Planning Your Japanese Road Trip

Nov 7, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

Taking a road trip around Japan is one of the best ways to see all that this country has to offer at your own speed. While the country has an impressive high-speed rail network, renting a car will let you take your time and visit out-of-the-way places. As with any other road trip, you will want to create a general schedule so you know where and when you are going. That being said, you still need to be flexible and open to changes in your plans if you decide to stay in a certain area. Keep the following information and destinations in mind when planning your road trip to get the most out of your driving vacation.

Driving in Japan

The roads in Japan are well-organized, but you must be prepared to drive on the left of the road. You should familiarize yourself with your car and driving on the left before driving on faster or busier roads. Thankfully, many signs are also in English and drivers are polite and spacious. This should help you get around, just keep in mind you shouldn’t drive aggressively or honk your horn without reason. Just be ready for lower speed limits than you are probably used to, about 60 kilometers per hour (approximately 40 miles per hour) on the main roads. Of course, you can drive more quickly on the expressway, but you have to pay to do so. When fueling up, you will notice that each type of fuel has a different color to help avoid confusion.

Consider Exploring Hokkaido

One of the most popular places in Japan to take a road trip is Hokkaido. You can find numerous detailed maps online or choose to create your own. Your road trip in this area will take you along coastlines, fishing towns, active volcanoes, wide-open spaces, and plenty of national parks. This is the northernmost island of Japan and worth committed exploration. Start in Hakodate, the southernmost port where your car ferry is likely to arrive. Alternatively, you can take a bullet train to the city and then rent a car. Before leaving the port, explore the morning market and enjoy some ocean views. Visit hot springs as you go towards Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital and the only urban area on the island. You will find lots of activities. From there, you can go to Daisetsuzan National Park and Akan National Park. After leaving Akan, drive to Rausu and Nemuro to see even more, including the Japanese Crane Reserve.

Road Trip from Tokyo

While a Hokkaido road trip is a good option if you like scenic views, if you want to hit major cities, there are other options. You can start in Tokyo then go to Kyoto followed by Osaka, something known as the Golden Route. This will take you through the most famous cities in the country and let you drive by Mount Fuji with the option to stop and take pictures wherever you want. While driving this route, consider stopping at Yokohama, Hakone, Kakogawa, Hamamatsu, and Nagoya. Japan has a stunning natural beauty that is worth every minute on the road.

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