, mike is a truck driver and is probably the best person to listen to for this.... and well anything really)

    I ride a motorbike here in Aus but I'm anxious about taking that hobby up again in Japan, after what I saw last time I was there I would probably be safer taking a bus for my longer trips

  24. #24
    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Truck drivers are one of the best to listen to for info. I should know, it is what I do in the UK. Cheers for the current info

  25. #25
    遠いから行きません GaijinPunch's Avatar
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    (for those who cant take a hint, mike is a truck driver and is probably the best person to listen to for this.... and well anything really)
    It's all relative on what you're used to. Believe me. I rode a bicycle... not a moped, not a motorcycle, a dirt bike through these "dangerous drivers" for years. There's a certain zen to the traffic in Tokyo. Agressive? Yes. Overly dangerous and scary? I stick by my previous claim. I ride on the sidewalk most of the time in Hawaii. Too many speeding morons... and nobody can forget those statistics. I was run off the road by a city bus driver just two weeks ago. The day I moved here a 60 year old man was struck by a car going 40-50mph and died instantly. He was in the bicycle lane mind you.

    I can't speak for much of the countryside. Did very little cycling while living in anything that resembled the sticks.

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